ZOMBI 2

ZOMBI 2

A.k.a. ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS; GLI ULTIMI ZOMBI; ISLAND OF THE FLESH EATERS; ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD; ZOMBIE; WOODOO).

Dr Menard (Richard Johnson, THE HAUNTING) has spent several years hidden away on the remote Caribbean island of Matul, performing experiments on the ailing natives in an effort to increase their lifespan. The natives - and in particular his jittery assistant Lucas (Dakkar, ZOMBI HOLOCAUST) - are fiercely superstitious, speaking furtively of voodoo and zombies.

When the dead begin walking it therefore remains ambiguous as to why this should be. One thing's for certain though - it spells extremely bad news for Menard's estranged wife Paola (Olga Karlatos)!!

Meanwhile in New York, newspaper reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch, ZOMBI HOLOCAUST; CONTAMINATION) agrees to assist the pretty Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow, THE LAST HUNTER; ANTHROPOPHAGUS THE BEAST) on an expedition to Matul in search of her missing father. He was last known to be assisting his colleague, Dr Menard, on a medical endeavour in the Third World

With the help of sailors Brian (Al Cliver, THE BEYOND) and Susan (Auretta Gay, THE GOOD THIEF), our intrepid explorers set out to meet Menard and learn the truth about Dr Bowles' uncanny disappearance. Their arrival on the island coincides with the rising of some very hungry zombies!

If the synopsis above appears to be brief, that's because anything more is surely unnecessary.

Lucio Fulci's ZOMBI 2 is one of those films, like THE EVIL DEAD or HALLOWEEN, that should be common ground for every SGM reader. It's a landmark modern horror movie, and arguably the finest zombie film ever made.

The film itself is beautifully shot, with the island scenes in particular looking stunning in widescreen. The horror set-pieces are painstakingly created for maximum effect, with just as much emphasis being ladled on the music and cinematography as the literally eye-popping FX work of Gianetto De Rossi (CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE; THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE, THE BEYOND, SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE etc) and co. Just watch the infamous spinter-through-the-eye scene in full (including slow build-up) for proof positive.

The script is admittedly hackneyed, but amiably so - like the best boy's own adventure yarns of old. If nothing else, it allows the action to move along at an agreeable pace whilst giving the characters a little space to live and breathe in the meantime.

Fabio Frizzi's score is, as mentioned above, highly effective and undeniably plays an integral part in achieving the rich atmosphere prevalent throughout Fulci's film.

The acting is adequate, which is more than can be said for the vast majority of cheap imitations this movie has spawned over the years! McCulloch seems to be taking everything he says on screen with a pinch of a salt, which adds a curious knowing sarcasm to his performance. Johnson is the real coup for the production here though. He is, of course, brilliant.

Then there's the gore. Try to imagine seeing this 25 years ago, where films like ALIEN were considered graphic De Rossi's FX work is not only bloody as fuck (Fulci loves to linger, for sure!), but holds up amazingly well considering the film's age and low budget.

Fulci's direction is good too. Okay, it becomes rather pedestrian during the film's calmer moments, but as soon as he wants to shock/scare/unsettle/nauseate us, the man becomes a master of his craft!

Finally, although significantly, the Caribbean locations and the cinematography of Sergio Salvati (THE BEYOND; THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY; CRAWLSPACE; WAX MASK etc) are a teaming made in Heaven. Once the rather ugly early Stateside scenes have been dealt with, this film comes into it's own visually during it's final hour.

But I'm preaching to the converted.

The disc under review is Shriek Show/Media Blasters' 2 disc "25th Anniversary Edition".

Disc 1 features the full uncensored version of the film, fully restored and complete with the pre-credit sequence in it's entirety (brief though it is).

The film, presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, looks stupendous. For a low budget Italian production lensed a quarter of a century ago, this is an amazing transfer. Blacks are black, images are pin-sharp and genial-bright, grain and specks are absolutely non-existent. Honestly, you'd think the film was made yesterday.

Aurally, there is a multitude of options. Well, six: Italian in mono; English in mono; Italian in stereo; English in stereo; Italian in 5.1 surround; English in 5.1 surround. I concentrated on the latter. It was big, beefy and blew the previous Anchor Bay US 5.1 mix out of the water! There have been grumblings of a 2 minute drop-out in the English stereo soundtrack - just don't play it

Disc 1 ports across the much-maligned commentary track which featured on Anchor Bay's disc. It's actually quite a good listen, all things considered. Ian McCulloch does sound tired at times, granted, and author Jason Slater perhaps doesn't ask the greatest questions in an effort to prise more info from the star, but there's still a lot of well-humoured banter to enjoy. McCulloch's memories of the poor accommodation on the island are quite funny, and he was clearly enamoured by Gay's beauty!

Trailers for the film are also present. You've seen them before, for sure?

Rounding off disc 1 is a 10 minute interview with American dog trainer-turned-actor Captain Haggerty, who plays the fat zombie that bites the cop's throat on the boat then subsequently falls overboard during the movie's opening moments. He seems like a friendly, larger than life type of chap - he offers a couple of interesting anecdotes that reinforce rumours of the film's quick, cheap production schedule. Oh, and Fulci's infamous temper is discussed too!

Disc 2 features an excellent 98 minute documentary on the making of the film, made up completely of brand new interviews with many cast and crew members. This can be watched as a feature-length spectacle, or navigated in portions by way of ten individually titled chapters (The Eye, The Throat, etc).

Gianetto De Rossi and his wife Mirella speak openly about his FX work, as do his assistants Gino De Rossi, Rodriguez Prestopino and Maurizio Trani.

Fabio Frizzi is on hand to discuss the music, and producer Fabrizio De Angelis is refreshingly frank about both his opinion of Fulci and his motives for making the film.

Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sarcchetti reveal their own thoughts on their screenplay, while Salvati offers a couple more anecdotes revolving around the maestro's unpredictable behaviour.

Pier Luigi Conti (Al Cliver to you and me) turns up briefly too. As does Ottavanio Dell'Acqua - the zombie that famously takes a chunk out of Gay's throat.

It's great to see a documentary that really has made every effort to track down everyone who made a contribution towards the making of a film. My only gripe is the absence of McCulloch, Farrow and Johnson. This has been discussed at length on various genre message boards, and I'm not about to dwell on it here!

All in all though: nice stuff.

There's a 2 minute musical performance by Dakkar which is as pointless as it is bizarrely compelling. Apparently, the late artist declined to be interviewed because his recollection of the shoot was negligible

Shriek Show have also thrown in a compilation of zombie trailers (9 in total) including ZOMBI HOLOCAUST, EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD and BURIAL GROUND. All make for bloody good fun.

Packaged in a 2 disc Amaray keepcase, with a nice additional slipcase and fold-out poster, this is a carefully prepared Special Edition of a film that has been criminally robbed of a decent DVD release up until now.

The audio/video presentation on this R1 disc is fantastic (I've not yet viewed Blue Underground's single disc offering, but I'd be amazed if it beats this). The extras are great if you're a fan.

Blue Underground are reported to be working on their own 2 disc Special Edition, due for release sometime next year. It may well be the definitive release of this landmark gore film, but unless it's absolutely phenomenal on every count I think it's safe to say that this release will suffice for yours truly.

Review by Stuart Willis


 
Released by Shriek Show
NTSC Region 1
Extras :
see main review
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