Ape Week: Revenge from Planet Ape: The Spanish “Planet of the Apes” (1978)

“You know, the Templars’ burnt, eyeless and noseless, sunken-skulled faces sure do look like monkeys,” cigar chomps the cheesy American film distributor. “That gives me an idea. . . .”

“Legend has it, almost 3,000 years ago, a simian civilization of super-intelligent apes struggled with man to gain control of this planet. In the end, man conquered ape after a brutal battle, which saw him destroy the ape, his culture and society. After this battle, man tortured and killed all the ape prisoners by piercing their eyes with a red-hot poker. One of the prisoners, who was also the leader of the apes, vowed they would return from the dead to avenge man’s brutalityat a point in time before man destroyed Earth himself. That time is now.”

Paired up with the 1974 Amicus anthology From Beyond the Grave.

Upon the success of Amando de Ossorio’s* first horror film, 1969’s Malenka, The Vampire’s Niece (aka, Fangs of the Living Dead; a success in spite of its intended psychological horror plot recut into a vampire flick against his wishes), de Ossorio decided to continue with the horror genre and eschew his previous, less successful attempts at spaghetti westerns (1964’s Grave of the Gunfighter and 1966/66’s Three from Colorado, aka Hudson River Massacre) and comedy (1967’s A Girl in the Yard).

Inspired, in part, by the writings of Spain’s Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer’s Gothic horror short story “El monte de las animas” (part of his 1862 short-story collection, Soria) and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), in 1971 de Ossorio concocted a tale about a legion of 13th Century knights, known as the Templars who, in their quest of eternal life, began committing human sacrifices and drinking human blood. In modern day Portugal, a group of tourists poking around the ruins of the Templars’ abandoned monastery revive the rotted, eyeless corpses of the Templars to reign once again.

Known as 1972’s La noche del terror ciego, Anglicized as Tombs of the Blind Dead, the film’s success spawned the “Blind Dead” series, with three official sequels: Return of the Blind Dead (1973, aka “Evil Dead”), The Ghost Galleon (1974) and Night of the Seagulls (1975). The success of the series spearheaded the Spanish horror boom of the early ‘70s and paved the wave for the works of Paul Naschy (Horror Rises from the Tomb) and Leon Klimovsky (The Vampires Night Orgy).

As with the Gothic, psychological horror of Malenka hacked into a vampire feature to appeal to the American marketplace, American distributors decided to re-edit Tombs of the Blind Dead as a Planet of the Apes rip-off sequel. The opening credit sequence to their edit replaced the film’s original setting with a post-apocalyptic future in which the undead were deceased intelligent apes from the Planet of the Apes story-arc, picking up where the fifth and final apes movie, Battle of the Planet of the Apes, left off. It was all just a matter of excising Tombs’ Templars sacrifice sequence, where they tortured and drank the blood of a female victim, and expunging its sex and gore accoutrements, particularly de Ossorio’s lesbian relationship subplot and the rape-on-a-train sequence. Stir in the English-dub with the cast screaming about “apes” and . . . Poof! We have another ape “sequel” that played on U.S. East Coast Drive-Ins screens in 1978.

And that, boys and girls, is the Tales from the Spanish Planet of the Apes.

It’s a night with de Ossorio’s Templars!

The 2021 unofficial sequel-homage!

Yep! We did ’em all . . . and the ripoffs!

* Be sure to check out all of the films from our December 2022 “Amando de Ossorio Week” of reviews.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

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