• Zombie (2-Disc Ultimate Edition Blu-ray)



    Released by:
    Blue Underground
    Released on:
    October 25, 2011.
    Director:
    Lucio Fulci
    Cast: Ian McCulloch, Tisa Farrow, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver

    Year: 1979

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    The Movie:


    WARNING: Some of the screen caps in this review contain spoilers, though feel free to clickon them to go to large size Blu-ray screen caps.





    One of the most enduringly popular Italian horror films of all time, Lucio Fulci’s 1979 take on the living dead begins when a seemingly empty boat floats into a harbor near New York City. Some harbor patrol officers board the boat and find that it’s not empty at all when a zombie pops out of the bottom and rips one pour sod’s throat out. The other cop opens fire and the corpse falls into the bay. An incident as unusual as this is bound to attract some attention and so it does in the form of a reporter named Peter West (Ian McCulloch) who winds up meeting and then teaming up with Ann Bowles (Tisa Farrow), the daughter of the man who owned the boat in question. She hasn’t heard from her father in far too long and the last she heard he was living on a remote Caribbean island called Matoul.





    Figuring there may be more to this, Peter decides to accompany Ann on a trip to Matoul to find out what happened to her dad. The pair hires Brian (Al Cliver) and his beautiful girlfriend Susan (Auretta Gay) to take them to the island on their boat. They stop for a swim along the way, at which point Susan decides to snorkel around the boat where she witnesses one of the film’s most ludicrously iconic moments – a zombie fighting a shark. Shaken but not to the point of quitting, the four soon make it to the island where they meet Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson) who lives amongst a group of natives who seem to be dropping like flies due to some unnamed illness. When zombies start turning up on the island, it seems like maybe the natives’ talk of voodoo might be more than just local superstition but, despite pleas from his wife,
    Paula (Olga Karlatos), Menard is intent on staying in the hospital he’s set up in the local church and treating whoever he can to try and find a scientific explanation for all of this.




    Zombie might not be much story-wise but Fulci is smart enough to use atmosphere and gore effects to cover that successfully. Shot by Sergio Salvati this is a good looking film on a technical level with the scope camerawork doing a fine job of capturing the locations both tropical and otherwise. The film also moves at a good pace, ramping up the tension right through to the end but stopping to give us plenty of bloody set pieces along the way. The film is chock full of great effects work from Gino De Rossi, Gianetto De Rossi and Maurizio Trani who do an amazing job of creating not only some great splatter effects but some impressive zombie make up as well. As the corpses rise and shamble about the island, Fulci’s typically downbeat world view starts to work its way into the picture and we wind up with a film that, despite some goofy elements here and there, is remarkably dark and dour. As far as the pacing goes, Zombie has a few dry spots here and there but never to the point where the movie feels slow.





    The performances are fun across the board, with McCulloch and Johnson standing head and shoulders above the rest. McCulloch is all charm and charisma, Johnson the opposite here playing a grizzled and frustrated man and doing a great job of portraying all of that with his body language and his eyes in particular. Tisa Farrow may not ever make anyone’s ‘best of’ lists for her performance here but she does fine with the material and is, if nothing else, completely likeable in the role if maybe a little bit vapid. Olga Karlatos, on the other hand, not only gets the most infamous death of the entire film but also manages to actually portray her frustrated wife with some genuinely respectable believability here. She shares a scene with Johnson wherein they discuss their situation that is genuinely dramatic and even a little bit heartfelt. Al Cliver is… Al Cliver. His performance is basically what you’d expect, he’s tough and macho and completely fine in the part but he does get a bit lost in the shuffle and you’re more likely to remember McCulloch and Johnson here than poor Al.





    All of this is wrapped up in a great score from Fabio Frizzi that, if very heavy on keyboards and disco style beats, suits the movie rather well particularly once it moves south to warmer climates. Fulci would make better movies before and after this one and it stands to reason that everyone is going to have their own favorite but Zombie is definitely up there with his best pictures. If it’s never actually very scary it is at least fairly tense and, as it will be remembered, plenty gross. There’s enough style and character here to compliment the gore, however, that in this day and age of fast moving zombies and hyper edited horror films, Fulci’s picture holds up remarkably well.


    Video/Audio/Extras:


    Blue Underground is advertising the transfer for this region free Blu-ray release as ‘Gorgeous new 2K High Definition transfer from the original uncut and uncensored camera negative supervised by Cinematographer Sergio Salvati’ and the AVC encoded 2.35.1 1080p picture really is an impressive one. Slapped onto a 50GB disc, detail is vastly improved over all previous standard definition offerings despite the presence of some definite noise obvious in a few scenes and some noise reduction, including Blue Underground’s previous single disc DVD release. While the image is grainy throughout it’s never to the point of detriment. Colors look nice and natural, not boosted at all, while contrast seems to be pretty solid as well. A couple of scenes look a bit softer than others but the film has always looked this way. Skin tones look nice and natural, black levels are strong and there are no problems with compression artifacts to complain about. Not surprisingly close up shots show the most impressive detail and texture but medium and long distance shots are much improved here as well, whether it’s the enhanced clarity showing off the fold of an NYPD officer’s leather jacket, bugs slithering on top of some piano keys or the flesh rotting off of a walking corpse, the picture quality here is very strong.





    Also impressive is the brand new DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio mix, in your choice of English or Italian with optional subtitles provided in English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai! For those who won’t want to go that route there are Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks provided in both languages as well as 5.1 Dolby Digital EX Surround Sound mixes in both languages, but if your hardware can handle it, opt for the lossless track. It’s very clean sounding, very clear and it really fills the room nicely. Bass response is rock solid without overpowering the performers or burying the actors or the sound effects and it really gives the instantly recognizable score some extra punch. Surround channels are used well, adding some welcome ambient noise to a few scenes – just listen behind you during the opening in the harbor – with plenty of distinct channel separation evident throughout. You’ll likely be impressed from the start, with the opening scene in the boat really pulling you in with the music but there are really cool little touches evident throughout the movie to listen for, particularly once the action picks up and things move to the island.


    Extras on the first disc kick off with an audio commentary with the film’s leading man, Ian McCulloch (who notes here that he hasn’t seen the film before when this track was recorded), and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater that was originally included on the two disc Shriek Show special edition release of this movie on DVD. McCulloch has got some great stories to share here, noting that Tisa Farrow never stopped talking during the entire shoot which was an odd contrast to his own rather more reserved and quiet nature. Of course he talks about his relationship with Fulci, what it was like being on location with the direction but also how he felt about him as a person. Slater wisely lets McCulloch do most of the talking and despite some instances of dead air here and there (minor ones, mind you), this is a good talk. McCulloch notes that it never crossed his mind that a film like this could have become the huge worldwide success that it’s become, noting that he felt it would be regarded as a bit of a joke, but never comes across as ungrateful or above the material. The pair discusses the film’s extreme gore, how various people McCulloch know in real life felt about the content, and about the film’s reputation as a video nasty, even letting it slide that his uncle had to review video nasties for the British government and how he was disappointed in McCulloch for appearing in three of them. They also discuss the film’s effects, how they compare to Romero’s ‘blue zombies’ and even note which member of the crew was an accomplished tennis player! Apparently shooting the island scenes was tough as nobody used walkie-talkies until McCulloch, who happened to have some on him, offered the film crew the use of his so that they’d stop shouting to the cast as they were trying to direct them and he talks about having to rescue Auretta Gay, who wasn’t a very good swimmer.


    The movie comes with an introduction from filmmaker and faun Guillermo del Toro (0:27). While del Toro obviously didn’t have anything to do with the making of the movie, his enthusiasm for the film is apparent and infectious. Rounding out the extras on the first disc are a couple of theatrical trailers (the U.S. trailer and the international trailer under the Zombies 2 title– 3:45 and 1:33 respectively, both in HD), a few TV spots (0:32 and 0:31 each, SD), four different radio spots and a fairly massive poster and still gallery that plays as a slide show for 9:52 and is also in HD. Made up of poster art, home video art and stills from the shoot, it’s pretty impressive and definitely worth checking out if you’re into things like that.


    The extras on disc two, all of which are presented in high definition and all of which are brand new and exclusive to this release, start off with Zombie Wasteland (22:19) which is an interview with cast members Ian McCulloch, Al Cliver and Richard Johnson who are joined by actor and stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua. It’s interesting to learn that the cast members are better friends now than they were during the shoot. Shot around a cast reunion at a Cinema Wasteland convention, the participants are all interviewed separately throughout the piece but there are also clips here of them signing autographs for convention goers and clips from a question and answer session that they did at the convention. Topics range from the enduring popularity of the movie to misbehavior on set to the pros and cons of making movies during the heyday of Italian genre cinema. All the interviewees seem genuinely touched and appreciative of the fan scene that has developed around this film over the years though it should be noted how sad it is to see Cliver speaking in such hushed tones here, after his battle with throat cancer.









    Up next is Flesh Eaters on Film (9:39) which is an interview with Co-Producer Fabrizio De Angelis who gives us his thoughts on this movie and on horror films in general. He notes that the movie still makes him jump and he gives us his thoughts on Fulci. He notes that too many years have passed for him to remember how the film was ‘born’ but talks about having to travel to make the movie and how Fulci came on board to direct. He expresses his admiration for the efforts of the cast and crew, the effects team especially, and shares some interesting stories about difficulties encountered shooting a few key scenes and he also covers some of the marketing angles that they used to promote the film and how it was received theatrically.




    Deadtime Stories (14:30) is a collection of interviews with Co-Writers Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti, who was not credited in the film. Sacchetti describes the ‘birth of Zombie’ as a ‘strange one’ before talking about the involvement of different producers, the influence of comic books on the movie, adding different genre elements to the picture and how he tried to take the roots of an adventure movie and put it in a horror setting. Briganti discusses how she worked by Sacchetti’s side, noting that he didn’t have the freedom to write the way she felt he should have been able to, and talks about her contributions to the story.





    Up next is World Of The Dead (16:29), a collection of interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati and production designer/costume designer Walter Patriarca. As you’d probably guess, this discussion is a bit more technical than the others, as Salvati discusses certain compositions and shots while Patriarca covers his involvement in the film in regards to her work. Salvati reminds us that everything we see in Zombie was done in camera, which makes much of what we see all the more impressive, while Patriarca describes Fulci as demanding but notes that he was open to ideas and suggestions before discussing how you go about getting zombies into the right sort of costumes for a movie like this. Salvati discusses how he lit the zombies to make them look as ugly as possible in the film, the use of shadows in the movie, the importance of focus and out of focus characters in certain shots and more.





    Zombi Italiano (16:34) features yet more interviews, this time with special make-up effects gurus Gianetto De Rossi and Maurizio Trani and special effects artist Gino De Rossi. De Rossi talks about how the film WAS written as a sequel to Dawn of The Dead, Train talks about the difficulties of certain make- up effects and the importance of shooting screen tests and how it can be difficult to make zombies when the people around you are laughing! There’s a lot of great detail here on what went into making the zombies look the way they do in the film and of course, they cover what went into creating some of the film’s more iconic gore scenes, including the Zombie Vs. Shark sequence and the wooden spike through the eyeball scene.








    For those who want to know more about the film’s iconic score, there’s Notes On A Headstone (7:25), an all new interview with the film’s composer Fabio Frizzi. Here the composer expresses his admiration for the cast and crew he worked with on this project and what it was like working with Fulci who he describes as ‘unique’ before noting that the director always chose his collaborators with a lot of care. From here he talks about the importance of the music in the film, its role in bringing the movie to its climax, and how it had to compliment what Frizzi describes as the ‘extraordinary locations’ used in the movie. He also notes how the film lets the effects and camera work build suspense and how he feels the score works alongside those aspects of the movie unlike a lot of films that would use stingers and loud musical cues to provide some of the scares.




    Also included on the second disc is All In The Family (6:08), an interview with the late director’s daughter, Antonella Fulci. She talks about how her father loved to shoot in the south and in warm locations and how he’d like to go out and take in local music, but also discusses how he flat out would not accept working with people he considered unprofessional. Some video clips and stills of the director in a more relaxed environment are cut into this segment, which helps paint a picture of Lucio Fulci as a person, rather than simply an iconic director of splatter films. Last but not least is Zombie Lover, a segment with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (9:37) who discusses how he came to love this film and why it holds such a special place in his heart. He notes first and foremost that this discussion includes spoilers and then talks about what a privilege it is for him to be on this release discussing one of his favorite movies of all time. From there he talks about seeing the film at a movie palace in Mexico, and how most of the audience was made up of people drunk or sleeping and how he basically watched it alone, which made the experience all the more deranged and ‘out of the blue.’ Animated menus are included on both discs and of course there is chapter selection included for the feature.






    For those who are into packaging, it should be noted that this release comes packaged in a slipcase with some cool ‘raised’ artwork on it. It’s a minor thing maybe, but it’s a nice touch. The two Blu-ray discs sit nicely inside a standard Blu-ray case (not one of those flimsy environmentally friendly ones!) and on the flipside of the cover art (which is identical to the slipcase) is a list of the film’s chapter stops.


    The Final Word:


    Blue Underground have really and truly gone the extras mile on this release, delivering improved audio and video quality and packing the release with some truly awesome and really, really well made brand new extras features that really do serve as the final word on the history and influence of this undyingly popular title. The movie itself remains a milestone in Italian horror cinema, a fiercely entertaining and gore soaked classic that refuses to stay dead.





































    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      I'm sold! Great review, great caps (nice job getting the crab cameo)!
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      Oh, and doesn't the ill-fated Coast Guard officer's voice sound like David Hess?
    1. LoBo's Avatar
      LoBo -
      Thanks for the review and the screen captures. I also think they look great.
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      Great write up, but one problem. Where is Olga Karlatos' boobs?