Long gone are the days of late night horror hosts and drive-ins where European horror flourished. Can a film from that bygone era still hold up today?
Tombs of the Blind Dead (La Noche del Terror Ciego) opens in the 1300s with a group of Knights Templar sacrificing and torturing a young woman, then drink her blood. We cut to present day (1972), where a young couple, Betty and Roger, are enjoying a holiday along the Spanish coast. They run into Virginia, a school friend of Betty’s, and the trio decide to continue their vacation together by traveling to another venue by train. During their trip, Virginia and Roger start flirting, angering Betty who jumps from the train. Unbeknownst to Betty, the abandoned village she takes refuge in just happens to also be the old stomping grounds of the Blind Dead, aka the blood-sucking knights we encountered earlier. Betty gets comfy with a sleeping bag, a paperback, and some swingin’ jazz, disturbing the knights (apparently, they aren’t jazz fans). The knights kill Betty, then go looking for other victims.
Compared to movies modern audiences are used to, this joint Spanish/Portuguese production seems as much like something from a different universe as it does another time. The pacing is slow, the English dubbing is poor, and there’s very little action or camera movement. That’s not to say it’s without its charms: great use is made of the location of an abandoned church and some other buildings that add some nice atmosphere, especially when fog is rolling through during some of the night shots. The faces of the Blind Dead themselves are mostly obscured by their tattered robes, but images of them silently riding along on horseback while hunting their human prey are undeniably eerie. What Blind Dead lacks is much of the gonzo nature of Italian cinema of the time, or even 1970s Hammer productions, in that there is no nudity, next to no gore, and minimal blood (at least in the particular print I watched on Amazon Prime). Despite some decent visuals, there is virtually no suspense and a dearth of scares. If released today, Blind Dead would barely garner a PG rating.
If you’re a fan of European horror and haven’t seen Tombs of the Blind Dead, you may find it interesting from a completist viewpoint as it does have a following. Just know going in that it’s much more tame than many of its contemporaries. Modern fans would likely find the experience to be dull and would be better off setting their sights on more entertaining fare from Italian directors like Argento, Bava, and Fulci.