Director: Amando de Ossorio
Scream Factory/Shout! Factory

The fourth installment of the quartet known as “The Blind Dead” series gets a solo Blu-ray release courtesy of Shout! Factory’s Scream Factory arm.

Spanish director/screenwriter Amando de Ossorio became a fixture during the Spanish horror boom of the early 1970s, helming a number of chillers seen all over the world. But de Ossorio will best be remembered as the man who gave us the “Blind Dead,” eyeless, blackened corpses, who ride on their undead horses (!), rising from their tombs centuries after their demise to claim new victims. These zombified beings were once Templar Knights who tortured and sacrificed young women, drinking their blood and sometimes consuming their hearts! The Templars were condemned to death as heretics and had their eyes eaten out by crows (or they were burnt to a crisp by torches, depending on which movie you’re viewing), so when they returned to life as sightless menaces, they had to rely on sound to stalk their victims – all too easy as just about anybody would be screaming at the sight of them! Starting with 1971’s LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO, three unrelated sequels followed, giving us some of the scariest-looking monsters ever put up on the screen, and although de Ossorio’s films owe a bit to George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, they have a unique style of their own and a hauntingly atmospheric value that’s never been equaled.

The fourth and final installment, 1975’s NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS, brought the series back to basics, and back to dry land (the previous entry took place almost entirely on an ancient ship). It starts with a flashback to the middle ages, and the Templars attacking a young couple. They off the man right away, but they bring the redheaded, breast-augmented female (Susana Estrada, FORBIDDEN PASSION) back to the castle for another gory sacrifice – this time to a monstrous “sea god” idol that resembles an oversized mutated garden frog – in which her torn-out heart is fed too while the Templars engage in some vampiric-like blood sipping. In the 20th century, young Dr. Henry Stein (Victor Petit, FORBIDDEN LOVE) and his beautiful wife Joan (Spanish horror staple Maria Kosti, VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES) arrive at a backward seaside village where they are unwelcome by everyone, all but a bullied and beaten-up village idiot (José Antonio Calvo) and an orphaned teen girl who becomes their housekeeper. They soon experience the strange sounds of seagulls during the middle of the night, and they discover that the townsfolk have a nasty, ritualistic habit of leaving nightly seaside sacrifices – in the form of the pretty young ladies – for the Blind Dead who arrive at the scene on horseback to collect!

You would think that by this time there was little that could be done with the undead Templars, but NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS is a worthy capping to the gothic quartet. The Blind Dead still look scary as over, and scenes of them riding in slow motion along the shoreline are really effective (some footage of the dead rising is borrowed from the first film – it was recycled for the second film as well – but it’s totally unnecessary here). We actually get a clearer view of the zombies here, and they even have an impressive castle, and an even more impressive demise, complete with pools of blood shooting from their hollow eye sockets! The film possesses a dreamlike quality (the souls of the sacrificial offers are believed to enter the seagulls that fly by night) that the others doesn’t. Julia Saly (here billed as Julie James) appears as one of the Blind Dead victims, and she would soon go on to be one of Paul Naschy’s most popular leading ladies. But the primary victim (and the one our heroic couple try desperately to save) is played by Sandra Mozarowsky, who had already been in a couple of Paul Naschy films (BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL and DEVIL’S POSSESSED). Her life was cut short in 1977 (shortly before her 19th birthday) after falling from the fourth floor balcony of her Madrid apartment.

Previously available on DVD in the U.S. from Blue Underground (individually and as part of their complete “Blind Dead” box set), Scream Factory presents NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS on Blu-ray, and they have stated that at this time, they don’t know who the successor of the first three are but are looking into it so they can hopefully bring the entire series to Blu. SEAGULLS is presented uncut, in 1080p HD in the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The HD master presented here doesn’t offer any revelations as far as PQ is concerned but it looks much better-detailed than the previous DVD. The image actually looks quite good despite a lot of soft focus and “day for night” photography, with sufficient grain structure. Colors are subdued but look accurate, and blacks are solid, while scattered blemishes are evident on occasion. Audio is offered in two serviceable tracks: a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English dub and a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Spanish language (Castilian) track. Optional English subtitles are included.

Extras include an audio commentary with Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn of the podcast, NaschyCast. Both gentlemen have already done a number of entertaining commentaries for Spanish horror films released by Scream Factory, and here they discuss everything from the real Knights Templar to the Blind Dead’s place in horror movie history, pointing out this film’s attributes and how it differs from the others in the series, and they touch upon such subjects as the cast and the film’s characters, the circumstances of the death of Sandra Mozarowsky, the score by Antón García Abril (as well as the work of sound designer Luis Castro) and of course the career of director Amando de Ossorio. They conclude the talk with rumored rumblings from back in the day for a proposed fifth Blind Dead film, one which would’ve included Paul Naschy’s Waldemar Daninsky character, making for what would have been an incredible crossover monster movie. Also included is an original international trailer for the film, in English. (George R. Reis)