Saturday, April 14, 2012

"La Noche del terror ciego"(1971)d/Amando de Ossorio

When George Romero breathed reanimated life into the zombie sub-genre in the late sixties, he paved the way for directors like Spaniard Amando de Ossorio, who put his own personal flair into 1971's 'La Noche del terror ciego', or 'Tombs of the Blind Dead' as it was known internationally, the first of a popular horror quadrilogy centered around a fictional hooded vampiric mummified version of the Knights Templar, a real life Western Christian military order active during the crusades that was disbanded by Pope Clement V in 1312(On a side note, Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay was arrested among his French Templar brothers on Friday the 13th in 1307, and formally charged with witchcraft, homosexuality, financial corruption, among other things, giving rise for some, to the date's long-standing superstitious status, though the eyeless blood-drinking immortal-thing was strictly de Ossorio.).Tonight's review is a slow-building gothic romp, moody and well-constructed for the most part, effectively utilizing mechanical puppet-props and costumed actors in bringing the vengeful ghouls to life to wreak havok on the silver screen.The director chooses to focus his lens here on said zombies and the opulent atmosphere of the monasterial ruins of Berzano, with a tease of latin womanflesh thrown in for good exploitative measure, rather than to clutter up his effort with an abundance of unnecessary dialogue, and the result stands as an excellent example of the finest Spanish genre cinema of the decade, and entirely worthwhile viewing.And let's not forget that far out ending-that-I'll-be-unable-to-help-myself-from-spoiling-for-you-in-the-synopsis.Forwards!
"A good Radiesse injection'll clear that nasal blemish of yours in no time..."
While poolside on a getaway in Portugal, Betty(Lone Fleming) reunites with old school chum/sapphic tryst, Virginia(María Elena Arpón), whose wet pal, Roger(Cesar Burner), spontaneously invites her along for the scenic train ride the duo had planned for the following day, mesmerized by the girl's floral print bikini and bouncy ass.After some hard-sell flirting with Betty in their compartment causes Virginia to trot off to the caboose and pout, we're treated to a smoky wisp of a lesbo-flashback where the women, dressed like schoolgirls, pantomime a marriage and roll onto the bed together for some awkward 70's Euro-flavored sexual experimentation.So thaaaaat's what she's pouting about.While the suddenly unwanted Roger comes to grips with his mortally wounded Spanish machismo, Virginia hops off the train near the abandoned ruins of a monastery in Berzano, preferring to have her blood sucked out by reanimated slo-mo Templar knights that rise from their misty tombs that evening than play 'third wheel' with Roger and Betty on the train ride(but not before she manages to half-smoke a few cigarettes, strip naked in front of a roaring bonfire she whips up using a fistful of dead branches, and tune in some happenin' pop music on her transistor radio).While detectives grill Roger and Betty about their newly dead friend after their daylight search of the ruins proves fruitless when the horses they've rented get spooked and trot off, she comes back to life in the morgue and bites the attendant on the neck as he's preoccupied with torturing a live frog in a fishbowl with surgical forceps, before shambling to the Bava-lit mannekin warehouse that Betty works at, only to get incinerated by Nina(Verónica Llimera), Betty's assistant who's working late, putting some finishing gold flake touches on statues of the Egyptian Mother of the Veil of Darkness for H.G. Lewis or something, I dunno.
He just couldn't seem to forget her, her Wind Song stayed on his mind.
Meanwhile at the library, Professor Candal(Francisco Sanz) relates the Templars' haematic history via flashback where most of the order stand around and look at each other emptily while knights on horseback repeatedly hack a bound-n-screaming maiden's bra-fillers with their swords, before drinking the flowing blood, thus, gaining immortality through the wicked ceremony.The fuzz make the scene, blaming Virginia's murder on Candal's smuggler son(a librarian and a smuggler, this family rules), Pedro(José Thelman), but offer zero follow up, causing Roger and Betty to join forces with the sweaty pit-stained criminal and his ready-for-action girlfriend in spending the night amidst the haunted monastery ruins.What the foursome is out to prove is anybody's guess, but it's not long before Pedro's arm candy tries to seduce Roger, arguing that Betty is out exploring with Pedro, and only a naive fool couldn't guess where that's gonna lead.Why, rape amidst the grave markers, of course.The absurdity of Betty's seeming post-sex attack consent(or it might be the midnight bells, who knows for sure) draws the hooded fiends from their tombs, and they set upon Pedro in slow motion, as Roger frantically bangs on the barricaded door while Betty and Pedro's gal pick the most inopportune time to have a knock down, drag out cat fight, earning their male associate a sword-amputated arm, which he soon dies from.The smuggler's girlfriend alerts the ghouls to her whereabouts by screaming her fool head off, and they reward her by biting her to death.Betty manages to limp into the coutryside with a sprained ankle, ahead of the galloping knights somehow, and is spotted by the passing train, which reluctantly stops to rescue her, only succeeding in letting all the Templars aboard(!), killing all the passengers; one screaming child is doused in her own mother's blood(!!), while shock-ridden Betty slumps undetected into the train's coal supply.When the train is forced to stop at the next juncture, harrowing screams soon fill the air...
These Spanish broads know how to party.
de Ossorio would revisit the Templars with El Ritorno de los Muertos Sin Ojos(1973), El Buque Maldito(1974), and La Noche de los Gaviotas(1975)(all of which we'll get around to examining right here, I promise you), as well as other genre efforts like Malenka(1969), Las Garras de Lorelei(1974), La endemoniada(1975), and Serpiente de mar(1984), before passing away at the age of 82 in 2001.Lone Fleming would score genre credits in the '73 sequel, Una vela para el diablo(1973), Malocchio(1975), and de Ossorio's own La endemoniada.María Elena Arpón also appeared in 1969's The House That Screamed and opposite Paul Naschy in El jorobado de la Morgue(1973).Interestingly, a '90s NYC-based Oi band would dub itself 'The Templars', and though some of their shows I've been to may have erupted in tasty bits o' violence, I can't recall any blood-drinking going on.At least, not out in the open, anyway.On the scale Noche earns three solid Wops, with it's effectively creepy score, gothic scares, and optimum locales, a worthy Euro-shocker that's packed full of atmosphere.Hunt down a copy and check it out yourselves.
"Favor perdóname, Vermudo, sus lesiones son apenas perceptibles..."

No comments:

Connect with Facebook