Thursday, July 24, 2014

THE COMPLETE BLIND DEAD SAGA (1971-1976)

THE COMPLETE BLIND DEAD SAGA (1971-1976)

4-DISC SET
Label: Blue Underground 
Release Date: July 29th 2014
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish with English Subtitles on Spanish Versions
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.66:1), (1.85:1) 
Duration: 541 Mins
Rating: Not Rated
Region Code: 1
Director: Amando de Ossorio
Casts: Lone Fleming, Cesar Burner, Maria Elena Arpon, Joseph Thelman, Tony Kendall, Fernando Sancho, Frank Brana, Maria Perschy, Barbara Rey


TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1971) 

In 1971, director Amando de Ossorio created what horror fans worldwide consider to be Spain's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. In Ossorio's nightmare vision, a legion of Knights Templar - executed horsemen whose eyes had been pecked out by crows - rise rotting from their graves, hunting only by sound in a quest for human flesh. The BLIND DEAD saga begins here, as a modern-day tourist trip to the ruins of the Templar monastery unleashes a frenzy of lesbian desire, sexual violence and the unholy onslaught of the eyeless undead! 

Spanish director Amando de Ossorio stumbled onto something quite interesting with TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD when he crafted this chilling tale of the Knights Templar - a mythic group of knights who drank blood  and the sacrificed virgins to Satan. The locals grew tired of their wicked ways and captured them before putting them to death but not before their eyes were pecked-out by birds - a very nice touch - and thus we have the legend of the Blind Dead. 


Centuries later a young couple on vacation when they are joined by the wife's cute college roommate who is also a former girl-on-girl lover. Sounds like something from a seventies era porn but things turn sour when the friend becomes flirtatious with the man. In a jealous fit the girlfriend unwisely jumps off a train in the middle of nowhere spending the night in the creepy ruins of a monastery where - of course - the Blind Dead are buried. As night sets in she starts up a campfire inside the monastery and before you know it the dreaded blood-sucking Knights arise. It an awesome scene drenched in fog as their bony hands rise-up from the ancient graves - a very macabre and creepy scenario. As you might imagine the comely lass meets an unfortunate end and eventually the woman's boyfriend and the woman come searching for her and are themselves pursued by the undead specters while getting themselves mixed-up with a clumsy police investigation while seeking the aid of a rapey smuggler and his bitchy lady friend. 


What I love about this one is the fantastically simple design of the Blind Dead - it's quite effective. They're cloaked skeletal specters who drink the blood of their victims combining elements of both mummies and a bit of the blood thirst you would associate with vampires. Even the horses they ride are undead which is just super cool, loved the reverbed echoes of  the galloping horses, it's has a surreal and eerie quality to it. The film is dripping with atmosphere complimented by a score that does a great job of sending chills down your spine accentuating the very slow-paced death scenes.  


This one has a simple horror premise steeped in Gothic chills with some creepy atmosphere and effective set pieces. This first film definitely sets the tone for the entire series and features many of the recurring themes such as lesbian tinged entanglements, the occasional rape and the skeletal specters of doom cutting quite a unsettling figure. One element unique to this entry is idea that the victims of the Blind Dead are resurrected an drain blood of others which does not carry over to any of the sequels. I would say that by quite a margin this is my preferred entry in the franchise - a truly creepy tale of the undead. 


The disc features he alternate extended Spanish cut of the film titled LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO and it's the preferred version with an additional 14 minutes of gore and sleaze cut from the American presentation. Both versions receive Dolby Digital mono audio treatment with the Spanish version having English subtitles. There are also a gallery of stills, the theatrical trailer and  a bizarre alternate opening sequence titled REVENGE OF THE PLANET APE with voice over that preposterously attempts to cash in on the popularity of THE PLANET OF THE APES!  


Special Features:

- TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (English and Spanish Versions)
- Alternate Opening Sequence - REVENGE FROM PLANET APE
- Theatrical Trailer
- Poster and Still Gallery

RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD (1973)
In this second startling film in the BLIND DEAD series, writer/director Amando de Ossorio returns to the horrific origin of the depraved Templar: heretic knights whose eyes were burned out by medieval vigilantes to prevent them from finding their way back from Hell. Now on the 500th anniversary of their execution, the blind horsemen rise from their tombs to wreak bloody revenge on the town that condemned them. Tony Kendall (WHEN THE SCREAMING STOPS), Frank Brana (PIECES) and Lone Fleming (TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD) star in this chilling sequel that rocked the EuroHorror genre!


The first sequel begins much like the first with a flashback sequence as the ancient order of the Knights Templar sacrifice a young woman and feast upon her blood before they are sentenced to death and have their eyes burned out. The origin story is slightly tweaked but it's pretty much the same as the first with a few embellishments.  This time out on the 500th anniversary of their death they rise up from the spooky tombs and lay siege to the nearby village. True to what most sequels do this one amps it up with a few more deaths and a siege scenario which creates a different kind of tension than the first film. It loses a few points as it's not  as chilling but it's still effective. There's a larger cast this time around too and a bit more character development with largely useless sub plots involving a corrupt mayor and his cheating wife who falls for the guy setting up the fireworks at the festival - very silly stuff. 


We have a bit more blood and some nudity layered on top of this one but the Blind Dead just are not as creepy as in previous entry which was a disappointment. They do play up that the skeletal specters are blind and that if you are careful you can sneak around them but most everyone falls victims to the swords of the Blind Dead from foolishness or folly.The NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD-esque siege-element is a nice touch which creates some decent tension among the characters with a tiny bit of humor. I do love it when the scuzzy mayor sends a young girl out as bait to distract the Blind Dead. This one has some decent characters and adds the element of a village idiot who might be the cause of the Blind Dead uprising - it depends on which version you watch.  This one is my second favorite entry in the series, though it loses some of the atmosphere the siege elements and quickened pulse rate make up for many of it's shortcomings. 


Again this disc features an alternate Spanish version that just about four minutes longer with English subtitles. I prefer the English dubbed version of this one as the Spanish video is not the best.  Extras on the disc include a theatrical trailer and still gallery. 


Special Features: 

- RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD (English and Spanish Versions)
- Theatrical Trailers
- Poster and Still Gallery

THE GHOST GALLEON (1973)
In what many fans consider the most surprising of the four films in the series, Maria Perschy (CASTLE OF FU MANCHU) and Jack Taylor (EUGENIE) star in writer/director Amando de Ossorio's chilling tale about a boatload of stranded swimsuit models who discover a mysterious ghost ship. But this phantom galleon carries the coffins of the satanic Templar, eyeless zombies who hunt humans by sound. Even if these frightened lovelies can survive their own forbidden desires, will they escape the insatiable hunger of the BLIND DEAD? 


Maybe the strangest entry in the series is THE GHOST GALLEON featuring a pair of swimsuit models stranded at sea on a small pleasure boat during an ill conceived publicity stunt gone wrong. With their boat taking on water the girls happen upon a ghost ship and board it with few options left.  
A search party comprised of a wealthy billionaire, a scientist the missing model's roommate embark on a search and rescue mission when the trio happen upon the very same unearthly ship adrift at sea.  once they're on board more Blind Dead shenanigans ensue. 


Without much explanation this one is set on a ship and not the Spanish countryside, which is pretty neat and sounds like it would have a lot of potential but the execution of the story is poor. Worse are the numerous miniature effects shots which are obviously a toy boat in the producer's bathtub - these are hilariously bad. One small saving grace would be that the Blind Dead look awesome and that the film is very well shot but a few small stylistic flourishes do not completely save this shabby entry. At times I was reminded of John Carpenter's THE FOG with the creepy fog-drenched sets and the centuries old boat adrift at sea haunted by undead creepy specters. I would find it hard to believe that John Carpenter was not at least in some small subconscious way inspired by this one, though it must be said Carpenter perfected what few redeeming qualities this one had. 

The cast here is alright - a few cuties in peril help keep you distracted and it also stars Euro-cult sensation Jack Taylor plus the ending is quite good too. A bit of a spotty production but not one without a peculiar charm of it's own. 


The disc does not feature an alternate Spanish language version of the film but does offer up a Spanish audio track, a selection of  trailers, TV and radio spots plus  poster and still gallery. 


Special Features: 

- Theatrical Trailer
- HORROR OF THE ZOMBIES U.S. Advertising: Theatrical Trailer, TV Spot and Radio Spots
- Poster and Still Gallery 

NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS (1976)
The classic saga of the BLIND DEAD ends with the creepy tale of a remote coastal town where frightened villagers must sacrifice beautiful virgins to the blood cult of the Knights Templar. For seven nights every seven years, these eyeless zombies rise from the sea to feast on human flesh as the souls of the damned are trapped in the screams of gulls. In this final unforgettable shocker from writer/director Amando de Ossorio, the mood is darker, the fear is stronger and the hunger of the Templar more ferocious than ever before!


A doctor and his wife move to a creepy seaside village where things seems a bit off - and sure enough they are strange. Not only do the locals treat the doc and his wife rudely but every seven years they sacrifice seven women to appease the Knight Templar! Aware of the strange happenings in the village the doc is unaware of what exactly is going on and ends up interrupting a sacrifice which sends the creepy Knights into the village to suck some blood. This one was quite a chore to sit through to be honest. I fell asleep twice watching it which is not to say it's without a certain charm. There's the usual effective atmosphere and familiar touches like a pre-credit virginal sacrifice and the mistreatment of a village idiot but the story and supporting characters just did not grasp me, this is my least favorite of the series, a very weak send-off. 


Special Features: 

- Theatrical Trailer
- Poster and Still Gallery


Blue Underground have previously issued the four BLIND DEAD films in a cool limited edition coffin-shaped box which contained a bonus disc with a doc about director Amando de Ossorio. What we have here the very same discs minus the bonus disc and the nifty packaging. worth noting that these discs are not remastered editions - just repackaged and made available to those of us who were not lucky enough to snag the Coffin-shaped box. If you own that previous set you might want skip this one until a Blu-ray set comes our way. The BLIND DEAD films are worth a watch even if the quality of the entries decreases as the series rolls on - these blood drinking skeletal specters are pretty awesome.. 

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