When people think of Italian zombie movies, they think of those gore drenched entries from the late 70's and 80's done by directors like Lucio Fulci. However, the walking dead had already been something of a staple in that country, with movies like the sword and sandals film "War of the Zombies", the Vincent Price vehicle "The Last Man in Earth" (more of a vampire film, but it influenced many a zombie film) and Jorge Grau's absolutely essential "The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue." Another pre-splatter era zombie film is Massimo Pupillo's 1965 entry "Terror Creatures from the Grave."
An attorney heads to an old, Gothic castle (always with the dilapidated castles in these movies) so he can settle the estate of it's now dead owner. The owner however, had some dark secrets involving dabbling in the occult and being able to summon the spirits of plague victims. Well, his ghost now resides in said castle, and he and some zombies are ready for payback.
"Terror Creatures from the Grave" has two major flaws that keep it from being great. First of all is the conclusion, which is the ultimate "well, here's your ending!" type of finish. The whole thing just ends, without any serious feeling of resolution to it. The biggest problem though, is the fact that you never see the zombies apart from their hands. I know that Pupillo was aiming for a "it was too horrible to show the audience" approach, but not even showing the dead is a total rip off.
Still, the movies not a total bust. The melodramatic dubbing is a hoot, and Pupillo proves to be a capable director who can capture a sense of Gothic unease and atmosphere that at it's best, almost reminded me of Mario Bava. Oh, and speaking of that director, it's nice to see Barbara Steele here. Another thing worthy of note is that for a Black and White horror movie, this can be strong stuff for it's type, with an acid melted face, plague related sores, and in the film's highlight, a wheelchair bound man killing himself with a sword, with the bloody aftermath (complete with intestines!) on unapologetic display.
As it stands, "Terror Creatures from the Grave" is a decent though minor entry in the pantheon of Italian horror. Give it an afternoon viewing, but don't expect to be amazed.