In 1972, Armando De Ossario released an absolute classic in Spanish horror cinema when he released Tombs of the Bind Dead (1972). The Ghost Galleon (1974) represents his second return to his tale of Satanic Templar Knights, struck blind for their crimes, returning from the dead to wreak havoc on the living for the crimes of the past. While opinions may differ on which of Ossario’s blind Dead films are best, one thing stands firm, the blind dead earn their keep among the most iconic horror monsters in all of horror.
The Story Until Now…
Ossario’s last film, Return of the Evil Dead (1973), portrays a small town named Bouzano that celebrates the 500 year anniversary of its villagers overcoming the evils of the Templar Knights and exacting a stiff punishment by blinding them so that they would never find their way home. As they say, the destruction of one of our senses serves only to focus the powers of the others. The blind dead find their way to Bourzano through the screams and cheers from the celebrating town.
The second film in Ossario’s series struck a significantly different time the, the original. While the original relied mostly on darkness, fog and an utterly fantastic soundscape of random cymbal classes and sighs, the sequel spends much more time on narrative. While the original concerned itself with atmosphere, the folllow-up spent a lot of time focusing on the nefarious ways that humans can screw themselves over when cornered by an existential threat.
Which direction would Ossario choose for his third installment?
A Strange Set of Circumstances and Horrible Luck
Avid horror fans learn early on not to hold a silly plot against an other wise good horror movie. That’s the type of attitude that Ossario sought when he pulled together The Ghost Galleon. In short, a narcissistic business man sends two buxom swimsuit models into the open ocean in a marginally sea-worthy vessel as a publicity stunt. In a stroke of bad luck, the girls encounter a mysterious 16th century galleon floating in a shroud of thick fog.
The women then do exactly what any clear thinking women would do in their situation. They throw a grappling hook over the rail and board the ship in their underwear.
Back home, one of the model’s girlfriends tries to get to the bottom of what is going on. She approaches Howard’s assistant Lillian, played by beautiful Austrian actress Maria Perschy, and threatens to go to the police. Our unsavory business man, Howard Tucker (Jack Taylor), orders her to be held hostage. In the process, his henchman rapes the woman in a scene that can only be described as wholly unnecessary and in incredibly poor taste.
Adding to the unnecessary tropes, Ossario also inserts a unrequited lesbian desire as a throwaway storyline. I guess a phantom ship holding blind Satanic Templar zombies doesn’t offer many other opportunities for sexy time, so you gotta reach.
Howard, showing only the slightest concern for the situation he created, pulls together a rag-tag rescue team with the help of an eccentric Professor Grūber (Carlos Lemos) who not only specializes in ghost galleons, but also Templar ghouls. Little do they know, their swimsuit models have already departed the land of the living when they find ghostly galleon. Upon boarding, they learn first-hand the legend of the blind dead.
A Welcome Refrain
Much like his original film Armando De Ossario goes back to the roots of this series by investing heavily in the atmosphere of The Ghost Galleon. Being totally honest, at no point will the audience be convinced that the cast actually stands on a real galleon free-floating in the ocean, however, anyone able to suspend disbelief will find themselves greatly awarded.
The trappings of the ship look real enough on deck to sustain the illusion Coupled with copious amounts of fog and multiple deep dark corners, the setting proves perfect for the slow and shambling blind dead.
Suspending disbelief can be hard. Ossario depends on some special effects that can only be described as laughable. External shots of the galleon are done in what appears to be a miniature galleon bobbing about in a bathtub. Let’s just say, Industrial Light and Magic didn’t create these effects (YES, we know they didn’t exist yet!). In another scene, the stranded swimsuit models try to shoot signal flares in the are that look more like convenience store fireworks. It appears that Ghost Galleon wasn’t a high budget affair!
Apart from the nitpicking, Ossario creates some really clever situations. When cornered by the blind dead, Professor Grūber creates a flaming crucifix and drives the Templars back into their coffins. In a rare but exceedingly brilliant display of proactive self-preservation, the remaining survivors then expeditiously throw the coffins over the rail and to the bottom of the ocean. For them moment everyone is safe.
Evil people will do evil things. Our rapist from the early frames tries his hand at mutiny by trying to drown Howard. Additional bloodletting reinvigorates the blind dead in their watery graves. They awaken and begin the long, slow walk to shore. They emerge from their watery tomb ready to kill. It all culminates in a fantastic finale that gives everyone what they deserve.
Ossario takes his blind dead Templars very seriously. In every film of the series, the consistency in the garments, the hoods and the sullen leathered skulls of the blind dead employ a perfect consistency.
A Return to Form and a Return to Greatness
On the record, Malevolent Dark really enjoyed The Return of the Evil Dead despite the fact that it missed the high marks set by its predecessor. It was different, yet entertaining in its own way. At no point does it dissuade anyone from taking a chance on the next episode. Still, The Ghost Galleon manages to rekindle the bits that made Tombs of the Blind Dead great. To be fair, it’s not as good as the original, but it does provide enough throw-back entertainment to be worth the while.
Ossario’s blind dead series is essential European horror and should be sought out by anyone looking to expand their horror lexicon.
The Ghost Galleon (1974) - Revenge of the Satanic Templar Navy - Malevolent Dark
Director: Armando De Ossario
Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:32
- Return to form
- Spooky atmospherics
- Creedy soundtrack and sound effects
- Some poor miniaturization effects