Latarnia presents CASTILIAN CRIMSON
The Spanish Horror Film







Director: Amando de Ossorio
Screenplay: Amando de Ossorio
Music: Anton Garcia Abril
Cast: Maria Perschy, Jack Taylor, Barbara Rey, Carlos Lemos, Manuel de Blas, Blanca Estrada
Running time: 90 minutes?


A guilty pleasure. I can understand the disappointment some Blind Dead fans feel when confronted with this film. There are the undeniably cheesy special effects of the Ghost Galleon, which is represented by an obvious plastic model and the onscreen violence is limited to one (sometimes cut) scene of a model being chopped up. I personally miss those magnificent scenes of the undead Templars riding haunted steeds across the plains toward victims, featured in all of the other Blind Dead entries. But there's something surreal and ultra-absurd about every detail in this film which continues to fascinate.

Before acquiring the uncut Super Video prerecord, I was introduced to this third entry in the Templar saga by means of an old VHS version missing the one aforementioned gore sequence. Adding to the confusion is an apparently spurious report of a 106mn version (in Phil Hardy's "Encyclopedia of the Horror Film"). The Super Video version, though, seems complete. I still wish that this had followed TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD and RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD onto DVD (to be followed, of course, by LA NOCHE DE LOS GAVIOTAS, the 1975 series capper). It would be ideal to have the entire series on the superior digital medium, but that remains unfulfilled at this writing.

Sexism rears its head almost immediately as the film begins with well-to-do fashion photographer Maria Perschy (a 1970s Spanish Horror regular) making humiliating comments about the bikini clad models she is working with during a shoot, "stick them out, girls" she orders. A class distinction is established along with the irony that even a woman joins in the (then) culturally acceptable practice of reducing women to sexual objects. This is also a subtext in the preceding two Blind Dead titles. One of the models (Barbara Rey) is particularly pathetic as she anxiously pleads with Perschy for information about her female lover (Blanca Estrada) who has mysteriously disappeared. Estrada and another model have been recruited by promoter Tucker (Jack Taylor) for "Operation Atlantic," a crackpot scheme wherein the women are deliberately stranded on one of his sports boats for publicity reasons. Then, the fun begins.

One of the problems is that it takes the cast nearly half the film's running time to arrive at the Ghost Galleon where they will face the same fate as the stranded models. The most impressive sequence up to that point is the painfully protracted stalking of Estrada on the Galleon deck by the revived Templars. Some may complain that we don't see her exact fate, but the crunching sound as the Templars dump her into the open hatch is effectively gruesome enough. Some of the early close-ups, shot through the crystal clear lenses of the estimable Raul Artigot, detail the emaciated, hooded skulls of the Templars as they arise from their coffins. These atmospheric and chilling images provide some needed frissons while our protagonists journey to the Galleon.

There's also an interesting sado-masochistic relationship developed between Tucker and his thug, Sergio (Manuel de Blas). Sergio refers to himself as Tucker's "slave" and gains a sadistic satisfaction watching Tucker squirm in fear once they reach the Galleon. Sergio also sexually dominates Rey early on when she tries to inform the police of Tucker's plot. Totally materialistic, Sergio attempts to drown Tucker so he can abscond with the Templar treasure only to be stabbed to death by Perschy. Only Rey and Estrada, both victims of class and sexual exploitation remain sympathetic in de Ossorio's scenario. Then there's Professor Gruber, a truly absurd character, a portly "scientist" who insists on going along after Tucker consults him on the Galleon's exact location. Gruber manages to intimidate the Templars at a crucial moment with his knowledge of Exorcism practices, always handy to have a casual knowledge of THOSE. The casting and playing of this character tends to detract from the film's suspense and leave us with some unwelcome "comic" relief. Of course, Abril's familiar Templar chant reestablishes the mood instantaneously and Torre de la Fuente's Satanic horned icon is an impressive touch, seen under the opening credits and later glowing demonically as it seems to revive the submerged Templars at the climax. The final image of the Templars leaning over the exhausted Taylor and Perschy after emerging from the ocean is one of the more haunting images of the series and leaves the door wide open for another sequel, the underrated LA NOCHE DE LOS GAVIOTAS.

-- Reviewed by Robert Monell