What, we’re back to Spanish horror already?
This is, to no one’s surprise, Amando de Ossorio’s sequel to his 1972 Tombs of the Blind Dead, which is a really good horror movie. It introduced an alternate version of the Knights Templar (whose actual story makes for a good read) who were executed for practicing black magic and birds plucked out their corpses’ eyes. In this alternate alternate version, the Templars are still drinking virgin blood, but this time it’s the villagers, not the Church (with a capital “Ch”) who get fed up, burn out the knights’ eyes and then set them (or at least some dummies dressed like them) on fire. The one Templar allowed to have lines swears they’ll be back.
Sooo, 500 years later, the very same village is having a party to celebrate the legend of the death of the Templars, and an “American” named Jack Marlowe (Tony Kendall) is there to provide the fireworks. He got the gig through an old girlfriend (Esperanza Ray) who is now the secretary/mistress of the corrupt mayor (Fernando Sancho). The relationships get stupidly complex, but never mind that, there’s zombies.
The semi-deformed caretaker of the ruins where the Templars got torched, Murdo (Jose Canelejas) kidnaps a girl and sacrifices her the night of the festival, but we’re not really sure if it’s her blood or the Templars deciding they’d better make good on that “coming back” business. In any case, the Templars are back, and they’re a creepy bunch, because they actually look dead. They get on their zombie horses and ride for the village, stopping at the occasional house or railroad station to murder the occupants.
Intriguingly, the Mayor and his goons have advance warning of the Templar’s approach, yet do nothing about it, resulting in a wholesale slaughter in the town square. After Marlowe and the Mayor’s suddenly civic-minded goons manage to clear a way for the surviving townfolk to run away, they barricade themselves in a church to hopefully survive the night. At that point, we’re into fairly traditional zombie siege territory, with the occupants splitting into factions and the Mayor getting several people killed just so he can escape.
There are two minor scenes of the Mayor calling the less-than-useful Governor for help which I think are supposed to be comedic but just slow everything down. Apparently the legend of the Templars is very well-known, because Useful information About Undead Knights is dropped at important points. “They’re supposed to be attracted to sound!” “They’re afraid of fire!” “They’re supposed to go back to their graves at dawn!” But in this version of the Templar story, they haven’t been seen for 500 years… where is this information coming from?
Tombs of the Blind Dead ended with one hell of a devastating bloodbath and the dreadful promise of carnage to come. Return has a more upbeat ending, which feels like a cheat, somehow. Overall, it’s not quite as good as its predecessor, but it definitely has its moments, and whatever else, you have to admire its efficiency: the Templars rise from their graves at the 16 minute mark, and then we’re off to the races. That, my friends, is some significant bang for your horror buck.
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