Film Review: The ‘Blind Dead’ Film Series (1972-1975)

Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead tetralogy is a pretty unique take on the zombie movie formula. In his stories, the undead are actually members of the Knights Templar. Each film begins with a flashback of the knights doing some sort of heinous act, usually torturing young naked women. This is to foreshadow that they are evil and into Satanic rituals… or they just party a little too hard.

Each movie is pretty much the same with just a few minor changes to differentiate each chapter. Ultimately, the Knights Templar do some messed up shit, the people fight back, the knights claim they are immortal, generations later they wake up from a dead slumber because some hottie decided to sleep in their tomb (or meddle around their ghost ship).

So I figured that since these films are really just rehashes of the same thing, it would make more sense to review them together.

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972):

Also known as: La noche del terror ciego, lit. The Night of the Blind Terror (Spain), Crypt of the Blind Dead, Night of the Blind Dead, Legend of the Blind Dead, Tombs of the Evil Dead, Revenge From Planet Ape
Release Date: April 10th, 1972 (Spain)
Directed by: Amando de Ossorio
Written by: Amando de Ossorio
Music by: Antón García Abril
Cast: Lone Fleming, César Burner

Interfilme, Plata Films S.A., 101 Minutes

Review:

Tombs of the Blind Dead kicked off the tetralogy. It is also the best story of the bunch but I do prefer the second film a hair bit more.

There is a train that happens to roll through the Portuguese countryside near a haunted tomb of the long dead Templar knights. The main girl in the film jumps off of the train because she’s nuts and doesn’t do anything logical throughout the entire film. She spends the night in this tomb, which wakes up the warrior Catholic zombies. She dies. Her friends that were initially on the train with her, go back to investigate. They obviously discover the cause of her death, a hoard of white robed, sword-wielding zombies that are too slow to properly swashbuckle.

The film isn’t well shot and it is poorly lit, as darkness takes over the screen and obscures too much of the picture. Regardless, these are still some of the coolest zombies in cinema history.

One cool thing about the undead in this film is that they have horses. They are slow like zombies but their steeds of death can outrun any human trying to hightail it away from the site of the haunted tomb. I thought it was weird that their horses were just hanging out for centuries and that they don’t freak the hell out from the zombie state of their masters but it is revealed in the second film that the horses are undead too. That wasn’t so clear in this movie.

Tombs of the Blind Dead is entertaining enough to kill ninety minutes or so. It is not a great zombie picture but very few of them are.

Return of the Blind Dead (1973):

Also known as: El ataque de los muertos sin ojos, lit. Attack of the Blind Dead (Spain), Return of the Evil Dead, Mark of the Devil 5: Night of the Blind Terror
Release Date: September 14th, 1973 (West Germany)
Directed by: Amando de Ossorio
Written by: Amando de Ossorio
Music by: Antón García Abril
Cast: Tony Kendall, Fernando Sancho, Esperanza Roy, Lone Fleming, Frank Braña, Luis Barboo

Ancla Century Films, Belén Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

This chapter in the series is my favorite, overall.

I’d say that the first chapter is a better movie, as the ideas and the concepts are still new but I liked this one for the fact that the undead knights take on a whole village and that it was action heavy and flew by pretty quickly, until the last act of the film, which then slowed everything to a halt.

The people in this chapter are at least not as stupid as the people from the first movie. They’re still idiots but at least there is a couple and a young girl that survive this time. Plus, that finale was pretty good and suspenseful.

The highlight of this film is when the village folk are burning effigies of the evil Knights Templar and then the undead knights show up to spoil the party, putting their swords through all the villagers, trapped within the stone walls of the small town.

Return of the Blind Dead, from a narrative standpoint, is the most fluid picture. It is also the least hokey out of the tetralogy.

The Ghost Galleon (1974):

Also known as: El buque maldito, lit. The Damned Ship (Spain), Horror of the Zombies, Ghost Ships of the Blind Dead, Horror of the Evil Dead, Ship of Zombies, The Blind Dead 3, Zombie Flesh Eater
Release Date: June 28th, 1974 (West Germany)
Directed by: Amando de Ossorio
Written by: Amando de Ossorio
Music by: Antón García Abril
Cast: Maria Perschy, Jack Taylor, Barbara Rey

Ancla Century Films, Belén Films, 89 Minutes

Review:

The Ghost Galleon is where the series took a big shit on itself. Although, it did introduce some cool elements to the mythos and it has the best sequence out of all the films. Unfortunately, most of this is a big piss sandwich.

In this chapter, a couple hotties on a tiny boat get lost in a fog. They then get hit by a large wooden ship. The women, at different times, decide to explore this pirate looking vessel. Both of them end up having a really bad time and we are treated to one of the most bloodcurdling zombie kills ever captured on celluloid. Not because it is violent and awesome but because the damn girl literally screams for like five minutes and it is the most annoying scream I’ve ever heard. I can’t necessarily blame the filmmakers, as the scream came to me courtesy of the English dub track. But man, I really wanted to punch my TV because that bitch wouldn’t friggin’ die.

I do like the pirate ship and the swashbuckling aesthetic of this chapter but the story isn’t exciting and the film, overall, is boring as hell.

But we do get rewarded for sitting through this drab movie, as the final sequence is the best in the series. It shows our two heroes escape the wrath of the Knights Templar, as they reach the beach after drifting on a piece of wood all night. Once they collapse in the sand, the living dead, in their robes, rise one-by-one out of the water and slowly walk up onto the beach, surrounding the exhausted heroes, who open their eyes to see their doom finally huddling over them.

Also, the glowing demon skull in the film was a nice touch.

Night of the Seagulls (1975):

Also known as: La noche de las gaviotas (Spain), Don’t Go Out at Night, Night of the Blood Cult, Night of the Death Cult, Terror Beach, Night of the Evil Dead, The Blind Dead 4, Zombi 8, The Bloodfeast of the Blind Dead
Release Date: August 11th, 1975 (Spain)
Directed by: Amando de Ossorio
Written by: Amando de Ossorio
Music by: Antón García Abril
Cast: Victor Petit, Maria Kosti, Sandra Mozarowsky

Ancla Century Films, Profilmes, Pérez Pareja, M. Flor, 89 Minutes

Review:

Night of the Seagulls is better than The Ghost Galleon but not by much.

We return to a beach setting in this one, as de Ossorio probably enjoyed the nautical theme of the previous chapter and its beach ending.

In this chapter, a doctor and his young wife move to a small coastal town. The locals don’t like them because locals of villages never like outsiders, especially in horror movies. The doctor and his wife are eventually confronted by the town’s dark secret; every seven years, the undead Knights Templar rise out of the sea and haunt the village for seven nights, demanding the the sacrifice of a young woman. It is up to the doctor and his wife to try and save one of the young girls from a horrible fate.

While this is a better movie than The Ghost Galleon, it is the least interesting. It’s as if de Ossorio ran out of good ideas and just threw together some lowest common denominator horror tropes. Maybe this was just an effort to capitalize on the success of the series but it was lazily crafted and didn’t open the door for any further sequels.

The undead Knights Templar would not rise again.

Film Review: Prince of Foxes (1949)

Release Date: December 23rd, 1949
Directed by: Henry King
Written by: Milton Krims
Based on: Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger
Music by: Alfred Newman
Cast: Tyrone Power, Orson Welles

20th Century Fox, 107 Minutes

Review:

“It is my belief that everything, even death, can be turned into profit.” – Cesare Borgia

Prince of Foxes re-teams director Henry King with his swashbuckling star Tyrone Power. It also adds Orson Welles to the mix as the famous tyrant Cesare Borgia. The fact that I get to see two of my favorite actors play off of each other, is the real treat of this film.

While the poster and the subject matter may make you think that this is a big swashbuckler (albeit in Renaissance Italy), there is very little swordplay and it is more of a historical war drama with a bit of romance and some swashbuckling elements just lightly sprinkled in.

Orson Welles is the perfect Cesare Borgia. While I didn’t live in 1500 and can’t compare the two men, Welles’ personification greatly embodies the spirit of what Borgia was, historically speaking. The power, the boldness, the heartlessness and the ability to conquer for the sake of ego and wealth. Orson Welles captures this and adds in his own cool and eloquent qualities. He also looks like a Renaissance era Sith lord.

Tyrone Power walks into the film with a smile and unrelenting charm but that is why he was a favorite to star in these sort of pictures. His acting chops and masculine presence are strong enough to stand in front of Welles’ Borgia and to hold his ground. While Welles typically outshines most, Power doesn’t lose his presence in the picture and it is still very much his movie.

The film, where possible, made use of accurate locations and historical structures in an effort to make Prince of Foxes as authentic as possible. The world truly feels real and lived in. It doesn’t feel as if these men are just on some Hollywood back lot or in a studio.

The cinematography is lush and lively, even for a black and white picture that came out in the film-noir 40s. The costumes are perfect, the sets are finely ornamented and the attention to detail is pretty astounding. The sound is also pristine, which must have been a challenge with the on location shooting.

Prince of Foxes is neither my favorite Tyrone Power or Orson Welles picture. However, it was still a film of high quality that brought these two giants together. It kind of holds a special place for me because of that. And I’ve always loved tales of the infamous Borgia family.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Release Date: May 11th, 2017 (Shanghai premiere)
Directed by: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Written by: Jeff Nathanson, Terry Rossio
Based on: the Pirates of the Caribbean amusement park ride by Walt Disney, characters by Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Music by: Geoff Zanelli
Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley

Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney, 142 Minutes

Review:

“Pirate’s life.” (raises glass of rum) – Captain Jack Sparrow

I went into Dead Men Tell No Tales expecting a very lackluster effort by Disney after their previous two Pirates of the Caribbean films. You see, I loved the first one and the second one was pretty good. However, the third was a convoluted mess and the fourth, despite the inclusion of the always great Ian McShane, was quite horrible.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a blend of all the things I love about these films and all the things I loathe. However, the balance does lean more towards the things I love.

The real question is, “Why do we see these movies?” The answer, “Because we want to have some fun.” Does this succeed at fun? Yes.

Johnny Depp is so natural as Captain Jack Sparrow that he can dial in his performance and still nail the role. Despite all the iconic parts he has ever played, Jack Sparrow is the quintessential Johnny Depp role, at this point. He is a man of great talent and skill, always takes a unique and strange path to fantastic results and always looks like he enjoys his craft. I’m talking about both Depp and Sparrow.

Of course, despite Depp’s greatness, the highlights of these films for me has always been Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Hector Barbossa. He is a complex character that started out as the villain in the first picture but from film to film, always leaves you guessing as to which side he’s on. But he always comes out a hero, despite his love for piracy and treachery. Dead Men Tell No Tells, however, becomes Barbossa’s most important and personal story.

I have always loved Javier Bardem and seeing him in this as the villain Captain Armando Salazar was pretty cool. He was my favorite of the villains after Barbossa. His story was also really interesting, as he isn’t a pirate but more of a pirate hunter. After meeting his demise, thanks to a young Jack Sparrow, he existed in a place of darkness for decades, waiting for the moment where he and his ghostly looking crew could reenter our world and exact revenge against Sparrow.

The newcomers Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario were both very good. However, they didn’t have the presence and chemistry with the rest of the cast that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley did in the first three pictures. Out of the two, I thought Scodelario was the more interesting character.

Speaking of Bloom and Knightley, they both return, albeit very briefly, but it does setup their involvement in the next film which is to be the grand finale, or so Disney says. The third film was supposed to be the last and that was three films ago.

Having two directors, I was worried about how this film would turn out. Ultimately, it is a good effort by the directors, Disney and the actors. The new settings and the quest for the newest treasure where refreshing and exciting. Sure, some sequences are way too over the top but these films are really just fantasy epics with some swashbuckling added in. They aren’t supposed to be smart or captivating movies, they are supposed to be a wild adventure and that’s exactly what this is.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a popcorn flick. It doesn’t try to be more than that and it doesn’t need to be more than that. It doesn’t need to be the Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings of the ocean. And frankly, Captain Jack Sparrow isn’t a character I will ever grow tired of. And to be honest, I wouldn’t mind revisiting him time and time again. I do like that Disney took a lengthier break between the last film and this one. The absence made the heart grow fonder but I didn’t come to that realization until I was sitting in the theater and saw a hungover Captain Jack wake up inside a bank vault he intended to steal.

Watching this film, I had the feeling that Depp’s Sparrow had now become this generation’s version of Charlie Chaplin’s the Tramp.

Top 25 Films Starring Basil Rathbone

basil-rathboneI have done a list like this for Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. I am working my way through all of the legends of classic horror.

However, Basil Rathbone isn’t just a legend of classic horror, he is an icon of swashbuckling movies – another one of my favorite film genres.

Rathbone could be heroic but he was mostly the foil to the hero whether it was in a horror picture or playing an equally sinister character while holding a cutlass on a pirate ship.

He has always been one of my favorite actors. It probably has to do with the fact that my mum always thought that he was an evil jerk while we watched these old movies together. And, I always pulled for the villain, even as a kid. Although, my mum thought he was the best Sherlock Holmes, so she did like him in that role.

But anyway, these are his twenty-five best roles.

1. Captain Blood
2. The Adventures of Robin Hood
3. The Mark of Zorro
4. Tales of Terror
5. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
6. The Dawn Patrol
7. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
8. The Comedy of Terrors
9. Son of Frankenstein
10. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (as narrator)
11. Terror by Night
12. The Adventures of Marco Polo
13. A Night of Terror
14. Dressed to Kill
15. The Woman In Green
16. Tower of London (1939)
17. The Scarlet Claw
18. The Mad Doctor
19. The Black Cat (1941)
20. The Spider Woman
21. The Black Sleep
22. Pursuit to Algiers
23. The Court Jester
24. Sherlock Holmes Faces Death
25. Queen of Blood

Top 25 Films Starring Peter Cushing

peter_cushingPeter Cushing was one of the greatest horror icons of all-time. He starred alongside the legendary Christopher Lee in more than twenty films and also worked a lot with Vincent Price. He was the king of Hammer Horror, even more so than Christopher Lee.

Cushing could play heroic, sinister or just bad ass roles. He was Van Helsing, Dr. Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes and a plethora of other great characters. He owned every role he ever played.

He is known to most people as Grand Moff Tarkin, the commander of the first Death Star in the first ever Star Wars. That character also reappeared via CGI in the recent Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Since I did a list like this for Lee and for Price, I figured that doing one for Cushing was a must.

1. Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope
2. The Curse of Frankenstein (and whole Frankenstein series)
3. The Horror of Dracula (and Dracula installments he’s in)
4. Twins of Evil
5. The Vampire Lovers
6. Captain Clegg (also known as Night Creatures)
7. Sword of Sherwood Forest
8. The Hound of the Baskervilles
9. The Gorgon
10. Madhouse
11. Dr. Who and the Daleks (and the sequel)
12. The Mummy
13. Island of Terror
14. The Abominable Snowman
15. The Beast Must Die
16. I, Monster
17. The Skull
18. The Creeping Flesh
19. Asylum
20. The Blood Beast Terror
21. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors
22. The House That Dripped Blood
23. Scream and Scream Again
24. She
25. Horror Express

Top 25 Films Starring Christopher Lee

christopher_lee_draculaI recently did a post about the Top 25 Films Starring Vincent Price.

Another horror legend, who just happens to be my favorite British actor is Christopher Lee. Actually, it is Sir Christopher Lee as the man who has played Count Dracula, Rasputin, Count Dooku, Saruman, The Man with the Golden Gun, Frankenstein’s monster, Lord Summerisle and many other characters was officially knighted. Fitting since he has the world record for most swordfights on screen.

Lee is an amazing actor with amazing presence and has the best voice in the history of cinema.

Here are his twenty-five best roles out of the several hundred he’s done:

1. The Wicker Man (the original, obviously not the Nic Cage remake)
2. Rasputin: The Mad Monk
3. The Horror of Dracula (and whole Dracula series)
4. The Devil Rides Out
5. Jinnah
6. Lord of the Rings/Hobbit series
7. Star Wars (prequel trilogy)
8. The Curse of Frankenstein
9. The Man With the Golden Gun
10. The Hound of the Baskervilles
11. Corridors of Blood
12. The Gorgon
13. The Mummy
14. The Devil Ship Pirates
15. I, Monster
16. The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
17. The Skull
18. Crypt of the Vampire
19. The Oblong Box
20. The Fu Manchu series
21. The Musketeers series
22. The Creeping Flesh
23. The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel)
24. The Pirates of Blood River
25. Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Film Review: Captain From Castile (1947)

Release Date: December 25th, 1947
Directed by: Henry King
Written by: Lamar Trotti
Based on: Captain From Castile by Samuel Shellabarger
Music by: Alfred Newman
Cast: Tyrone Power, Jean Peters, Cesar Romero

Twentieth Century Fox, 141 Minutes

captain_from_castileReview:

I have Captain From Castile listed as a swashbuckling film. The main reason, is because it stars swashbuckling bad ass Tyrone Power. Also, it features lots of swords and people traveling by ship. It is a picture on the verge of swashbuckling greatness but falls short and never really gives you what you’re looking for in that regard.

That doesn’t mean it is a bad film. It is actually a good historical adventure.

The story sees Power’s Pedro de Vargas help an Aztec slave escape his cruel master. He finds himself in trouble and must flee the Inquisition. He later rescues Jean Peter’s Catana Perez. Then he meets an adventurer and they are then swept away to the New World, Mexico to be exact. The film then revolves around the invasion of Mexico by Cortez.

It is a fairly long movie at 141 minutes but it probably could’ve been edited down significantly. There are a lot of sections of the film that drag on too long or where it seems like not enough is happening. The better sequences make up for that though,

Tyrone Power is typical Tyrone Power. Although, he has less to do, not being able to fence his way through baddies and all. It also stars the always enjoyable Cesar Romero and introduces us to the talents of Jean Peters.

The film was directed by the accomplished Henry King, known for Twelve O’Clock High The Snows of KilimanjaroThe Song of BernadetteCarouselLove is a Many-Splendored ThingThe Gunfighter and Jesse James – just to name some of his dozens of movies.

The trailers for the film are in black and white but the movie itself is actually in vibrant Technicolor. The visuals are mesmerizing and the film has a certain feeling of realism, as it was filmed on location in Mexico – utilizing authentic active volcanoes and shooting around real lava beds. The volcanic ash actually created issues on set but the film still turned out to be visually stunning. The filmmakers were ambitious but accomplished what they set out to do from a visual perspective.

The biggest negative of the film is how it ends. It doesn’t really have a proper conclusion, it just sort of stops in what feels like the middle of the story. Almost as if this was the first part of a trilogy that was never completed. The picture only covers the first half of the novel it is based on. This issue, mixed with how long it was and how some scenes could have been cut or edited down, makes the movie feel like a long pilot for a television show that was never picked up and left dangling story-wise.

I do like the film, it just needed more refinement from a narrative standpoint. Tyrone Power never disappoints and he certainly didn’t in Captain From Castile.