Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century is a look back at the weirdest, most memorable, and most off center movies of the 20th century. From head turning horror to oddball science fiction this column examines the films that will leave a lasting impression for centuries to come.
Armando de Ossorio’s Tombs of the Blind Dead or La Noche De Terror Ciego is a 1972 gothic horror film about undead Satanic knights that wake up every night with a hunger for blood. Actually, the film is not really clear on the knights’ mission since the fresh blood just shows up on their tomb step. It doesn’t matter because it all looks awesome. Recently playing at Fantasia Festival, this week’s strange and fantastic tale is Tombs of the Blind Dead.
Virginia (Maria Elena Arpon) is on vacation when she runs into her old roommate Betty (Lone Fleming). It is clear there is some tension between them and Virginia is reluctant to go down memory lane. Virginia’s terrible boyfriend instantly falls for Betty and can’t even hide his boner about it. Virginia cannot handle their obvious flirting. It is then revealed that Virginia has a sexy history with Betty. Rather than deal with her feelings, Virginia jumps off a train and runs to the less awkward comfort of an abandoned castle in the middle of nowhere. This is where the real terror begins.
The search for Virginia opens the doors to creepy historians who relish in the knowledge that murderous knights are abounds. Tombs of the Blind Dead features a creepy coroner who wants to eat live frogs. The skeletons look amazing and totally belong on an 80’s heavy metal album cover.
It is interesting to note that Virginia feels at ease at the castle. She even changes into pajamas and does some reading while she prepares to sleep in ruins. Betty’s presence has unnerved her so much that Virginia goes from being nervous and modest while in Betty’s presence to cool and calm on her own. There’s a lot to unpack here in terms of sexual identity and Tombs of the Blind Dead delves into how women are perceived in a patriarchal world.
Tombs of the Blind Dead does seem to focus more on women in their behavior and less on carnage and this works. The film chooses to lean into the gothic aspect which highlights the violation and danger women face. One of the truly frightening moments of the film arrives when a woman is raped rather graphically. The abuse of the women detracts from the horrors of the undead. Is this Ossorio’s intention? I’ll have to check out the sequels Return of the Blind Dead, The Ghost Galleon, and Night of the Seagulls to find out. Put on hood and do some ominous chanting while you watch La Noche De Terror Ciego.
The Fantasia Film Festival takes place in person and online from August 5 – August 25
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