Zombie Holocaust (1980)
By: David Michael Brown on August 29, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1:85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 90 minutes
The Movie
Director: Marino Girolami
Starring:De Angelis, Romano Scandariato
Screenplay: Ian McColluch, Alexandra delli Colli, Sherry Buchanan
Music:Nico Fidenco, Walter. E. Sear
Tagline: "He's a depraved homicidal killer…and he makes house calls"
Country: Italy
AKA: Dr. Butcher M.D.
One of the most stupid zombie movies ever made, Zombie Holocaust plays like an ultra vicious "best of" collection of gory set pieces. This demented collection of cannibals, zombies, jungle atrocities and fake looking natives is merely an excuse for a succession of bloody set pieces that will shock and confound in equal measure. The bogus looking make-up cheapens the films effect but also leaven the tone of the film that could have been the profoundly disturbing epic the producers obviously wanted. Eyes are pulled out of their sockets, faces are rammed into spinning boat propellers, hearts are ripped out and eaten; it's a smorgasbord of bloody delights for the discerning horror aficionado.

Body parts are being removed from patients at a New York hospital. Realising that members of an ancient cannibalistic cult are responsible, Pete Chandler and Dr. Lori Ridgeway head to the Island of Keto to discover the truth about these flesh-eating fiends. They learn that there is a sinister secret behind the local tribe's carnivorous activities. Soon Zombies are attacking the cannibals and the explorers. These undead creatures are the victims of a mad doctor, a true medical deviant who is experimenting on the brains of live human specimens. He uses his Zombie army to keep the superstitious natives at bay but the introduction of the Westerners destroys this uneasy alliance.

The actors attack their roles with relish. Ian McColluch, then fresh from his performance in Lucio Fulci's Zombie Flesheaters is fabulous as the square jawed hero and the evil doctor played by Peter O' Neal is a scream, "I'm determined to have your brain", cutting out the vocal chords of his victims to stop them screaming whilst chatting way to his tape recorder. The rest of the cast hang around long enough for their organs to be dined on, as always in Italian gut munchers the extras gorge on innards like it was their final meal. All in the name of cinema!

Obviously a guilty pleasure from beginning to end, the film lacks the stately Gothicism that Lucio Fulci brought to The Beyond and City of the Living Dead; it has more in common with the hack work of Umberto Lenzi such as Cannibal Ferox.

The film was also known by a different name in the States. Producer Roy Frumkes of Document of the Dead fame donated footage of his own from an unfinished film "Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out." Re-editing and re-scoring the film, Zombie Holocaust became Dr. Butcher M.D., a US friendly version bringing in the Zombie threat early in the film to please a restless audience. The European version holds them back for a big shock and that's the version that Umbrella Entertainment have given us, uncut to boot.
A surprisingly clean and sharp print gives the film a high-class veneer it probably doesn't deserve. Top marks to Umbrella.
Again an excellent job has been done; obviously the stereo mix lacks the punch of modern films but it's effective and does the job.
Extra Features
The extras start with an excellent and funny interview with producer Frumkes discussing the original footage from "Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out." He explains how a low budget film ended up tacked on to a European exploitation film and the pro's and cons of revealing a zombie too early. He provides an interesting running commentary over these scenes. He also talks about the classic Street Trash and his grandfather.

Rough cuts from two sequences of the 1977 film are also included. One directed by Brendan Faulkner, which Frumkes produced and starred in as serial killer; the second by Frank Forell showing a zombie rock star coming back from the grave.

An extensive stills section is joined by the personal photo collection of Frumkes along with a sub-titled interview with Maurizio Trani who provided the special effects.

We finish off with the ultra gory US trailer for Dr. Butcher M.D. and German trailer for Zombie Holocaust. Trailers for the Umbrella Entertainment releases of Dawn of the Dead, Burial Ground, Zombie: Flesheaters and The Horror of Hammer are also included.
The Verdict
Sick, twisted and daft in equal measures, this a rollicking adventure that delights in disgusting its audience while never attempting to engage it with such mundane things as good scripts, realistic plotting or polished filmmaking. Then again what do you expect from a film called Zombie Holocaust? It delivers to its chosen audience in spades; gore galore, zombies, cannibals and explosions, what more could you want!
Movie Score
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