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Zombie Holocaust Blu-ray Review

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It is not gory enough!

by Chris McEneany Jul 23, 2011 at 11:32 PM

  • Movies review

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    Zombie Holocaust Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £12.99

    Zombie Holocaust Blu-ray Review

    Nasty deeds are being committed in a New York hospital. As with Tyburn’s gleefully sadistic and ambitious Scream And Scream Again (1970), patients are having bits of their bodies hacked-off and made away with. But unlike Gordon Hessler’s vampirical guilty pleasure, these bedridden victims aren’t waking up in any fit state to complain about it. There appears to be some sort of underground cannibal cult at work in the Big Apple, practising its despicable cravings upon those unfortunately bedridden and unable to escape their clutches. When evidence points towards the cult's origins on the East Indian island of Moluccas, grumbling medical investigator Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch) and the hospital's alluring Dr. Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli) lead an expedition out there to expose its dreadful secrets. But, once on the island, they find themselves caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea. On one side, they've got the cannibal tribe, themselves, to worry about. Over on the other, there's a gaggle of pizza-faced, chisel-toothed zombies on the prowl. And somewhere in the middle of the ensuing bloodbath, there's the sadistic Dr. Obrero (Donald O' Brien), who has a habit of opening-up people's heads and conducting some very unorthodox experiments with what he finds inside. Pretty soon, the island is awash with gore as the party is whittled-down, one by one, by the greedy munchers and only Chandler and Ridgeway are left to carry on the fight and escape from the slaughter. If they can.

    Zombie Holocaust Blu-ray Picture Quality

    Shriek Show package up Zombie Holocaust in a combo-set that contains the Blu-ray edition, encoded via AVC, and the SD DVD edition. Although this is a film that hails from a low budget and features stock of variable quality throughout, comparisons between the two versions reveal the BD to be a substantial upgrade. I'm not aware that this transfer has been taken from a freshly struck hi-def master, there's no information regarding this either way, but I'm inclined to believe that it hails from the previous SD master.
    Framed at 1.78 from the original's 1.85:1(which is the aspect that the accompanying DVD contains), the hi-def presentation is no great shakes in terms of fine detail, and the print, despite being cleaned-up, still looks rough and ready, blurred round the edges and largely soft and unrefined.

    Distant detail is poor. Close-ups aren't exactly triumphant, but they are certainly good enough and far better delineated than I have ever seen them before. Eyes and wounds offer up heaps more information – and eye-wounds, in particular. There is more texture to the hi-def image and far less compression issues. The print is in variable shape, but this is down to the different footage that has gone into the film's construction – stock material and stuff lifted from other productions. The resulting image, however, looks film-like in the main, and quite pleasing, all things taken into account. Grain is more apparent, and has some degree of that now-infamous icy gleam that seems to be the province of these 16mm Italian blow-ups when transferred to Blu-ray. This effect is not as intrusive as it appears on some titles though, and there are occasions when it looks to have been slightly scrubbed away too, meaning that some noise reduction has probably taken place in a hit-and-miss campaign. Damage isn't a major problem to the print.
    Where we find the biggest improvement is in the colour reproduction. The film looks appreciably warmer, the hues more solid and the saturation more consistent. Skin-tones reflect this reasonably well, as do costumes, flames and some interior lighting. The Italian foliage standing for the East Indies is very earthy and thick with heavy browns and greens. It's perfectly appropriate, of course, and certainly natural-looking, but the image can be a little too dark and muddy at times, making the “jungle” shadows and the overcast vistas a touch too dull and uninspiring. Blood, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know, looks quite spectacularly red. Vivid, bright and garish, this is splashy and thick and highly theatrical-looking. But gore-lovers will certainly be happy that each spraying artery, and every chunk of freshly scooped innards is brightly presented for your delectation. I don't think that the colours have been necessarily boosted, they just seem a helluva lot cleaner and better rendered. For example, there is now more varied colours to be seen on the painted flesh of Lori Ridgeway's naked body – elements that have always been hidden before now.

    The DVD seems to push more towards a blue cast, lightening the overall tone, whilst the BD redresses the balance and has thicker, more satisfying blacks as a result. Contrast isn't the greatest around, but it represents a huge improvement.
    The BD image is darker, overall, than previously seen. There could even be a convincing argument that some slight crushing is taking place. But then when you go back to the DVD, the image appears far too light and softens edges and detail even more, making it look even more indistinct in darker scenes. Personally speaking, there's no contest between the two, and even if the gory bits don't persuade you, then the extra warmth and detail and skin texture on Delli Colli's naughty bits very definitely will.

    So, Zombie Holocaust is most assuredly nothing to write home about on Blu-ray, but this must be the best that we can expect from it and I cannot imagine any of its fans complaining, knowing what they have had to put up with in the past.

    Zombie Holocaust Zombie Holocaust Blu-ray Picture Quality

    Zombie Holocaust Blu-ray Sound Quality

    Shriek Show equip Zombie Holocaust with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track which is pretty robust. The dialogue has been dubbed, as you would expect, and there are certainly some really bad examples of tacked-on voices that are simply terrible. Wait until you cop a load of the screaming nurse when she uncovers an unscheduled heart-removal at the New York hospital, and her subsequent explanation to the doctor. You have to be a die-hard fan of this sort of thing to get past this type of wildly out-of-synch bugga-boo. But dialogue, as recorded in the mix, comes through without any problems. The moaning and groaning of the few undead we see has some creepy resonance, something that is, again, a steal from Lucio Fulci as well as Jorge Grau and the magnificent Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue. Screaming isn't particularly bracing or teeth-jarring, as it could have been, and the more jumbled moments – yabbering cannibals, gunshots, knives noisily carving chests and the synth track thumping away – don't overcrowd the mix. Those gunshots are the typical Italian sound effect that has seen service since the Spaghetti Westerns. Here, they lack punch and power and merely perform that trademark crack-whistle with a suppressed anger.

    The soundtrack from Nino Fidenco is given plenty of presence, the score really thrumming and pulsating with vigour at times. I can only hope that Fabio Frizzi's score for Zombie Flesh Eaters on the forthcoming Blu-ray sounds a bit more pumped-up. To be honest, I'm sure it will sound a lot better, actually.

    There really isn't anything else to say about the track, folks. It is perfunctory and serviceable. Nothing more. But at least Shriek Show didn't attempt anything in bogus surround.

    Zombie Holocaust Zombie Holocaust Blu-ray Sound Quality

    Zombie Holocaust Blu-ray Extras

    With this release we get two discs – one a BD and one a DVD. The extra features can be found on both discs, although it may take some detective work to locate a couple of things on the BD which doesn't provide proper menu access to some elements. Basically, on the BD, stick around after the interview with Maurizio Trani and don't press any buttons because a fair chunk of supplemental stuff follows on after a few seconds of black screen.

    Hats off to Shriek Show for, at least, trying to come up with something interesting for this low-brow example of both guerilla filmmaking and entrepreneurial exploitation.

    We get the film’s alternate opening and end titles, which won't exactly wow anyone even if we get them with or without the music. And nor will the brief interview with FX man, Maurizio Trani, who just seems to enjoy making a mockery of the completely useless and easily thrown interviewer. He can barely even recall the shoot or the work he did on it, which the other poor guy foundering! Look at the barely concealed smirk on his face. You get the distinct impression that he doesn't want to talk about the movie at all. He's never even see it. Any of it! Honestly, watch this … it's excruciating. If you were behind this little featurette – you'd ditch it! This unintentionally hilarious interview is in Italian and has English subtitles.

    That Deleted Scene is presented here in rough-looking form. Although it has some more action in it – Ridgeway is trapped in a pit whilst Chandler has to vanquish a couple of cannibals in order to rescue her – this departs from the film as the setting is incredibly European-looking and the violence quite lame. Chandler actually batters the two natives with nothing more substantial than a twig! Now this scene is in some prints of the film, including the uncut copy I got when I was a just a young gore-pup. Even the cut down British tape had it. To be fair, though, it wouldn't improve the movie had they reinstated it to this version.

    Stills and posters are quite good fun, and be sure to stick with the write-up detailing the promotional antics that were paraded about the streets of New York - there's even photos of it afterwards.

    But the main attraction would be the material that Roy Frumkes made in the student anthology “Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out” - a project that saw the enthusiastic independent genre writer/director gathering together a group of directors, amongst them one Wes Craven, presumably fresh off Deadly Blessing, to helm individual segments of the terror collection – and the interview with Frumkes, himself. The importance of this uncompleted and never released production is that exploitation producer and marketing whirlwind, Terry Levine, to the mythos of Zombie Holocaust cannot be overstated as it reveals the seat-of-the-pants style of production and PR that supposedly tacky little Z-grade horrors had to undergo in order to see the light of a cinema projector. Frumkes, who was the man behind the excellent feature-length Document Of The Dead making-of for Dawn Of The Dead, and he is marvellous value here as he provides a commentary over the footage and then explains in good humour and honesty the circumstances that led his amateur material to a date with Doctor Butcher MD. I could listen to this guy all day. I hate to say it … but he seems to understand that his place in the movie industry is lower than a snake's ass in the grass, and this charming “loser” stance only seems to endear him all the more.
    You can also find trailers for this and other movies.

    Zombie Holocaust Zombie Holocaust Blu-ray Extras

    Is Zombie Holocaust Blu-ray worth buying

    For some reason, I was really looking forward to getting my grubby little mitts on this. I’d so many fond memories of its illicit uncensored version that simply seeing its cover-art adorning a Blu-ray package was a gorehound’s delight. But, very sadly, though possibly not so surprisingly, the film itself has been a massive disappointment. Sure, this is gory as hell, but it depends upon how well this stuff is presented, how well the film around such set-pieces carries you along. As a narrative movie, Zombie Holocaust sucks. No argument can be raised against that, and this fact, alone, is no specific detriment to most bonafide zombie/cannibal gut-munchers. But the film is so bland, uninteresting and so ineptly directed that you feel as though you are watching understandably excised footage from both Zombie Flesh Eaters and Cannibal Ferox.

    Shriek Show deserve some praise for shoving something like this on to Blu-ray, but there are precious few who are going to benefit from its hi-def arrival. The transfer may be better than DVD, and especially third-generation VHS, but this still looks raw and unkempt and visually inferior to the majority of hi-def encodes. Though this is down to the source. But then even a glowing and pristine transfer would be wrong for this sort of thing, wouldn't it? It needs to look grimy and old and as though someone has just retrieved it from the gutter. That's part of its appeal. With some weirdly interesting extras, especially the material surrounding Roy Frumkes and the extra life that has been bestowed upon his student project footage, this choice morsel from an era of no-holds-barred creativity, is going to be very welcome in some quarters. But Zombie Holocaust becomes something that only real die-hards could really justify forking-out for. Boring and stuffed with patently bogus FX, this is one of a few Video Nasties that don't quite warrant the infamy they have gained over the years. I may have been over-the-moon to get my uncut copy when I was around thirteen, but seeing it now is, quite frankly, embarrassing.

    Hardly a holocaust, this is proof that when it comes to grungy, mean-spirited zombie movies, nobody does it better than Lucio Fulci. That said, the gorgeous Alexandra Delli Colli almost makes up for the mess of Girolami's horror hodgepodge.

    The Rundown

    Movie

    5

    Picture Quality

    6

    Sound Quality

    6

    Extras

    5

    Overall

    5

    5
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