Zombie: 3-Disc Limited Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Blue Underground
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (11th December 2018).
The Film

This is horror gold! Just in time to celebrate its 40th Anniversary, Blue Underground has presented us gore fans with an early Christmas present. For the first time ever, "Zombie" is presented in a brand new 4k Restoration from the original, uncut and uncensored, camera negative. Yes, this is like having virgin eyes to see this classic as it was meant to be seen.

I can clearly recall seeing the VHS cover art for this video back in the day. There presented in all of its rotting glory was a walking corpse, complete with a worm dangling from an empty eye socket. This video over all the rest of the horror genre was the one that would stop you dead in your tracks. If you had the courage to rent this bad boy, then you were clearly letting your freak flag fly boldly. Forget about George A. Romero and his zombie films; this was the real deal, and it was made by that Italian madman Lucio Fulci, whose name would become synonymous with jaw dropping horror. Years later when I would discover Chas Balun and his magazine "Deep Red", dedicated to all things that seeped and oozed blood, would I be introduced to the technical term for this film: chunkblower. Many films promise the goods with cover art that hinted at eye popping visuals, but inevitably the director would cut away before the decapitation, before the artery was severed and spraying, before the head would roll, but not this time friends, this time you are forced to witness ghastly acts of carnage like never witnessed before.

The film begins with an ominous close up of a pistolís barrel pointed directly at the camera and then a cut to something or someone wrapped in a white sheet, clearly dead, but now re-animated and sitting up. The gun is fired and a bullet hole appears in the objectís head; then we hear the voice of Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson) saying ďThe boat can leave now. Tell the crew.Ē The credits begin to roll and I am sure that some filmgoers cleared out quickly because it is going to be one of those films. The heavy synthesizer music drones on in the background supplied by Giorgio Cascio and Fabio Frizzi, the appropriate feeling of dread now spreading steadily. Next we see an abandoned sailboat heading into New York harbor; the boat is empty and there is no one at the helm. A helicopter in the sky hovers overhead and we hear some radio conversation between the pilot and two cops are dispatched to board the boat and investigate. It is quickly apparent that something bad has occurred on board and the sound of buzzing flies indicates the smell of rotting meat. One cop looks below the hatch but hesitates, and then the other officer comes down the ladder to check the cabin below. General disarray is seen, with various articles of clothing strewn about, then a dismembered hand is discovered and it is quickly apparent that the ship has been involved in an active crime scene. Suddenly a large dead man crashes through a closet door and furiously attacks the officer, biting and severing his jugular vein, accompanied by plenty of brightly colored blood. The officer struggles, but is helpless with the lumbering man on top of him and then the copís hand comes away with a large chunk of decayed flesh; it is obvious that this is a corpse that attacked him. No reason is given, no explanations are offered by anyone. This film operates under a bizarre logic that makes it unpredictable and surprising, but donít say that you werenít warned.

The authorities contact the daughter of the boatís owner (Ugo Bologna) and Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow) is not one to accept some lame excuses from the police. Anne tells the cops that her father was last seen on the desert isle of Matool but she knows that there is something that they arenít telling her. Anne returns back to the boat after nightfall, determined to find an answer, and here she meets reporter Peter West (Ian McColluch) who is on board looking for a story. The duo decides to pool their knowledge and work together to find out what happened to Anneís father. West talks his editor into paying for two plane tickets to the Caribbean and before we realize it, there they are. I loved how Fulci sneaked a cameo into the picture, portraying the newspaperís editor. Once at their destination, they realize that they are going to need transportation to the island; entering into the picture is two fellow travellers in search of adventure: Brian Hull (Al Cliver) and his scuba diving photography loving partner, Susan Barrett (Auretta Gay). Little do the two realize what a costly error they are making by agreeing to escort their new found pals.

But the trip isnít all seriousness as Susan decides to do a little topless scuba diving. Here she runs headlong into a hungry looking shark and while trying to hide near some corral, she receives a nasty surprise by being accosted by an underwater cannibal zombie. Susan struggles to free herself from the aquatic cadaver and makes use of some nearby seaweed to blind her opponent, thus swimming for the waterís surface. Meanwhile the shark and the zombie begin to engage in some serious grappling (during this time there is no sign of any scuba equipment on the zombie with the undead man displaying an amazing natural ability underwater and some serious breath holding techniques) at the bottom of the ocean. Forget Romeroís zombies; I have never seen anything like this previously and it is a triumphant moment for Fulci as the scene is both suspenseful and thought provoking. If these creatures can survive underwater and fight a killer shark, what else can they do?

Reaching the island of Matool, there is a problem with the boatís propeller and all four passengers are now stranded on the isle of death. Coming ashore the travelerís meet Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson) a fellow scientist that was friends with Anneís father. A cautionary man, Menard warns the visitors not to try to gain entrance to the local village because a mysterious disease has caused the dead to rise from the grave. Now if that was me there, I would be like Mantan Moreland and high tailing it out of there without a further Aude. The four visitors calmly accept this news like the doctor was discussing a bad case of the flu, but he is talking about zombies and the walking dead! I would be pulling a Shaggy and leaping into the air and yelling ďYipes.Ē But this is a Fulci production and it seems that these folks may be made of stronger stuff or maybe they are as dumb as a bag of doorknobs. Either way I am envisioning what is to come of these intrepid visitors.

The fools, er I mean, visitors set off to visit Dr. Menardís wife at the docís specious home; earlier we were witness to the doctorís wifeís uneasiness at staying on the island when there is some funky illness bringing back the dead to life. This, of course, sets the stage for another moment of Fulciís innovative horror vision and by that I am referencing the infamous splinter in the eye sequence that even today still has the power of turning stomachs and propelling moviegoers from the theater. The sequence begins with a voyeuristic scene of the doctorís wife taking a refreshing shower and, of course, something is lurking outside the bathroom window, spying on the lovely Mrs. Menard (Olga Karlatos). Troubled by some odd jungle sound, the lady of the house does the only reasonable thing that one can in this type of situation: attempt to lock the bathroom door. However there is some dead thing just itching to get in after our heroine and it manages to get a decaying hand in-between the door and the frame. Exerting herself, Mrs. Menard manages to slam the door on the intruding digits and they are easily amputated. But the doors of these jungle houses are rather flimsy and the slats easily gave way to any intruding dead person that is determined to get some catch of the day. While pushing a small cabinet to block the door from opening, the zombie thrusts his arms through the slats and grabs a handful of Mrs. Menardís freshly washed hair. Through a series of smartly times edits, we see the entire set up. There is the broken and jagged slat jutting out towards the victim, next a shot of the large splinter coming ever closer to the unprotected orb of Mrs. Menard, and then some footage of the screaming head being pulled ever closer to its eminent target. Then just when you think, the director is going to cut away at the last possible second, he shows a crystal clear close up of the wood piercing the womanís eye. ďHoly Luis BuŮuelĒ you holler as the undead attacker is triumphant in his attack and Mrs. Menard is the latest dish on the all you can eat zombie smorgasbord. This is why this film is raved about by diehard horror fans. Seeing certainly is believing!

ďI'm sure there's a natural explanation.Ē

To explain why all the dead are reanimating, screenwriter Elisa Briganti pulls a fast one and dips back into horror history, using the thread of voodoo as the source of all the undead antics. One needs to watch the Jacques Tourneur classic "I Walked with a Zombie" (1943) to understand the island superstition regarding cheap labor by raising the dead to work at the plantations. In "White Zombie" (1932) Bela Lugosi portrays Murder Legendre, a super bad ass voodoo master who arranges for the dead to return to life. By using these older tropes, Briganti has helped to create a new and original zombie mythos. I get tired of always having to argue semiotics with fellow horror fans where zombies are concerned and to me Fulciís version of zombie history is just as applicable as Romeroís vision. Fulci was the first to cash in on the appeal of the dead returning back to life, especially emphasizing the decayed appearance of the older dead, as they struggled to free themselves of shallow jungle graves.

Returning to the plot summary, our heroes are confronted with the sickening site of Mrs. Menard being picked apart by a gathering of rotted corpses. The remains are simply being served up fresh to the not particular cannibal corpses. The travellers have yet discovered the head shot that is necessary to put the lively undead down for good and plenty of good ammo is wasted with harmless chest shots. So we have zombies being clubbed with the rifle butts, being smashed with a shovel, all photographed in exquisite color and with all the details that gore hounds have come to expect. This is where Fulci really made an impact on moviegoers. The special effects team of Gino De Rossi, Giannetto De Rossi, and Maurizio Trani really excelled with showing corpses that actually looked decayed and rotted, complete with such details as a zombie face with a missing eye and a mass of squirming worms in the socket. If you have never experienced the shock of seeing this film on the big screen, then now is the time to cough up the hard earned dough to purchase this worthwhile boxed set.

One of the most apparent themes here is Fulciís vision for the walking dead completely taking over the island. Everywhere the camera scans is deserted, abandoned, in disrepair, literally falling apart and this theme hangs a distinct pallor over the entire production. We donít really see the island population in general unless we are focusing on the few ill patients in the doctorís ramshackle hospital building, in reality more a storage shed than an actual hospital. Nothing looks clean and sterile here; it is literally a madmanís desperate dream of an island hospital with a few beds and some shabby equipment as Dr. Menard struggles to find some type of answer for why the dead are returning. Science is of no help when it comes to this situation. All that remains is to respond with violence and even then the pervading feeling is of doom. We see the doctor calmly dispensing with patient after patient with a bullet to the head; this is the only sensible response to the aggressive horror that is slowly closing in on the travellers.

The final scenes of the film are filled with despair as Brian has a close encounter with a reanimated Susan and he is paralyzed with fear as he looks into her lifeless eyes realizing that she too is now one of them; he stands helpless as she viciously bites his throat and removes his voice box. Meanwhile the doctor has manages to have his helper gather some canister of fuel and start making Molotov cocktails to hurl at the oncoming oppressors. The ending is a conflagration of the many zombies, some ablaze, slowly advancing as the few survivors shoot at them without much success. The last scene is a chilling one as a boatful of the living dead have managed to set sail and have landed in Brooklyn where they are slowly seen walking across the bridge. This film does not end on a hopeful note but more so on a whimper to rephrase T.S. Eliotís famous poem. The credits begin to roll and the film goer is left to ponder just exactly what have they just sat through. For the avid horror fan, this is a true tribute to the Italian filmmaker and his vision of the true horror of the dead that wonít rest. Blue Underground deserves some type of award for producing a seminal product that not only respects the material but truly relishes it and elevates the film to the level of a masterpiece of modern horror.

Video

Blue Underground has included a brand new 4K Restoration, presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, encoded with AVC MPEG-4 and granted a 1080p 24/fps transfer, "Zombie" has never looked better. The details are astonishing and this really comes through for home viewing. Clean and spotless, the film is an amazing sight, the film has zero flaws and the brightness levels are worth bragging about.

Audio

Fans will be clamoring for this one. Five standard audio tracks are available: English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono, English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround, Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono, Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround, and French Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. That is quite an assembly to choose from for the bi-lingual audiences. The audio is excellent with no dropouts or interference. Turn it up and bask in the luxury of the additional soundtrack with nine tracks (28 minutes). The superb Fabio Frizzi soundtrack is on the 3rd disc. Subtitles are included in English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), and Russian, Swedish, and Thai yellow subtitles for the main feature are all available.

Extras

The extras are where the greatness lies, spread over three discs the supplements include:

DISC ONE:

The first audio commentary with Troy Howarth, the man that wrote the definitive book on Fulci, "Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films", gives you the low down on what locales were used in which scene. In an exclusively created interview for Blue Underground, you too will be an expert on Fulci as Howarth discusses the film in depth, speaking about the various genres invoked, the unique score, and an examination of Italian films in general and why this film ultimately matters to horror fans.

The second audio commentary is with star Ian McColluch and Diabolik Magazine editor, Jason J. Slater. This is a different perspective on what it was like to work with the master and how it is clear that McCulloch had little idea of what he was in store for. This conversation is filled with surprises as McCulloch comments on his experience working with Fulci and the production in general. McColluch has some insightful comments on the films dubbing and this is a unique opportunity to hear what it was like to be behind the scenes during the production.

Introduction by the famed director Guillermo del Toro (in English, not subtitled, 0:24).

"When the Earth Spits Out the Dead: Interview with Stephen Thrower" featurette (in English 33:05) author and critic Thrower discusses "Zombie" at length with additional insights into the films production, notes of who else was considered for the production, the identification of certain scenes and why they stand out, the significance of the underwater attack scene, various trends in Italian filmmaking at the time,etc. This was a brand new interview filmed exclusively for Blue Underground.

"Promotional Materials" features a collection of theatrical trailers, and other promos, itís 1979 all over again and can you imagine seeing and hearing these trailers on your radio and TV?

- "International" theatrical trailer (3:43), remastered vintage promo for "Zombie". In English, no subtitles.
- "US" theatrical trailer (1:30), remasteredin English, no subtitles.
- TV spot 1 (0:32), in English, no subtitles.
- TV spot 2 (0:32), in English, no subtitles.
- Radio spots feature four authentic vintage spots:
-- Radio spot 1 (0:29) in English, no subtitles.
-- Radio spot 2 (0:49) in English, no subtitles.
-- Radio spot 3 (0:22) in English, no subtitles.
-- Radio spot 4 (0:24) in English, no subtitles.

Poster & still gallery (9:51), created by Jim Kunz; a fabulous collection of promotional materials from around the world. Including all types of Domestic and International promotional materials from VHS, DVD and CD materials; with music that will have you barking at the moon.

DISC TWO:

"Zombie Wasteland" featurette (22:00), in a panel discussion setting, stars Ian McColluch, Richard Johnson, and Al Cliver, and stuntman/actor Ottaviano Dell'acqua speak about working with Fulci and why this film has retained its greatness and still has the ability to stun audiences. Filmed at Cinema Wastelandís convention in Ohio, this shoot features some Q&A from delighted audience members in attendance.

"Flesh Eaters on Film: Fabrizio De Angelis" featurette (10:00), talks about the film from a producerís point of view, how you market a film like this to a global audience, the lack of permits while shooting, bringing Fulci onboard of a production that was partially underway. He also speaks out about the lawsuit that Dario Argento proposed regarding the title of the film and how he sees a comic element in the film.

"Deadtime Stories" featurette (14:33), features co-writers Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti, who was not even credited to the film, speaking about the film and its roots, how there was an obvious comic book influence on the product, how Sacchetti originally wanted to do a Western with horror elements, the influence of various producers on the film.

"World of the Dead" featurette (16:34), various interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati and production designer/costume designer Walter Patriarca. This is a bit more on the technical side as is to be expected as they discuss the special effects and cinematography. It is important to note that everything that the audience sees in "Zombie" was achieved in camera and this makes the end results even more important. There are discussions of lighting and focus to create an unearthly effect and how important it was to have just the right type of costumes for the zombies.

"Zombi Italiano" featurette (16:37), various interviews with makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi and Maurizio Trani and special effects artist Gino De Rossi. They speak about how difficult it was to create the unique appearances of the zombies, how important screen tests are in a situation like this one, and how itís hard it is to create horror effects when people are laughing out loud.

"Notes on A Headstone" featurette (7:25), interview with the soundtrack composer Fabio Frizzi. An all new interview with the composer regarding how he felt about working with Fulci, his thoughts on why the correct music is very important in establishing the correct mood for a film, plenty of information on scores and how they help enhance the action on the screen.

"All in the Family" featurette (6:08) is an interview with the directorís daughter, Antonella Fulci. A warm interview segment that paints a respective picture of the director and how professional he was.

"Zombie Lover" featurette (9:36), an extensive interview with director and horror fan Guillermo del Toro as he speaks at length about the delights of seeing this film for the first time in Mexico. Del Toro describes his favorite scenes and the details of the film and why he is thrilled to be speaking about this gem. Here is a man that understands the lure of the gore.

DISC THREE: CD

This third and final disc is the original "Zombie" soundtrack; it features 9 tracks and runs for 28 minutes.

Included is a full color booklet insert with 24 pages that features an essay by Stephen Thrower on how the film was received by various critics. The booklet also includes a cast list and a track listing for the accompanying CD.

Packaging

The boxed set is packaged in a special 3-D slip-cover, there are three different covers available: "Bridge", "Splinter", and "Worms", mine was the shot of the worm faced zombie, and includes a reversible cover sleeve art with the traditional VHS cover art.

Overall

Without question, the only possible rating that could be given this one of a kind horror film is a resounding "A". Current fans that are accustomed to all the CGI special effects may not appreciate the skills that are invoked with bringing this film to the screen properly. Imagine what it was like to be a film goer in 1979 and to see this unforgettable film on the big screen. Your mind would truly be blown once and for all! In short, forget all previous copies of this film, the Blue Underground Limited Edition Blu-ray is the only one that is worth owning. I am going to toss my old DVD copy in the trash!

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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