Zombie (1979)
By: CJ on August 6, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Blue Underground (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 Mono, English DD 2.0 Stereo English DD 5.1, Italian DD 2.0 Mono, Italian DD 2.0, Italian DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 92 minutes
The Movie
Director: Lucio Fulci
Starring:Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver and Auretta Gay
Screenplay: Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti
Music: Fabio Frizzi and Giorgio Tucci
AKA: Zombie Flesh-Eaters; Zombi 2; Island of the Flesh-Eaters; Island of the Living Dead; Zombie 2: The Dead Are Among Us; Gli ultimi zombi; Woodoo
In the wake of George Romero's successful Dawn of the Dead filmmakers were eager to cash in on this new lucrative line in genre product. As a result, Dawn of the Dead spawned many imitators, but few equals. The most notable exception, though, has to be Lucio Fulci's splatter classic, Zombie. Although conceived primarily as a vehicle by which to generate profit, and to capitalise on Dawn's success, Zombie actually became so much more in the capable hands of Fulci. What Fulci aimed for was to not directly rip-off Romero's film, but to create his own nightmarish vision of the dead rising from their graves – and this he did brilliantly.

The story is a straightforward affair: In New York, a seemingly abandoned yacht comes sailing down the river, adrift with no apparent passengers aboard. The river police spot the boat, and board it to investigate – and get more than they bargained for. As one policemen ventures below deck, he is set upon by a ravening zombie who proceeds to gorily tear his throat out. Following this incident, roving reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch) is eager to investigate and finds himself crossing paths with Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow), who is looking for her father. She believes he is on the Caribbean island of Matoul, and is also convinced that this is where the abandoned yacht has come from. The intrepid pair then secure themselves a trip to Matoul, but have no idea of the nightmare they are about to find themselves in. Matoul has become overrun with zombies and they are soon to find themselves in a fight for survival against the cannibalistic undead…

Fulci's film goes straight for the jugular (literally) and completely outdoes Romero's movie in terms of sheer gore and in-your-face cannibal munching. Fulci dispenses with the social commentary that is present in Dawn of the Dead, and instead delivers shock after shock and aims to provide graphic gory mayhem in spades. Fulci's film isn't strong on logic (why do the Spanish Conquistador zombies still have flesh on their bones centuries after their demise?), but more than makes up for it by delivering plenty of the red stuff and dismissing all inconsistencies by attributing the zombie manifestations to Voodoo magic. This is supernatural – anything is possible.

Where Fulci's film scores even more points over Romero's offering is in presenting the zombies as truly ghoulish beings replete with worms, maggots and rotting flesh. These zombies are genuinely terrifying; as opposed to the rather silly looking blue-faced zombies from Dawn of the Dead. It's to Fulci's credit that although Zombie was conceived as a Dawn cash-in, he actually turned in a film that can stand on its own merits and one that bears little (if any) resemblance to the work that inspired it. With the release of Zombie, Fulci forever immortalised himself as a maker of superlative horror movies – the name Lucio Fulci has become synonymous with quality horror films. And even though his later works lacked the impact of his earlier, and more famous films, it must be acknowledged that he changed the face of horror cinema forever, not to mention opening the floodgates for all the Italian horror movies that we know and love.

Interestingly, Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy under the title Zombi, and Fulci's film was released as Zombi 2. As a result of this, Dario Argento (producer of Zombi/Dawn of the Dead) took the makers of Zombie to court for copyright infringement. Argento lost because the Zombie filmmakers proved that zombies have been around in stories and folklore for centuries, so zombies are not something you can copyright! Fulci's film is also notable as having made it onto the official UK list of 'Video Nasties', and even recently still couldn't get through the BBFC uncut – the main scenes of contention still being the splinter in the eye and subsequent intestinal devouring by the zombies. For sure, Zombie contains some real gut-wrenching gore that still upsets censors 25 years on - which is testament to the power and effectiveness of the film.

Most genre fans will no doubt already be familiar with this film – and those that aren't really owe it to themselves to get hold of this landmark splatter movie. It may not be regarded by many as Fulci's best film (The Beyond seems to hold that honour), but it's the one that started it all and has rightly earned its place in the horror hall of fame. In some ways it's probably been even more influential than the film that spawned it – it's certainly referred to more often than Romero's film by genre critics, and was the film that inspired a whole generation of Italian filmmakers to make gore flicks. Zombie has become a benchmark and focal point by which all other gore flicks are measured – which is something Fulci would be proud of, I'm sure.
The film transfer on this DVD is simply stunning – Blue Underground have truly outdone themselves this time. The film is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 and the image is razor sharp, with strong vibrant colours and solid blacks throughout. There is absolutely no sign of digital smearing nor any compression artefacts. The quality of the picture is breathtaking – every last blood-drenched frame is presented in pin-sharp detail. Twice, throughout the film, I noticed a line in the frame, but this was only a second or two, and nothing to complain about, especially as this transfer was made from the original camera negative, so it's never going to look any better than it does here (though I may be forced to eat my words if the Shriek Show transfer proves to be better). This transfer is simply amazing and will give you a whole new appreciation of this film.
No less than six different audio options are available – English 2.0, 5.1 or mono and Italian 2.0, 5.1 and mono. All the audio tracks sound great, and the surround soundmix is excellent, with all the sound, music and FX nicely balanced across the sound platform without sounding false. Top work from Blue Underground on the audio.
Extra Features
There's not a great deal in the way of extras, as Blue Underground will be returning to this film as a special edition in the not-too-distant future. However, they have provided a handful to tide us over. To be found on the disc are some radio and TV spots (the radio spots are hysterical), theatrical trailer and some stills and artwork galleries. It's nice that Blue Underground have at least made the effort to provide what they can at this time.
The Verdict
Finally Fulci's Zombie gets the stellar treatment it deserves. Blue Underground have really pulled out all the stops in their presentation of this film. The transfer is one of the very best I've seen for a movie of this age and budget – it looks and sounds phenomenal, and it will be interesting to see how the Shriek Show release compares, once it becomes available. I cannot recommend this film and this DVD highly enough, it's never going to get any better than this (not until Hi-Definition at any rate). If you're a horror fan, you need to have this in your collection – it's an essential.
Movie Score
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