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Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/25/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/25/2011; Updated 11/27/2018
I know that I've told this story elsewhere, but I'm going to tell it again. Italian horror director Dario Argento was a producer on George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, the 1978 sequel to Night of the Living Dead. When Argento took the film to his native Italy, where it was known as "Zombi", it was a huge success. Now, there are differing stories on whether the film was already in production or if it was quickly made, but a movie was released in Italy in 1979 entitled "Zombi 2" which cashed in on the success of Romero's movie. The movie was released in the United States as Zombie, and it's reputation quickly grew. Now, the film is getting it's Blu-ray Disc debut.
As Zombie opens, a yacht sails into the water off of New York City. The Harbor Patrol investigates and finds the boat deserted, save for a fat man who attacks the two officers. Reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch) is sent to check out the story, and learns that the boat belongs to the father of Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow). Peter talks to Anne and learns that when she last heard from her father, he was doing research on an Island in the Caribbean. Peter and Anne venture there, and convince fellow Americas Brian (Al Cliver) and Susan (Auretta Gay) to give them a lift to the island of Matool. This is a huge mistake, as Matool is crawling with zombies, both the recently dead and long-buried cadavers. Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson), has been trying to both learn the origin of this problem and keep it in check, but he's failed on both front. When Peter, Anne, Brian, and Susan arrive on Matool, they find themselves in a living nightmare.
Director Lucio Fulci had made movies since 1959, and during that time he had made some thrillers, some of which dealt with the supernatural, but Zombie was his first horror film, and it set him on a course which would shape his career up until his death in 1996. It also was the first movie which ignited the cult of Fuci, those horror movie fans who worship the man's odd movies.
Looking back at Zombie today, one can see that this is truly an odd film. For starters, just the idea of marketing this as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead is a ludicrous notion, as the two movies have nothing in common save for the presence of zombies and gore. The Caribbean setting is about as far as the Monroeville Mall as one can get, and it harkens back to the voodoo zombie movies of the 1940s. The movie is very slowly paced at times, and if you really examine it, you quickly see that there is very little story here, and what is here is somewhat lazy. (The movie keeps promising to tell us what's causing the zombie outbreak, but it never does.) The zombie makeup is quite drab and we learn in the extra features here that the extras were covered in clay.
These issues aside, Zombie is still an unforgettable experience. The movie plays like a string of "wouldn't it be cool if?" scenes which are loosely connected by the vague story. These scenes are the stuff of legend and even if you've never seen Zombie, you've probably heard about them. Along with the aforementioned fat zombie on the boat, we have the splinter in the eye scene, the worm-eye zombie (whom we see in the cover art) attack, and the gory finale. However, the wackiest scene in the film comes when a shark has an underwater fight with a zombie. Who the hell came up with that? And none of this is CG. It's a guy in a zombie suit fighting a shark. You can't say that you've seen that in many movies.
I read about Zombie for years before I finally saw it on VHS back in the day, and I remember being very disappointed by it. It helps to know that the set-pieces in the movie are better than the film as a whole. There is a bit of suspense in one scene, but otherwise there's little tension. The gore is still somewhat effective today, but, again, the zombie make-up looks bad. Being a Fulci film, we get odd zooms, bad dubbing, and musical cues which don't always fit. Still, if you have any interest in horror, or movies which simply go for it, then Zombie is worth seeing at least once.
Zombie shows that the apocalypse can't stop rush hour on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Blue Underground. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. Blue Underground has done a great job of remastering and cleaning up this movie...although it still looks like a 30-year old low-budget Italian film. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a mild amount of grain and just a few defects from the source material. The colors look good -- although much of the movie features beiges and browns -- and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, but the picture does look a bit flat at times. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.2 Mbps. The tack provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Someone has clearly taken the time separate the various sounds, but this still sounds like a mono track which has been retro-fitted. Things like fire and gunshots are placed in the front and rear channels, but the overall effect is still tinny and doesn't pack much of an "oomph".
The Zombie Blu-ray Disc set contains several extras. Disc 1 is kicked off with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater. The Disc offers the International and U.S. TRAILER, two TV SPOTS, and four RADIO SPOTS. This is followed by an extensive POSTER & STILL GALLERY. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2 (which is complete with maggot main menu). "Zombie Wasteland" (22 minutes) features interviews with McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, and stuntman Ottaviano Dell'Acqua. The interviews were conducted at a reunion at a horror con in 2010, and we also get to see a Q&A panel which was held. "Flesh Eaters on Film" (10 minutes) is an interview with co-producer Fabrizio De Angelis who discusses how Fulci was brought onto the picture and what the production was like. Co-writers Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti are interviewed in "Deadtime Stories" (14 minutes) who talk about how the idea came about and how Fulci was instrumental in bringing the script to life. "World of the Dead" (16 minutes) contains conversations with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Production/Costume Designer Water Patriarca (16 minutes) who talk about the look of the film and how creating that look was a challenge due to technical limitations. The special effects are the focus of "Zombi Italiano" (17 minutes), an interview with Gianetto De Rossi, Maurizio Trani, and Gino De Rossi. They talk about how the gore set-pieces in the film were created and the zombie make-up. Composer Fabio Frizzi enlightens us on the film's music in "Notes on a Headstone" (7 minutes). Fulci's daughter Antonella is interviewed in "All in the Family" (6 minutes), where she discusses many of his horror films, not just Zombie. Finally, we hear from Guillermo Del Toro who talks about his love for Zombie in "Zombie Lover" (10 minutes).
On November 27, 2018, Blur Underground released a new Blu-ray Disc edition of Zombie which features a new 4K restoration from the original uncut and uncensored camera negative. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 33 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing slight grain in some shots (and worse grain in others) and no notable defects from the source materials. There's no doubt that this is an improvement over the old release. The colors look good and the brighter tones look more realistic here and really stand out against the often beige backgrounds. The level of detail and depth have certainly improved, with the latter being very noticeable. (Movies from this era often have a flat look, but not here.) This still looks like an older movie, but it's probably the best that it's ever look. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As far as I can tell, this is the same track as the 2011 release. We get a smattering of stereo and surround effects, but the overall effect does not compare to modern films which are made for surround sound. Still, the track is well-balanced and the score doesn't drown out the actors.
This new Zombie release is loaded with extra features, most of which have been carried over from the 2011 Blu-ray Disc. The new extras on Disc 1 are kicked off by an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Troy Howarth, author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films. The other new special feature is "When the Earth Spits Out the Dead" (33 minutes), an interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci, where he provides some insight and perspective on the film. The extras on Disc 2 are exactly the same are the earlier release.
Review Copyright 2011/2018 by Mike Long