LA NOCHE DE LOS BRUJOS
THE NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS
Director: Amando de Ossorio
The natives are restless tonight and that's because they've captured a white woman and are about to whip her, rape her and then cut her head off in a strange voodoo ceremony that, it appears, creates vampire femmes attired in skimpy leopard skins.... So begins LA NOCHE DE LOS BRUJOS, written and directed by Blind Dead maestro Amando de Ossorio.
For all the intellectual-sounding explanations from a few generous critics and de Ossorio himself that he was trying to inject meaningful statements in his films, Amando de Ossorio reached his most flavorful creative peaks in scenes of sadistic erotic horror, and it is as such a master that his name has become legend among euro-cultists. Almost every de Ossorio film (certainly almost every interesting de Ossorio film) favors an unapologetic employment of the exquisite female body for ravishment and, when the ravishing is done, some form of destruction. Catch de Ossorio's name listed as a director and you are generally assured of seeing euro-femmes with their clothes being ripped off, breasts exposed, flesh sliced, hearts cut out, and a rape scene or two to break up calmer scenes. For those searching for such entertainment LA NOCHE DE LOS BRUJOS doesn't disappoint; in fact, in Spicy Horror terms, it outdistances every other de Ossorio horror fest I've seen, with whippings, rapes, blood-a-flowing freely down women's bodies and legs, beheadings and some very strident screaming that makes the tortures and terrors seem all the more real. Eliminate all this sexual mayhem and mutilation, and you're left with a rather ordinary horror picture, with some nice frissons thrown in.
The plot merely lays out the groundwork for the exploitation elements to take hold. A small group of two men and three women arrive in Bombasa, a mysterious Africa country (actually Aldea de Fresno and its "Safari Madrid" park) to photograph wildlife on the point of extinction, but meanwhile become involved in a local "legend of the witches" and the revival of demons of the jungle. Of course, the women are all knock-outs who shed their clothes off for the camera with a nudist's abandon, as African natives (subbed by African students at the local Madrid university) watch from behind bushes twined with a voyeur's passion.
The actors who play the two white men should bring a smile of recognition to Spanish horror fans. THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE'S Simon Andreu makes a turn as the hero, a hunter/safari man called Carter, and the reliable Jack Taylor is the photographer and researcher of the team. Not quite white in this film, Jose Telman, sans his usual moustache, is a trader in furs who tries to repeat a rape scene he assayed in de Ossorio's THE TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD.
The sex and sadism in LA NOCHE DE LOS BRUJOS does not disqualify de Ossorio from being a director of some talent, of course. There are several creepy moments that acclaim his skill at evoking a growing sense of unease that eventually bursts out into foul, bloody terror. De Ossorio's employment of the sounds of nature as almost a chorus of anticipatory, even mocking danger is quite good. Fernando Garcia Morcillo's generally funky score sabotages some of the film, but -- hey -- that's part of the movie's weird charm.
LA NOCHE DE LOS BRUJOS is perfect to dissemble and analyze with critiques of old-fashioned political and racist attitudes. Natives are to be shot for their superstitious ceremonies, European women desired for the color of their skin and hair, and the heroic white man is a fool if he saves the non-white woman because he's bringing back contagion to the civilized world. Perhaps de Ossorio was infused with such attitudes or perhaps he was simply making exploitation for exploitation's sake. I don't buy it, however, that de Ossorio was purposefully and craftily turning a mirror to his audience to make them see and confront themselves. His films revel with too much gloating precision and hardened aggression in sadism and sexism for that to be the case.
LA NOCHE DE LOS BRUJOS is a film that is nestled securely in a time frame: they didn't make films like that in the decades before the film was made, and not in the decades afterward, where sensitivities to supposed sexist and racist attitudes would have caused a storm of protest. Once again, Spanish horror can explore regions that were, and are, taboo. Whether these explorations entertain is left up to the individual viewer and his midnight conscience.
-- Reviewed by Mirek
Safari Madrid - Want a chance to meet your own leopard-clad vampire woman at night? Then go to the place where LA NOCHE DE BRUJOS was filmed!