Ghost Galleon, The (1974)

The Ghost Galleon (1974)

A couple of models, who are staging a publicity stunt in a motorboat on the high seas, mysteriously disappear when they come across a deserted galleon. A search party is sent out to find them, only to stumble across the galleon as well and the horrific cargo to which it contains – the undead Templar Knights.

 

The second sequel to Amando de Ossorio’s highly recommended Tombs of the Blind Dead, The Ghost Galleon is clearly a step back in his vision of where he wanted the series to go. Rather unusually for a horror series, de Ossorio wrote and directed all four Blind Dead films but like so many franchises, budgets were slashed over the course of the films and his grand visions were gradually scaled further and further back. Instead of expanding the story like he did with the first sequel, Return of the Evil Dead, de Ossorio had to confine the Templars to a smaller space than he did before, reducing their menace and possibilities for the development of the story. This is the same sort of stuff we’ve seen before, only on a much smaller scale. After the barn-storming village attack in the last film, this is something of a step back.

Though The Ghost Galleon suffers from a drop in overall quality after the first two films, it is still one of my favourites (actually all four films are pretty fantastic and I’d recommend any of them) because it tries something different with the material. The other films featured the Templars on land near remote villages. This time they are sailing the seas, though quite how they got there after the events of the last film is a bit of a mystery. De Ossorio skips the usual flashback sequences which explains how the Templars came to be but it is most-needed in this one!

As with the other films, The Ghost Galleon is at its strongest when the undead Templars are on the screen. They’re not given an awful lot to do other than walk around slowly and stalk people around the galleon (which isn’t that big either so finding places to stay hidden from them is going to be tricky). But they still look like something out of a dark nightmare and they all march together, they really do send shivers down your spine. Their look hasn’t altered at all over the three films, which is nice to have some continuity, though they don’t seem as vicious as they once were. At numerous times they take their victims below deck to finish them off-screen instead of completing the job in the full view of the camera. In a highlight scene, one of the female characters has her throat slit, leading to a great scene where she tries to scream for help to no avail as the Templars drag her below.

Whilst the Templars are sorely lacking in screen time, the atmosphere isn’t shy of making its presence felt. De Ossorio has one of the best sets of all of the Blind Dead films to play around on here and it’s this which gives the film such a great brooding mood. The galleon looks like something out of a twisted fairytale, full of cobwebs, rotten wood and lots of shadows and fog filling the place nicely. De Ossorio has also added lots of creaking sound effects to boost the chill factor of this ship. You really get the sense that this is an actual old galleon and not some rickety back lot set. Unfortunately the miniature he uses for distance shots would only convince a five year old that it was real.

The story doesn’t make much sense either, with some crazy publicity stunt being the driving force behind the encounter with the Templars instead of their resting place being disturbed. The logic of having the babes in the middle of the sea on some publicity stunt is rather puzzling and best left as a daft MacGuffin. It does, however, introduce the film to a couple of beauties but unfortunately for the red-blooded amongst you, they remain clothed (which is a crying shame given the Templars’ ability in previous films to strip virgins naked). Everything that follows is rather silly as the script finds excuses to get people on board the ship but what the heck, as soon as the Templars start doing their thing, you can forget things like plot. This is a horror film, stripped back to its bare essentials, and De Ossorio attempts to make the best use of it. The chilling final scene alone features a great twist which not only ends the film on a downbeat note but leaves you gagging for the next instalment.

 

The Ghost Galleon is another strong entry into a series which I grossly underrated before I started watching but have become fascinated and enthralled by the sheer originality and downright scary nature of the Templars. It’s brimming with atmosphere and only a low budget spoils what is a decent and entertaining time.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

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