September 21, 2014

Movie Review: Revenge from Planet Ape (aka Tombs of the Blind Dead)

If you are familiar with Armando de Ossorio's Tombs of the Blind Dead, you know just how slow that movie is. You also know how nicely atmospheric it is, as well as how beautifully designed the blind dead creatures are. What you may not know is that in the late 70's (I believe), it was thought to be a good idea that it receive a new edit, a new title, and be transformed into a Planet of the Apes sequel. It is true. If you are not familiar with either, just know that films (foreign and domestic) were often retitled, re-edited, and made to be something it is not all the time. Often at the discretion of money hungry drive in owners, or “creative” distributors.

So, at some point in the 70's Tombs of the Blind Dead was transformed into Revenge from Planet Ape. That's right. It sounds utterly ridiculous. The original 91-minute film was cut to maybe 65-70 minutes with all flashback scenes cut, with all but one mention of the Templar Knights removed (not sure how they missed that one), and an opening narration added. If you did not know, the original film concerned Templars who were overthrown and executed, their eyes plucked out by crows, who rose from the grave in search of new victims when their land is disturbed. In this cut, it is after man defeated the apes and killed them by sticking their eyes with hot pokers, with the apes vowing to return from the grave for revenge.

Here is the alternate opening sequence:

Now, to give you an idea of what the movie was originally, here is the trailer:

Following the prologue, we jump right into the movie. Virginia (Maria Elena Arpon) is reunited with old friend Betty (Lone Fleming). The two catch up just as Virginia's sort of boyfriend, Roger (Cesar Burning), arrives begins to generate some heat with Betty, much to Virginia's chagrin. Anyway, Betty is invited on a camping trip, an opportunity she jumps at, again to the chagrin of Virginia. The next day the trio jump on the train and embark on their trip.

The problem is the flirting is not letting up between Roger and Betty and a disgruntled Virgina jumps from the moving train and hikes to what she thinks is a nearby village, but is actually some old abandoned ruins. She wanders around looking to see if anyone is around (of course there isn't), starts a fire and goes to sleep. It is a short lived rest as spooky music plays on the soundtrack and the skeletal remains of the Templars... errr... apes rise from the grave wearing dirty and tattered robes. Some of them even have horses (not sure where they came from). They ride into the ruins, chase Virginia around and eventually catch her.

The next portion of the film involves Roger and Betty trying to find Virginia, and upon finding her, trying to figure out what happened to her. It is all a bunch of nonsense as important information is cut to get around the Templar references. We learn that they can track you by sound, any sound, even a heartbeat. They eventually team up with a smuggler couple, although it is never explained that is what they are, all leading to a climactic chase with the resurrected apes.

It is utterly ridiculous. The idea that you can take a Spanish production about zombie Templar Knights and force it into the Planet of the Apes universe is absurd. Still, they went and did it and it sold. I have no idea how successful it was in its run back in the day, but I cannot attest to anyone actually believing it. I will say it was pretty amazing watching this cut of the film and trying to figure out how it made sense. The original cut of the film was not exactly filled with logic, so this new cut, with all of that removed footage makes even less sense.

Is it a good movie? In a manner of speaking. This cut is more of a curiosity than anything else. I like the original film, but it is hardly a classic. It is built on a slow burn atmosphere. The zombie designs look great and are vastly different than the Romero or Italian zombies. There are moments of unintentional hilarity (check out the crazy morgue attendant), and there is that resurrection of one of the victims that really doesn't fit anything, especially if they are apes.

I would certainly recommend the original version of the movie. I actually recommend this as well, it is a fascinating relic of the drive in era, although there are probably few opportunities to see it. I am thankful I did get to see it. I have to love for the sheer craziness of it all.


Related Posts with Thumbnails


Post a Comment