Zombi 2

Zombi 2 (1979)

Many years ago (in the early 1980's) during the height of the home video scene in the UK, horror fans were treated to a veritable smorgasbord of unrated and uncut gore extravaganzas. One of the most popular releases then was gorgeous 'strong uncut' widescreen video (from the then god-like Vipco) of Lucio Fulci's 'Zombie Flesh Easters'. One of the most rented titles of the time, it became a true classic amongst the horror scene and introduced a whole generation of fans to the work of the late gore-meister and when the Video Nastie campaign of 1984 pulled the rug from under UK horror fans feet (literally banning every film they loved dearly) many genre fans worried that they would never get the opportunity to see their beloved gore classics legitimately again. Who would have guessed that years down the line, the advent of the DVD format would not only give fans the opportunity to own pristine versions of those old gems but that fans would be literally swamped with multiple options of these same titles. Not surprisingly 'Zombie Flesh Easters' (being the classic that it is) would be at the fore with multiple releases from all over the globe, but this overload would inevitably lead to much frustration amongst the fan community. The latest in this growing line of releases comes in the format of a Special Collectors Edition from the good folk at Italian Shock (the offshoot of Japan Shock Entertainment).

If you haven't yet seen 'Zombi 2' then I really have to ask what rock have you been hiding under (though then again if you haven't then you're in for the zombie schlock time of your life!) The film opens with a seemingly abandoned boat drifting into New York harbour, but when local coastguard step on board to investigate they are met with a gut hungry zombie! Investigative reporter Peter West is soon on the trail and accompanied by Ann Bowles (daughter of the boat's missing inhabitant) they head off on a Caribbean adventure which will see them trapped in the midst of voodoo, zombies, gore and more!

There really is little point dwelling on the plot of 'Zombi 2', all you need to know that it is fantastic and in the zombie film fan stakes it's right up there just under Romero's definitive 'Dawn of the Dead' as a gut munching classic. And it was the massive success of Romero's 'Dawn' (known simply as 'Zombie' in Europe) that sparked Fulci's own zombie creation which in fact (and belying its high quality finish) was a hurriedly made low budget production geared to ride off Romero's successful wave. Little could have anyone known what an atmospheric masterpiece would have resulted and the impact that it would have to this day. It's probably the combination of talents involved that make the film what it is - Dardanno Sacchetti's script is simple but well rounded with both its voodoo slant and play on acting as an unofficial prelude to Romero's 'Dawn', Fulci's direction is at times stunning and with the assistance of Sergio Salvati deliver some truly spine tingling moments, Gianetto de Rossi and his team present some of the best zombie make ups and gore effects ever seen and lest we forget Fabio Frizzi's simplistic score that has haunted horror fans for years since!

Now, as mentioned, there's a variety of DVD releases of 'Zombi 2' out there and the key question for folk is always what version should they buy? And to be honest, like me you'll soon be banging your head off the wall trying to decide - let's look at some of the 'main' (english language) contenders. One of the first discs I purchased (after 'Dawn of the Dead' funnily enough) was Anchor Bay's release called 'Zombie' At the time when this came out I was reasonable happy. Hey, the film was uncut, widescreen, had a 5.1 surround option and it also boasted an audio commentary with Ian McCulloch conducted by Jay Fenton. But the downside of this particular disc where also evident - the picture quality could have been better, there were a few frames missing here and there, the commentary sounded like poor Jay Fenton was pulling teeth with a somewhat less than keen McCulloch (who sounds just like a double glazing salesman rather than a genre actor) and the trailer/extras selection was slapdash and uninspiring. Dragon Films later released a more enticing version under the title of 'Woodoo' - this was a serious improvement on the old Anchor Bay release (and a hot candidate for most collectors) with a good strong colourful image presentation and a far more satisfying extras selection including (amongst other things) a lengthy on screen interview with Fulci's lovely daughter Antonella. Along the way there's also been a couple of other curious Euro releases including a slightly trimmed (of the eyeball skewering sequence) 'Extreme Version' in the UK and a limited pressing (of 1,000) unofficial but anarmorphic uncut disc also for Benelux collectors (though these are so hard to track down that many doubt their existence!)

But we're here to look at Italian Shock's disc, so let's get to it...the film is presented fully uncut with a widescreen 1:2.35 ratio and the print has been sourced from the original native release under it's original title of 'Zombi 2' with all on screen credits in Italian. The image quality is very satisfying indeed as with the Cinemascope ratio being very long and wide I tried increasing the image size on my widescreen set up and was very happy indeed with the detail and lack of any drop in image quality. The hard core amongst you will note a slight dark pallor to the print in comparison to say Dragon's release but all round it's very strong and satisfying. The 2.0 audio track (in English) is fine, it probably could have done with some cleaning up and further mastering but is clear enough. So all round a pretty solid presentation of the film with some interesting depth in the film print detail. But what else does this particular disc have to offer?

This really is where this release comes into form with a delicious and very welcome extras selection. At first you'll note the cool lengthy theatrical trailer along with the expected stills gallery, film notes and filmographies (all of which are detailed, informative and fascinating) but it is when you click on the 'soundtrack' option that this release comes to life on the extras front. On the first page you get access to the film's full original soundtrack (which should delight Frizzi fans alone) but click on the continue option and you'll find a further thirty tracks that will have Italian horror fans yelping in pleasure with a selection of remixes, cover versions, interpretations and radio spots put together by the folk at Blackest Heart Media (my own personal favourite is the inclusion of the excellent theme from the cheeseball gem 'Contamination'). So you've really two ways to viewing picking up this release from Italian Shock - you can buy it from the viewpoint of getting yet another print of this classic zombie gem (albeit a variant strong presentation) with a free 40 track CD or you could look at it as buying a 40 track CD with a free copy of the original Italian 'Zombi 2' print!

Either way, fans of the film will find this a hard one to resist. I'm thrilled that I have it and I'm sure most of you will be too. The only concern now is that Shriek Show in the USA have announced a version also, but unless it's all singing and dancing then between Dragon's 'Woodoo' and this new Italian Shock cracker I'm sticking where I am (for the moment!) Great value, great disc - check it out!

Review by Alan Simpson

Released by Italian Shock DVD Entertainment
Classified 16 - Region 2 (PAL)
Running time - 91m
Ratio - Widescreen 2.35
Audio - Dolby digital mono
Extras :
Complete Musical soundtrack, Theatrical trailer, Stills gallery, Lucio Fulci filmography, Liner notes, 4pp insert booklet