Ahhhh 1973, I remember it well. I was 3.5 years old and my youngest brother Marcus McLargehuge came home from the hospital just a wee lad of some five thousand kilograms. Nixon was still president in 73. Grand Funk was all over FM radio. Cars the size of pontoon-ferries cruised American streets in the throes of a gas shortage.
Return of the Blind Dead hit the drive-in circuit. Hell, there still WAS a drive-in circuit! My parents too me to see Zebra in the Kitchen on re-release. Herbie the Love Bug would still have hundreds of clownish rally races before succumbing to auto-AIDS and ending up crushed into a one-square-foot cube.
Life was bliss.
I reflect on this because Return of the Blind Dead actually threatened to erase these happy childhood memories with its awfulness. As this film spun along in my DVD player I could not shake the feeling that perhaps nuclear war and mass radiation deaths would have been preferable to this film even being produced.
We should have ignored brinkmanship with the Russians and concentrated our military efforts on Spanish/Portuguese horror movies and their Bond-villain-like producers. Is it fair to compare Amando De Assorio to Blofeld, or Arno Goldfinger? Perhaps not, but the statement illustrates the hatred I now have of Spanish/Portuguese horror films.
And, it is all his fault.
We begin in Berzano, the same town as the first film (Careful viewers will notice the first in a series of unrelenting continuity errors right in the beginning), as the Templars sacrifice a buxom young (and suitably hysterical) woman. Cut to the Templars being “escorted” from their abbey (which is what they call the ruins in this movie) by a pitchfork and torch mob of locals.
Wait a minute. That doesn’t make any sense? Pauses to restart the DVD...
Hey, there is an unknown number of seconds/minutes missing from the beginning of this movie! Simply cut out, and crudely at that, so that viewers will no doubt be flummoxed into submission for the stupidity to follow.
The villagers tie up the “world's most powerful” knights with some twine and exclaim that the Templars will no longer steal woman/cows/sheep etc... from the villagers of Berzano! To emphasize their point, the knights have their eyes burned out before being set alight exactly like mannequins covered in oily rags...
One of the mouthier Sterno-logs curses Berzano before he succumbs to the superimposed flames.
Cut to futuristic wonder world that is 1973 Berzano. We meet our cavalcade of characters here, and since the IMDB was so damn spotty as to who played whom, I’ll let you try and figure it out on your own time because I am not putting this movie in again.
That’s my story and I am sticking to it!
The main characters are Jack Marlowe (Tony Kendall) an American fireworks... er... engineer?.. specialist?.. you know, one of those guys who sets off fireworks at celebrations... He wears a striking “delta wing” collared jacket. I swear he could hang-glide off of the damn things. Vivian (Esperanza Roy), a former girlfriend of Jack’s who now spends her time cozying up to Mayor McCheese (since I have no idea what his name was other than Mayor), a greasy overweight cigar chomping jackass. Rounding out the crowd are: Brawny (since I have no idea what his name was either, but he always wears a flannel shirt and has tentacle-like eyebrows. Brawny is Mayor McCheese’s hired muscle and all around stepnfetchit. Brawny has a powerful lust for Vivian. Married Guy who wears a polo shirt and appears to be all of four-and-a-half feet tall. Married Guy is also a hired goon for Mayor McCheese. His wife is Amalia (I know this because of the awesome credit listing from the IMDB), she is essentially the comatose chick from Night of the Living Dead superimposed here, though she isn’t quite comatose. Married Guy and Amalia have a daughter who has no name that I remember. Mayor McCheese’s daughter is also one of the characters. She’s a pretty blonde girl who has awful taste in men.
Rounding out this cast and deserving special mention is Murdo the Monkey Boy. Murdo the Monkey Boy comes from a long line of disfigured yet sympathetic monster movie guys who foretell of bad things to happen. Murdo is the Portuguese equivalent of Petersen (Dirch Passer) from Reptilicus... Actually, given the choice, I prefer the Danish super-comic to the antics of Murdo the Monkey Boy. In keeping with the tradition of completely ripping off Dwight Frye (Reinfield AND Igor!), Murdo the Monkey Boy shambles around like he just suffered a colonoscopy performed with the Hubble Space Telescope. He also has one eyebrow which seems to have been on loan from Bert of Sesame Street. Murdo’s job is to take care of the abbey.
Of course, and finally, the Templar Knights, a band of extremely slow moving skeletal guys mostly cribbed from the first movie in this series.
Sure, there are other characters, but none of them matter.
Berzano is about to celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the execution of the Templar Knights from Berzano Abbey. Cliche meter is reading a seven... eight.... nine... TEN!
Vivian explains that she pressured Mayor McCheese to hire Jack because she still has feelings for him. Jack, because he is a complete idiot, has no idea that this will lead to a savage beating later in the movie. This whole segment of plot development gives us several memorable moments to get to know the attitudes of the characters. For example; Vivian is a floozy, who rejects a mandatory glass of whiskey in favor of beer, and piques the ire of Brawny for doing so because it embarrassed Mayor McCheese. Jack intervenes but ignores this obvious preclude to a savage beating because he is a complete idiot. Also: Some kids pick on Murdo by knocking him down and savagely beating him with small rocks. He is rescued by Mayor McCheese’s daughter. See, he’s misunderstood and she is sympathetic.
These characters are so familiar they could have straight out of a children's activity book...
We FINALLY leave the pending celebration so Jack and Vivian can have some quiet time in the Abbey graveyard. They make with the hanky-panky under the watchful single eyebrow of Murdo the Monkey Boy, who, as all misshapen Dwight Frye knock-offs do, spoils the mood. He then explains that the Templars will come back tonight.
Hey, he must have his own cliché meter!
Jack and Vivian return to the town and we cut to the Mayor wondering if his daughter will be alright by herself. They had an argument earlier and she is forbidden from attending the festivities. Against the wishes of the Mayor, she lets her boyfriend... er.... I have no idea what his name is in this film, but he played Pedro Cantell in the first film of this series. He and the Mayor’s daughter make hot monkey love off camera.
Cut to the abbey graveyard where we get a long sequence of stock footage from the first Blind Dead movie as the Templars emerge from their graves. This is inter cut with some footage of Murdo the Monkey Boy looking on with spastic glee.... er... fright.... um.... beats the hell out of me... He is just spastic. The stock footage ignores Murdo and rides out to the festival.
Hey, we all love festivals right?
We get our first shot of the awesome fireworks display that Jack as brought along to help Berzano celebrate. It lasts about 3 seconds, but don’t despair, the exact same footage will show up at least a half a dozen more times before this movie is over. Even in places where Jack is nowhere near the fireworks.
I guess he brought a crew with him.
To persuade Jack from bedding Vivian again Mayor McCheese sends Brawny, Married Guy, and another hood to beat on him savagely. This takes place as Jack and Vivian are about to leave the festivities in Jack’s extra-studly open-top 3 horse power jeep... er... thing.
Well, the goons put a pretty good whuppin’ on old Jack regardless of his lethally pointed jacket lapels as the Mayor looks on.
Cut to Mayor McCheese’s daughter and Pedro in bed. The Templars approach and start hammering on the door. Now, since these dead guys are blind and Both the village bicycle and Pedro aren’t making any noise, how could they find the house, the door, the window, or anything else?
Yeah, maybe I am overanalyzing... But hey, that’s what I do!
Now, Pedro being perhaps the single stupidest character ever committed to film, assumes it is Mayor McCheese pounding on the door. He hides in the bathroom as Mayor McCheese’s daughter straightens her hair and clothes before opening the window to see who is outside.
She finds a whole slew of Templars with swords drawn and begins to scream. This draws El-Macho Pedro from the privy who, completely ignoring McCheese’s Daughter’s hysterics, pokes his head out the window to see what all her screaming is about.
Now, why on Earth would he do this?
Of course his head is immediately lopped off and tumbles off down the street. McCheese’s Daughter is only slightly smarter. She pulls the front door open and a bunch of Templars slowly shamble in. Whoops! She then tries to escape from every window in the house, but all of them are occupied by the recently exhumed.
She still manages to get away via the magic of stock footage from the first film, steals a horse, and rides off to the train depot where she frantically calls her father.
Mayor McCheese, perfectly content to watch the goons wail on Jack takes the call, and with a look of suitable aggravation at the whole affair, calls off Brawny and the boys then dispatches them to see if the train conductor is on the level.
We get some more footage of fireworks for no apparent reason.
As Brawny and Married Guy run through the woods towards the train platform, they notice several Templar horsemen en-route to the village so they go back and inform the McCheese that the end of the world is in fact coming, and in slow motion. The Mayor makes a truce with Jack and calls the Governor.
Now we get the single most annoying plot device of this movie. The Governor, asleep in his comfy bed, is awakened by McCheese’s frantic phone call. Since the Governor apparently sleeps with his secretary, a woman at least 50 years younger than he is, she helpfully interprets a conversation that her character cannot hear, in... brace yourself... pantomime!
The Governor, interpreting her spastic attempts to communicate, laughs off the Mayor and his drunken pranken-ness then goes back to sleep.
It was awful... Just awful... No one should have to sit through a scene like this. We get to do it again too, twice more!
The Mayor realizes that he is on his own now watches the ensuing mayhem from his balcony overlooking the town square. Jack and Brawny lead the villagers in combat against the knights. All the fighting leads to Jack exploding several of the foot-born Templar Night dummies with some his fireworks. This allows him to open the village gate and let everyone out.
The villagers run off into the night vowing to come back with help. Have I mentioned that it looks like all of ten or twenty people make up the entire population of Berzano? No? Well, it does.
None of this makes sense, not a single frame of the thing. If the village was walled in the first place the Templars would never have made it inside!
Cut to Married Guy, Amalia, and their daughter seeking refuge in the Church.
Cut to the Mayor and Brawny deciding to take their chances with Jack’s stud-mobile. Mayor McCheese first grabs all the town’s funds from his office safe, but no one knows he did this. They all pile in and drive away pursued by stock footage of the Templars. They reach the front of the church and find themselves cornered by two columns of VERY SLOWLY approaching Templars who attack the roll bars of the stud-mobile yet manage to injure NO ONE!
Married Guy swings the church door open so they can all get inside.
Now Jack, Vivian, Brawny, Married Guy, Mayor McCheese, Mayor McCheese’s Daughter, Amalia, Married Guy’s Daughter, and as we learn in a moment, Murdo the Monkey Boy, are all trapped in the church as the Templars stand around outside.
This is when Amalia starts her comatose routine.
Murdo convinces the Mayor’s Daughter to help him navigate a labyrinth of underground tunnels that he says will lead to safety. When she asks why he wants her help, Murdo explains that she is the only person who would stick up for him. He then snatches one of the drawers from a nearby bureau and insists that they can use that to dig the end of the tunnel.
So she goes and leaves everyone else to die!
The Mayor again calls the Governor and we are treated to another scene of brain scrambling stupidity as the Mayor is told to hang up and not call again. The Governor then tells his secretary to let him sleep in tomorrow.
Now, faced with the potential loss of even a single village worth of voters, any governor with his or her weight in junk-fish would at least call the local constabulary and ask them for confirmation of the events related by the Mayor.
But he doesn’t!
Guess the next election is a lock for the other guy. I can see the campaign slogans now... “Governor sacrifices entire village for good-night’s sleep! Vote for me, I would have called the cops.”
Each of the men takes an observation post. Apparently the Templars will all disappear with the sunrise, or so the legend says, so all they have to do is last the night. As with any movie where several reprehensible people are trapped and fearing for their lives, the human drama that is Return of the Blind Dead, hits its stride. The Mayor first attempts to convince Brawny to run away with him, and the money, and they will start a life together somewhere else.
I kid you not.
Brawny says he will, but only if Vivian comes with them and agrees to leave the Mayor and be his girlfriend. The Mayor says there isn’t enough room for Vivian in the car so Brawny turns him down.
Any sane person, when faced with said offer, and who then turned it down, would probably attempt to alert the other trapped persons of the Mayor’s intent. But, Brawny is in no way a sane person and simply turns his attention back to the window as Mayor McCheese goes downstairs to seek another moron to help him with his escape plan.
He lands on Married Guy who is perfectly willing to leave his wife and daughter for the Mayor and his money! Married Guy takes a table leg torch and heads out to get the car. At first the fire keeps the Templars away, but not for long. He gets killed right beside the vehicle.
The Mayor closes the door when he realizes that he isn’t leaving. Vivian spots him prowling around the first floor of the church and asks why he isn’t upstairs at his post. He explains that he was getting sleepy and wants some coffee. Vivian, being about as sharp as a sack full of wet mice, goes off to procure some coffee for the Mayor.
I guess those old servant/master roles are hard to break...
Amalia is comatose now, but Married Guy’s daughter is awake so the Mayor says she should GO OUTSIDE AND FIND HER FATHER! The girl is all of eight years old... But she does it anyway! We get treated to a few long moments of “Papa?.. Papa?.. Papa?..” as the Templars close in around her. Mayor McCheese makes a run for it now that the Templars are suitably busy stalking a little girl.
He doesn’t get far though. Once he turns the corner a whole battalion of Templars descend upon him and his briefcase full of money.
Finally both Jack and Brawny see what is going on below. How they missed the whole episode with Married Guy is never mentioned, or explained... Jack, being the hero, rushes to the rescue but is stopped by Amalia, now out of her comatose-ness and screaming and yelling at the Templars.
She’s killed as Jack makes a daring rescue that is neither interesting or suspenseful. See, she’s caught her dress on the door of a nearby building and it takes Jack a few seconds to free her. In this time Amalia breaks out of Vivian’s grip and runs out into the fray to try and save her daughter.
Basically the knights turn their attention to Amalia and Jack runs inside with the girl. Amalia gets whacked.
Cut to Murdo the Monkey Boy and McCheese’s daughter reaching the end of the tunnel. She pokes her head up through the hole at the end, and it gets cut off by a waiting Templar. Murdo, being a complete idiot, stands there until skeletal hands reach down and pull him upwards where he meets the same fate.
Glad we took the time to get to know those two characters huh?
Back inside Vivian takes over as mom for Married Guy’s newly orphaned Daughter, yet she seems to have no ill effects following the violent deaths of her parents. In all this rigmarole, Brawny makes his intentions clear to Vivian. He loves her and to prove his love, decides that rape is easily the most romantic thing ever.
Jack interrupts them and they fight. Jack gets another sound beating until he shoves Brawny back against a spear-like thing sticking out of the wall (convenient!).
Now there are only three of them left. Morning breaks, and they participate in a scene stolen directly from Hitchcock’s masterpiece, “The Birds” and walk slowly through the field of Templar mannequins rendered harmless by the morning sun.
They all fall slowly to the ground.
Ugh... This movie was so bad it almost makes the first film too good for the Hall of Shame. Man, that’s bad! This is the second side of a two–disc set from Anchor Bay video, and minus the atrocious edit in the first ten minutes or so, is a pretty good transfer.
None of the artifacting present in the first film appears here. However, like the sister film on the other side, this one contains no extras at all.
Return of the Blind Dead is dubbed into English and the voices are all pretty appropriate for the character types. Everyone, that is, except for the little girl. She has a standard post-production foreign film voice. That is, one of an adult woman attempting to speak like a little girl.
Luckily all she says is “Papa?.. Papa?.. Papa?..” Which about sums up the quality of the film in question.