A poet of perversity whose unadorned, workmanlike direction and child-like sense of voyeurism proved the perfect aesthetic tools with which to express his unrepentantly sleazy cum-and-blood splattered visions of sex and death, Joe D'Amato was a Picaso of sensationalism.

Working first as a proficient cameraman, D'Amato went on to craft enjoyable if un-ambitious horror movies. Unpretentious descents into depravity and decadence, D'Amato's sadistic celluloid is a catalogue of carnality, carnage, and cum. With a sadist's appreciation of the human body and a mind programmed for exploitation, there is no confusion about his motives. While many of his movies are forgettable, just as many are enjoyable flesh-feasts of violence, hardcore sex, and death. Perhaps nowhere is the director's honest presentation of the genre's 'money shot' mentality more obvious and effective than in Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, a sleazy and simply told movie more concerned with the exploitation and subsequent destruction of naked, quivering flesh than with subtle characterization or theme.

The truest characters in this maggoty movie are the primal animalistic impulses of sex, violence, and despair. Produced during the same time as Porno Holocaust, the plot is as simplistic as its representations are graphic, a bare-bones narrative surrounded by - and surmounted by - instances of rough, animalistic sex and gory violence. George Eastman stars as Larry, a sailor who takes an American businessman John (Mark Shannon) and his girlfriend Luna (Laura) to an island where the businessman plans to erect a resort. Amidst much fondling, hairy asses, sloppy penetration (some of which, amazingly, is decidedly unattractive) and red herrings whose subtlety is lost in flesh-fumbling, spit swapping fun, a sinister voodoo couple arrive, warning them to turn back and leave the area unmolested lest horrible forces are unleashed. When the zombies show up in incredibly bad make-up, an ounce of seriousness is surprisingly maintained by the reactions of the living characters who struggle for freedom (amidst more sex!) and a lyrical atmosphere captured by bleeding sunsets, beachfront eeriness, and ghostly palm trees. Despite the Scooby Doo atmosphere of the dialogue and laughable attempts at drama and characterization by writer Eastman, a resonance of supernatural horror provides an interesting subtext to the hardcore screwing that fills the frame as the lovely Gemser spreads her legs and D'Amato steadies his camera.

Sex and death have long been perfect partners, exploring areas of control loss and flesh which terrify and attract in near equal measure. Only the strict idiocy of moral conservatism kept the two themes separated in film. Long explored in ancient texts, paintings, and oral storytelling traditions, visual evocations of sex and death in cinema blossomed to their most frenzied effect in the European oddities of the 1960's and 70's, particularly in the flesh fetishstry of D'Amato. Combining the terror of D'Amato's horror product with the sex films that comprised so much of his time, this hybrid retains the flavor of both sordid sexuality and shock sensationalism of horror cinema while lacking intelligence or coherency. Yet story superiority isn't a goal here, my friends, nor is it prominent in any of D'Amato's efforts save for the stylishly accomplished Death Smiled at Murder - and even that operates on dream logic rather than realism. The focus is on exploitation, not narration.

A visual feast of flesh eating and fondling, this hybrid of horror and pornography was a natural progression for D'Amato, who made his early name in a sordid if prolific career by churning out everything from softcore comedy to straight horror efforts. While lacking the sordid exploitation, grim atmosphere, or emotionally scathing storyline of underground classic Blue Omega, or the viscous absurdity of Anthrophagus, this companion to Porno Holocaust is delightfully low-class, sleazy fun! Fiendishly amoral, looking no further than its own sordid self for meaning, this masterpiece of morbid gut-munching and limb-slapping is competent if not inspired.

The visual presentation of this slice of sexy sinema is amazingly clear for such a low-brow picture with an equally low budget, its widescreen emphasizing decent colors and image depth. Sound in Dolby Digital is adequate if not as sharp as the picture. The extras are of more interest. While not as many as I would have liked, it's heartwarming to see a movie of this specialized caliber receiving any special treatment! "Erotic Sunny Afternoons of the Living Dead" offers the voyeuristic viewer alternate footage, followed by a still gallery of production photos, art, and - Pant! Pant! -- Laura Gemser. Four thematically linked trailers round out this perverse package. Bold, baring all, and fearing nothing, this may not be art, but it's certainly entertainment. Giving thrill seekers what they want in big-top torrid fashion, Erotic Nights of the Living Dead produces erections and shudders with equal gusto.

Review by William P Simmons

Released by Shriek Show
Region 1 NTSC
Not Rated
Extras : see main review