Amando de Ossorio's Blind Dead Tetralogy
Tombs of the Blind Dead ][ Return of the Blind Dead ][ The Cursed Galleon ][ Night of the Seagulls ]

Spanish director Amando de Ossorio died the same year as Lucio Fulci, at roughly the same age. However, Ossorio's death did not spark much of a resurgence of interest in his work, as was the case with Fulci. Both directors were capable of inspired craftsmanship, even when their material was extremely poor. On the other hand, both were also capable of falling flat on their faces. Both made their most enduring statements in the zombie subgenre, Fulci with a cycle of movies beginning with Zombie 2 in 1979, and Ossorio with his "Blind Dead" tetralogy (1971 - 75). Yet I think it's highly unlikely that Ossosio will ever achieve the posthumous regard that Fulci has been given, in spite of the obvious talent he displayed in the "Blind Dead" series.

The reason is simple: outside the (considerable) achievement of Noche del Terror Ciego / Tombs of the Blind Dead, Ossorio did very little else to endear him to genre audiences. His first horror film, Malenka, was a vampire comedy; released in the US as Fangs of the Living Dead, it didn't make much of an impact, and is very little-known today. I've never seen Malenka, but I have seen a number of his other films, including:

  • a dreadful Exorcist ripoff called La Endemoniada / The Possessed, an insipid film about a witch who takes over the soul of a child. This is one of the dullest, dumbest movies to attempt to cash in on the possession vogue. Harald Gruenberger's review will tell you all you need to know about this sorry, sorry film...
  • Las Garras de Lorelei / Clutch of the Lorelei / When the Screaming Stops, a Spanish take on an old German folk legend. The Lorelei was a ghostly seductress who lured young men to their deaths beneath the waters of the Rhein. In the film, the Lorelei is a sometimes a beautiful woman (Helga Line!!), and sometimes a huge lizardy creature that mauls its victims. A big game hunter, played with laughable machismo by Tony Kendall, comes to kill the marauding creature, but ends up falling in love with the beast in her human form. ALong the way he discovers that she's guarding the treasure of the Nibelungen in her underwater caverns... Luis Barboo even shows up as Alberic. Oh, it's a mess... Wagner is spinning in his grave.
  • Let's not forget The Sea Serpent, the last film for both Ossorio and his star, Ray Milland. This is a movie which the normally-enthusiastic Video Search of Miami catalog summed up as "Ossorio's bad joke". Read the hilariously in-depth review at

  • So I think there's really very little in Ossorio's output to differentiate him from the likes of León Klimovsky or Carlos Aured... except that he made Tombs of the Blind Dead and its sequels.

    The "Blind Dead" series are among the best and most famous Spanish horror films of their time. They are surprisingly well-made, and in spite of some major shortcomings, have aged better than many of the other Spanish movies of the period. The best feature of the films is their title menace: the Blind Dead, withered cadavers which rise from their graves to drink the blood of their victims. Part zombie and part vampire, they are brought to un-life by a combination of very convincing costumes and puppetry. Unlike other movie monsters, particularly monsters that travel in groups, the Blind Dead never seem to be merely extras in suits. They look dead. The skeletal hands and arms which pop out of their graves and menace their prey are clearly mechanical props, but you have to respect Ossorio for using them; they're much more convincing than healthy human hands in gloves or make-up. It's much easier to suspend your disbelief in the face of these mummified zombies than it is at seeing regular actors pretending to be walking corpses.

    Ossorio seems to have been really inspired by his creations, and communicated that enthusiasm to his cast and crew.

    Tombs of the Blind Dead
    aka La Noche del Terror Ciego / Night of Blind Horror
    To its credit, Tombs begins with an attempt at establishing its characters. It's not terribly successful, but it's a noble attempt. Old school friends Bette and Virginia run into each other at a Portuguese resort. Virginia's "friend" Roger comes along and is immediately attracted to Bette. He spontaneously invites her to come with him and Virginia on a little excursion the next day. Virginia is disconcerted by this, and attempts to dissuade Bette from coming, but Roger insists.

    The next morning, at the train station, Bette arrives late and insists that she can't come along. Roger shames her into coming, much to Virginia's displeasure. On the train, Roger flirts a bit with Bette, who takes his attention with good humor. Virginia, however, is very upset, and runs off to the end of the train to be alone.

    Roger thinks he understands. But after all, he insists, there wasn't anything between him and Virginia... and, well, these things happen. However, Bette insists on being the one to go and talk to Virginia. Thus we find out (as will Roger shortly thereafter) that the guy's misunderstood the whole situation: Bette is a lesbian, and she and Virginia had a brief relationship in their school days; and now Virginia is jealous not of losing Roger, but of losing Bette.

    At this point in the film there's an embarrassing flashback, as the two actresses pretend to be schoolgirls and pantomime their first encounter. Many European horror films of the late 60's and 70's are similarly marred by a fascination with male-fantasy stage lesbians. Of course, toady, instead of having otherwise interesting movies spoiled by these naïve inserts, we have entire bad movies dedicated to male-fantasy stage lesbians, so I guess I shouldn't complain too loudly.

    As Roger confronts the truth, which is probably difficult for him as a Spanish male of the early 70's, Virginia takes the opportunity to sneak away. At first she tries to get the conductor to stop the train and let her off, but the conductor tells her this is forbidden. So Virginia takes her bag and jumps off the train. There's a very well-observed moment as the train slips by her, and Roger and Bette, still absorbed in their own situation, catch sight of her with stunned surprise. Roger pulls the emergency stop signal; but the train's engineer warns the conductor, his son, that they must never stop in this area. This is the cursed area of Berzano, where no one ever dares to go. The train goes on, and Virginia wanders off, a tiny figure on a wide green plain.

    Virginia soon comes across a ruin, a vast stone monastery. In a courtyard open to the sky she finds an ancient cemetery, with tombs marked by odd crosses. Eerie as it is, it's at least shelter for the night, and Virginia makes herself at home. Amusingly, she builds a fire by tearing off a handful of brush from a dead shrub and lighting it... and gets a strong, crackling, long-lasting blaze!

    As Virginia tucks herself into her sleeping bag, with her book and her transistor radio, she fails to hear the vast bells in the courtyard begin to toll. A sinister mist creeps across the cemetery; and the oddly-shaped crosses begin to shift, as though something were pushing at them from below. Stone slabs and the heavy lids of great sarcophagi begin to shift, and from outside the cemetery comes the echoing sound of hoof-beats. The Blind Dead have awakened from their graves!

    I thinks that's all the specifics I need to reveal about the story. The rest you'll have to see yourself. I will, however, spend a little time on the back story of the Blind Dead, and some of their powers and attributes as they're shown in this film.

    The Dead are the vengeful corpses of the Knights Templar, who returned from the Crusades with forbidden knowledge from the East. Thay had discovered secret rites to keep them alive forever -- rites which involved drinking the blood of innocent victims. Then (anachronistically), the local peasantry of Berzano rebelled against the Templars, and killed them all. After the rebellion, crows came and pecked out the eyes of the dead Knights.

    (There actually were Templars, and they did come back from the Crusades with some strange practices, as well as plague and various venereal diseases. They eventually became so decadent that they and their order were expunged by the Church. Whatever their excesses may really have been, after the Templars ceased to exist they became the stuff of legend, and all sorts of horrors were attributed to them.)

    Now, centuries later, the restless Knights and their demon horses wait in the ruins of Berzano. Unable to die, they remain dormant until the scent of blood reaches them; then they rise and pursue their quarry. Though they can't see, they can hear even the slightest sound. Though they look frail, and move very slowly, they are in fact monstrously strong. Their appearance is so terrifying that they often don't have to chase their prey: the victims are immobilized by sheer fright. Unlike other zombies, the Templars don't eat their victims. Instead, they tear open their flesh with their swords and their teeth and satisfy their thirst for warm blood.

    If this behavior seems much more vampire-like than zombiesque, there's another aspect of their supernatural powers which is touched on in this film, but not in any of the sequels. One of the Templars' victims comes back as a vampire herself, rising from the Lisbon morgue where she's been taken to stalk the protagonists. Unfortunately for her, they've already left Lisbon, so she ends up stalking a minor character and getting torched for her pains. The thought, however understated, that the Templars' victims might become undead themselves makes the end of the movie especially harrowing.

    Tombs is well-directed, atmospherically designed, well-scored and beautifully lit. It contains some tremendously effective shocks, from the appearance of its undead ghouls, to a chilling scene in a mannequin factory, to the surprising and bloody slaughter of a main character, to a quick scene in the finale involving a mother and child who are attacked by the zombies (though most of the violence is just off-screen, this scene still seems so brutal that it was censored from the original US release).

    However, as is the case in far too many horror movies, the film is seriously undermined by its script. The movie falters rather badly after an hour, with the introduction of the comic-opera smuggler, Pedro. Since the movie so far has been concentrating on three characters (one of whom was killed in the first twenty minutes), and since the zombies live in a shunned ruin that no one will go near, it's clear they had to introduce some fresh meat. It's unfortunate they chose Pedro, with his smarmy grin, quick switchblade and disgusting underarm stains. Along with Pedro, they introduced his moll, María, who gets jealous of Bette, tries to seduce Roger, and causes all kinds of trouble.

    It's never clear what this unlikely band plans to do at midnight in the ruins of Berzano, whether they believe the legends or not. Still, we have the inevitable scene in which the band splits up and wanders off in different directions. In the night. In the dark. Bette, incredibly, goes off alone with Pedro, who rapes her in the cemetery. Fortunately, before things can get too much more unsavory, the ominous bells start tolling, and the Blind Dead, the real central characters of this movie, come back into action.

    Further, the geography of Berzano is unclear: at one point a woman on horseback is captured and killed by the zombies before she can reach the train tracks; at another point, a woman with a twisted ankle manages to outrun the mounted Templars and reach the train.

    Still, none of this is enough to make Tombs of the Blind Dead any less enjoyable as a moody, deliberately paced shocker.

    Return of the Blind Dead
    aka El Ritorno de los Muertos Sin Ojos / Return of the Blind Dead / Return of the Evil Dead
    Return isn't really a sequel to Tombs, though it might be considered a prequel -- it could explain how Berzano came to be deserted and shunned. Unlike Tombs, Return shows Berzano to be a vibrant rural community. 500 years [sic] before the movie's main action, the citizens of Berzano rebelled against the satanic Templars, and burned them at the stake. In another departure form the mythology of the original, in this movie it's the peasants themselves who put out the eyes of the Knights, so that they will not find their way back from the land of the dead.

    As the movie proper begins, the natives of Berzano are preparing the festival that will mark the 500th anniversary of the downfall of the Templars. In comes Tony Kendall, playing an American pyrotechnician who's come to do the fireworks for the fiesta. Actually, the fireworks continue long after Tony's moved on to other action, so I'm not really sure what his job is. What's more important is that he has a history with the woman who is the mayor's aide.

    Now, this woman has been playing a little game of sexual politics with the Mayor and his Lead Thug. The Mayor (Fernando Sanchez) looks remarkably like an overweight Jess Franco, and his Henchman (Luis Barboo) is the poor man's James Coburn. The girl in the middle, though... I don't know what I can say about our heroine. I suppose I should merely point out that standards of feminine beauty change radically from place to place, from time to time.


    No; I can't do it. I can't be charitable. For the love of God, she looks old enough to be Tony Kendall's mother. Hell, she looks old enough to be the Mayor's mother. She has a wide, sloping forehead and eyes that seem too wide for her face. I suppose it's a good thing to feature a leading lady who is remarkably plain. It's more believeable: after all, men fall obsessively in love with women who aren't gorgeous starlets. But... but... just LOOK at them. You've got big, burly, masculine Tony Kendall, and a co-star who looks like a middle-aged housewife from suburban Madrid. When she gets all melty in his arms, it looks like gerontophilia. Suffice it to say that THIS is the movie you should watch immediately after As Good As It Gets, or any other film featuring a young actress who ends up with a male star three times her age. It'll give the male critics who don't see the problem something to think about.

    Suffice it to say that this mousy middle-aged woman has managed to work the Mayor and his Henchman into a lather. Then along comes Kendall, back into her life, and he too proves unable to resist her charms. The Mayor, stung, has Henchman and his cronies beat up poor Tony, but before the job can be completed, some disturbing news comes from the train station outside town...

    Off on the outskirts of Berzano, a couple has met for some surreptitious nookie. While the girl's father is in town, at the festival, her suitor -- José Thelman, Pedro the smuggler from Tombs -- sneaks in. In this movie, at least, he doesn't have to rape the girl. However, he ends up just as dead, because the Templars have come back. What a shame their house is on the road to Berzano!

    The girl is quicker than the Knights, however. She climbs out a window and steals one of the Templar's horses (someone tried this in Tombs, but with far less success). She manages to get to the Berzano station, where the stationmaster (played by the actor who was the Old Professor in Tombs) congratulates her on her horse's costume. His smile turns to a slack-jawed gape when the girl removes the horse's hood, revealing the mummified face beneath. Zombie horses -- yow!

    As the Templars approach (and the warning is sounded by various onlookers), the people of Berzano, the Mayor and his cronies, and our stalwart hero sit on their hands and do nothing. Instead, they wait until the Templars have sealed off the Main Square and begun slaughtering the townspeople. THEN they figure they ought to do something...

    It was two years before this, the first sequel to Tombs, was released. Return represents a definite dip in quality from the earlier film. It's still very assuredly designed, photographed and directed, and is in many respects the equal of the original in terms of sheer visual interest. The crowd scenes in particular are shot to convey a sense of intense action, without ever seeming confused or pointless. But the characters are far less interesting this time, relying on stock figures like the Deformed Village Idiot, the Comically Corrupt Mayor, and the Doomed Family In Distress (who seem right out of Night of the Living Dead). After a strong opening, the script collapses into tired convention: it holes everybody up in a building, again NOTLD-style, after which there's nothing else for them (or the Templars) to do but let their own problems destroy them from the inside.

    There are also some inserts featuring the regional Governor which are played completely for laughs. The humor is completely misplaced, and is a serious distraction from the return of the Templars, which should have been at the center of this movie.

    The Cursed Galleon
    aka El Buque Maldito / Ghost Galleon / Ghost Ship of the Blind Dead / Ship of Zombies / Horror of the Zombies
    Few horror series make it as far as the third installment without a significant decline in quality. The Blind Dead series was no exception.

    The Cursed Galleon has the advantage of an unusual setting -- a phantom Spanish sailing ship, sailing the sea in the middle of a dense fog which is curiously hot. Unfortunately, the model used for distance shots of the galleon is the film's biggest embarrasment. It's clearly a model floating in a bathtub. Remember the Brady Bunch episode where Peter made a movie about the Pilgrims? It's that bad.

    The trouble is, in spite of their new setting, there wasn't much more to be done with the Templars themselves. They'd made a tremendous impact in their first appearance; their second had been moderately effective, though it mostly covered the same old territory. Now, by the time of their third outing, the audience knew the story, had heard the eerie music, and could guess pretty well what fate was waiting for all those who went aboard the Ghost Galleon.

    To provide the Blind Dead with their nifty new location, Ossorio had to scramble. The back story of the Blind Dead puts their execution somewhere in the late 1400's (though actually, the order of the Templars was dissolved in 1312); it's never really explained what they're doing on a late 16th century galleon. But the explanation for the galleon itself, and its otherworldly fog, is hooey of the highest order. We have a meteorologist, a scientist so credulous he makes Fox Mulder seem like Thomas Huxley, tell us that the ship isn't real; that it exists in another dimension, and that once aboard, our characters too have ceased to exist.

    (Thanks, but I think the vengeful vampire zombie bit was enough for me.)

    Worst of all, in The Cursed Galleon we have the least interesting and most incredibly stupid set of characters imagineable. The movie opens as a callous fashion photographer (Maria Perschy) is berating her models for their stupidity. One of these models, Noëmi, approaches her after the shoot, and asks if she knows anything about the whereabouts of her room-mate, Cathy. The photographer dissembles, but Noëmi forces her to admit she does know where the girl is. Noëmi, like Bette in the original, is a lesbian, and Cathy is her companion as well as her room-mate; she pressures the photographer into telling her more about the girl's disappearance.

    Together they go to the docks, where they meet a wealthy sporting goods magnate (Jack Taylor!) and his aide. It seems that Jack's sent Cathy out on a secret publicity stunt to coincide with the announcement of his pet project, a new boat. Jack's idea is that Cathy and a popular screen starlet will be found just at the edge of the shipping lanes, adrift in Jack's new boat. They'll be rescued, and all the world will hear about the new craft.

    This doesn't seem like a very good idea on the face of it, but with some thought, you'll see it's really completely stupid. The last kind of publicity Jack needs is that HIS BOAT stranded a major star and her friend (oh -- who's a lesbian, by the way) in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Oh, sure, there's nothing like a scandal and a record of conspicuous breakdown to establish your brand in people's minds -- just don't expect them to buy your product.

    Anyway, Jack and the others let Noëmi listen to the evening's broadcast from the pair in the boat. It seems they've drifted into a hot fog... and could that be a ship in the distance? It seems to be deserted, though... not the best choice for a rescue vessel.

    After the transmission is over, Jack and his helper kidnap Noëmi and lock her in a cell. Now their plan has grown to include abduction... I confess I'm at a loss to see the good side of this scheme. Naturally, Noëmi tries to escape: she tells her captor that she'd like a glass of water. So he leaves her cell door wide open while he goes to get it, somewhere at the other side of the huge warehouse. Not to be outdone in the Dumb Department, Noëmi stops to put on her noisy clogs before running for the door. When the main door doesn't open, she stands there rattling it until her captor realizes where she is, and comes to drag her back again.

    And then, just to make things really vile, he rapes her.

    Ossorio seems to have had some kind of obsession with men raping lesbians. Not only is this an inexcusably rotten form of entertainment, we also have to bear in mind that this is now YET ANOTHER phase of Jack's marketing scheme gone horribly awry. All he needs now is for one or more of the people involved in this little scheme to die, and he'll have bottomed out. There will be virtually no way he and his colleagues can sink any lower.

    And these are our heros, folks. Aren't they lovely?

    At the risk of spoiling what little suspense there is in this film, I should warn you that there is only one graphic scene of the Templars doing what they do best. It's Noëmi who buys it -- the only even partially sympathetic character in the whole movie, mind you -- about halfway through the film. Her death throes remind me of nothing so much as one of Lucille Ball's exaggerated tantrums on I Love Lucy. The Crow T. Robot in my mind kept screaming "Waaah, Ricky! I wanna be in your shoooow!" all the way through her demise. Once they do slaughter her, though -- or rather, slice up a mannequin that looks a little like her -- they actually start eating her flesh. This is the most zombie-like behavior we've seen from the Templars, though the revelation doesn't mean much in this context.

    I have to admit, though, that in spite of some really stupid plot twists and excruciatingly bad special effects, the end of The Cursed Galleon captures at least a little of the apocalyptic horror of the original. We're left with the uncomfortable knowledge that the Blind Dead are no longer in their own, otherworldly dimension -- they're here, in broad daylight, and nothing will stop them now...

    (An aside: This movie was one of the Continental horror films ditributed in the US by Al Adamson's Independent International film group.)

    Night of the Seagulls
    aka La Noche de los Gaviotas / Night of the Death Cult
    After the wretched Cursed Galleon, it seemed as though the Blind Dead series had nowhere else to go. That's why it's such a pleasant surprise that the last film of the series, Night of the Seagulls, shows Ossorio back at the height of his powers.

    Seagulls opens with an atmospheric prologue, evidently set some time in the fifteenth century. A young doctor and his wife get lost on their way to their new home, in some small provincial town by the sea. As the man wanders around a deserted house, he hears the distant sound of hoofbeats. Suddenly, out of the dark ride stern-faced men in white robes. The Templars have arrived: they stab the man to death and drag his terrified wife off to their castle. Tying the woman to a stone altar, the High Priest of the Templars removes the gauntlet from his left hand and plunges a dagger into her breast. He then cuts out her heart, and places it into the mouth of a leering, frog-like stone idol.

    The remaining Templars remove their left gauntlets as well, and crowd around the woman's corpse to drink. Around the body, fat crabs scuttle, eager to strip the flesh from her bones...

    Fans of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth and other classic pulp-horror authors of the early 20th century will feel right at home with this film. They'll recognize the idol as Dagon, ruler of the Deep Ones. They'll find familiar the theme of alienation: as is so often the case in Lovecraft's writing, the action of the story revolves around outsiders, finding their way in a community (or even a world) so cut off from reality that it fails to recognize its own otherness (cf. Lovecraft's Shadow Over Innsmouth in particular, or from a delightful reverse perspective, The Outsider).

    The story proper begins in modern times, with another young doctor and his wife arriving in a provincial seacoast village. They are pointedly ignored by the sullen locals. When the Doctor (whose name is Henry Sowa) tries to ask for directions to his own new house, he gets no response. Finally, he demonstrates his best bedside manner by grabbing one of the villagers by his collar and shaking him until he answers.

    (I have to admit, I've been waiting a long time to see someone do that in a movie. It's about time.)

    Finally the couple arrives at the shabby hut which is the village Doctor's house. Henry and his wife, Juana, meet the old Doctor, who is irritated that they're so late in arriving. As Henry brings in his bags, the old Doctor makes some vaguely menacing statements to Juana. He warns her to leave as soon as possible: this town has no tolerance for strangers. Henry offers to drive him off, but the old Doctor points out he doesn't know the area, and would get lost coming back. So Henry instead offers to help carry the Doctor's bags, and they go off on foot together.

    While Henry is away, a ghastly face appears at the window of the hovel. A furtive knock comes at the door. Juana, her heart in her throat, goes to answer, but pulls back before she can open the door. The latch is undone; a hand thrusts itself into the doorway... and a man with a bloody, leering face stumbles into the house.

    This turns out to be Teddy, the village idiot. The locals tend to beat him up every so often, just out of community spirit. Juana tends to his wounds and waits for Henry to return.

    In the meantime, Henry has seen the old Doctor to his burro up on a mountainside. The Doctor waves off Henry's offer of further assistance; it's safe in-land, he says. Safe from what? He won't say; but he does caution Henry that as long as he stays in the village, he must not ask any questions, or pry into anything that isn't his business.

    Late that night, as the Doctor and his wife try to get some sleep, and as the village idiot cowers in the attic, Juana is awakened by strange noises. First she hears a distant bell tolling midnight. Henry explains that it's probably a signal out at sea, warning ships away from fog. Next, Juana hears weird crying sounds... Henry points out that it's merely the sound of seagulls. Except... seagulls never come out at night...

    Next, Juana hears a strange, unearthly singing coming from somewhere down the beach. Unable to think of a rational explanation for this, Henry gets dressed, and with Juana insisting on coming with him, he goes down to the beach to investigate.

    The source of the distant voice is never revealed, but Henry and Juana do see a procession of villagers -- black-draped old women, mostly -- leading a girl in white along the beach. Aha, thinks Henry -- just a local religious ceremony, some sort of ritual for ensuring a prosperous fishing season. The couple go back to their house.

    Of course, we know what's happening. As the villagers tie the nervous girl to some rocks, in their abandoned castle the Templars begin to stir. Yes, it's the same footage from the original; shortened, but immediately recognizeable. As the terrified villagers run off, the Knights ride in slow-motion down the beach, looking for their sacrifice...

    The next day, as Juana tries to buy provisions at the local store, the old woman who runs the place ignores her completely. Finally, a local girl named Lucy takes pity on her, and makes the old woman fill out her order. Lucy offers to carry Juana's bags, and further offers to come work for them. I should probably point out here that Henry and Juana are not tremendously sympathetic characters. They are admittedly having a rough time of it with the locals, but they've also brought a good deal of city arrogance with them. When Lucy offers to help with the bags, for example, Juana doesn't just let her help -- she thrusts both bulky bags into Lucy's arms and walks out without a backward glance. She expects the village girl to wait on her.

    That night, as Lucy clears up before dinner (a very late dinner, apparently), Juana again hears distant bells tolling. Lucy insists she hears nothing. But Teddy the idiot hears it, and is very afraid. As Juana tries to comfort him, another knock comes at the door. Lucy hesitates to open the door, so Henry does it. In comes a terrified girl, who pleads with them to help her. Henry gives her a mild sedative, and as they try to get the girl to explain what danger she's in, a group of townspeople forces its way into the house. They demand that the girl -- Tilda, they call her -- come with them at once. The groggy girl complies, against Henry's protests.

    Tilda's fate is presented to us in greater detail than the previous girl's. The Templars carry her, still alive, back to their ruined castle. Once again, the Templars remove their left gauntlets as the ceremony begins. As the grotesque stone idol leers over them, the zombies sacrifice Tilda. Once again, the crabs, as crusty and slow-moving as the Templars themselves, crawl over the dead girl's body to feast.

    The next day, the Doctor goes into the village to look for the girl he saw in the night. No one will tell him who she is, or where she lives. Finally, Teddy tells him: her name is Tilda Flanagan (!), and she lived over there. The Doctor is puzzled by his use of the past tense. "You'll never find her again," Teddy says remorsefully. As the Doctor and Juana go off to look for Tilda, the villagers surround the poor idiot...

    (Now I have to interrupt again, and wonder exactly where this story is taking place. The prologue was clearly Spanish. Though the Doctor's name is "Henry", this isn't so difficult to accept... after all, we had a Spanish guy named Roger in the first movie. His last name is Stein in the English translation, though the Dutch subtitles on my copy refer to him as "Sowa". Again, not a big deal. But a rural Spanish family named "Flanagan"?! I know there were Spanish sailors washed ashore in Ireland after the sinking of the Spanish Armada. These Spaniards intermarried with the locals, creating the dark-haired strain called "black Irish". I was unaware of any Irish, though, who washed up on the shores of Spain. Anyone who can give me some background on the Irish Armada is welcome to do so. To make things even more disorienting, my copy is a composite print that occasionally lapses into German!)

    That night, for the third night in a row, anxious knocking comes at the door of the Doctor's house. Lucy goes to answer, but freezes in terror in the open doorway. Henry comes in to see what's the matter. There in front of the house stands the procession of villagers. This time, they've come for Lucy...

    I think I've said enough to reveal some of the strengths and weaknesses of the plot. Particularly effective is the sense of stoic dread that hangs over the village. Every seven years, these people must give up seven of their children, so that the others might live. Resistance is met with wholesale slaughter. Naturally, they resent the outsiders, who mistake their resentment for simple mistrust.

    On the other hand, particularly annoying is the repetitive action of the script. Not only do the events of the movie keep repeating themselves, they're also highly reminiscent of things we've already seen in the previous installments. And because we're now so familiar with the zombies and their habits, the Templars are treated with far less mystery and awe than they are in the other films. Their appearance is taken mostly for granted, and they seem inept at stalking victims who aren't actually tied up.

    Overall, though, Night of the Seagulls is more successful than any of the other Blind Dead sequels, and is in many respects on the level of the original film. It's only about an hour into the movie that real problems begin to assert themselves; for example, the above-mentioned lack of suspense in the Templars' eventual attack. The climax of the movie is also something of a let-down. It's too simple to bring the series to a satisfying end. We do get another interesting detail out of the final confrontation, though: when a Templar dies for the last time, the recent blood it's stolen comes gushing from its empty eye-sockets. Little details like this, and the Templars' ritual of removing their left gauntlets before they feed, give the movie a sense of having been made with more care and craftsmanship than its two predecessors.

    Night of the Seagulls is probably the most difficult movie of the Blind Dead series to find. It was available on US video as Night of the Death Cult, though it was quite expensive at the time of its original release, and seems to be out of print now. It's a shame they felt the need to retitle the film; Night of the Seagulls is both appropriate and atmospheric. Like the crabs, the seagulls come out whenever the Templars feed. According to the legend, these gulls are the souls of the young women who were sacrificed every seven years to keep the Templars sated. More likely, they come out because they know there will soon be carrion to feed off. The combination of images suggested by the title -- soaring birds representing the tormented souls, or a flock of hungry scavengers, greedy eaters of the dead -- make me put Noche de los Gaviotas on my list of the best horror movie titles ever. And it's refreshing to be able to say that the movie itself is (in most respects) worthy of its original, imaginative title.

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