“ZOMBIE”— An Anniversary Re- Release

“ZOMBIE”

An Anniversary Re- Release

Amos Lassen

It’s been nearly 40 years since Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie” was released and it is still one of the best zombie films ever; a sleazy film that’s not to be missed. For the film’s 40th anniversary, we have a new restoration.

“Zombie” is not meant for the squeamish. It begins when the Coast Guard discovers a seemingly abandoned boat in the Atlantic off the coast of New York City with a flesh-eating ghoul on board who kills one of the officers. The owner of the vessel is missing, and his daughter, along with a reporter, set off for the tropical island where he was last seen. What they do not know is that the island is the home of the undead.

There are two famous sequences for which “Zombie” is known. The first is a set piece involving a zombie fighting a shark. It has nothing to do with anything aside from showing insane madness. The second sequence is called “the splinter scene;” and is an incredibly tense moment and one that got the film heavily censored in many countries. It’s shocking, suspenseful, masterfully shot and you will have to see it for yourself.

Director Fulci zooms in on violence and lets us see every bit of brain matter and viscera. Blue Underground has released a new three-disc Blu-ray for the film’s 40th anniversary, which features a 4K restoration from the original, uncut camera negatives. The transfer looks great.

A sailboat sits in the path of seemingly every ship and ferry that tries to cut its way across. Attempts to raise the crew fail. A helicopter circling can’t spot any signs of life. A couple of guys from Harbor Patrol are sent out to take a look and are not prepared for what they found. A bloated corpse comes through a door to eat. A couple shots from a pistol later, the zombie tumbles off the sailboat and sinks into the bay. The immediate threat’s is over, but what was that? This is the question for newspaper reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch) and the daughter of the ship’s missing owner (Tisa Farrow) who want an answer. Their search for that answer takes them to the Caribbean island of Matul. If it’s some sort of previously unknown disease or a voodoo curse, no one knows for sure, but something makes the dead on Matul rise from their graves to feed on the living. They have already eaten almost everyone on the island.
“Zombie” is a brutal film with the dead slowly feasting on the living, tearing into their bodies to find just the right parts to devour… blood is everywhere. in Zombie that isn’t iconic, really. The opening attack is atmospheric, unnerving, and masterfully crafted. Director Fulci does a hell of a great job introducing his zombies and the harbor sequence makes quite  an impact.

Every scene with the ravenous undead is very special and spectacular, but nothing bridges them together. The skeleton of a story is slim, and Fulci doesn’t infuse the moments in between the flesh feasts. The characters are  thinly sketched and mostly uninvolving, relying on the charms of actors like Ian McCulloch and Richard Johnson, though that only goes so far. 

Blue Underground has put together a spectacularly loaded special edition release, featuring t four hours’ worth of extras, every last second of which is well-worth setting aside the time to see.

Extras

Zombie‘s extras are spread across both of the discs in this set.

Disc One

  • Introduction(30 sec.; HD): When playing Zombie, you have the option to watch it with a very short introduction by the brilliant Guillermo del Toro.

  • Audio Commentary: Perhaps the

  • single greatest extra in this two-disc set is the commentary with star Ian McCulloch. He’s joined here by Diabolikeditor Jason J. Slater, and having someone to help moderate the discussion does come in handy later in the film when the conversation slows down somewhat. McCulloch is a wonderfully engaging speaker, and you would hardly know this is his first time ever seeing Zombie from start to finish (!) with the seemingly endless barrage of stories he has to tell. There are far too many highlights to possibly rattle off here, but among them are an Italian crew invading a newspaper office and being told to fuck off by someone who may or may not have been Rupert Murdoch, a relative in the House of Lords being crushed when learning just how many Video Nasties that McCulloch had starred in, and an amateur diver struggling to stay afloat when weighed down by misconfigured scuba gear. McCulloch does a terrific job painting a picture of what it was like to be a part of a film shoot where everyone was speaking so many different languages and no one could be bothered to get a permit. Easily one of the most infectiously fun commentaries I’ve listened to in a long, long time.

  • Promotional Material(7 min.): This disc also features international and domestic theatrical trailers, two TV ads, and four radio spots. The trailers are presented in high definition, and the TV spots are sourced from lower quality video.

  • Still Gallery(10 min.; HD): A high-res still gallery serves up an extensive selection of poster art, lobby cards, behind-the-scenes and promotional photos, pressbooks, soundtrack artwork, and video releases from all across the globe.

Disc Two

  • Zombie Wasteland(22 min.; HD): Actors Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, and Ottaviano Dell’acqua rang in Zombie‘s thirtieth anniversary with an appearance at the Cinema Wasteland con in Ohio. The first of the disc’s featurettes splices together appearances from their booth at the show, a Q&A panel, and individual interviews. Among the topics of discussion are what it was like to work with someone as

  • passionate and notoriously difficult as Lucio Fulci, the outrageous atmosphere on the set, how grueling the worm-eyed zombie makeup was, and what it means to them to have a fanbase this

  • Flesh Eaters on Film(10 min.; HD): Fabrizio De Angelis approaches Zombie from a producer’s perspective, chatting candidly about the lack of permits, the film’s enormous financial success, selling the movie internationally, and struggling with a lawsuit by Dario Argento over the title. De Angelis also touches on bringing Fulci onboard this already-established project and the over-the-top and almost comic tone he sees in the film.

  • Deadtime Stories(14 min.; HD): Uncredited writer Dardano Sacchetti has a sharper memory about the genesis of Zombie than Fabrizio De Angelis, describing how the germ of an idea was spawned by a Tex Willer comic melding Westerns with the walking dead. “Deadtime Stories” also features co-writer Elisa Briganti, and she and Sacchetti speak about how problematic it was finding a director, how Zombie marked the first true horror film to be helmed by Fulci, and the role Zombie played in bringing Italian horror to the rest of the world.

  • World of the Dead(16 min.; HD): Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and costume/production designer Walter Patriarca discuss shaping the look of Zombie, including the use of lighting to exaggerate the horror of the zombies’ makeup, deliberately keeping some elements of the frame out-of-focus, filming the eye-gouging sequence with three cameras, ramming a bulldozer into a lovingly crafted church set that looked a bit too beautiful, and spelling out just how many of the film’s most memorable shots were stolen. Patriarca shows off some of his original conceptual artwork, and it’s impressive to see how closely the hospital in the film mirrors his art.

  • Zombi Italiano(17 min.; HD): Makeup effects artists Giannetto de Rossi, Maurizio Trani, and Gino de Rossi delve into creating the look of Zombie‘s legions of the undead, making them look more like ancient, decaying corpses than the freshly-dead blue zombies in Dawn of the Dead. All of the most memorable

  • attacks in the film are discussed in detail, including the process of tracking down a live shark and gouging the eye of an incomplete head.

  • Notes on a Headstone(7 min.; HD): Composer Fabio Frizzi speaks briefly about his collaborations with Lucio Fulci. Frizzi tends to speak in somewhat general terms, but he does have a few intriguing comments about his music for Zombie, such as the restraint shown in the spectacular sequence in New York Harbor and the use of overlapping sounds throughout the eye-gouging assault sequence.

  • All in the Family(6 min.; HD): Antonella Fulci speaks about her late father, explaining why his movies are so violent and why she believes Zombie in particular continues to endure. Home movies and candid photographs are featured throughout as well.

  • Zombie Lover(10 min.; HD): Finally, Guillermo del Toro dissects Zombie and details why he feels it’s such a brilliant film. This ten minute conversation approaches Zombie from both an intensely personal perspective and that of a director with an encyclopediac knowledge of the genre, and it’s well-worth taking the time to watch.

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