Return of the Blind Dead (1973), otherwise know as The Return of the Evil Dead and El Ataque de los Muertos Sin Ojos, follows up Spanish director Amando de Ossorio’s classic horror film Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972). It’s one of four Blind Dead films created by Ossorio in the 70s. Having set an extremely high bar, Tombs of the Blind Dead (1973), Ossorio introduces some interesting new twists to the story. People’s propensity to screw each other over when the stakes are high may be more scary than the blind dead at the door.
Return of the Blind Dead
This story begins in the in a Portuguese village in the 13th century. Templar Knights sacrifice a young woman and eat her still warm heart just as the local villagers confront them with torches and pitchforks. Upon locating the Templar leader, the villagers make sure that the Templars never find their way home by blinding them with torches before killing them. If they only had the foresight deafen them as well? For the next 500 years, the villagers celebrate the defeat of the Templars by throwing a festival in the streets of Bouzano.
The town idiot named Murdo (José Canalejas) lives in Bouzano and frequently tolerates serious abuse from the locals. Murdo plots to resurrect the Templar Knights as revenge for his poor treatment. On the opening day of the celebration, Murdo kidnaps a woman and drags her to the ruins of the Templar castle. He sacrifices her to the Templars by stabbing her in the heart and letting her bleed out on the burial grounds of the Templar remains. Predictably, the Blind Dead rise once again from their graves.
Also, with no surprise, their trusty steeds have been waiting 500 years to return to their masters.
A Familiar Concept With Inexplicable Departures
In writing his sequel to Tombs of the Blind Dead, Amando de Ossorio deviates in several key ways from his original premise. In the original film, the Templar Knights were blinded as birds pecked their eyes from their skulls while they swung from the gallows. Certainly the difference seems small, but considering that Ossorio wrote both screenplays it seems rather pointless to change the mythology with no real payoff.
The other key component that seems to be missing concerns the Blind Dead’s ability to reanimate their victims into ghoulish zombies. This trope added a fascinating dimension to the film and feels like a missed opportunity. Hopefully this superpower returns in the subsequent sequels.
Possible more confusing than the changes to mythology concern the departure from using sound effects and oppressive lighting to drive a feeling of foreboding doom. The Blind Dead come to the forefront early and often. It feels more like an action movie in most scenes. Ossario showcases the Blind Dead, but they lose bit of their terrifying presence in the light. Ossario shot many of the scenes in daylight even though the scene supposedly occurs at night. This lack of continuity shows plainly through the production.
Over the course of several decades, movie scholars and snobs alike attempt to find meaning and sub-text in the films that they consider. The truth of the matter is that anyone that looks hard enough for meaning will find it. A Malevolent Dark user left comments on the Tombs of the Blind Dead review suggesting that the Templars represent a metaphor for Franco fascist rule in Spain. Specifically, the Blind Dead’s attack on the living equate to fascist death squads. Additionally, their lack of sight also refers to the control of speech and ideas during that time period.
Malevolent Dark will not confirm or deny those theories. We find them fascinating nonetheless.
Apart from that, Return of the Blind Dead offers social and political themes that seems much more accessible with the events on screen. One interesting idea concerns Murdo and his betrayal of the living. Certainly, Murdo has reason to take umbrage with the townspeople of Bouzano. However, Murdo chooses to align himself with the Templars that could not care less about him or his problems. Ultimately, Murdo pays the ultimate price for his miscalculation when he is beheaded by the Blind Dead.
This miscalculation rings true in a world where normal people are fanatically aligning themselves with politicians (left or right) that could literally care less about them or their problems.
Also inherent in the storyline, the cast of characters reflect some of the worst qualities of humanity as they bicker, fight and turn on each other at every corner. One way or another, just about every character tries to screw everyone else over.
The most egregious of these transgression comes when the Mayor uses a little girl as a decoy so that he can attempt to flee in the car. Thank the gods and everything holy, he gets his due comeuppance. Murdo and Moncha (Loreta Tovar) get theirs fleeing the Blind Dead in the catacombs of the church, and abandoning everyone in the process.
(Spoiler) Armando Ossorio clearly intends to send the message that honor beats selfish narcissism as he concludes the movie. Had all those trapped in the church simply worked together until morning, they could walk freely through the Blind Dead without a care in the world as blind dead become paralyzed in the sunlight. It’s darkly comical as the remaining survivors simply push over the corpses of the blind dead as they mosey into the sunrise.
Enough Gore to Go Around
Overall, Return of the Blind Dead fails to reach the heights of the original in the practical effects department, but it’s also no slouch when it comes to the red stuff. The opening salvo includes the eating of a human heart as the crimson flow runs down the tunic of the Templar Knights. Sword impalement and a severed hands add a bit more spice to the mix. The beheading of Murdo puts an exclamation point on the overall gore quotient. It’s explicit, brash and exciting.
None of the effects look especially real, however, they retain that low-budget patina that we all love in dusty 70’s horror movies. Anyone willing to watch this one will not come away disappointed with the kills.
A Return of the Lesser Blind Dead
Return of the Blind Dead simply fails to rise to the greatness of the original Tombs of the Blind Dead. It’s a bit more muddled in execution, and it feels less direct in delivery than it’s predecessor. Yet, it does possesses a certain charm all it’s own. For fans of the Blind Dead, fans of the franchise get more of their beloved Templar Zombies. The best comparison we can make is that Return of the Blind Dead is a SLIGHTLY upgraded version of Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror.
One thing is for certain, non of this will dissuade Malevolent Dark from moving on to the third in this series. Here comes The Ghost Galleon (1974).
Return of the Blind Dead (1973) - Franco Fascist Spain and Satanic Templars - Malevolent Dark
Director: Amando de Ossorio
Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:32
- The Return of the Blind Dead
- Consistent special effects
- Inconsistent story with Tombs of the Blind Dead
- Gives up on atmosphere for character driven narrative