Burial Ground [Blu-ray 4K]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Severin Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (27th February 2024).
The Film

A trio of jet setting couples – doctor George (Brothers Till We Die's Roberto Caporali), his wife Evelyn (The Sect's Mariangela Giordano), and sullen stepson Michael (Peter Bark), photographer Mark (Terror Express' Gianluigi Chirizzi) and model Janet (Convent of Sinners' Karin Well), along with James (The Other Hell's Simone Mattioli) and Leslie (Play Motel's Antonella Antinori) – retreat to George's fifteenth century Frascati villa for a weekend of relaxation and debauchery. Little do they know that George's other guest, a professor of archaeology (Raimondo Barbieri), has been doing some excavating and unleashed a horde of Etruscan zombies who spill out a nearby tomb, from inches beneath the villa's sprawling lawns, and out of nearby flowerbeds. The survivors of the initial attack barricade themselves inside the villa with ill-fated servants Kathryn (Anna Valente) and Nicholas (Star Odyssey's Claudio Zucchet), but the zombies can climb, use tools, possess a dead aim, and are quite the masters or disguise, making for a memorably messy night of terror.

Mounted in the wake of Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2 – a gore-drenched unofficial sequel to George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead which was released in Italy as "Zombi" – Andrea Bianchi's Burial Ground has its fair share of post-Fulci clay pot zombies and over-the-top gut-yanking courtesy of Rosario Prestopino (Demons) but is in some ways more of a take on the sixties Italian gothic spiced up with sex and gore. Screenwriter Piero Regnoli had gone from scripting Riccardo Freda's I vampiri to lower-tier gothics like The Playgirls and the Vampire and the underrated The Third Eye – a modern-day response to Freda's The Horrible Dr. Hichcock remade in the eighties by Joe D'Amato as Beyond the Darkness with amped up gore – during the genre's 1960s heyday. Indeed, Burial Ground was part of a quartet of sexy, gory 1980s gothic retreads that also included Bianchi's Malabimba, Mario Bianchi's Satan's Baby Doll, and Mario Landi's Patrick Still Lives (a ripoff of the Australian Richard Franklin telekinetic thriller with an emphasis on telekinetic groping). The recycling of jazzy cues by Berto Pisano from his first scoring assignment Sfida al diavolo – interspersed with more modern synth noodlings by Elsio Mancuso – does add a rather shopworn feel to the setup that is queasily countered by Michael's incestuous pining for his mother, some hairy and sweaty bedroom romps, and gore set-pieces that are not as technically proficient as those of Fulci's films but no less unpleasant. The zombie make-ups and masks are alternately laughable and unsettling, particularly in the case of the latter those that completely obliterate any sense they were once normal-looking human beings.



Released theatrically by Film Concept Group – a short-lived Motion Picture Marketing offshoot that also released Bruno Mattei's The Other Hell as "Guardian of Hell" and Paul Naschy's Night of the Werewolf as "The Craving" on advertising budgets so low they only produced posters and newspaper ads but no trailers – Burial Ground went to VHS from Vestron in two versions (cut and uncut) in darkish transfers. Shriek Show's 2002 anamorphic DVD restored the export title "The Nights of Terror" and was brighter but also hazier with the usual faults one associates with Italian digital transfers of that period. Their 2011 Blu-ray was a new transfer that was a mess of other faults, including more prominent scanner noise and missing frames. 88 Films in the UK released a Blu-ray in 2016 that was a composite of more than one scan from Italian 16mm negative and 35mm blow-up elements and also included a 35mm transfer of an American "Burial Ground" print that was faded, dark, with blown-out highlights but was still watchable as a "Grindhouse" transfer. This was followed later in the same year by Severin Films who utilized the same master but with different grading which was darker with richer colors.

The film made its 4K bow in the U.K. from 88 Films again featuring a new scan of the 35mm blow-up intermediate which is presumably also the source for Severin Film's new 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo. We have not seen the British release - although the grading differed between the 88 Films and Severin Films 4K UHD/Blu-ray editions of Zombie Holocaust - but Severin 2160p24 HEVC 1.66:1 widescreen 4K UHD and the 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen Blu-ray offer up a new and interesting viewing experience (screengrabs come from the Blu-ray). Colors are richer with reds that pop without distorting and there are newfound textures in the wood and stonework of the Villa Parisi and the resolution offers up new opportunities to assess the zombie make-up – as well as discover that some of the zombies lurking in the background of shots in which the emerge from the tomb are the same zombies that are later seen rising form the ground or from flowerpot sarcophagi. Surprisingly, the ugliest-looking sequence in the new transfer is the one that has always looked worse than the rest of the film: the sound stage interior in which the zombies break into the study with noisy blacks and hot reds (and HDR can only do so much with a 16mm-filmed scene that might have been underlit possibly just with the firelight and then pushed in processing before blow-up since it looks worse than the slow motion shots).

What is particularly interesting is the overall grading of the daylight scenes. The coarser grain and dupey-ness of the titles is baked-in with the sunlight looking alternately orange and pink while the titles remain pure white. In the subsequent daylight scenes, however, the sunlight take on a warmer hue than evident before when the earlier Blu-ray and DVD masters graded the sunlight in a more neutral hue that made the scenes look flatter overall. While the grading here may or may not be faithful to the original intentions, it is interesting to see the changing sunlight hues due to the different color temperatures throughout the day and the changing direction of light in the shots cut together which may or may not have been evident in theatrical prints when new as evidence of the quick-and-dirty shooting. The day-for-night tinting of the opening sequence is less murky than before without spoiling the illusion while the later scenes are a mix of day-for-night and night that the grading remains faithful to rather than trying to artificially match them.


Audio options include English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono mix that are both of similar technical quality. The English track is recommended for seasoned Italian horror fans since it is cast with all of the familiar British and American dubbing artists from the heyday of Italian horror, but the Italian track features wonderfully-exaggerated flesh-chomping noises during the zombie attacks. While the previous Blu-ray featured English subtitles for the Italian track – after a zombie is decapitated, young Michael says "How disgusting" on the Italian track rather than just gasping – Severin has also included optional English SDH subtitles for the English dub.


In addition to the Italian theatrical trailer (3:44) in 1080p, both UHD and Blu-ray have ported over the 88 Films audio commentaries for added value. First up is the 2023 audio commentary by critics Nathaniel Thompson, Troy Howarth, and Eugenio Ercolani which covers Bianchi's career as well as that of producer Gabriele Crisanti and his then-girlfriend Giordano – who later became involved with producer Mario Cecchi Gori leading to her being imposed on the cast of the Dario Argento production The Sect – and the sixties Italian Gothic feel. Ercolani not only chimes in with the observation that the Italian Gothic had tended to assert itself in some examples of the giallo genre that involved old houses and whodunit plots, but also reveals that the more serious in tone Italian dub tracks actually contained a degree of sarcasm lending the usual scenario of unlikable characters set up for slaughter a degree of Buρuelian class commentary leading to humorous although not entirely inapt comparisons to The Exterminating Angel. They also reveal that the credited cinematographer Gianfranco Maioletti (Master of the World) may only have worked on the film as an operator and that the cinematography was actually the work of Franco Villa (Caliber 9) and that the seedy look of the film's sumptuous settings may be a stylistic choice given his more polished work elsewhere.

Also ported over is the 2016 audio commentary by Italian cinema experts Calum Waddell and John Martin who discuss the film's U.K. release history – Martin having been around during the Video Nasty era, the horror heydays of the Scala cinema, and the target of media attacks on film violence – tracking down actor Bark (more outrageous aspects of his post-cinema career are covered in the other track), and distinguishing the effects work of Prestopino and de Rossi as well as the confusion over the identities of cousins Gino de Rossi (who worked here on the film's gore gags) and Giannetto de Rossi (High Tension).

Ported from the earlier Severin Blu-ray is "Villa Parisi: Legacy of Terror" (15:47) in which film historian Fabio Melelli revisits the Frascati location as it is today immaculately restored and traces the villa's use in films from The Third Eye and Nightmare Castle through Blood for Dracula, Burial Ground and Patrick Still Lives with clips illustrating the use of various rooms and locations on the grounds (sometimes giving us a better view of the villa's dιcor than the films themselves). He also points out that Bianchi had become known in the 1980s for cheap films but had also produced some quality product earlier like the ultra-violent and grueling Henry Silva crime film Cry of a Prostitute. He does reveal that chief make-up artist Mauro Gavazzi (The Damned) made the headlines the same year for stabbing a stranger.

The sole video extra ported from the 88 edition is "Return to the Burial Ground" (13:50) in which Bark returns to the Villa Parisi and relates some anecdotes about the shoot, his subsequent credits – including an extract from a disco television program – and his post-film life in which he still gets recognized for the film. More so than the other Parisi piece, this one presents us with more indulgent views of the interior and grounds as they are today.

"Peter Still Lives" (7:56) is an extract from a 2013 Villa Borghese screening Q&A with fifty-four year old Bark. The audience is raucous and generally asks questions about the nipple-biting scene while the two moderators touch upon Bark's Arrivano i Gatti as a literal "undersecretary" working underneath a desk and his other works (with clips from a TV disco show). Bark mentions at the time that he was working on an autobiography that is presumably out now.

In "Just for the Money" (8:59), actor Mattioli reveals that he took the job just for the money after finishing a winter tour with his theater company. He had fun with Bark on set but recalls little about the shooting experience other than confusing Prestopino for Gavazzi when mentioning the newspaper article on the stabbing.

"The Smell of Death" (9:22) intercuts interviews with producer Cristiani and actress Giordano shot for the Shriek Show DVD. The two cover much of the same ground: working with Bark, the special effects mishaps, the Frascati location, and sex and horror as a winning formula.

The same deleted/extended scenes/shots (10:24) reel from the earlier disc are ported here. Dialogue in Italian or English was either not recorded or lost so they are scored with music and effects from the feature's audio. Extensions include introductory scenes in each of the automobiles following the credits the credits, some additional angles during the sex scenes, and a few extra frames here and there of the gore and pyrotechnic head shots (presumably removed for greater impact).


The cover features the familiar American poster artwork while the slipcover features the Italian artwork with the "Burial Ground" title.


The 4K upgrade of the wonderfully gory and sleazy Burial Ground brings the grime and grue into high relief.


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