The People Who Own the Dark (1976)


The People Who Own the Dark (1976) is another non-Naschy, Naschy film. That is to say, he appears only on the side of the camera facing it. It’s a bit part, at that, but a pretty good one. The movie itself is tough to rate based on the less-than-prime print of the film I watched. I bet I’d add at least one more Waldemar Daninsky if a few things were clearer for me.

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The concept is solid, but the details less so. When a group of rich and powerful men gather in the basement at a house in the country for a “grand ceremony of pure pleasure,” the house shakes. Since one of the men is from the government (I think), he knows it’s no simple earthquake. Nuclear war has broken out topside.

There’s no other possibility.
How do you know?
I know.

Perhaps in the 70s we didn’t know as much about such events as we do, or think we do, now. I find it hard to believe that they could still run around outside and not be affected until the wind blew the fallout their way. Anyone who was outside in the village when the bomb exploded is now blind. How close would it have to be for that to happen, unless they were all staring at it?

Our biggest concern is the radiation.

Sorry; since when do I get so picky about the believability of a horror/sci-fi film? Let’s look instead at what has potential to make the film so compelling. You might think the good guys are inside and the bad guys are outside; however, there aren’t really any good guys in the film. The rich and powerful men act despicably and sometimes turn on each other.

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At least the blind people aren’t bad by choice. They become mindless zombies due to being exposed to the bomb, and they are pissed-off that they didn’t get an invitation to the party. There’s the possibility that The People Who Own the Dark could travel down the road of a walking dead gore fest, but it never does. It seems to have more on its mind than just that.

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Most of the men going to the party are introduced in individual scenes at the beginning. In one such scene, we learn that Naschy would be a card-carrying member of the NRA if they had such a thing in Spain. We meet him yelling, “pull,” and then a man throws live birds into the air. There’s a look in his eye that he might just shoot this man; he’s a little slow to raise his gun.

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He’s not the lead, but I’m not sure who you would say is. I guess you’d call it an “ensemble piece.” I don’t know the character or the actor’s name, but one grey-haired, overweight man is so distraught that he crawls around on the floor naked except for a mask intended to be used during their S&M games.

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The ending packs a brutal punch that almost singlehandedly elevates everything that‘s happened up to that point. Reflecting on it, I can’t pinpoint anything that’s really wrong with The People Who Own the Dark, and it’s not a matter of taste because I generally love apocalyptic movies. Let’s chat again when that restored version comes out on Blu-ray.

Written by Gabriel Moreno Burgos & Vicente Aranda & Joaquim Jorda

Directed by Leon Klimovsky

Starring Nadiuska, Alberto de Mendoza Teresa Gimbera, Emiliano Redondo, Maria Perschy, Paul Naschy

RT 94 min.

Released Oct. 27, 1976 (Spain), Aug. 1, 1979 (US)

Home Video DVD (Sinister Cinema)

Rating 6 Waldemar Daninskys (out of 10)


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