Friday, May 16, 2008


Amando de Ossorio brought his BLIND DEAD series--possibly his most accomplished and best-known work--to a close in 1975 with NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS, the most visually and narratively arresting installment since the original film. Like its predecessors,it's a slow, deliberate film that rewards the patient with an almost palpable atmosphere (and the occasional burst of gore).

As he did with RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD, de Ossorio begins with a flashback of the Knights Templar in human form as they sacrifice an unwilling victim for their diabolical purposes (perhaps this was to bring new viewers up to speed, or maybe to re-establish the continuity after GHOST GALLEON strayed a little from the formula). This time the Knights offer the ripped-out hearts of their victims to the stone statue of a fish-god, giving the film a vaguely Lovecraftian tone--as well as suggesting de Ossorio's fatigue with the series.

Also setting SEAGULLS apart is a stronger narrative structure than the previous films, as a doctor and his new bride move to a sleepy coastal village and learn of the locals' ritual of proffering young maidens to the Knights Templar. It's not a particularly complex of profound plot, and the mood frequently carries it whenever the story starts to flag, but it's at least entertaining; what is irksome though is the wasted opportunity of a climax, eschewing the show-stopper capper the series deserved (a budgetary decision, most likely) in favor of an uncomfortably rushed confrontation between the doctor and the Knights.

NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS is still an enjoyable example of '70s Spanish horror, and fans of the slow-motion scenes of the Knights on horseback won't be disappointed (though they're not as effective here as they are in earlier films, compromised by poor day-for-night photography and lacking the previous sense of macabre awe; the novelty of the coastline setting helps offset this flaw). A suitable close to an often underrated series.

(Special thanks to Donna Williams for providing a copy of this film.)

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