Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Zombie Flesh Eaters

Director: Lucio Fulci
Writers: Elisa Brigante and Dardano Sacchetti
USA/Italy 1979

Not one I was looking forward to watching again to be honest, but on second viewing it wasn't that bad at all (maybe my quality threshold has lowered since starting this blog). Nicely summed up by Mark Kermode while listing zombie movies to watch for Halloween in his latest BBC Radio 5 podcast as “Rubbish, but not bad rubbish”, Zombie Flesh Eaters is pretty much what you'd expect from a zombie movie, with some iconic scenes thrown in.

It's set largely on the Caribbean island fiefdom of a mad doctor, whose experiments with the living dead have left him with a makeshift hospital of full of chained-up zombies. Unusually for a zombie film actual voodoo legend explains the chaos, while a functional plot is used to string together gory set pieces in proper exploitation fashion. The most well-known of these, the infamous eyeball scene, is joined by undead Conquistadors rising from their graves, a gory gut-eating scene that pre-dates Romero's Day of the Dead, and nothing less than an underwater fight between a zombie and a shark, done with a lot more flair and technical expertise than you'd imagine. 

In fact, where it matters – the gore scenes – Zombie Flesh Eaters' production values are pretty high, and will have the squeamish covering their eyes. This being Fulci there's also plenty of nudity, with the gorgeous Auretta Gay getting her kit off more than once. There's certainly enough going on to keep you interested.

It doesn't get boring, the zombies keep on coming, and in my opinion Zombie Flesh Eaters vies with its sequel City of the Living Dead, a film which somehow escaped the BBFC's attentions, as Fulci's best. Both films are scored by Fabio Frizzi, whose strident yet melancholy electronic music is amongst the best in Italian exploitation cinema.


The Mule said...

Excellent film; it made a strong impression on this high-schooler 25 years ago. You can bet we rewound & rewatched the eyeball scene a few times.

A local band called themselves "Fake Shark - Real Zombie!" in tribute to this flick.

Derek said...

I'm glad you covered this Lucio Fulci classic! Quite an important film for me, as it was the first "video nasty" I ever saw, at the beginning of 1983 round my friend Gary's house one Sunday....on Betamax video no less!! None of your Philips video 2000 rubbish there, haha! I recall we watched Mario Bava's "Shock" afterwards. Unsurprisingly, these both gave me nightmares, but I was really too young to watch them. Oh well.
Its funny to see Ian McCulloch run around after italian zombies, especailly as he is (I guess) most famous for "Survivors", the 1970s BBC sci-fi-esque drama. Nice comb-over in that series as well, Ian!
Now, wasn't "Zombie Flesh Eaters" involved in a court case? Didn't a man who had murdered somebody blame the 'evil' in the film, or something?! Following this, I do recall that a video club in my home town received complaints about the grim poster in the window - the owner was asked to remove it because it was offensive - to which he said 'bugger off!'. :)
In America, wasn't it called something different like "Zombi 2"?
I haven't seen the film since 1983, and don't really want to re-visit it, but heck, I may one day if I can get the DVD with the Ian MuCulloch commentary. They had clips of the film on Sky TV on Halloween night, and they showed in full the 'stick-in-the-eye' scene. How pleasant.
We watched "Halloween" that night (see my blog) - give me a bit of John Carpenter anyday!

The Mule said...

On this side of the Atlantic it was called simply "Zombie" when I first saw it, and on my DVD copy it's called "Zombi 2" (I think it was marketed as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead, AKA "Zombi" in Italy).

Ben said...

I'm so glad this has sparked all these memories! A lot of the films on this list are all about nostalgia.