For some time now I've wanted to revisit Amando De Ossorio's Blind Dead series and for reason I myself can't comprehend, the third entry (from Blue Underground's beautiful box set) was the first one I queued up. Ghost Galleon has always been the acknowledged weak link of the four films and although the plot always sounded intriguing (bikini models stranded on a ghost ship with The Blind Dead - All Right !!! I'm There !) it never quite lives up to its expectations.
Ossorio's Blind Dead films were one of the highlights of the golden age of Euro-horror. Concerning a group of Templar Knights. who after returning from the crusades in the middle ages began practicing the black arts and sacrificing local virgins. After putting up with this for awhile the local villagers capture the knights and kill them, hanging their corpses in trees till they rotted and crows ate their eyes. With this set-up (all explained in the prologue to the first film), the basic premise of the movies is The Blind Dead periodically rise up to wreak some terror & slurp up some blood. As their blind (hence their name) they stalk their victims by listening for breathing and heartbeats. Although mostly lumped in with the zombie genre, they seem IMO to be more closely aligned with the 70's devil worshipping thing.
After the success of the first two movies, the Ghost Galleon was rushed into production (it was released only a year after 1973's Return of the Evil Dead) and perhaps to shake up the proceedings a bit the locale was changed from land to an abandoned ghost galleon lurking in the ocean - which presents it own set of problems in the film. If it was one thing that The Blind Dead movies always had going for them it was atmosphere. With Antón García Abril creepy atmospheric soundtrack music (composed of mainly organ, piano & percussion with Gregorian chants - and long overdue for a CD release) playing ominously while the hooded mummified Templar knights rose from their graves.
The problem with sticking them on a ship is that there really isn't a lot for the mummified Templar's to do (not that there was much before), as they just crawl out of their coffins and shuffle about for a short distance in the confines of the ship. One of the highlights of the first films was the knights prowling about ruined castles and shadowed streets or riding their shroud covered horses in slo-motion, which here being on a ship pretty much negates the horse & castle factor. The biggest problem with the whole ship thing is that being on a ship Ossorio had to use models and special effects which for all intensive purposes look like exactly what they are - a small model boat bobbing around in a bath tub with the climatic firing looking like the same small boat model with some lighter fluid and a match comprising the entire special effects budget. The on board scenes, while suitably claustrophobic and atmospheric are represented by a couple of sets (with lots of fog to add atmosphere and hide the skimpy sets) with even Garcia Abril's score using recycled cues from the first two movies.
A fashion model Noemi (Barbara Rey) expresses concern to the director of the agency Lillian (Maria Perschy) that her roommate and fellow model/lover Kathy (Blanca Estrada) has been missing for several days. After some prodding Lillian takes Noemi to a dockside warehouse where she finds out sporting goods magnate Howard Tucker (played by Jess Franco regular Jack Taylor - wearing a really ugly 70's turtleneck sweater). Howard has conceived of a publicity stunt to advertise one of his new speedboats which consists of putting a couple of models (Estrada & Margarita Merino) out in the shipping lanes on the speedboat and waiting for a boat to pick them up. The speedboat soon bumps into a large derelict galleon and after it springs a leak, Kathy climbs up into the ship and (off camera) meets her fate.
Howard charters a boat to rescue the stranded models and along with the girls, his henchman Sergio (who earlier had raped Noemi) and a professor they happen across who is around to explain the ghost galleon with a bunch of talk of "another dimension" theories as to why the boat is invisible to everyone else. Once on board the ship the knights come crawling out of there coffins in the hold and start stalking the now also stranded rescuers. The professor comes up with an idea for an exorcism which consists of him holding a small flaming cross and he uses this drive the knights back into the hold. Later all the coffins containing the Templars are thrown overboard, allowing the survivors to escape - but this being a Blind Dead film, you know there still lurking around somewhere.
Although a bit of a letdown (at least compared to the first two in the series), there are a couple of highlights. One being the slow agonizing death of Noemi as she attempts to crawl out of the hold after having her throat torn open while the knights reach out and pull her back down again, as she tries to scream for help (for Sergio none the less). This and the closing shots of the knights rising out of the water on a bright sunlit beach (complete with water gushing out of their empty eye sockets) and their slow procession up the beach, is an arresting & creepy sight and these both help redeem this one somewhat. Plus, somewhat unusual for a Blind Dead movie, there's a lack of nudity and the gore content is less compared to the other films. Not the best Blind Dead film, but hey - its got The Blind Dead & bikini models.