Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Amando de Ossorio, 1973
Starring: Tony Kendall, Fernando Sancho, Esperanzo Roy

Diverging from the origin story of Tombs of the Blind Dead, this sequel opens with a flashback to the malevolent Knights Templar. The villagers of Bouzano (called Berzano in the first film) have rounded up the Knights, sentenced them with witchcraft, and burn them to death. When they promise revenge, the villagers burn their eyes out before executing them.

500 years later, Bouzano is preparing for a festival day to commemorate vanquishing the satanic Knights. The mayor, Duncan, has prepared a huge gala and hired a former soldier, Jack Marlowe, to organize a fireworks display. Jack also happens to have a past with Vivian, the mayor’s secretary and fiancée. During the festivities, the Templars awaken and begin killing townsfolk. Though the mayor is reluctant to believe it at first, Jack and Vivian flee, gathering other survivors just in time for the party to turn into a bloodbath. They hole up in a church, looking for a way to escape or hold the Templars back long enough to survive the night.

Also known as Return of the Evil Dead, Tombs of the Blind Dead creator Amando de Ossorio returned to write, direct, and design the look of the undead Knights Templar. His musical collaborator from the first film, Anton Garcia Gabril, returned to write the score. It does not directly follow the events at the end of Tombs of the Blind dead, though disjointed sequels seems to be a somewhat common theme in Spanish horror. Paul Naschy regularly used this tactic on his El Hombre Lobo series; while the films are linked by a common central character (Naschy’s werewolf) and shared world, the side characters and origin stories are often different. This might be baffling to genre newbies, but it’s easy to get past as the stories are very similar.

Though the first sequel is surprisingly entertaining, its biggest flaw is that it’s far less original than the first film. The plot – ultimately about strangers locked in a building, trying to avoid being eaten by the undead – is clearly taken from Night of the Living Dead. The Templars are reduced to little more than zombies and there are a few frustrating scenes where people quietly sneak right past them. This sort of backpedaling is frustrating, but fans of Tombs of the Blind Dead will still find a lot to enjoy.

Though the acting is often unintentionally hilarious, there are some welcome appearances from genre regulars, including Tony Kendall (The Whip and the Body) as the ass-kicking, name-taking Captain Jack Marlowe, Fernando Sancho (The Devil’s Cross) as the pathetic mayor,
Frank Braña (Pieces), Loreta Tovar (Inquisition), and Jose Thelman and Lone Fleming both returned from Tombs of the Blind Dead, albeit in different roles. The characters here are fairly ridiculous, but are far more fleshed out in the first film.

Return of the Blind Dead has a relatively high exploitation quotient and there are more sex scenes (as well as romantic intrigue) than the first film. There is also an attempted rape scene here that is fortunately not consummated, unlike the first film. The carnage is kicked up a notch here thanks to the increased cast and Ossorio shows us decapitations, hearts ripped out, limbs removed, etc.

There’s a nod to the first film and its conclusion where a mother is killed by the Templars in front of her child. Here is a child is used as a decoy by the mayor, so that he can try to escape the church. Unsatisfyingly, no harm comes to the girl, though there are a few tense moments. Ossorio seems to have lost his nerve a little. The film’s pacing is a bit better than the first film, particularly because the events span a single day, rather than the meandering couple of days in the first entry.

Return of the Blind Dead is available in the excellent series box set and contains both versions – the complete Spanish print and cut English-language version know as Return of the Evil Dead. It comes recommended for fans of Tombs of the Blind Dead, ‘70s zombie films, and Eurohorror. Fulci fans might want to check it out too, as something about the eerie conclusion reminded me a bit of The Beyond

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