• Zombie Holocaust

    Released by: Media Blasters/Shriek Show
    Released on: 6/28/2011
    Director: Marino Girolami
    Cast: Ian McCulloch, Alexandra Delli Colli, Sherry Buchannan, Peter O’Neal
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    Originally directed by Marino Girolami in 1980 (though released in an alternate form with added footage under the title of Dr. Butcher M.D. in the U.S), Zombie Holocaust makes the obvious choice of combining two of the Italian horror boom’s most beloved genres, those being the zombie film and the cannibal film with the title itself a nod to Fulci’s Zombie and Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust. The end result is a puzzling film, one which doesn’t always make the most sense or concern itself with things like logic, but which absolutely succeeds based on its willingness to throw in everything but the kitchen sink and a fun lead performance from the great Ian McCulloch (who also played the lead in that aforementioned Fulci movie).

    The story revolves around a man named Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch) and Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli), two residents of New York City who are alarmed to learn of the presence of a cannibal cult operating in the city right under the noses of the local authorities. Lori and Peter hook up with a reporter named Susan Kelly (Sherry Buchanan) and her boyfriend, George (Peter O’Neal), to try and figure out what exactly is going on here, but it all heads south quickly. Adventurous types that they are, they take it upon themselves to figure out just what this cult is all about and where it came from, a decision that very quickly leads them to a remote and mysterious island somewhere in the South Pacific seas. When, upon their arrival, they find themselves in danger of becoming the next meal for the island’s indigenous cannibal people, they find solace with Doctor Obrero (Donald O’Brien).

    While Orbero may offer them safe haven, there’s a few screws loose in his head and soon enough he’s going to use Chandler as his own personal guinea pig in a series of experiments he has lined up which he hopes will reveal to him the secrets of eternal life. If that weren’t bad enough, curvy cutie Lori gets kidnapped by cannibals and finds herself the unwitting subject of their bizarre primitive rituals (which thankfully involve her getting very naked). But wait – isn’t this movie called Zombie Holocaust? Yes, yes it is – and it doesn’t skimp on walking dead action as the island is also inhabited by a horde (well, if a horde is six or so) of flesh eating zombies, the remnants of Obrero’s mad science.

    Co-written by Fabrizio de Angelis (best known for his work with, you guessed it, Lucio Fulci), Zombie Holocaust is a nuttier than a peanut turd and twice as stinky but you can’t help but love this bastard child of Italian genre insanity. Featuring some of the worst zombie make up in the entire run of Italian Romero knock-offs, the movie gets by not because it’s competently made but because it’s bat-shit crazy. Infamous for its scene in which McCulloch’s character handily disposes of a shambling corpse by using a conveniently placed outboard motor, the movie’s chock full of gore and features machete’s to the head, fingers through the eyes, a bit of gut chomping, so grisly surgical procedures and a fair bit more – with most of the gore effects handled with a lot more care and expertise than the zombie make up effects.

    The score from Nice Fidenco is fun, even if it steals from his previous work for D’Amato’s Emmanuelle And The Last Cannibals, while the tropical island locations contrast nicely with the footage shot in New York City to give the movie some interesting locations for everything to spill out onto. McCulloch is dopey and dashing and fun in the lead while Ms. Delli Colli is vapid but sexy enough that you won’t care. This isn’t a movie you’re going to watch for the performances, it’s a movie you watch for tits, blood, cannibals and zombie attacks.


    The Blu-ray is framed at 1.78.1 in this AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer, as opposed to the original DVD release which was framed at 1.85.1. The differences are very slight, most probably won’t notice. What most probably will notice is that the Blu-ray, while not a reference quality transfer, looks quite a bit better than the previous DVD release in terms of both detail and color reproduction. The opening scene is still dark and the movie in general is pretty soft looking but overall is quite a bit better looking here than it has been in the past, just keep in mind that this is a low budget cheapie made more than three decades ago. The image is generally clean, fairly grainy though not to its detriment, and sometimes maybe a tad too bright but overall fans of the film should be pleased with the transfer here.

    The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD 2.0 track in English and there are some noticeable spots where it sounds a bit flat. The levels are fine and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to complain about, and overall the movie sounds fine, if unremarkable. No alternate language options or subtitles of any kind are provided here.

    Extras are basically the same as what was included on the original DVD release (that disc is included in this combo pack), so look for an interview with Maurizio Train in which the make-up effects artist talks for seven minutes or so about his work on this film and the Scenes From Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out segment that includes the title sequence and added bits that were included in the Dr. Butcher M.D. theatrical version of the movie when it played American theaters (eight minutes worth of material). This material is present with commentary from Roy Frumkes over the footage. Frumkes also speaks for fifteen minutes or so in a separate video interview about this bizarre alternate version and how this footage wound up being used in it. It would have been nice to see the alternate Dr. Butcher cut of the film included here, but that didn’t happen.

    Also include on the disc is a still gallery, a US trailer for Zombie Holocaust, a German trailer for Zombie Holocaust, a trailer for Dr. Butcher M.D., trailers for a few unrelated Media Blasters releases, animated menus and chapter selection.

    EDIT: Though intially it looked like the liner notes from the original DVD release were omitted from this Blu-ray release, they are included, albeit tacked onto the end of the still gallery on the disc itself and not in hard copy format (thanks to Bruce Holecheck for pointing that out.). The reversible cover art from the original DVD is not included in this Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack.

    The Final Word:

    Those enamored with Zombie Holocaust’s perverse charms will lament the absence of any new extras and the omission of the alternate cut of the film but appreciate the improved transfer that this Blu-ray offers over the previous DVD release of the film.

    Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      Nice DVD/BD comparison, Ian. The DVD shots...those are from this release or a previous one? Huge difference in image.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      This one, though the DVDs are the same. They did the same thing with the Beyond The Darkness release, packaged the old DVD with the new Blu-ray.
    1. Bruce Holecheck's Avatar
      Bruce Holecheck -
      Chris Poggiali's liner notes *are* included, as a scrolling text supplement complete with narration! It pops up after the stills collection.
    1. Paul Casey's Avatar
      Paul Casey -
      No shot of the dummy with its arm broken off? Shame!
    1. Mike T's Avatar
      Mike T -
      Thanks for this review, Mr. Jane. I'm totally sold on this release! And from the look of the DVD screenshots, maybe Umbrella's (Aussie) port wasn't completely at fault with a bad NTSC-PAL conversion? Looks that one was naff to begin with...
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Mike, I haven't seen the Aussie version so I've no idea. Bruce, thanks for pointing out the liners, they certainly buried them but you're right, they are there and I've made the correction.
    1. Mike T's Avatar
      Mike T -
      It looks like your DVD screenshots -- with the added bonus of a standards conversion. Soft, fuzzy and interlaced. Yucko! I'll do you some screengrabs one day to reveal the true horror of the Aussie disc...

      NB: Check the forum! I've now posted up screenshots from the Aussie disc.