(A.k.a. ZOMBI 3)
The opening scene demonstrates how deadly a new biochemical serum called "Death 1" can be, as two scientists inject a small dose of it into a recently deceased man. Within seconds, he has been re-animated - albeit, he's frenzied and his head is mutating into a bloody, pulsating pulp.
This bio-weapon is being developed in top secret by the military with an aim to bringing the dead back to life, you see. But it's clearly not yet been perfected. The scene ends with scientist Dr Holder (Robert Marius) ringing the army to explain that they can no longer work on developing the "highly dangerous" chemical. They arrange to meet with the military and hand their sample work back over to them.
Unfortunately the handover is interrupted by a group of terrorists. A shootout ensues, one terrorist managing to grab the briefcase containing "Death 1" in the midst of the mayhem and racing off with it. He's injured in the ensuing chase but does manage to escape.
By the time he reaches the safety of a nearby hotel, however, he's lost the case of "Death 1" - and his hand has been exposed to a small leakage of the stuff. Despite hacking his hand off in the bathroom, the guy is well and truly screwed.
The military are soon alerted and storm the hotel in hazmat suits, eventually finding their subject and returning him to their base where his body is thrown into the incinerator. Holder warns against this action, reasoning that the fallout from the ashes could cause more widespread contamination. "Pure science fiction" scoffs the army chief as these protestations are ignored.
Of course, we can all guess what happens next. Cue Patricia (Beatrice Ring) on a road trip with her boyfriend, three vacationing soldiers led by horny Roger (Ottaviano Dell'Acqua), and a bus full of hot young women. Their fates become entwined when they are each attacked by - wait for it - birds contaminated by the airborne ashes.
Can the military save the day?
This 1988 film embodies the notion of a "troubled production". Filming in the Philippines, director Lucio Fulci - whose intention was to make a loose sequel to ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (which was released in Italy as ZOMBI 2, hence the alternate title for this one) - became seriously ill on the shoot and reportedly ended up handing over a short cut of the film which was not to producer Franco Gaudenzi. Gaudenzi then commissioned writer Claudio Fragasso to fly out to Philippines and bulk out Fulci's efforts with the help of filmmaker Bruno Mattei.
To say the end results are questionable is an understatement.
Where do Fulci's scenes end and Mattei's begin? It's impossible to tell. But one thing's for certain: none of what's on the screen matches Fulci at his peak. In fact, it's far more likely that the bulk of this film was lensed by Mattei (despite it being attributed to Fulci in the credits), as the film it most closely resembles is his ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH.
It's often an ugly film. Framing seems careless, compositions are crudely assembled, cameras are prone to going out of focus mid-scene. Performances are risible to the point of being hilarious. They're aided by some truly rum dubbing, of course.
The music is horrible, trying its best to instantly date the film. It succeeds. Set design is laughably cheap, as are Franco Di Girolamo's "special effects". Zombie make-up is ridiculous to the point that it makes something like NIGHTMARE CITY look like a Hollywood blockbuster.
Though we do get zombified birds, a disembodied head which is capable of leaping through the air to attack the living, and undead ghouls who can't decide whether they should amble around slowly a la NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or race around aggressively like the zombies in THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.
There's an ecological message buried non-too-subtly in the screenplay (the cheesily inserted scenes in which a radio DJ appeals for listeners to treat the world with more respect), as was the "done" thing at the time. Predictably, this is handled as clumsily as everything in this mess of a film.
Can I recommend ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS 2 on any level? Curiously, yes. It's briskly paced, delivers the (unconvincing) gore in spades and is often unintentionally amusing to the point of delirious glee. And there's that zombie head flying out of the fridge. We mustn't forget about that...
An odd choice perhaps for an upgrade to blu-ray, 88 Films have nevertheless deemed ZOMBI 3 worthy of the HD treatment - this release represents spine number 9 in their ever-growing Italian Collection. In fairness, it scrubs up very well.
Presented as an MPEG4-AVC file in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, this new transfer is struck from a healthy-looking print. Colours are pronounced but true thanks to the wonders of 1080p resolution, images are sharper and brighter than ever before, and the sense of depth is greatly improved over the comparatively flat DVD presentations of old. Some scenes are softer than others, but that's likely to be more a result of how the film was shot (especially when Mattei's concerned ...). The onscreen title is ZOMBI 3.
Audio is presented in English 2.0. It's a reliable, evenly balanced and clean track.
The disc opens to a static main menu page. Pop-up menus including a scene selection option allowing access to the film by way of 8 chapters.
This release contains more extras than most titles in 88 Film's Italian Collection.
They begin with original opening and closing titles, which are also in decent condition here.
A couple of interesting interviews reflect on the troubled production: former circus performer -turned-actor/stuntman Ottaviano Dell'Acqua and actress Beatrice Ring both look well in their onscreen chats (8 minutes and 16 minutes, respectively).
A 17-minute interview with Fragasso is a little more revealing about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans and Mattei's involvement with the production. As with Dell'Acqua, his interview is conducted in Italian but English subtitles are provided for our benefit.
A 30-minute festival Q&A with Catriona MacColl (THE BEYOND, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY etc) may at first seem a tad redundant, given that she's nowhere to be seen in the main feature. But it's always good to hear her thoughts on working with Fulci, and she does touch upon this period of his career, his health issues and so forth. If you've always wondered why Catriona became "Katherine" in the early 80s, that's explained too. This footage comes from Luton's Spaghetti Cinema Festival, May 10th 2014.
Finally we get trailers for CHILDREN OF THE CORN, DON'T GO IN THE WOODS ... ALONE, HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, LIVE LIKE A COP DIE LIKE A MAN, MOTHER'S DAY, SLAUGHTERHOUSE, TRANCERS and SPLATTER UNIVERSITY.
The BD-50 disc is encoded to region B.
This release also comes with an inlay "art card", and reversible cover artwork (the reverse is the same artwork but with the title ZOMBI 3).
Proof that you can polish a turd, 88 Films have furnished ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS 2 with a great blu-ray. Fulci completists and bad film lovers everywhere should rejoice.
Review By Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|
|see main review|