Retro zombie movie review – The Blind Dead Collection
By Brian M. Sammons
As the horror world still seems to be in the festering grip of zombie love, I thought I’d take a moment and shine a spotlight on some undead classics that may have been forgotten in the wake of the more recent zombie flicks. And I can’t think of a better place to start than a series of Spanish imports that put their own heretical spin on the walking dead, not to mention creating true blind terror.
I’m talking about the Blind Dead films written and directed by Amando de Ossorio. There was the original Tombs of the Blind Dead from 1972, followed a year later by Return of the Evil Dead. No, not that Evil Dead, but credit where credit is due, this movie came out long before Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell got together for their gory romp. Then the following year, 1974 for those keeping track, the third movie of the series came out; The Ghost Galleon (AKA: The Horror of the Zombies). Finally in 1975 things were wrapped up with the horribly titled Night of the Seagulls. Yep, seagulls. Oh how scary.
All of these movies were about Satanic Knights Templar from way back who drank blood and committed sacrifices in an attempt to gain immortality. Executed for their crimes, and not just because the Pope wanted all their riches (wink, wink) their bodies were left unburied to rot and the crows picked out their eyes, hence their blindness. Now whenever the living comes too close to these dead dudes, they rise from the grave to kill and suck the blood of the living. Because they are blind, they must use sound to find their victims which does add a neat element to how the living must try to avoid these hungry dead.
The first movie sets up the back story of the undead Templars and ends with a glorious ride of the zombie knights as they attack a moving (albeit very slowly) train. The second film has the blind dead attacking a rural village during its centennial celebration with the survivors taking refuge in a deserted cathedral. The third movie gets a bit more nautical as its title suggests, but is also gets more extra-dimensional as well. In it, a group of models traveling the high seas are scooped up by a ghostly 16th century galleon which exists in a parallel dimension. And yes, the old boat is just loaded to the brim with more blind Templar zombies. The last of the four films, the one with the unfortunate title of Night of the Seagulls, brings the seafaring zombies back to land as a menace that arises every seven years for seven days to terrorize a small fishing village. Said village tries to appease the bloodsucking blind dead with sacrifices. What could ever go wrong with that?
All of these movies are loads up fun. Sure they have silly bits to them but even those have a campy charm. They also have a lot of seriously creepy moments, not to mention a good amount of the red stuff splattering about. It also gets points for doing its own thing with the zombie genre because even in 1972 there was already a zombie blueprint that many less creative types chose to follow. Furthermore, as they were all made by the same guy, they definitely have a unified feel to them and an evolving story that never seems to go too far afield like many sequels do. And yes, that includes the zombie boat from Dimension-X bit in the third movie. No, really.
Now if all this sounds good to you (and how could it not?) then I have great news: you can get all these movies in one killer DVD box set from Blue Underground. I mean, just look at that beautiful box. If you’re a horror fan then you just have to get that sitting on your DVD shelf. But cool packaging aside, it comes stuffed with a bunch of Blind Dead goodness. First it has all four films on DVD looking better than ever. Each disc comes with a small smattering of extras, such as an alternate opening for the first movie and the usual trailers and poster galleries. There is also a fifth DVD in the box with a 25 minute documentary on director Amando de Ossorio, and 11 minute interview with the man, and an article about the director written after his death in 2001. Last but not least, there is a 39 page booklet loaded with trivia, behind the scenes info, and photos from all four films.
The Blind Dead Collection is a hell of a groovy box set. It looks great and holds four great, original, and sadly overlooked gems of zombie goodness. I can both easily and highly recommend these movies to all horrorheads. If you have been blind to these movies up until now, it’s high time to see what you’ve been missing.