Wednesday, 29 October 2008

HALLOWEEN HORRORS: NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS



Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead swansong begins with a young woman being stabbed to death by flesh and blood Templars, who proceed to remove her heart and then indulge in ritual blood-drinking. The story then moves onto the present day where Dr. Stein (Victor Petit) and his wife (Maria Kosti) arrive at a remote village to begin a new life at a medical practice.His predecessor warns Stein not to go out at night or ask any questions, but refuses to elaborate. Of course, the doctor ignores this advice and comes up against a wall of silence from hostile locals, save for Lucy (Sandra Mozorowski), a young woman who offers to help with household chores, and a cripple named Teddy (Jose Antonio Calvo) who seems to be the whipping boy for the entire village.Stein witnesses some strange sights when darkness falls and eventually learns the legend of The Templar's who rise from their graves for 7 nights every 7 years, requiring the locals to leave (you guessed it) 7 virgins on the beach for the Blind Dead to collect, which must have been a difficult task to fulfil.
While de Ossorio’s tale bears certain similarities to the work of HP Lovecraft, it’s also reminiscent of other examples of rural horror in the 70s, with the unfriendly locals and a persecuted misfit taking riffs from Peckinpah’s STRAW DOGS, while the scenes on the beach may well have been inspired by Robin Hardy’s THE WICKER MAN.Whatever, it’s good to see this series end on a high – particularly after the disappointing GHOST GALLEON and de Ossorio certainly catches fire on this one, with several scenes that make this the equal of TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD for other-wordly atmosphere and graphic carnage. There’s also some rather wonderful mythology to savour – the idea that the seagulls are actually dead souls is decidedly creepy – and the cast run with it, turning in several very solid performances. Once again, the director returns to his NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD siege scenario and this builds to a great finale, adding to the legend of those ghost riders of Berzano.
Anchor Bay’s Blind Dead box set offers a nice anamorphic presentation of this film, with strong colours and good shadow detail. Again, the disc comes with trailers and a poster and stills gallery but there is a 5th disc in this set which offers some excellent supplementary material.‘The Last Templar’ is a 24 min 54 sec documentary on Ossorio, touching on his formative years spent in business management, how he moved to Madrid aged 30 and started to make films, and features several film historians who give their views on the man and his movies. With contributions from Lone Fleming, Esperanza Roy and Jack Taylor, ‘The Last Templar' is exactly the kind of documentary that DVD was made for, offering an informative overview of the director and giving us valuable glimpses of some of his other work: check out clips of Anita Ekberg in MALENKA; his little-seen THE LORELEI'S GRASP and there’s an excerpt from LA BANDERA NEGRA (The Black Flag) which is basically a one-handed 90 minute monologue. Picture quality is excellent, so PLEASE will some enterprising company acquire the rights to this film? Soon! There’s also DVD Rom content via ‘A Farewell To Spain’s Knight Of Horror’, an essay in pdf format, and ‘Unearthing The Blind Dead’; a 10 minute interview where the man himself holds forth, voicing his appreciation of Franco and Naschy; lamenting the fact that financial constraints did not allow him to make more films (de Ossorio viewed his scripts as a way of making films), and revealing he planned a fifth Blind Dead movie featuring flying Templars!It’s a fine way to draw the curtain on a box set that has to be a contender for one of the best DVD releases of 2005. Full marks to Anchor Bay Entertainment and Blue Underground for treating British and American fans to the definitive Blind Dead showcase. Those same people will also relish the inclusion of Nigel Burrell’s updated ‘Knights Of Terror publication, which offers 40 pages of Blind Dead analysis and some terrific stills: a labour of love, beautifully written and presented.
Unfortunately, I have to close this review on a sad note. It’s inevitable that some of the participants in these films are no longer with us. One such person is Sandra Mozorowsky who committed suicide aged 18. Maybe it was the pressures of a career which began when she was 8 years old, or perhaps her actions were the result of other pressures? We’ll never know. Sandra could have turned out to be a good, great or indifferent actress but that’s not the point. It’s terrible to hear of young lives cut short for whatever reason, but it’s good that some 28 years after her death, Sandra’s light still shines in this film today

2 comments:

  1. I never saw this one, but I always loved those Blind Dead movies. I've seen several of them. They had quite a haunting atmosphere to them. I was fascinated by the whole Templar thing. I've always wondered what the true mystery surrounding them is like. I recently re-watched Tombs of the Living Dead. I enjoyed it as much as I did when I first saw it as a teen on video.

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  2. Thanks, Keith. I love those Blind Dead films, and also rate Tombs, Had to sell my Blind Dead box set a while back and boy, do I regret it!

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