Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tribute To A Vampire: German Robles, Mexico's Master of Horror

On Saturday, November 21st, 2015, the world of cinema lost a great talent. Famous for his roles in Mexican horror films, actor German Robles has died at 86 years of age. Born on March 20th, 1929 as German Horacio Robles in Gijon, Spain, the internationally famous actor of stage and screen featured in over 90 motion pictures, some 600 TV programs and 30 telenovelas (self-contained soap operas that last a year or less). Among his other credits was lending his distinguished voice to many live-action and animated foreign features imported to Mexico; one of the most famous being the dubbed voice of KITT on the hit series KNIGHT RIDER (1982-1986) and films including THE SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) and THE GODFATHER (1972). 

In his early years, his family emigrated to Mexico when the young Robles was 17 years old. After graduating college and a stint as a professional dancer in 1948, he would become involved in theater productions in his early 20s, debuting on the stage in 1952 with 'The Martyr of the Cavalry' where he played Jesus Christ. Robles eventually found his way into movies, making his Silver Screen debut in 1957 with the classic EL VAMPIRO. 

Robles was also an award winning actor throughout his long career on stage and screen, including a Best Actor award for LA VIDA DE AGUSTIN LARA in 1958. Some of his other famous non-genre work include the adventure EL JARDIN DE LA TIA ISABEL (1971; THE GARDEN OF AUNT ISABEL) and the comedy LA PALOMA DE MARSELLA (1999; DOVE OF MARSELLA).

He acted as Arthur Kipp in the stage production of the horror play, LA DAMA DE NEGRO (THE LADY IN BLACK) for thirteen years (from 1994-2006), reportedly the longest of any actor without interruption; only exiting the production for health reasons.

Hospitalized at the Santa Elena Hospital in Mexico since November 12th, German Robles died from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and Peritonitis at approximately 6am on Saturday, November 21st.

Married three times, Robles is survived by his wife of 33 years, Ana Maria Vazquez, and three children. Both Robles and his wife founded an actors training school in 2000.

In the following article, we pay tribute to the man who was a key contributor to the flood of theatrical terror unleashed in Mexico in the 1950s; and how his portrayals of vampires in a popular string of productions put a refreshing spin on the Lore of the Undead.

German Robles starred in a number of high-gloss productions and films of other genres, but he will always be most closely identified playing those blood-lusting creatures of the night, the vampire. Aside from the requisite cobweb infused crypts and Gothic ambiance, German Robles brought distinction to the undead lexicon in seven sangria-laced productions; the most famous of which was the suave, debonair Count Lavud and the Bond-style villainy of the fang-toothed Nostradamus.

Essaying his vampires with a touch of originality and familiarity, Robles was something of a trendsetter, irrefutably belonging on the same pedestal of prestige of his other late European colleagues, Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. 

Bela Lugosi is the classic representation of Dracula, the vampire that is both parodied and paid tribute to. Christopher Lee is the life's blood, the personification of the vampire king. Largely unknown in the west, Robles carved his own unique interpretation that differed, but remained faithful to popular iconography of the Universal DRACULA (1933); and one that beat Hammer's iconic color version by nearly a year. 

What's important to note about German Robles is that, while there had been a few Mexican horror films prior to the groundbreaking EL VAMPIRO (1957), it was his charisma and tenacity (under the assured direction of Fernando Mendez) that solidified himself as a horror icon--invigorating the Mexi-horror industry for well over a decade. As Count Lavud in both EL VAMPIRO and THE VAMPIRE'S COFFIN (both in 1957), the films birthed a colony of Spanish language vampire movies all with their own unique mythology. Robles was to Mexican horror cinema what Santo was to Lucha Libre pictures. If not for the success of EL VAMPIRO (1957), we might not of gotten another classic example of Mexi-horror cinema, the Lucha horror favorite, SANTO VS. LAS MUJERES VAMPIRO (1961); or, as it is known in America, SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN.

Robles brought a level of stoically evil menace that, while certainly not absent in the more famous renditions, was far more diverse than had been seen up to that time. In EL VAMPIRO (and his subsequent fanged forays), Robles' Count Lavud delightfully bares his fangs when he's about to sink those elongated incisors into a warm jugular. Robles is often cited as the first actor to play a vampire with fangs exposed, biting into a victim. NOSFERATU (1922) had pointy, rat-like teeth exposed, and Atif Kaptan of Turkey's DRAKULA ISTANBUL'DA (1953) had fangs jutting from his mouth; but Count Lavud is seen in close-up biting into the necks of his victims, which, up to that time, hadn't been seen before. Robles' vampire was not averse to extracting the blood of children, either; something not shown in the Uni-horrors of the 30s and 40s, nor the Hammer pictures till the 1970s.

Additionally, the rather large teeth wouldn't be seen again till Hammer Films adopted them in their 1970s 'blood and skin'  epics like VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1971) and their Karnstein Trilogy that made up THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971) and TWINS OF EVIL (1971).

Unlike most other vamps, Robles, as Lavud, has other sharp implements in his arsenal aside from his fangs; such as a sword he uses against Abel Salazar's hero during the fiery conclusion. A similar encounter occurred in Nobuo Nakagawa's THE LADY VAMPIRE in 1959. Christopher Lee would take up a sword to torture Patrick Troughton in one of Hammer's most unique Dracula pictures, SCARS OF DRACULA (1970).

Robles throttles a mini-army of midget bloodsuckers in THE VAMPIRES OF COYOACAN (1974).

Moreover, the two Robles Lavud films packed some fine cliffhanger moments in their finales that make the Hammer denouements anemic in comparison. What the Mexican pictures lacked in budgets they made up for in creativity. They may have looked remarkably similar to the Uni-horrors of old, but the Mexi-horrors foreshadowed the sort of violence Hammer would get up to in the ensuing years.

Robles played a vampire yet again in EL CASTILLO DE LOS MONSTRUOS (1958; THE CASTLE OF MONSTERS), Mexico's answer to ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948). Essentially an extended cameo appearance, Robles doesn't appear till an hour in, and, like Christopher Lee in DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), never utters a word of dialog. Dressed in his Count Lavud attire, this vampire (he's never referred to by name) chases the goofy heroes around the title abode and is played strictly for laughs.

In 1959, Robles again played a vampire, but this time, it was a different sort of bloodsucker. In LA MALDICION DE NOSTRADAMUS (1959; THE CURSE OF NOSTRADAMUS), German Robles is the son of the infamous French seer, Michel de Nostredame; or simply Nostradamus. Ordered by the spirit of his father, the son of Nostradamus is commanded to convince a leading scientist, Dr. Duran, to the existence of vampires and other occult phenomenon. Naturally he refuses leading to a series of creative deaths and quirky characters that intervene to stop the vampire.


As Nostradamus, German Robles plays this role very different from Count Lavud in both acting style and appearance. Sporting a goatee and wearing a derby hat and cape, Nostradamus is boisterous whereas Lavud was more cunning and deceptive. Nostradamus is very arrogant, proudly proclaiming his intentions with even more dialog than before--which Christopher Lee never got much of in his Dracula pictures. Additionally, and unlike Count Lavud, Nostradamus often used humans, alive or dead, to do his evil bidding.

Compared to an already meaty role as Lavud in the two previous movies, Robles got even more to chew on as Nostradamus, a four-film series consisting of three "episodes" a piece, compliant with the STIC union in Mexico. Film producers would sometimes bypass the STPC union for theatrical productions to take advantage of the cheaper resources afforded the STIC group. The Nostradamus films are quite a bit of fun, but look more cheaply made with the limited sets than Robles' previous outings. However, the bat effects are superior. He makes them worthwhile; and for fans of Mexi-horror, they're highly recommended for their peculiarly campy qualities alone.

Released straight to television in edited form by American International Pictures' TV division in the early 1960s, fans of the Nostradamus series and the actor mostly remember him from that medium; either at that time or in the 1980s on USA Network's Commander USA's Groovie Movies, which specialized in B/W Mexican horror movies and 70s Hammer horror.

Most famous for vampires in Fantastic Cinema, German Robles played a variety of other characters--both heroes and villains--in horror and other genres. Below is a list of some of his other works.

In THE BRAINIAC (1961), Robles went from sucking blood to having his brains sucked out of the back of his neck in this nutty camp classic. He plays a descendant of a group of Inquisitors who executed a warlock that has returned for revenge. Played by Abel Salazar, the title brain-sucker is one of the strangest looking monsters you've ever seen. 

German Robles entered the Lucha world in the drama-action, LA FURIA DEL RING (1961), playing the son of a gym owner who was killed for not fixing his wrestling matches. Features an early appearance by Blue Demon (and his real life tag partner, Black Shadow) before he embarked on his own successful film career. 

The actor was in full Peter Cushing mode as Professor Muller in Chano Urueta's LA CABEZA VIVIENTE (THE LIVING HEAD) from 1963. Leading an expedition to uncover an ancient Aztec tomb, Muller and crew bring a curse upon them after angering the title noggin and its soon-to-be-revived mummy-like servant. 

DIVISION NARCOTICOS (1963) finds the versatile actor playing the unsavory gang leader of a drug syndicate. Scenes of drug use and Robles hiding a large quantity of dope underneath a baby's clothes, using the child as a means of smuggling, turn this obscure bit of Mexi-sleaze into an ahead of its time thriller.

One of the man's most rare, obscure genre titles is the 1964 horror western, LA MURCIELAGOS (THE BATS). There's very little information available for this one outside of some promotional materials. According to some sources, the film goes by the alternate title of LOS VAMPIROS DEL OESTE (VAMPIRES OF THE WEST).

Robles was the head of a Karate school that attracts the attention of the police and the Mexican masked superhero Neutron in LOS ASESINOS DEL KARATE (1965; NEUTRON AGAINST THE KARATE KILLERS). This was the fifth and last of a B/W superhero series starring Wolf Ruvinskis as Neutron.

In 1967 Robles played Carlo, one the main villains in the lively comic book flick ROCAMBOLE VS. LA SECTA DEL ESCORPION (ROCAMBOLE VS. THE CULT OF THE SCORPION). The second of two films, Rocambole was a stageshow magician by day, Captain Mexico type superhero by night.

The actor returned to the Lucha Libre genre again in 1974 with LOS VAMPIROS DE COYACAN. Top billed over megastar Mil Mascaras and Superzan, Robles is a Van Helsing-type professor trying to stop a Yorga-esque vampire and his fang-toothed midget-minions from vampirizing the local populace, including the lovely Sasha Montenegro. 

German Horacio Robles may be gone but he leaves behind an impressive body of work that is rife for rediscovery both in his home country and abroad. Deserving of accolades for his contributions to the cinema of the Fantastique, the memory of the Spanish born actor will live on in film festivals and late night repeats highlighted by vampires seeking revenge, fresh blood and worldwide conquest. The Master now sleeps. Long Live the Memory of Mexico's Master of Horror.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Cool Ass Cinema Presents: Talking Templars with Filmmaker, David Garcia

David Garcia is among the rising crop of Spanish genre filmmakers gleefully getting their hands bloody by realizing their celluloid nightmares that have gloriously haunted them since childhood. David's inaugural work is a short film love letter to 70s Spanish horror, and, in particular, the Blind Dead Templar Knights made internationally famous through four films directed by Amando de Ossorio. Titled EL ULTIMO GUION (THE LAST SCRIPT), David took time out of his schedule to discuss this project as well as his thoughts on Spanish horror and his own genre interests. Below is film director David Garcia's conversation with Cool Ass Cinema.

David Garcia (far right) and his crew shooting EL ULTIMO GUION (THE LAST SCRIPT)

Venoms5: Tell me a little about yourself and when your interest in horror began.

David Garcia: My first contact with the horror genre was when I was very young, at eight years old. Public Television of Spain aired a run of horror movies on Friday night called "My Favorite Terrors" presented by film director Narciso Ibañez Serrador (THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED [1969], WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? [1976]). They aired horror classics and I fell in love with them almost instantly. From there, movies and comics became my passion. Eventually I would edit my first fanzine dedicated to the genre called "Monster World". The first issue appeared in August of 1998 and I am still publishing issues today under my SHOCK imprint, where I also edit other fanzines like "Fantastic Cult Classics" and "The Colossa Treasures", the last of which is dedicated to stop-motion wizard Ray Harryhausen.

V5: When did you first see LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO (TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD) and what was your impression of it?

DG: I remember seeing the first movie on Beta tape. In the early 80s I often frequented the many video clubs in my city and saw many genre films there including lots of Spanish horror. I became, and remain, a great admirer of our grand cinema tradition. I was very young when I first saw LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO and it had a great impact on me; all the scenes in slow motion; the atmosphere Ossorio created... the music ... I was hypnotized!!

V5: What did you think of the other entries in the series?

DG: My favorite is EL ATAQUE DE LOS MUERTOS SIN OJOS (RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD). I think the idea of a large group of people besieged by the Templars was a great concept. The weakest for me is EL BUQUE MALDITO (THE GHOST GALLEON). The minimal economic means are greatly felt in this production. LA NOCHE DE LAS GAVIOTAS (THE NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS) is, to me, a wonderful story. The four together make a very frightening and macabre mythical framework. I was disappointed the series didn't continue. The Knights Templar still have many stories left to star in.

V5: Have you seen John Gilling's THE CROSS OF THE DEVIL (1975) and Jess Franco's MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)?

DG: Yes, I have seen both of those. The Jesus Franco picture is a very mediocre film. Franco handled this one very carelessly, more interested in softcore porn than horror. THE CROSS OF THE DEVIL was a missed opportunity, but I do not dislike it. It's an entertaining movie.

V5: How did the idea for EL ULTIMO GUION (THE LAST SCRIPT) come about?

DG: The idea for THE LAST SCRIPT emerged as a small challenge, and crazy on my part. I wanted to pay homage to the sort of craftsmanship found in Spain's golden age of 70s horror cinema. As big a fan of Amando de Ossorio and his Templars that I am, I thought it would be great to bring back these iconic and internationally recognized horror movie characters. I proposed the idea to my good friend Lone Fleming, the lead actress of LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO, that she should star in my short film. She accepted and the rest has come together nicely. We brought aboard a fantastic cast of actors from the golden age, and I was lucky and pleased that everyone liked the idea. The cast includes Jose Lifante (LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE), Antonio Mayans (A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE), Loreta Tovar (RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD), Marian Salgado (DEMON WITCH CHILD) and Sandra Alberti (SATAN'S BLOOD).

V5: What is the story about and when will the film be completed?

DG: The story is about Lone Fleming, playing as herself, suffering from terrible nightmares in which the Knights Templar persecute and relentlessly terrorize her. Her ordeal begins after she receives an envelope with no return address containing an old script written by Amando de Ossorio entitled "The Necronomicon of the Templars". All this happens in the context of a fantasy film festival paying homage to the Spanish horror films of the 1970s. Reality merges with fiction and nightmares come to life... for Lone, unfortunately. We are currently in post-production, assembling, and hope to have it finished by mid-2016 with the intention of presenting it to the main fantasy film festivals worldwide. 

V5: With so many well known names from vintage Spanish horror appearing in your movie, was there anyone you wanted but were unable to get?

DG: Of course. My original idea was to have Jack Taylor as a villain, but it was impossible to come to an agreement to obtain his services. A pity.

Lone Fleming and David Garcia
V5: Before embarking on your filmmaking debut, did you ever think one day you'd be directing the great Lone Fleming of LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO?

DG: Before I got to know Lone personally, I never thought I'd have the opportunity. She's a wonderful woman both personally and professionally, and working with her on this project has been a dream come true.

V5: Do you know if Mr. Ossorio ever attempted to get funding for another Blind Dead movie? He said in an interview back in the early 90s he had ideas for a new film, one of which returned the Templars to the sea.

DG: During the last years of his life, Amando de Ossorio wrote dozens of scripts. Many of them dealt with the Knights Templar. We rescued one of them for a plot point in EL ULTIMO GUION; the "Necronomicon of the Templars" I mentioned earlier.

V5: Since starting EL ULTIMO GUION, how has the experience been so far? Has the process of filmmaking been different from what you expected in any way?

DG: The experience has been wonderful!! Working with such iconic and professional actors is a dream come true. My crew is equally magnificent and everything has flowed in an amazing way. We have all been like a small family. With digital means at our disposal everything is easier. We shot the short film in 4K HD to give a more professional package. We hope the fans of this type of film can appreciate even the smallest detail. 

A look at the unfinished masks of the Knights Templar
V5: How many Templars are seen in THE LAST SCRIPT, and can you elaborate on their creation and design in your short film? 

DG: There's a fine cast of them, but better to preserve the suspense by not revealing too much. I am a big fan of special effects, so I participated in their creation as well.

V5: Are horror films popular with Spanish audiences today? There seems to be a lot of them being made.

DG: True. The 70s golden age of Spanish horror movies has many emblematic titles that have produced many followers. A new generation has discovered them and revere these films. Festivals pay tribute to the actors and directors with names such as Paul Naschy, Ossorio, Eugenio Martin, Jorge Grau, Juan Piquer Simon, Carlos Aured, Narciso Ibañez Serrador, Leon Klimovsky.... all are engraved with golden letters in the history of fantasy films with titles like WALPURGIS NIGHT (1971), HORROR EXPRESS (1972), CURSE OF THE DEVIL (1973), THE FABULOUS JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1976), THE NIGHT OF BLIND TERROR (1971), LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974) and THE MARSHALL OF HELL (1974).

V5: Other than LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO, have there been any other horror films that have made an impact on you over the years?

DG: My favorite movie of all time is not a scary one--it's the 1933 version of KING KONG. But if we focus on horror.... there are many. Carpenter's THE THING (1982), THE EXORCIST (1973), JAWS (1975), Jack Clayton's THE INNOCENTS (1961), THE EVIL DEAD (1981), THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE (2001).... I could go on as there are hundreds!!!

V5: Do you have plans for another film after EL ULTIMO GUION?

DG: It is a question I've been asked in other interviews. For now I want to finish this film and focus on distributing it on the festival circuit. I realize it will mean a lot of hard work and dedication. There are ideas for future projects but for now I'd rather wait and see. 

V5: Would the possibility of a full-length feature about the Blind Dead be in your future?

DG: I would love it!! Although in Spain the industry is past its prime from the old times. Nowadays it is difficult to raise money for such a project. Even as just a producer, I would be very happy to be involved on a feature film about the Templar Knights.

Cool Ass Cinema would like to thank David Garcia for his time in discussing his interests and his upcoming film. We wish him success in all his future endeavors.

***All photos courtesy of David Garcia***

You can keep track of the progress, updates and additional photos of David's Templar film, THE LAST SCRIPT, by clicking HERE.

David's Monster World blog is found HERE.

Actress Lone Fleming's blog is found HERE.

David's Colossa blog, devoted to Harryhausen, is found HERE.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Night of the Seagulls (1975) review


Victor Petit (Dr. Henry Stein), Maria Kosty (Joan Stein), Sandra Mozarowsky (Lucy), Jose Antonio Calvo (Teddy), Julia Saly (Tilda), Susana Estrada (first sacrifice victim)

Directed by Amando de Ossorio

The Short Version: Director Ossorio concludes his quartet of Templar tales with this seaside spooker told with a Lovecraftian flavor wherein young virgins are sacrificed to appease some unnamed oceanic god. The Knights of the Living Dead may be slow, but they get a lot of mileage by an increased amount of screen time. In a change of pace, these Templars are not the blood-drinkers and flesh-eaters of past entries. Regardless, the mood is strong as is the direction in what amounts to the most polished entry of the series even if it's not as good as the first two films. Hampered by a limp ending, but climaxing with a fairly tense final siege by the ocular challenged zombies, Ossorio and his crew make this last evening with the Blind Dead a memorable NIGHT.

A doctor and his wife move from the city to a small coastal community to help care for the inhabitants who, up to that time, have not embraced modern society. Upon their arrival, the doctor finds the villagers not at all friendly and desiring they leave. The elder physician they're replacing isn't very forthcoming with details aside from a stern warning to leave. On their first night, the interloping couple witness bizarre happenings, soon learning that this tiny hamlet harbors a horrifying secret of sacrifice and slaughter. For centuries, the Templars have held sway over the town in that every seven years, for seven consecutive nights, seven virginal bodies of young girls must be offered as payment to an ancient god of the sea. 

The Blind Dead are finally put to rest in this, the last film in Amando de Ossorio's lurid quartet of flesh and blood-lusting zombie chronicles. A massive improvement over the ocean sailing dead of THE GHOST GALLEON (1974), the fourth still doesn't manage to top the pervasive horror of TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1971) nor the action-gore combo of RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD (1973). Even so, this film is the most polished of the bunch; and at times, looks a bit more expensive. The genuine feeling of unease returns in a big way, closing the book on Ossorio's legendary creations in a subtle, yet modestly satisfying fashion.

Ossorio harnesses a level of suspense not seen since the inaugural outing of his ocular-deprived dead. Unlike the painfully slow pace of the previous ocean-set venture, SEAGULLS is more meticulous with its unraveling. From the start, we get an eerie, even dangerous vibe from the seemingly lost to time locals of the village. This is exacerbated when Dr. Stein offers to walk further with the older, wiser doctor he's replacing only to be told, "No, you return. Inland, there's no danger... I'm warning you, you must get away, and soon. But if you do stay, don't pry into anything. Don't ask questions... and at night, don't go out for whatever reason. It's the only way you'll save yourself... the only way!"

This is the sort of foreboding menace that would find its way to the slasher boom of the 80s; particularly the Crazy Ralph character of the first two FRIDAY THE 13TH movies. However, there will be some coming to this picture who will come away disappointed, expecting more visceral thrills than what is offered. For a percentage of the audience, the chilling atmosphere of SEAGULLS will not be enough. With that said.....

Ossorio does a fantastic job of building his slow burn, periodically interrupting it with a nightly Templar sojourn... well, as nightly as you can get with day-for-night shooting. It could have been improved with some additional backstory and some stronger secondary characters, but as it is, there's a fairly strong ghost tale being told here. Still, the low body count and a lack of variance in the gore department will make this less attractive to those spoiled on the more frequent splatter antics of the first two pictures. Moreover, the Blind Dead of SEAGULLS are not the supporting characters in their own movie as they were in the previous nightmare voyage. 

The Blind Dead haven't gotten quite this much screen time since the second installment; although they really don't commit a great deal of carnage this time out. No longer on a ghost galleon, the crusty zombies are again close to the water, menacing a sleepy fishing village that has yet to modernize itself. Ossorio's story unravels in the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft, which will entice fans of the eccentric New England author. Much like part 2 recalled Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Ossorio's fourth shares kinship with the Lovecraft styled MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973) and even THE WICKER MAN (1973) with its slant towards ancient traditions in isolated societies being penetrated by modernity. Ossorio explores, to no great end, the clash between the past and present. Towards the end, SEAGULLS does enter Romero's territory where the spirit of his 1968 trendsetter is felt once our protagonists board up their house prior to the zombies laying siege to it.

Looking as grotesque as ever (and, in some shots, slightly less worse for wear than their previous adventures), the Knights of the Living Dead now reside in a castle up on a hill (a line of dialog erroneously states they rise from the sea) where they sleep in their tombs; the Templars revivification occurring yet again by recycled footage from TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1971). We do get a new scene of the creatures rising from their graves inside the inner sanctum at the end, though. They still move in slow-motion, but in some scenes they move at normal speed, depriving them of some of their impact. In the shots where the zombies dismount their horses, the illusion is somewhat ruined as it's obvious there's an actor underneath the costume. In the earlier movies, one of the eerie things about the unseeing undead was their unique shambling style had an unearthly quality that was amplified by the slow-motion riding sequences.

In other areas, the monsters appear to have been augmented yet again for this final installment. They have an even more gaunt appearance than before--noticeable during the last 15 minutes when they assault Dr. Stein's house. Unfortunately, there wasn't as much care done with the requisite shots of bony hands extending to grab a victim. Ironically, the gutter budgeted THE GHOST GALLEON (1974) arguably had the best looking hand and arm extensions. In SEAGULLS, the Templar's hands look like jagged garden rakes reaching out to scrape you. Considering how many well-lit shots of the Templars we get, the masks of the living dead are quite detailed in their design--looking like the withered skulls they are meant to be.

Curiously, the zombies are never once referred to as the Templars nor are they given a detailed backstory--aside from a gruesome opening sequence that takes place centuries earlier. Lucy, in explaining to the Stein's, says they came from France, the Horsemen of the Sea, as she calls them. With the tolling of their dissonant bell, every seven years, for seven nights, seven young girls are given to them so they can rip out their hearts and place it in the maw of some Lovecraftian fish-god statue as an offering. Should there be resistance, the shambling, hooded skeletons will kill everyone in the village as they did years earlier. Well, this being a horror movie, the decomposed living dead are, at one point, denied a sacrifice and, regrettably, the audience is denied a mass bloodletting sequence.

The level of gore is increased from the weak previous picture, but falls well short of the blood spattering of part 2. The goriest scene occurs at the beginning when a heart is graphically ripped out of the augmented chest of a captured lass and enormous crabs come along later and devour her remains. A similar scene takes place midway through; and then there's the somewhat anti-climactic finish of the Templars. Taking a cue from RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD, the zombie knights crumble to dust, spurting blood from their eye sockets after the hero simply turns over the fish-god statue they worship, breaking it into pieces. 

This wouldn't be Euro horror without some nudity, and there's two scenes of it--one at the beginning and another later in the movie courtesy of the lovely Julia Saly. The future Countess Bathory looks fabulous in a diaphanous gown, showing off her slinky figure; but sadly, Saly is only in the film a brief time before meeting her fate at the (bony) hands of a knife-wielding Templar. This was early in the career of Ms. Saly. She would later have a working relationship in numerous Paul Naschy movies as both an actress and producer.

Like the preceding movie, there's some familiarity with some of the other films. The character of Teddy, the village idiot, recalls the Murdo character of RETURN. The difference being Teddy is the exact opposite of the malevolent Murdo. Whereas Murdo murders a young woman to bring the Templars back to life, Teddy, on the other hand, is nearly killed by the villagers for exposing their terrible secret. The script doesn't give the character a great deal to do aside from being berated and pummeled the entire time. Murdo is the more interesting of the two, but the misshapen Teddy is the most pitiable.

Among other things, Ossorio's series had a fascination with quirky characters--whether they are physically deformed, or just outright weird. The first movie had the off-kilter morgue attendant; Murdo in RETURN; the kooky professor of GALLEON; and Teddy the human punching bag in SEAGULLS.

As with the last entry, we get no new musical cues by Anton Garcia Abril, only a few select pieces from the first two productions. This isn't a bad thing, but some new music would have made for a fresher experience for the Templars' swan song. 

According to Ossorio, there was to have been a fifth Blind Dead movie. The plot concerned Waldemar Daninsky (the werewolf of many Paul Naschy horrors) seeking a cure for his Lycanthropy found only in the necronomicon; the problem is the ancient book is held somewhere within the church of the Templars. Ossorio wrote the script, but cited difficulties with the producers so nothing was ever shot. Imagine Paul Naschy as his iconic werewolf doing battle with Ossorio's sightless titans of terror. What a match-up that could have been!

Naschy did write a film that featured the Templars--a John Gilling picture from 1975 titled LA CRUZ DEL DIABLO (CROSS OF THE DEVIL). Naschy was supposed to star, but apparently Gilling (who directed three Hammer movies, THE REPTILE, THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES and THE MUMMY'S SHROUD) didn't think he was star quality for the production so he was brushed aside for another actor. Little seen, the picture isn't held in high regard by those who have seen it. It remains an obscure title in the annals of Spanish horror cinema.

NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS debuted in America in 1977 and landed on home video in 1987 from Sony bearing a more palatable title of NIGHT OF THE DEATH CULT. The onscreen title was the SEAGULL original; likely Sony altered it for their box art because 'death cult' sounded more attractive to potential renters than a flock of birds. Curiously, Ossorio stated he chose this title because seagulls don't fly at night. This is apparently not true, but in the context of the film, it makes sense considering we're told that the damned souls of the sacrificed girls become the seagulls heard flying over the village at night.

Had the series continued it would have been fascinating to see where Ossorio would have taken his monsters; possibly to space if they'd gone on to do ten installments. With a new short film coming (EL ULTIMO GUION [THE LAST SCRIPT]) reuniting Lone Fleming with the Blind Dead, a revival of the eyeless, sword-swinging blood-drinkers is even more likely; and most welcome for fans of one of horror cinema's most unique creature creations.

This review is representative of the Blue Underground Coffin Box Set. Specs and Extras: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen; theatrical trailer; poster and stills gallery.

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