14th Nov2015

‘Zombi Holocaust’ Blu-ray Review (88 Films)

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Ian McCulloch, Alexandra Delli Colli, Sherry Buchanan, Peter O’Neal, Donald O’Brien, Dakar, Walter Patriarca, Roberto Resta | Written by Fabrizio De Angelis, Romano Scandariato | Directed by Marino Girolami (aka Frank Martin)

zombi-holocaust-cover

One of the bizarrest horror films to come out of Italy in the early 80s, Zombi Holocaust is – as the title suggests – a mix of the two genres Italian horror cinema became predminantly known for: cannibal and zombie movies…

For those unaware of Zombi Holocaust, the film finds Ian McCulloch (who found fame in Italy following his appearance in British sci-fi show Survivors) venture to a tropical island in the East Indies to investigate just why a tribesman, working at New York City hospital was chomping down on the limbs of the cadavers in the cold storage. He and his crew, including Alexandra Delli Colli (who would later star in Lucio Fulci’s controversial New York Ripper), arrive in the midst of not only a tribe of peckish cannibals stalking the island but also a bunch of hungry, undead zombies. You see there’s a mad doctor (played by Donald O’Brien) at work in the Moluccas, making an army of zombies in the hope of discovering the secret to immortality. What follows is a barrage of cheap and cheerful gut-munching scenes, bucketfuls of gore and a rather attractive Ms. Delli Colli offered up as a butt-naked sacrifice to the cannibal gods!

Despite the controversy surrounding these Italian fear flicks in the early 80s (can you say “Video Nasty”?), many are now available fully uncut here in Blighty, and Zombi Holocaust is no exception. And you know why? Here’s my theory: Back in the 80s we had nothing but VHS rental tapes to watch these gory Italian epics on, and so the cheap and cheerful gore was hidden behind the murky facade of grainy, worn out, videotapes . But today? The piss-poor gore is clear for all to see in 1080p. And, as it does in a LOT of scenes in Marino Girolami’s film, it looks laughable. Gone are the stomach-churning gore effects – sadly for these films we’ve moved on from entrails hidden under a shirt to even more extreme examples of blood and guts.

Speaking of 1080p, 88 Films new Blu-ray isn’t the prettiest Blu-ray you’re ever going to see – there are excessive (and I mean excessive) amounts of grain present from the get-go, really coming to the fore in night scenes and the darker spots within the film. However that doesn’t stop Zombi Holocaust from looking the best it has in ages. Even with the grain, the picture is crisp and the colours are vibrant. There’s an odd spot of print damage, of the blink and you’ll miss it kind for the most part, but otherwise this new Blu is probably the best we’re ever going to see the film. It certainly looks a lot better than previous DVD versions!

This Blu-ray release also includes the documentary Eaten Alive: The Rise of the Cannibal Film as an extra, which provides some insight into the history of the genre and the thinking behind it. If you’ve seen other documentaries from High Rising Productions such as Slice and Dice and Scream Queens, then you know what to expect here: talking heads interspersed with footage from the films discussed. The highlight here – for me – being a chat with Umberto Lenzi, the first Italian director to make a cannibal movie, The Man From Deep River. Though he’s not the only famous cannibal cohort to make an appearance, the documentary also features directors Ruggero Deodato and Sergio Martino, as well as actors such as Robert Kerman and Giovanni Radice. The presentation is once again a little on the dry side but it’s certainly VERY informative. There’s also a booklet (yes, films do still come with those in some rare cases), a deleted scene, trailer, and a 50 minute interview with star Ian McCulloch filmed at the Manchester Festival of Fantastic Films.

Zombi Holocaust is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from 88 Films.

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