Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

In medieval Spain, the Knights Templar committed heinous acts of black magic involving feasting on the flesh and blood of virgin women in order to protract their lives. Their order was forcibly disbanded by King Philip IV of Spain, but in the modern 1970s their revenants still wander their old castle in a sort of no man’s land in the Spanish countryside. At night they crawl out of their graves and ride their horses, seeking the blood of the living. They are the blind dead, so called because the crows ate the eyes from their skulls when they hung at the gallows, though now with super hearing so that they can hear the fearful heartbeats of their victims as they seek them.

Or so the plot of this movie goes. It’s absurdly historically inaccurate in many ways: the Knights Templar were accused of witchcraft and heresy, yes, but that was more likely a ploy by King Philip IV of France because he owed them a lot of money (he had done the same thing earlier to the Jews), and it was Pope Clement who actually did the disbanding. Many of the former Templars ended up joining the Knights Hospitaller as a result. Now King Philip IV of France did burn many of the Knights Templar at the stake, and there is a story that the Templars leader asked to be executed in a praying position so he could call down vengeance on the people who destroyed his order. Both Pope Clement and King Philip IV of France died within a year of his execution, though Clement did have enough time to pardon all of the Templars before he died. As for King Philip IV of Spain, he ruled a few hundred years later and was more preoccupied with losing naval battles than a long gone knightly order.

But who cares about history for the sake of story, right? You want to know about the movie. Basically a woman gets mad at her boyfriend and an old friend on a train, so she bails and ends up getting killed by the blind dead. When her boyfriend and friend come looking for her, they end up first in a police investigation and then with a couple of smugglers as the blind dead and their zombie offspring proceed to kill pretty much whoever is around.

The interesting thing here is that this began a tetralogy of horror movies in Spain known as the Blind Dead series. It’s also surprising in some of its subject matter: one of the female leads is obviously a lesbian though never outright says so, while the jilted girlfriend may have engaged in a bisexual relationship with her. There is also an off camera rape scene and a sadistic coroner’s office employee who may have a thing for necrophilia, while a zombie victim wanders around for some reason. Also there are smugglers involved and an old professor who is the father of the smuggler leader, all while the police investigate. But the massive number of bizarre plot elements hamper the film more than anything because they detract from the truly horrific blind dead.

Imagine, if you will, a legion of skeletons clothed in moldy robes, armed with ancient swords, riding undead stallions in ghostly silence through the darkest pit of night in forgotten ruins and lonely countryside. Doesn’t that sound awesome? It’s a shame so much was thrown into the plot that it detracts from what is most definitely the most interesting and haunting feature of the film. Watching their claw-like bony hands, the way they soundlessy stalk their prey, and how they show no emotion as they butcher the living, makes them into a magnificent kind of monster. We need more blind dead!

And there are four of them! Woo!


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