Friday, 19 December 2008

The Ghost Galleon (1974)

To make a fun horror movie what you need is an idea that is both really dumb and really clever. Amando de Ossorio’s The Ghost Galleon (Horror of the Zombies, or El Buque maldito) qualifies on both counts.

What you do is, you take two glamorous swimsuit models, put them in a tiny pleasure cruiser, and drop them in the middle of the ocean. But you drop them in the middle of a busy shipping lane, so they’re guaranteed to be discovered by a passing ship of some kind within a few hours. When they’re found, the headlines will proclaim, “Bikini-clad glamour girls found at sea.” And you’ll get lots of great publicity for your company.

Unfortunately in this case instead of a passing passenger liner or cargo ship, our two heroines encounter a ghostly galleon. Filled with an even more ghostly crew, of blind zombie Knights Templar. As the radio messages from the two models become more and more mysterious, those behind the publicity stunt (accompanied by the obligatory eccentric scientist) set off on a rescue mission. An ill-fated rescue mission, naturally.

Amando de Ossorio was a rather odd director. At times he’s disappointingly crass and obvious, and at other times he shows a real flair for atmosphere. This was the third of his Blind Dead movies, and it’s an entertaining mix of kitsch and genuine chills. The effects are reasonably well done, apart from a few scenes towards the end with rather unconvincing ship models! He wisely spends a lot of time building up atmosphere before revealing the blind Templars, and when they do appear they’re pretty spooky even if you’ve seen previous movies in this series. Terrifying mindless monsters and a small group of people trapped on a ship with said monsters is a good recipe for terror, and de Ossorio exploits it fairly skillfully.

European exploitation stalwart Jack Taylor is fun as the man who came up with the original idea for the publicity stunt. The remainder of the cast is adequate. There are some reasonably good visuals, and the plot is original and entertaining. It makes for an entertaining slice of mid-70s eurohorror.

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