Aping Popular Movies – Tombs of the Blind Dead aka Revenge From Planet Ape (1971)

How much more does this poster really need to sell this movie to ya?
How much more does this poster really need to sell this movie to ya?

No matter how big a Planet of the Apes fan you are, I’m willing to bet that you haven’t seen this particular sequel. Or if you have, you didn’t know that was what you were watching.

Yesterday I reposted an older article talking about the changes made to many foreign films when they were brought to American theaters in the past (and really, at times, are still being made today, but given the fact that we have so many other options in most cases of watching the original versions are somewhat less egregious i suppose) and specifically to Japanese “giant monster movies” such as Gamera and Gojira. While I did that partially to save a bit of writing time, it also nicely helps to set up today’s story.

Okay, so lets say you’re an Anerican distributor in 1971 who’s had a new foreign horror/exploitation flick dropped in your lap called La Noche del terror ciego. Now you could just redub it, translating the title literally to The Night of the Blind Terror and let it go, hoping it will catch the eyes of the drive-in market that is your bread-and-butter. Or, you could make a few changes to it while you’re at it and give it a new title that sparks a resonance with theater-goers, and hope that they think it’s somehow related to the previous movie.

The latter, of course, is the route the distributors eventually took, adopting the name Tombs of the Blind Dead, and hoping at least some of the potential audience would think “Hmm… ‘Blind Dead’ sounds a lot like ‘Living Dead’ kinda like that Night of the Living Dead  I saw. Wonder if this is a follow-up? Sure looks like it’s got some kind of weird zombies in it. Okay, well, I liked that, so maybe I’ll give this one a shot.”

Yeah, these guys could be blind zombie apes, couldn't they?
Yeah, these guys could be blind zombie apes, couldn’t they?

But, suppose you’re feeling more ambitious than that. At the time, one of the most popular franchises with movie goers was the Planet of the Apes series, and if you could find a way to tie your movie into that, well then that would be even better, wouldn’t it? And how much change would you really have to make? Really, all you’d need is some sort of a premise to explain why the “apes” in your movie looked nothing like the ape characters film-goers were used to, but that could be easily done with a new intro. As far as the rest of the movie goes, well, if you’re redubbing it anyway, and going to be changing the dialogue, there’s no reason the changes can’t be a bit more substantial. Plus, really, once you’ve got those butts in the seats or cars in the drive-in, does it really matter how much sense the actual movie makes as a follow-up? Remember, we’re not talking about today, when information about new movies could be spread world-wide over the internet via the touch of a button. Instead, all most people had when looking for info about new movies was the ads running in their local papers, and in a lot of cases, the more lurid you could make the ad, the better.

So, you string together some location footage, give it the title Revenge from Planet Ape, and record a new prologue that explains the revamped premise:

Legend has it that 3000 years ago a simian civilization of super intelligent apes struggled with man to gain control of the planet. In the end man conquered ape after a brutal battle which saw him destroy the ape, his culture, and society. After this battle man tortured and killed all the ape prisoners by piercing their eyes with a red hot poker. One of the prisoners, who was also the leader of the apes, vowed that they would return from the dead to avenge man’s brutality at a point in time before man destroyed Earth himself. That time is now.

And that’s how you wind up with this:

Of course, as I said, eventually these plans were scrapped, but thankfully we still have this look at what might have been. Oh, and for those who are wondering how the film actually was eventually promoted? Well, here’s the actual trailer as it was finally released:

Yeah, remember what I said about the more lurid the better? And the thing about it is, the flick (and its three sequels, which I’ll get to eventually) is actually a pretty solid entry in the overall zombie theme, and worth checking out simply for what it is.

Okay, so there you go. A possible Night of the Living Dead sequel, a possible Planet of the Apes sequel, and a franchise starter on its own, all wrapped into one. Hey, really, what more could a late-night movie watcher be looking for? Go ahead. Check it out. You know you want to.

And until next time, Happy Viewing!

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