TOMBS OF THE
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
This movie came out of Spain in the early 1970s so, gore-wise, it was pretty damn advanced for its time. It was no Herschel Gordon Lewis gore and schlock-fest, mind you, but it was nowhere near as boring either.
The flick has everything you could want in a Horror movie marathon-style Horror flick. If you like presenting your friends with new and refreshing Horror movies, this is it. If you have friends who are into Horror, they no doubt already have this movie and will be happy to watch it with you again.
TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD features bad guys getting theirs (from some REALLY bad guys who don't!), as well as hot babes, tight clothes, bikinis, and nudity. The only problem with the nudity in this flick is that it is usually getting horribly slaughtered or graphically raped - which ruins the fun of nudity in the first place. Beats me why this movie only has a PG rating in the U.S.
The tale revolves around the ancient Knights Of Templar. A ruthless band of cuthroats who wandered around, killing, raping, and robbing, all under the guise of "doing God's work". Think modern day extremist religions like the Taliban or Southern Baptists and you get the idea. But the KOT operated back in the hairy-scary days of the dark ages in Europe, where the majority of folks were ignorant, illiterate, and didn't know much of the world beyond their own tiny area. As such, they were easy pickings for twisted thugs who were too weak to feed themselves without constantly preying on the folks who actually did the work (think the Grasshopper and the Ant).
As it always happens with thugs and other parasites, they go too far and either the host dies or rallies and strikes back. In the case of this movie, a village rose up and slaughtered the local roving band of KOTs, who had returned from campaigns in Egypt with some funny ideas about being immortal.
The villagers strung up the Knights and left them to hang there until the crows came and plucked out their eyes (Crows were pretty wicked in those days, and nowhere near as charming as the Raven that Edgar knew).
So here we are in modern times and though this is the 20th Century (I'm talking about the movie not the REAL present times! Try to keep up, yeah?), the ancient steam locomotive takes passengers from one town to another without stopping once. Why? Because smack dab in the middle of the two destinations is the old city of Bereno and that place has a curse!
What's the curse? What do you think you idiot? It holds the freaking TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD! Duh!
So we are talking zombies right? But these Knights are more than just zombies, they are VAMPIRE zombies! Gets better already doesn't it?
Years pass with no one stumbling through their ruins. I suppose that the Knights rise every night anyway. They have flesh and blood horses - though its never clear where these varmints come from - and they ride until the dawn. They howl at the moon / shoot out the light / It's a Tomb Of The Blind Dead on a Saturday night. Sun rises, nothing else to do, so they go back to sleep; carefully burying themselves just so they can push all that dirt and debris off the following night and rise again. Ah well, Folks make their bed after sleeping in it too.
So when a luscious honey goes stumbling through their city of death, its a cause for celebration. Of course, being dead means that these varmints move real slow. It's not like they are about to fall apart or anything, they can knock holes through masonry with their fists! I have no idea how a varmint with little muslce tissue can do that, or how it could be animated in the first place. Then again, I'm no expert on zombies, so there you have it.
Anyway, the honey is Virginia (1970s Espanol sex kitten Elena Arpón: EL JOROBADO DE LA MORGUE). She took a train trip with her control freak boyfriend, Roger (César Burner) - who in turn, has been hitting on her much older lesbian friend, Betty (who is actually the younger Espanol scream queen, Lone Fleming: LA ÚLTIMA SENORA ANDERSON, EL ATAQUE DE LOS MUERTOS SIN OJOS, UNA VELA PARA EL DIABLO, EROTICOFOLLIA). Betty enjoys the flirting and likes to see her friend get really bent about it. But when Virginia decides to leave the two of them, Betty gets all freaked and tries to pet her up so she can have both Roger and Virginia's attentions at her disposal.
Virginia may be young, but it seems she has gone through this crap with Betty before and jumps off the train at the first opportunity.
Well, Virginia may know a lot about manipulative so-called "friends", but she doesn't know squat about zombies. So after she enters the city of the dead, Merry Mishaps Occur.
"But wait, Eddie!" you might very well say. "If they have no eyes then how do they see their victims?"
Well, such concerns have never been necessary in a Supernatural Horror movie before, but the plot motor of this flick is that they have exceptionally good hearing. You know how it is with zombies, when they lose one sense, another becomes highly attuned?
Well, these zombies have lost their eyes, noses, most of their skin (they kept their beards though. Skeletons with beards look REALLY bad-ass I'm telling ya!), and who knows what else has fallen off. So you can imagine just how highly sensitive their damn hearing is. So don't scream and make foot-steppy noise. Oh, don't let your heart beat either. They can hear that too!
TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD was a big hit for its time, so much so that they made a sequel, RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD. Understand that this was back in the day when every movie was released to theaters and all the expenses that accrue with that undertaking; the shipping and handling of very heavy cases of massive rolls of film being just one of them. Folks weren't as flippant about making sequels to crappy movies then as they are now, where you can figure into your expenses the fact that Blockbuster and Best Buy will buy a fixed amount of your crap and spread the copies around to their umpteen billion stores. Back before video rental, you didn't make a sequel unless you really MEANT it!
That doesn't mean that sequels were any better then than they are now, though.
It was made by Amando Ossorio (MALENKA, RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD, LA NOCHE DE LOS BRUJOS, LA ENDEMONIADA, EL BUQUE MALDITO, WHEN THE SCREAMING STOPS, LA NOCHE DE LOS GAVIOTAS), who built a reputation for making hideously bad horror movies and doing it often. Still, it is also Amando who is responsible for much of the clunky foreign film Horror that U.S. audiences love to toy with. In his own bizarre way, Amando was a genius, and the world is a better place for him having passed through it. Though TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD is not a great film, it is arguably his best, and I'm a deep rooted fan of his work.
TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD is not without its flaws of course, and poor pacing is one of them. The movie often drags between horrors and there is too much walking around. Fortunately, this isn't a total waste of time since the folks are walking through the interesting ruins of the dead city. They are searching for their friend and their own guilty consciences. Better editing would have helped here. A bigger budget would have helped too, as some of the special effects are very obviously rubber appliances.
Despite these woes, the story is good, the acting is good, and it is entertaining enough to earn 3 Shriek Girls.
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