Knights Templar Zombies?!

Spanish filmmaker Amando de Ossorio struck genre gold with his strikingly eerie Tombs of the Blind Dead, sparking a classic Spanish horror franchise with three sequels. Known as La noche del terror ciego in its native country, marauding undead Templar knights haunt an abandoned village called Berzano. Spookily riding undead horses, they terrorize a trio vacationing in the area unfamiliar with the local legends.

Featuring some of the moodiest and starkly memorable set pieces in supernatural European terror, it’s a cult classic you shouldn’t miss as a horror fan. Indelibly crafted with an eerie atmosphere and an attractive cast starring Lone Fleming, César Burner, María Elena Arpón, José Thelman, and Rufino Inglés, Tombs of the Blind Dead is an influential landmark in vintage Eurohorror. Released in a severely shortened American version titled The Blind Dead, Synapse Films issues the gloriously uncut Spanish original film with nearly eighteen more minutes of gruesome action and titillating suspense.

… horrifically haunting imagery and an unexpectedly dynamite ending make Tombs of the Blind Dead a certified genre classic

Set in contemporary times, three hapless campers accidentally stumble upon church ruins holding the remains of Knights Templar soldiers.  Heretics who performed sacrifices and dark Satanic rites before getting executed by the Church seven hundred years ago, their damned souls wander restlessly looking for prey. On a vacation with her friend Roger, Virginia tries reconnecting with an old college friend Betty in the area. Taking a pleasant train ride together near Berzano, a tricky love triangle between the three emerges which drives Virginia to wander off alone into the ruins.

Rising from their graves at night, the Knights Templar silently roam Berzano on ghostly horses. They hunt their victims by sound, blinded in death when crows pecked out their eyes. The 1972 supernatural thriller is about as good as European exploitation gets in this period. Taut when needed, the film oozes white-knuckled terror as the Knights Templar haunt the living. Virgin sacrifices, medieval rituals, secretive lesbian relationships, rape, horrifically haunting imagery and an unexpectedly dynamite ending make Tombs of the Blind Dead a certified genre classic.

Minor complaints about its turgid pacing aside, Tombs of the Blind Dead is dying to be remade with stronger special effects. But it’s hard believing a modern remake would capture its indelible dread and haunting atmosphere as Knights Templar ghouls gallop around in silence looking for prey.

Tombs of the Blind Dead Blu-ray screen shot

Video

Boasting a new restoration from the original uncut camera negative, Tombs of the Blind Dead is shown here in two separate and very different cuts. Technically Synapse Films gives us the so-called Integral Spanish version on its own BD-50, running over 101 minutes in excellent AVC. This cut combines more graphic footage, largely nudity and gore, taken from saucier international versions and then inserted back into the more sanitized domestic theatrical version made for Spain. Elements have been cleaned free of damage, looking quite good with little wear and an authentic color correction.

A second BD includes the much shorter theatrical U.S. version, clocking in at 83 minutes. Frankly, the U.S. version is more a curiosity rendered obsolete by the far more entertaining Integral Spanish cut. Other less prominent versions of the film exist as Euro films of the period were often recut for various markets and differing censorship levels.

The 1.66:1 Hi-Def presentation is struck from an unfiltered 2K transfer boasting fine black levels. The 1080p video is a clean improvement over earlier editions, including Blue Underground’s cherished DVDs. The stable video offers respectable colors and solid grain reproduction with more life in the picture quality. It’s not going to win videophile awards but Synapse Films has done their best duty in preserving the filmmaker’s original intentions.

Tombs of the Blind Dead’s rugged Spanish cinematography is fairly gritty with a penchant for backlighting and soft focus shots. More detail is pulled out of the make-up and effects, which admittedly are nothing special outside of the Templar ghosts. A nice, even contrast highlights average clarity. Definition and dimensionality are a little erratic, outstanding in several scenes while often muddled in darker shots.

Audio

The Spanish version actually includes two different soundtrack options, pure 2.0 Spanish-language PCM audio and a “hybrid” soundtrack in 2.0 PCM mono which offers the English dub married to the Spanish audio for the international footage which never made it to the U.S.

The English dub is… not good and a waste unless you have a serious nostalgia for its quirks. The far superior Spanish audio is a real treat with effective sound design and effects sprucing up the frights. Heard in fairly clean fidelity with enough punch in the bottom end, including an ominous score, it’s quite the experience.

My advice is avoid the hybrid audio as I found it a chore. Hearing the cast switch from smoother Spanish to mediocre English dialogue on the fly isn’t fun.

Optional English SDH and English subtitles display in a white font. When using the so-called hybrid audio option, its Spanish portions offer English subtitles in a yellow font.

Extras

Originally issued by Synapse Films in a limited edition 3-disc set with a CD of the film’s harrowing music as the third disc, Tombs of the Blind Dead is reissued in a 2-BD set dropping the CD. Gone is the neat SteelBook case and other bonus goodies in the limited set.

What we get among other things are three commentaries, all newly recorded, and a feature-length documentary exploring Spanish zombie films in their entire history. An easy way to pick up in-depth knowledge of Spanish genre movies. The second Blu-ray contains the edited American version known as The Blind Dead.

U.S. Theatrical Cut (83:16 in HD; 2.0 English PCM mono)

Audio commentary with horror film historian and author, Troy Howarth

Audio commentary with star Lone Fleming moderated by Calum Waddell

Audio commentary with Rod Barnett & Troy Guinn of the NaschyCast podcast

Marauders from the Mediterranean (88:55 in HD) – A full-length documentary exploring the history of Spanish zombies, featuring interviews with Night of the Living Dead writer/producer John Russo, Stiges Film Festival deputy director Mike Hostench, and more.

Revenge of Planet Ape (03:24 in HD) – An Alternate U.S. Opening Sequence cashing in on Planet of the Apes.

Awakening of Spanish Horror Cinema (14:25 in HD; German with English subtitles) – Featurette by film historian Marcus Stiglegger

Salem’s Pop “Templar’s Tears” music video (03:22 in HD)

Original Theatrical Trailer (02:40 in HD)

Still Gallery (03:21 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Tombs of the Blind Dead
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Classic Spanish horror flick from the early 70s as undead Knights Templar soldiers terrorize the countryside

Sending
User Review
4.5 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 40 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *