Night of the Seagulls (La Noche de las Gaviotas) (1975)
Cast: Victor Petit, Maria Kosti, Sandra Mozarosky, Julie James
Director: Amando De Ossorio
Nutshell: the fourth and final installment of Ossorio’s epic Blind Dead series
This was the fourth and alas final part of Amando De Ossorio’s epic Blind Dead series featuring those magnificently gruesome and murderous Templar Knights from the 16th Century. In the previous film Horror of the Zombies, the Templar’s were seen riding their galleon over the seven seas, leaving a grim trail of blood as their chilling signature. A pseudo religious scientist and his cohorts managed to throw the coffins of the Templar’s overboard and rid the ship of its ghostly inhabitants, yet, in one of the memorable scenes from the quartet of films, the Templars re-emerge ever so slowly from the ocean to continue their murderous quest on land.
The stage is thus set for the Night of the Seagulls which begins with a lost young couple travelling through a typically misty and desolate area. The lad goes off to find help leaving his busty wife to wait in the middle of nowhere. As night falls, we here the ominous strains of Anton Gavril’s lumbering theme start to roll up, followed by familiar shots of coffins opening up and shrivelled up limbs emerging from the graves within. So familiar are the scenes by now that one seriously wonders whether Ossorio has taken some liberties by re-using some of the footage already seen in Tombs of the Blind Dead. TheTemplar’s (live ones) brutally savage the lad before turning their attention to the helpless beauty waiting in the carriage. They carry her to their underground cavern where they dig out her heart and offer it to a hideous stone deity as lunch. The Templar’s gleefully scoff up her remains. That event occurred apparently a long time ago, and now the action moves to the present day and with Ossorio claiming the following events as a “True Story”.
A young doctor and his pretty young wife arrive at this sea-side village where they are met with a complete cold shoulder by the local folk. Dr. Stein (not Franken for a change) settles into his rustic new home with a wife growing increasingly sceptical by the minute. Close to midnight the couple is awakened by strange sounds…..firstly a bell starts to toll, but though the sound is loud, it’s also distant. They hear seagulls’ crying which we are told time and again is unnatural as gulls are normally silent at night. This is followed by chanting sounds which the couple go outside to investigate. They find a procession of dark hooded figures leading out a nubile young, scantily clad virginal type out to the rocks by the sea.
The Templar Knights meanwhile emerge from the darkness, riding along in their distinctive, slow-motion style, arriving for the beauty that is being offered to them by the towns’ elders. The girl is gorged upon by the bloodthirsty Templars with just clumps of her remains left strewn around the beach for the crabs to feast upon. Ossorio then delights in showing his man-eating crabs slowly edge their way towards the remains, gruesome intent showing on their already bloodstained claws – the scene lasts for about five minutes and we even get a shorter encore later on).
The doctor discovers that the town is under siege by the Templar Knights and that the townsfolk have struck a deal with their tormentors in that if they periodically offer them seven of their beautiful young daughters as sacrifice (one every night for a week long ritual), then the lives of the villagers might just be spared. The doctor also finds that his pretty young assistant is next in line to be sacrificed and races along to the beach to find her tied up and about to be pounced upon by the stealthy Templars. They manage to scramble away, with the Templars in angry, murderous pursuit. The doctor and his small group try to barricade themselves in their house but to no avail as the Knights besiege the place and start breaking through. Once again the doctor and his wife flee the advancing Knights and arrive at the cave where the Templar rituals are carried out.
The doctor finds the thus far indestructible Knights can be burnt to oblivion (it took them four movies to realize that you could simply torch the Templar Knights with a single matchstick!) and he holds back the seething undead with his flame while he and the wife manage to topple over the stone deity, sending it crashing to a heap of rubble. Alas, this seems to break the “will” of the Templars who start crumbling to the floor “Mummy” style and returning to their caverns. There are shots of spouting blood from the skulls of the crumbling zombies – could it be that the Templar’s have finally been laid to rest? Doubtful.
The film has the distinct slow moving, languid style of its predecessors and some scenes appear to be shot slower than real time. There isn’t too much gore on evidence and even the trademark lesbian scene is missing. Ossorio strives to recreate the same atmosphere of dread that he managed to inject into the very first classic of the series and does so with limited success.
The best parts of the film are the scenes of the Templar’s rising up from their graves and emerging on from the darkness, all set to the magnificently eerie chanting soundtrack of Anton Gavril. The crab feasting scenes are amazing and one has to almost pinch oneself to believe they are actually happening. You could happily go and make a yourself a cup of tea and return to find the crabs still feasting on the remains! Such is the rather s-l-o-w editing that Ossorio likes to employ.
For what its worth, the film is a considerable improvement on the second of the series Return of the Blind Dead, but fails to match the excellence of the first film. Also, the novelty of watching ten minute scenes of coffins opening and shrivelled limbs emerging from within can get just a little exhausting after a third sequel!
It’s time for the Templars to call it a day – for the moment at any rate.
(Though they returned in 1982 in Jesus Franco’s La Mansion de los Muertos Viventes)