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The Ghost Galleon (1974)



Editor’s Note: This review covers the public domain Horror of the Zombies version, which is formatted to fit a standard television and features minor cuts for violence.

Although Horror of the Zombies is the third installment in Spanish writer-director Amando de Ossorio’s “blind dead” series, it doesn’t really appear that these zombies are actually blind. Never mind. His work is fairly well known among die-hard horror fanatics, but this movie is simply awful. From the production to the directing to the plot to the script, it is one big hour-and-a-half-long failure. And, yes, it is so bad it’s good. So, sit back, relax, and prepare yourself for the horrific (not horrifying) Horror of the Zombies.

As part of a half-explained publicity stunt, sporting goods businessman Howard Tucker sends two pretty girls out on a boat into the middle of the ocean to strand themselves. Not to worry, they’re in an area of heavy cruise ship and freighter traffic. All they have to do is wait to be found. Forget about the fact that their motor still works and that they are perfectly capable of radio contact with the shore (as they demonstrate both by communicating back to Tucker and by listening to classical radio), no one should suspect anything strange, right? When the girls are captured by a ghost ship (actually, they climb aboard purely of their own will) inhabited by Knights Templar that wake from the dead every night, Tucker and his associates (including a professor and Lillian, the girlfriend of one of the girls) go out to find them. It might sound like a “Scooby-Doo” episode, but trust me, it’s nowhere near as good. 

The first thing one notices about this movie is its poor production quality. All of the locations in the film feel uncomfortably small, even the warehouse out of which Tucker runs his operation. The low quality really hits hard when the ghost ship comes into play. We see it in two ways: far away and on board. From afar it looks pretty fake but not awful. When the characters are on board, though, it is so obviously a set that it’s painful — like the pain of watching American Idol-ers pour out their untalented souls to the rebuke of insulting judges. Now, one might say that de Ossorio was just doing his best with what was probably a dirt budget, but the truth is he misused even what he had. While the damsels’ boat is tied up to the ghost ship, for instance, they look up at it from time to time. Whenever they do, the camera switches to what is ostensibly their points-of-view, but it gives the same far-off shot as when they first saw it. The effect is disorienting, and it draws even more attention to the film’s apparent budgetary limitations. De Ossorio may have had a dirt budget (I honestly don’t know), but he doesn’t even come out with mud.

So, the movie isn’t made well, but its badness goes beyond that. It also happens to consist of some of the dumbest characters in horror history. Now that’s an accomplishment. Apparently the stranded girls missed out on some of life’s most important lessons. Lesson one: When you see what is obviously a ghost ship, don’t wave at it to rescue you. It’s not there to help. Lesson two: Don’t nap on a ghost ship. Lesson three: When a coffin is slowly opening in a ghost ship, don’t ask it if it’s your missing friend. It’s not. And finally, lesson four: If a zombie scratches you across the throat, it doesn’t mean you can’t walk anymore. Just try.  

Apparently realizing he had a pretty horrible film on his hands, de Ossorio uses that age-old surefire trick to make the film less painless: he “cuts corners” on all of the female characters’ wardrobes. I can’t really fault him for it because it does indeed make the film slightly more bearable, but at one point even this technique detracts from the movie. In the midst of the search for the missing girls, Lillian has a random flashback to an apartment she shared with her now-probably-dead girlfriend. She’s packing her bags, in her underwear of course, talking to her about a new acting opportunity. The other girl considers acting, too, and … that’s pretty much it. Putting scantily clad women in a movie is one thing, but actually adding pointless scenes to have them in there even more is just cheap.

I definitely recommend this movie to anyone in need of something to laugh at. There are too many bad films out there that are just boring. Here’s one that is so consistently terrible, that it truly is amusing. So, next time your self-esteem is low, find yourself a copy of Horror of the Zombies, and let the demeaning commence. It’s scary bad.