Friday, January 8, 2016

THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK 1976


"Now... there is nothing between you and...The People Who Own The Dark"



      After collaborating on string of Gothic horrors featuring werewolves, vampires, zombies and witch hunting inquisitors Paul Naschy and director Leon Kilmovsky teamed for the last time in this interesting post apocalyptic sci-fi horror hybrid. While maybe attempting too many ideas and a budget that can't live up to its ambitious story line it's a fascinating little oddity in the annuls of Spanish horror. Combining elements of DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH along with a bit of George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and a sideways look to its Spanish cousin The Blind Dead films, it features almost a who's who of Spanish horror. Although sadly lacking Helga Liné, it does present a cornucopia of Euro beauties and in a bit of a turn Naschy appears in a supporting role (although he does make the most of his screen time).
    A group of wealthy hedonists gather at secluded mountaintop mansion owned by Maria Perschy (EXORCISMO and HORROR OF THE ZOMBIES) for a weekend of fun and games. Among the  guests are Naschy as a ruthless industrialist along with a Professor Fulton played by Alberto de Mendozza (the crazed monk in HORROR EXPRESS) and Antonio Mayans (aka Jess Franco regular "Robert Foster") and rotund Spanish character actor Ricardo Palacios.
    Also on hand for "entertainment" purposes are a group of prostitutes who include the gorgeous German born Sophia Loren lookalike Nadiuska as Clara (who's best known as Conan's mother in the opening sequence of CONAN THE BARBARIAN), Naschy regular Julia Saly (NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF and VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES) and Teresa Gimpera (HANNAH, QUEEN OF THE VAMPIRES).




      Retiring to the basement to begin the evenings festivities (which as Preschy explains will be inspired by the Marquis de Sade) it starts off with a rather creepy scene as the guests gather at a table in rubber fright masks while the women walk slowly toward them wearing see-thru negligees. Almost immediately the ground shakes violently and running upstairs the group finds blinded birds throwing themselves bloodily against the windows and all the household staff blinded with their eyes turned white. Rather hastily (but right as it turns out) they surmise that a nuclear war has commenced and fallout is imminent. There were hints to this in an earlier sequence with an elderly diplomat who was suppose to be going to the party but instead sent his younger assistant in his place as he was called (he's vaguely alluded to be Russian) back home.
      Preparing to take shelter in the basement of the estate the group heads into town to gather supplies where they find the townspeople gathered together in a church, all blinded (although most likely to save on makeup effects they all have cloths wrapped around their eyes) with murderous intents brought seemingly to the forefront. Tempers flare a bit between the rich folk and the locals with Naschy and gang beating a hasty retreat back to the estate. Once back Clara and Prof. Fulton begin to show interest in each other as tempers begin to flare with the ever approaching fallout (which the Professor can calculate by keeping an eye on some ants) and Palacios going full out insane as he acts like a pig and crawls about on all fours !




     It's also here that Naschy really begins to ramp up his presence front & center. Although playing a supporting role he takes full advantage of his of his screen time as he stalks about with his rifle while constantly swigging from his closely kept liquor decanter. Also at this point things really begin begin to turn for the worse as that evening the blind hordes from the countryside begin attacking the estate. The besieged group of aristocrats heads back into the basement for a short lived refuge before being forced out into the countryside where Naschy goes full bore Naschy and things spiral downward.
      Having one of the more downbeat ending in Spanish horror THE PEOPLE THAT OWN THE DARK tries something much to epic in scope for its budget but the overall feeling of dread and doom does manage to permeate the proceedings while not quite reaching the full blown apocalyptic plot that the film was shooting for.  There are bits and pieces of things hinted at in the plot and talked about by the cast that really scream for some more exposition. It does however have some depth written in to a few of the characters as in the beginning as Perschy who heads up the upper class sex club explains her growing contempt for her role in them and one of the prostitutes (Gimpera) is a bored housewife and mother looking for some excitement.





     One plot point that's really played up (as in quite a few Euro horrors) is the "class conscious"  factor with a group of debauched aristocrats with no qualms about doing anything for entertainment (even forcing the working class to participate in their sex games) and then doing anything to survive the disaster which their ilk provoked. Not to mention the sight of the rotund party goer losing his marbles and scuttling about the floor like a pig is a not to subtle reference and can't make things much more clearer. It's also interesting to watch the upper class start to turn on themselves while the villagers band together (albeit as blind zombie-like killers) to destroy them.
     Although produced in 1976 it wasn't released in America until 1980 or so where it was reputed to have been distributed by Sean Cunningham (although his producer credit may have just been added to the poster for some name recognition) with the poster itself attempting to sell the film with a devil worship angle and the entire cast given anglicized names.  It was released on Code Red on DVD and recently as a blu-ray.


You can't have a Spanish horror film without a candelabra !





  

The above screen caps are from the Code Red DVD






3 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good one! My interest in Spanish gothic horror keeps growing in a large part thanks to the Oak. I got the Fury of the Werewolf and Werewolf vs Vampire Woman for Christmas.

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    1. Thanks Rob ! BTW, that sounds like one heck of a Christmas !

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    2. It was! But to be fair, both the Naschy movies came in that 100 film collection I was telling you about.

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