Amando de Ossorio
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Amando de Ossorio (6 April 1918 – 13 January 2001) was one of the foremost Spanish horror film directors during the European horror film surge in the 1970s, known especially for his "Blind Dead" tetralogy.
De Ossorio directed a short political film in 1956 called The Black Flag, then spent the next few years doing documentaries and commercials. He was also a talented painter and artist. In 1964, he was hired to direct a few innocuous westerns and comedies, then he moved into horror in 1969 where he made his mark.
Amando de Ossorio complained in interviews that right from the start of his directing career, his producers were always tampering with his projects. His first horror film, Malenka, The Vampire's Niece (1969), was written to be a psychological thriller about a young woman who inherits a castle in Europe and is summarily driven crazy by her uncle who tries to convince her that he and she are both vampires. At the end of the film, the uncle's scheme is revealed and explained by her boyfriend to be a hoax. However, after de Ossorio finished the film, the producers decided to make the uncle an actual vampire in the English language version, and added a low-budget disintegration scene to the finale of the English-dubbed prints that completely contradicted the plot.
In 1971, de Ossorio came up with the concept of The Blind Dead, a cult of blind, undead Templar Knights who sucked human blood, rode skeletal ghost-horses and were attracted to their victims by the sound of their heartbeat. The first film, Tombs of the Blind Dead, was so successful, he immediately embarked on a career as a Euro-horror film director. Three more "Blind Dead" films followed in quick succession.
His 1975 Demon Witch Child (one of the many European Exorcist clones) is today regarded as an underrated must-see horror classic by most of his fans. In the late 70s, de Ossorio's name strangely wound up on a couple of x-rated adult films. (The Spanish horror film industry petered out after 1975 and, unlike the Italian film industry which rebounded with gory zombie & cannibal films in 1980, the Spanish film market never recovered.)
He started to direct a cannibal film called Man Hunter (aka Devil Hunter) in 1980, but Spanish director Jess Franco was given the project by the producer, and de Ossorio gracefully bowed out. Strangely, many of the actors who regularly appeared in Franco's films also worked for de Ossorio, such as Jack Taylor, Monserrat Prous, Paul Muller, Fernando Bilbao, Luis Barboo, Rosanna Yanni & Kali Hansa.
He also worked with Julia Saly & Helga Line, two actresses who appeared in a number of Spanish director Paul Naschy's horror films during the same period. Strangely, in 1980, de Ossorio began directing a historical drama entitled Los Cantabros (The Cantabrians), but he was replaced on the project by Paul Naschy, who agreed to direct the picture if he was allowed to start the whole project from scratch, working up an entirely new screenplay and hiring his own actor friends to replace the former cast members.
Monsters very similar to de Ossorio's Templar Knights later appeared in two other Spanish horror films, Jesus Franco's film Mansion of the Living Dead (1982) and Paul Naschy's film The Devil's Cross (1974). Those two films were not connected to de Ossorio's in any way however, they were simply homages.
Unfortunately de Ossorio's last horror film, the 1984 Sea Serpent (which had been his dream project for many years) was a disappointment to him due to the low budget special effects, and led him to retire from filmmaking in 1984, at age 66.
He was interviewed for a 2001 documentary about his life entitled Amando de Ossorio: The Last Templar just a short time before he died. During the interview, de Ossorio complained about the pitifully tiny budgets he was always forced to work within, and he lamented that in almost every case, the finished project never came close to what he had envisioned when he first conceived each film. He cited his worst disappointment being the abysmal special effects that appeared at the climax of his Ghost Galleon (1974), wherein the producers actually used a plastic toy boat in a bathtub to represent the Spanish galleon that burns and sinks at the end of the film.
In his final years, he augmented his income by producing scary oil paintings of his Templar Knights and selling them to his fans. In 1993, de Ossorio was shopping around a script for a fifth Blind Dead film, to be called "The Necronomicon of the Templars", but sadly he failed to interest a producer in the project. He died in 2001 from natural causes at the age of 82. His four "Blind Dead" films are now available in a deluxe DVD box set, and most of his other horror films are also available now on DVD, with the exception of The Sea Serpent (which has only been released on VHS).