The Cursed Galleon aka El Buque Maldito / Ghost Galleon / Ghost Ship of the Blind Dead / Ship of Zombies / Horror of the Zombies
Few horror series make it as far as the third installment without a significant decline in quality. The Blind Dead series was no exception.
The Cursed Galleon has the advantage of an unusual setting — a phantom Spanish sailing ship, sailing the sea in the middle of a dense fog which is curiously hot. Unfortunately, the model used for distance shots of the galleon is the film’s biggest embarrasment. It’s clearly a model floating in a bathtub. Remember the Brady Bunch episode where Peter made a movie about the Pilgrims? It’s that bad.
The trouble is, in spite of their new setting, there wasn’t much more to be done with the Templars themselves. They’d made a tremendous impact in their first appearance; their second had been moderately effective, though it mostly covered the same old territory. Now, by the time of their third outing, the audience knew the story, had heard the eerie music, and could guess pretty well what fate was waiting for all those who went aboard the Ghost Galleon.
To provide the Blind Dead with their nifty new location, Ossorio had to scramble. The back story of the Blind Dead puts their execution somewhere in the late 1400’s (though actually, the order of the Templars was dissolved in 1312); it’s never really explained what they’re doing on a late 16th century galleon. But the explanation for the galleon itself, and its otherworldly fog, is hooey of the highest order. We have a meteorologist, a scientist so credulous he makes Fox Mulder seem like Thomas Huxley, tell us that the ship isn’t real; that it exists in another dimension, and that once aboard, our characters too have ceased to exist.
(Thanks, but I think the vengeful vampire zombie bit was enough for me.)
Worst of all, in The Cursed Galleon we have the least interesting and most incredibly stupid set of characters imagineable. The movie opens as a callous fashion photographer (Maria Perschy) is berating her models for their stupidity. One of these models, Noëmi, approaches her after the shoot, and asks if she knows anything about the whereabouts of her room-mate, Cathy. The photographer dissembles, but Noëmi forces her to admit she does know where the girl is. Noëmi, like Bette in the original, is a lesbian, and Cathy is her companion as well as her room-mate; she pressures the photographer into telling her more about the girl’s disappearance.
Together they go to the docks, where they meet a wealthy sporting goods magnate (Jack Taylor!) and his aide. It seems that Jack’s sent Cathy out on a secret publicity stunt to coincide with the announcement of his pet project, a new boat. Jack’s idea is that Cathy and a popular screen starlet will be found just at the edge of the shipping lanes, adrift in Jack’s new boat. They’ll be rescued, and all the world will hear about the new craft.
This doesn’t seem like a very good idea on the face of it, but with some thought, you’ll see it’s really completely stupid. The last kind of publicity Jack needs is that HIS BOAT stranded a major star and her friend (oh — who’s a lesbian, by the way) in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Oh, sure, there’s nothing like a scandal and a record of conspicuous breakdown to establish your brand in people’s minds — just don’t expect them to buy your product.
Anyway, Jack and the others let Noëmi listen to the evening’s broadcast from the pair in the boat. It seems they’ve drifted into a hot fog… and could that be a ship in the distance? It seems to be deserted, though… not the best choice for a rescue vessel.
After the transmission is over, Jack and his helper kidnap Noëmi and lock her in a cell. Now their plan has grown to include abduction… I confess I’m at a loss to see the good side of this scheme. Naturally, Noëmi tries to escape: she tells her captor that she’d like a glass of water. So he leaves her cell door wide open while he goes to get it, somewhere at the other side of the huge warehouse. Not to be outdone in the Dumb Department, Noëmi stops to put on her noisy clogs before running for the door. When the main door doesn’t open, she stands there rattling it until her captor realizes where she is, and comes to drag her back again.
And then, just to make things really vile, he rapes her.
Ossorio seems to have had some kind of obsession with men raping lesbians. Not only is this an inexcusably rotten form of entertainment, we also have to bear in mind that this is now YET ANOTHER phase of Jack’s marketing scheme gone horribly awry. All he needs now is for one or more of the people involved in this little scheme to die, and he’ll have bottomed out. There will be virtually no way he and his colleagues can sink any lower.
And these are our heros, folks. Aren’t they lovely?
At the risk of spoiling what little suspense there is in this film, I should warn you that there is only one graphic scene of the Templars doing what they do best. It’s Noëmi who buys it — the only even partially sympathetic character in the whole movie, mind you — about halfway through the film. Her death throes remind me of nothing so much as one of Lucille Ball’s exaggerated tantrums on I Love Lucy. The Crow T. Robot in my mind kept screaming “Waaah, Ricky! I wanna be in your shoooow!” all the way through her demise. Once they do slaughter her, though — or rather, slice up a mannequin that looks a little like her — they actually start eating her flesh. This is the most zombie-like behavior we’ve seen from the Templars, though the revelation doesn’t mean much in this context.
I have to admit, though, that in spite of some really stupid plot twists and excruciatingly bad special effects, the end of The Cursed Galleon captures at least a little of the apocalyptic horror of the original. We’re left with the uncomfortable knowledge that the Blind Dead are no longer in their own, otherworldly dimension — they’re here, in broad daylight, and nothing will stop them now…