Saturday, May 13, 2017


TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1972; d: Amando de Ossorio)

In a lonely, forsaken ancient abbey on the far side of the world, the past and present once converged—stirring up old dust and primeval lore—and set the stage for the quintessential Spanish nightmare. 

Still known as Berzano, this desolate medieval town lies in ruins near the unsettled mountainous region between Portugal and Spain, and for centuries has loomed ominously over the countryside, ancient rites forbidding trespass. The locals grew up with the Berzano legend—and the warnings—and from one generation to the next, they stayed away, mostly.

From the train, one might spy a glimpse of Berzano, harmless and inscrutable from a distance.

Lisbon isn't very far from here; in fact, a small passenger train from the capitol city passes through this area several times weekly, delivering vacationers to and from a scenic resort also located in the wilds of the Iberian Peninsula, but a handful of miles from Berzano.  In fact, it ought to be passing this way soon...

Waiting at the train station on an old friend from college, Virginia (Maria Elena Arpon) is in some kind of mood, and her handsome new pal Roger (Cesar Burner) can't quite figure out why.  She'd wanted to spend the weekend alone with him, but then a chance encounter with Bette (Lone Fleming)—who'd recently opened her own business in Lisbonchanged everything.

Virginia was at first thrilled to find her old roommate and confidant at the public pool in Lisbon. Thrilled, that is, until she saw the way Roger and Bette seemed to be hitting it off.

Then Roger just had to invite Bette along, who reluctantly accepted, and now the whole affair is a bust.  Finally she meets someone interesting here, and along comes brash, sophisticated Bette, who always did seem to be a few steps ahead.

And so now the three of them are off to this romantic hideaway, and Virginia's having an exceedingly difficult time coming to terms with the arrangement.

As Bette tries to retrieve something from one of her bags on the rack...

...and the train hits a bend...

Realizing she's been inconsiderate, Bette follows Virginia to the back of the observation car, only to make things worse when she brings up their mutual sexual experimentation in college.

Aided (and abetted) by a fog machine—or my theory, a few Spanish guys with cigarettes—we're treated to a rather conspicuous flashback to more innocent times...

Actually, this scene didn't bother me much, out of place as it may well seem.

But evidently that is the last thing Virginia wants to hear about, especially with Roger standing there, appearing to have caught an earful.

Nice going, Bette.

But off in the hills, Virginia sees what appears to be buildings. They're hard to make out from here, but it's walking distance.

Maria Elena Arpon, going above and beyond for the sake of movie immortality.

And so, alone and miles from civilization, she sets off for the ruins of Berzano.

Alas, whatever this place is, it's been vacant for years.  Dejected and resigned to her poor luck, Virginia decides to find shelter before nightfall.

She can't hear it over the groovy din of her transistor radio, but somewhere near the Berzano cemetery, an ancient bell begins to toll.

And with the tolling of the midnight bell, the cemetery begins to shift and creak, barely perceptible at first...

As the sinister Anton Garcia Abril score settles in (replete with eerie chanting, growling, and moaning), a slow, dreamy surge of horse hooves can be heard approaching in the distance.

And this, my friends, is how nightmares begin.

Have you ever had one of those bad dreams in which the harder you try to run away, the slower you move?

That's the thing about the Blind Dead—they're slower than molasses, but to be pursued by them is to be stuck in a nightmare. That they'll eventually catch up is all but certain. 

From one dark room to the next, death inches ever closer, each escape a bit narrower than the last.

But this, heaven help us, is only the beginning.