Once a "video nasty" and once oddly named Zombi 2 even though there was never a Zombi 1, Lucio Fulci's infamous Zombie has now made the legit big time with its very own special edition on Blu-ray disc. A 2-disc set at that, and intro'ed by Academy Award nominee Guillermo del Toro!
Unfortunately, del Toro is the only exclamation mark worthy thing about the DVD. Restoration is remarkable and digital sound is sumptuous, but unless you are already a fan of the film it doesn't live up to the legendary hype. I'd heard about it for years (most persistently the "zombie fights hammerhead shark" scene), and I do love me some Fulci (The Psychic, A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, A Perversion Story, The Beyond and Gates of Hell), but I have to say I was bored cadaver-stiff throughout most of Zombie. Granted, the classic shambling reanimated corpse is far from my favorite bogeyman, but I can fall into lockstep if the presentation is worthwhile.
In this 1979 Italian language horror import, there is much exposition and hardly any suspense as artless actors spew static dialogue and stand stock-still as undead creatures slowly rip their throats to gory shreds. The plot, such as it is, ploddingly follows a reporter on the hunt for the story of the century after a rich man's daughter has a hunch her dad is missing for reasons other than the ones the police pose. The two team up — elder Ian McCulloch as Peter West the arch investigator and Tisa Farrow as Anne Bowles the laconic young lady — and their queries take them from New York's harbors, through the Atlantic ocean and to the rivers of the exotic Island of Matul.
An isolated Caribbean jungle is where Peter and Anne wind up in a most unquiet morgue run by a doctor whose patients simply won't stay buried. As the reporter and the lady travel, picking up friends along the way who get picked off, we see a succession of gooey, gory, wormy death scenes at the rotting hands of blank-eyes zombies. The victims are beyond stupid and the zombies are mythologically inconsistent to say the least (why would the underwater undead have air-bubbles coming from his nose, and why are the ancient conquistador corpses in the same condition as the newly planted?). Sometimes I'll buy illogic in a horror movie, but in this case: No sale.
One thing very much in this flick's favor is the amazingly well-preserved corpses: Handcrafted makeups from 1979 look far better than much of what we see in fancy 2011 CGI. (These are by Gianetto de Rossi, whose previous works included the masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West).
While, as I said above, I didn't much care for this movie, fans who are already looking forward to the Blu-ray will not be disappointed. Blu — er, Blue Underground presents a new 2K High Definition transfer from the original uncut and uncensored camera negative, and the restoration was supervised by cinematographer Sergio Salvati himself.
DISC 1 EXTRAS:
Guillermo del Toro Intro (who, perhaps too generously says there are some of the most beautiful images ever captured on film, here)
Audio Commentary with Star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater
Poster & Still Gallery
DISC 2 EXTRAS:
"Zombie Wasteland" - Interviews with Stars Ian McCulloch (his bad combover hasn't changed a bit since '79!), Richard Johnson & Al Cliver, and Actor/Stuntman Ottaviano Dell'Acqua
"Flesh Eaters on Film" - Interview with Co-Producer Fabrizio De Angelis
"Deadtime Stories" - Interviews with Co-Writers Elisa Briganti and (Uncredited) Dardano Sacchetti
"World of the Dead" - Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Production & Costume Designer Walter Patriarca
"Zombi Italiano" - Interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi
"Notes on a Headstone" - Interview with Composer Fabio Frizzi
"All in the Family" - Interview with Antonella Fulci
"Zombie Lover" - Award-Winning Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about one of his favorite films
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson