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October 21, 2011

Movie Review: Zombie (1979, Blu-ray)

For the first twenty years of Lucio Fulci's film directing career he was known as genre-hopper - going from thrillers like Don't Torture a Duckling and A Lizard in Woman's Skin to even westerns like his 1975 offering Four of the Apocalypse. With dozens of films under his belt, it wasn't until a certain "walking dead" film in 1979 that Fulci would become more of a household name outside of Italy. His feature Zombie, although an obvious cash-in on the success of Romero's Dawn of the Dead became its own inimitable entity. Now, thanks to the folks at Blue Undergound all the eye-splintering action can be enjoyed in 1080p. Blue Underground has been one of the top genre companies in terms of quality genre Blu-ray releases; could their new two-disc "Ultimate Edition" of Zombie continue this trend?

Buy Zombie Blu-ray

A boat containing the mangled bodies of several people who appear to have been cannibalized is discovered by authorities off the coast of New York City. Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow ) thinks there may be a connection to this incident and her missing father. She soon partners up with a journalist, Peter West ( Ian McCulloch) to follow some clues that bring both to the mysterious island of Matul.  Brian (Al Cliver) Susan (Aureta Gay) go along for the ride as the four set sail to see if they can track down Annie's papa.

The journey for the group become a bit more complicated when they soon find out the desolate island of Matul is loaded with flesh eating zombies. Dr. David Menard ( Richard Johnson ) has many patients on Matul who unfortunately have succumbed to these urges for flesh. Malpractice is the least of this M.D's worries.

Zombie is incredibly graphic thanks to its impressive FX grotesqueries courtesy of make-up marvel Gianetto (don't call me Gino) Derossi. Deaths linger for all the victims in that sadistic style that Fulci so lovingly embraced. The biggest highlight for gore fans being the arterial spray that's often been compared to the "cum shot" in porn the notorious "eye-splintering". The violence is nasty and unsettling throughout but at one point it borders on the downright ridiculous when a zombie is shown chomping on a shark. As crazy as it is the scene is amazing. What other film has a shark vs. zombie face-off? I didn't think so.

If the movie isn't enough, Blue Underground has jam-packed this two-disc set with an obscene amount of bonus materials that seems to cover just about everything Zombie. It's as if everyone, both behind and in front of the camera (aside from the late Fulci) is on hand to contribute something. The first disc contains trailers, promo items and a commentary by Ian McCulloch. McCulloch has a few stories of interest in regard to production and how he has been involved in three video nasties. The actor’s wife apparently bailed very early on during a showing of Zombie. My guess is that it was the maggots or the plus-sized zombie on the ship in the opening.

The second disc consists of eight featurettes produced by Red Shirt Pictures and Blue Underground: Zombie Lover has director Guillermo del Toro professing his admiration towards the film - which he also does an introduction for. He points out some of the technical genius from the film the viewers may oversee amongst the grue. Another enjoyable extra entitled All in the Family has Fulci's proud daughter, Antonella, talking about the film and her father's legacy. Next up, Co-poducer Fabrizio De Angelis recollects his experiences on the set and with the director for Flesh Eaters on Film. Veteran Italian cult film screenwriter gets some time to talk about the writing process for Zombie with uncredited writer, Elisa Briganti in Deadtime Stories featurette. You can't have an ultimate edition of Zombie without the participation of composer Fabio Frizzi. He's here in Notes on a Headstone.

My favorite extras on the disc were Zombie Wasteland and the special FX centered featurette, Zombi Italiano. Gianetto De Rossi and his brother Gino gave the undead in Zombie a look that's undeniably macabre. De Rossi goes into his secrets to creating the ghouls and the explicit bloodshed. Zombie Wasteland reunites Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson & Al Cliver, and Actor/Stuntman Ottaviano (Wormface Zombie) Dell'Acqua at the popular Cinema Wasteland convention in Ohio. All the actors seem extremely appreciative of the fans and the continued success that even McCulloch is coming around. Al Cliver brings up in his interview about Fulci's treatment towards women. Fulci apparently targeted women who he thought to be "whores" with much of his negative treatment. Aureta Gay apparently took the brunt of his anger on Zombie.

Blue Underground's transfer is taken from the original camera negative and not surprisingly it's the best this film has ever looked. The detail and color overall are remarkably better than both Blue Underground's DVD and Shriekshow's release from a few years back. The final zombie climax, which is very dark, has been noticeably improved upon in this Blu-ray. The English and Italian audio  appear to have also been given some tender loving care as they sound tremendous in this new DTS-HD 7.1 master audio mix. Frizzi's memorable tracks sound damn good here.

Zombie is given some superb treatment by Blue Underground, with extras that are very entertaining to boot. It's a classic of the horror genre and here fans get a classic release that will not be easy to top. Highly Recommended!
             ( Photos courtesy of Rock! Shock! Pop! )

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