• Hell Of The Living Dead / Rats: Night Of Terror

    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: August 12th, 2014.
    Director: Bruno Mattei
    Cast: Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Ottaviano Dell'Acqua, Geretta Geretta
    Year: 1980/1984
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    Two of Bruno Mattei’s (or Vincent Dawn, if you prefer) most infamous horror films debut on Blu-ray from Blue Underground? Yes, proving that dreams really can come true. Let’s get down to it…

    Hell Of The Living Dead:

    First up is Mattie’s Dawn Of The Dead knock off, Hell Of The Living Dead (also known as Virus and released in the US at one point as Night Of The Zombies), a film that Mattei shot in Spain – which explains why there are a lot of Spanish people in the cast. At any rate, when the movie begins there’s a leak at a massive chemical plant somewhere in New Guinea. The works find a dead rat in an area meant to have stayed sterile – that’s not good. Turns out that this rat has come back to life and he’s hungry for human flesh! Not too long after that happens, the plant workers have all turned into zombies.

    Somewhere else in New Guinea there’s a small army of terrorists holding a building full of people hostages. Some paramilitary types wearing the same sort of jumpsuits you see in Dawn Of The Dead show up lead by Lieutenant Mike London (Paul Gras, credited as Robert O’Neal and beloved to all as the male lead in MAD FUCKING FOXES!!). They take out the bad guys and then turn around and head into the jungle to figure out what’s going on at the chemical plant. Meanwhile, a female journalist named Lia Rousseau (Margit Evelyn Newton) and her cameraman are travelling with a husband, a wife and their young son. They stop in the jungle, the son turns into a zombie and kills his dad and the mom wanders into an abandoned building to get attacked by a weird zombie priest (Victor Israel). The military guys show up and kill the zombie kid and then they team up with Lia and her cameraman and retreat into the jungle.

    At this point, things really go off the rails. Lia decides to strip down to her birthday suit and lead the dudes into the heart of a native village, figuring her showing up there naked will set their primitive minds at ease. It works and everyone is getting along just fine until some other native guys show up – zombies! Will Lia and the surviving military guys make it out of the jungle alive or will they wind up as dinner for a bunch of stock footage inserts and dudes in bad pancake makeup?

    In typical Bruno Mattei fashion this wretched turd of a movie was put together fast and cheap and using whatever was available at the time – if that means lifting soundtrack bits from Dawn Of The Dead and Contamination and reusing stock footage already seen in Mattie’s Libidomania and Real Cannibal Holocaust made some years before, so be it. The show must go on! The acting is bad, the dubbing is even worse – all of the military guys sound like they wandered out of a discount store in Brooklyn for some reason. Robert O’Neal, however, he’s got it going on. Never mind that he can’t figure out to shoot the zombies in the head or that he appears both smug and slow moving throughout the film and it’s many ‘action’ scenes because we love him anyway. Mad Foxes will do that for a man’s career. The rest of the cast? Pretty dire. At least Margit Evelyn Newton gets’em out for the boys. It serves the plot not one iota and is a wonderfully obvious example of gratuitous nudity in the truest sense of the term but it was good of her to show off the goods.

    The makeup effects are all over the place. There are a few scenes where the zombies are kind of cool looking and just as many, if not more, where they’re obviously just guys shambling around in thrift store leftovers and cheap pancake makeup. Some of the gore is pretty solid and occasionally fairly strong but the pacing here… my God… Hell Of The Living Dead is the kind of movie that will make you want to smash your face off of your coffee table until you black out. And for that, Mr. Mattei, we thank you.

    Rats: Night Of Terror:

    The second feature is set in a post-apocalyptic future of 225 A.B. (yes, A.B., that’s not a typo – it stands for After The Bomb!) Rats: Night Of Terror brings us into a world where civilization as we know it has fallen. Society lies in crumbles and many of the few humans left now live the lives of scavengers, often taking shelter underground. Into this world comes Kurt (Ottavniano Dell’Acqua), the leader of a biker gang made up of a black chick named Chocolate (Geretta Geretta), Taurus (Massimo Vanni) and a few other characters with goofy names… Video (Gianni Franco) for example.

    Their travels bring them out into the desert where they find an abandoned ghost town that is ripe for the picking – there are plenty of food rations and other valuables and they decide to make themselves right at home. Eventually they realize that under this town is a huge underground city, the location of a former science experiment. It turns out the inhabitants were eaten alive by the hordes of rats that now call this place home. As Kurt and his pals roam around, they too come under attack from the killer rodents who, since the bomb was dropped, have mutated into smarter, stronger, faster rats than have ever been known. Will the recording they discover left by one of the dead scientist be enough to help them survive or will they too fall prey to the beasts?

    Mad Max meets Willard? Sounds like a solid idea in theory but this is more like New Barbarians meets Deadly Eyes except not nearly as good. Once again Mattei’s penchant for disregarding logic in favor of poorly staged exploitative set pieces is in full reign while the cheapjack production values and absolutely horrible eighties era ‘apocalypse punk’ wardrobe choices scream ridiculous dayglo screams of the era in which this picture was made.

    What the film lacks in gore and boobies (we get noteworthy doses of both but not on the same level as the earlier film) compared to Hell Of The Living Dead it makes up for, sort of, with guinea pigs died black (with the one infamous exception wherein Mattie and company opted to just glue a bunch of fake rats to a conveyor belt!). These creatures and their beady red eyes roam the darkness of this horrible future bringing certain doom to annoying characters with yet more awful dubbing. Some will object to some scenes involving the obvious harm of real, live guinea pigs, others will just shrug and accept it for what it is and the climate that existed in the Italian film industry at the time. This one moves at a considerably better pace than Hell Of The Living Dead and it’s chock full of ridiculous, nonsensical dialogue. It’s still a horrible film though.


    Both features look great in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen new transferred from original vault elements. Some previous Blue Underground Blu-ray releases of Italian cult titles have suffered from weird ‘grain swarms’ and noise reduction issues but these two films look very good here. Detail is vastly improved over previous DVD editions and while sometimes things still look a little soft, particularly on Rats, that would appear to have more to do with the original cinematography than the transfer even if skin does sometimes look a little bit waxy (there might be some mild DNR here but nothing like some of their past releases). Additionally, Mattei employs some stock footage inserts here and there that do look a fair bit different than the material shot specifically for the features. Skin tones look nice, color reproduction is quite strong – yeah, fans of these movies should be pleased.

    Both movies get the DTS-HD Mono treatment, in English with no alternate language options and subtitles provided in English SDH, French and Spanish. Again, no problems here, the audio is quite solid. Levels are nicely balanced and the films’ respective scores sound fine. The hokey dubbing is clean, clear and easy to follow and there are no issues to note with any hiss or distortion.

    The main supplement on the disc is a new featurette entitled Bonded By Blood which is made up of interviews with co-writer/co-director Claudio Fragasso and cast members Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Ottaviano DellAcqua and Massimo Vanni. This fifty minute piece spends more time with Fragrasso than the others but that’s okay because he’s got some great stories to tell about how he wound up working with Mattie, how the late director took credit for pictures they co-directed together and why he loves making low budget horror films. The cast members talk about how they wound up on their respective projects, the characters they played, what it was like working with Mattei and Fragrasso on location and more. This is a well put together piece that really does a great job of shedding some welcome light on the history of these two cult classics and it’s an excellent addition to the disc.

    Carried over from past DVD releases is Hell Nights Of The Living Dead, an interview with Bruno Mattei that runs about nine minutes Aside from that, we get a few trailers for each feature, some still galleries, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Blue Underground have rolled out the red carpet for this Mattei double feature and while these films certainly aren’t for all tastes, a certain segment of the trash film loving public will absolutely appreciate not only the high definition facelift afforded both films but the great new featurette as well. This release is a ridiculous amount of goofy, dumb, gory fun.

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

    Hell Of The Living Dead

    Rats: Night Of Terror

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Christian Bates-Hardy's Avatar
      Christian Bates-Hardy -
      This reminds me that I still need to buy MAD FOXES on Blu.