Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 20 - The People Who Own The Dark

The People Who Own The Dark (1976)

Director: Leon Klimovsky
Format: AVI (VHSrip)

Alright, a bit of full disclosure to start - I don't think I've seen a Paul Naschy movie until now. I know, I know, that's pretty shocking for any serious fan of horror movies. I'm well versed in the Italian branch of the Euro horror family tree, particularly the giallos of Argento, Fulci, Bava etc. But I've been quite lax in my efforts to investigate the Spanish branch, despite regularly hearing Naschy's name bandied around with that of fellow countryman Jeff Franco (another hole in my viewing experience).

Anyway, that admission aside, I do realise that The People Who Own The Dark is not a typical Naschy film. Here he has something of a supporting role, and a convetional one at that, but he does team up with regular collaborator Klimovsky, the Argentinian director who directed eight of his films.

The People Who Own The Dark is an effective post-nuclear survival tale that throws together a group of rich, influential men (including Naschy; Alberto de Mendoza, THE CASE OF THE SCORPION'S TAIL; and Antonio Mayans, ZOMBIE LAKE) with a number of beautiful models for a weekend of pleasure in the basement of a castle somewhere in Europe - kind of an upmarket swingers' retreat.

But before they can get down to business, nuclear war breaks out. The guests are safe in their underground bunker, but everyone else in the surrounding countryside, including a nearby village, is left blind by the blast.

Venturing out to get supplies, the group of protagonists soon realises these blinded, half-insane villagers are not interested in becoming facebook friends. They want to kill the sighted (how they know the difference is beyond me, but what the heck).

Barricading themselves in the castle, the non-blind soon have to cope with the growing tension and paranoia in their group, as well as the villagers when they come looking for blood. Well, not exactly looking. More like stumbling.

Naschy is great as the snake of the group, who is only interested in saving his own skin. The women are all beautiful, none moreso than German softcore queen Nadiuska (who also played Arnie's mother in CONAN THE BARBARIAN), who is the only one to get fully un-kitted. The female cast also includes Julia Saly (NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF), Diana Polakov (in a supporting role four years before her feature role in the rip-roaring SUPERSONIC MAN) and Teresa Gimpera (CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD). Maria Perschy (MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE) is simply stunning as the host of the party.

Klimovsky does a very good job of building suspense and dread with material that could have come off as corny. Scenes of dozens of blinded people surrounding a main character while waving walking sticks above their heads could have been campy, but instead is quite chilling.

Comparisons with Night of the Living Dead are unavoidable. Trade zombies for staggering blind people, Pennsylvania for the European countryside and a farmhouse for a castle and you've got basically the same plot. Even the ending is similarly-bleak.

But while it may be a ripoff of sorts, The People Who Own The Dark is effectively filmed with a great cast, so is definitely worth checking out.

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