Category Archives: Italian

Zombie Holocaust (1980)

Zombie Holocaust

Lori, Queen of the Cannibals

If you ever wondered what it would look like to cross the Italian cannibal genre and the Italian zombie genre, then Zombie Holocaust (1980), by director Marino Girolam, might be for you. Zombie Holocaust is also known as Zombi 3, but any attempt to make sense of the numbering of European zombies films is futile. Just go with Zombie Holocaust.

Now if you are one of those movie watchers who enjoy a tight script that actually makes sense, smart dialogue, and believable acting move along. Why the fuck are you reading about European zombie films anyway? But if you can get past the lack of real storytelling and just enjoy the gross out effects, buckets of gore and eye-popping nudity, carry on.

Zombie Holocaust (1980) is an unofficial sequel to the popular Fulci film Zombi, )or Zombi 2, or Zombie 2, or Zombie Flesh Eaters) however there is little in common between the films. Beyond the title and the casting of Zombi star Ian McCulloch in a similar role, similar settings, and the use of the undead, and nothing else is similar.

Like Fulci’s classic, Zombie Holocaust starts off in New York City. There are a series of cannibal attacks at a large hospital. When the culprit is caught it turns out he is from a group of Asian islands that was also the home of morgue assistant Lori, played by Alexandra Delli Colli. Investigating with Dr. Peter Chandler, played by McCulloch, they find there have been a rash of cannibal attacks across New York.

Screaming nurse in Zombie Holocaust

Shocked nurse in Zombie Holocaust (1980)

They head out to the islands and confer with a Dr.Obero, who assigns them guides and directs them to the furthermost island to investigate. They set sail to the island but boat trouble forces them to land on another island instead. Here they are attacked by cannibals, and most of their party is killed and eaten. Chandler and Lori are about to be put on the menu when zombies appear and frighten off the cannibals.

Fleeing from cannibal and zombie alike, they run into Dr. Obero who, learning of their plight, comes to rescue them. However it soon turns out Obero has a more sinister motive than just rescue. It seems Obero has been using the cannibals in his experiments to pressure the dead. Thus he now controls the zombies and intends to use Chandler in his next experiment.

Lori escapes Obero, but is quickly captured by the cannibals. They take her back to their cave lair where they strip her naked, paint her, and declare her queen of the cannibals. It seems these cannibals are always looking for a blonde chick to be their queen. After the ceremony, which gives the viewer some awesome anatomical shots of Lori’s body, the newly crowned queen leads her subjects to attack the doctor and his zombies. After the almost laughable battle, Lori and Peter escape, running from the wrath of Fulci fans and into the closing credits.

As far as European zombie films go, Zombie Holocaust isn’t the worst of the bunch (see Zombie 4:Killing Birds, or Zombie After Life for reference), but it is far and away from Fulci’s Zombi. The story and plot are pretty ridiculous, even for Italian standards, and the zombie effects are really shitty to be honest. The cannibal scenes are a bit more realistic and are bloody enough to keep the gore hound placated.

The overall plot is pretty standard, and similar to Fulci’s film. Attacks in New York send investigators to remote island to investigate. However the story with Dr. Obero is just confusing and goofy. I was never really sure what he was attempting with his brain transplants. Was that how he created zombies? Or was he actually experimenting in actual brain transplants?

Also you are never really sure why the cannibals hated him. He says he persuaded them to go back to cannibalism, he provides them with food, even gives them the scalps after his experiments. Hell you could even look at the zombies as meals on wheels almost, a mobile buffet. Still, none of this matters in an Italian zombie movie. It’s style over substance and you have to accept that.

So for style, the weakest part of the film were the zombies. Their make up was beyond amateur. It basically looks like guys in rubber masks with some gore smeared on. None of them really seemed to be rotting away either, in fact more looked pretty healthy and strong.

The zombies themselves seemed to be caught in some limbo between pre Romero Haitian voodoo zombies and modern fast track zombies. They didn’t ever really run but they were prone to bursts of speed near the end of the film. Early on they did nothing but shamble, like a good zombie should, but during they last half they were able to grab fleeing characters and hold them tight. Plus they were apparently able to be controlled by Dr. Obero.

The stronger parts of the film included the cannibals who were realistic enough, and there was plenty of bloodshed. Still it’s hard to fuck up cannibal make up. Just grab some exotic, native looking extras, put them in loin cloth and face paint and viola!

By modern standards the gore might look cheesy, but there is quite a bit of it. A man has his eyes pulled out by a cannibal who is munching on his guts, the eyes then become snacks. A zombie has his head shredded by a boat propeller. We see a woman who has been scalped alive. Beyond all this numerous shootings of cannibals, people caught in traps and murdered, and even scenes of cannibals eating a fighting zombie.

The acting is goofy, but I can’t knock it too hard since I watched a dubbed copy. Now before you start yelling about subtitles, I love subtitles. Whenever I am watching a serious foreign language film I opt for subtitles whenever possible. However when I am watching Euro Zombie, and some chop socky martial arts films, I like the dub. It adds to the already silliness of the script. My first experience with foreign cinema was dubbed Italian horror and westerns, and I guess it’s grown on me.

So while the dialogue and acting seemed silly, I can’t be sure how much was due to the dubbing factor. One of my favorite goofy lines, paraphrased, “The cannibals eat dead people. Last I checked we were all alive” and cue the first scream.

Zombie Holocaust (1980)

Not the way to get head in your bed-Zombie Holocaust

One of my favorite parts of Zombie Holocaust was the beautiful Alexandra Delli Colli as Lori. Tall blonde and shapely she undresses completely for the camera twice. Not shy we are treated to two full frontal scenes, one of them lying spread eagle on a table as it is raised, leaving little to the imagination.

Zombie Holocaust Lori in lingerie

Sexy Alexandra Delli Colli from Zombie Holocaust (1980)

Usually when watching a European movie from the 70s or early 80s, I have to make some comment about female pubic grooming. Well for the time period, Alexandra was groomed much tidyier, than the female leads in the Spanish Countess Perverse. Really there’s a difference between natural and abandoned homestead.

I liked Zombie Holocaust, but then I am a fan of these garish, gory, and at times silly movies. If you are able to enjoy a film without taking it too seriously, you might like it too. It’s no Walking Dead, no Romero, or even Fulci, but in the pantheon of European zombie films, it’s worth seeing.
Zombie Holocaust was released under the title Dr. Butcher M.D, with added scenes and a different score. While it was never officially on the video nasty list, it was only released uncut in the U.K in 2001. In the US, the original uncut version was released in 2002 on DVD by Shriekshow. Check it out.

Cannibal Holocaust

My original review of Cannibal Holocaust originally post on Lord Dixie’s Dark Domain a few years ago

A lot of films lay claim to the most disturbing movie of all times, even more are labeled that by fans, the media or groups protesting violent or disturbing films. Many times the label is applied by the films marketing team in hopes of stirring up interest, since any publicity is good publicity. While many films vie for this title and many deserve mention here there is one film that is generally agreed to by all that have seen it and many who haven’t, as the king of all disgusting films.

It’s a film so disturbing that the director has apologized for parts of it and said he would never make a film with that content again. It was a film so controversial that the director was arrested and the film has been banned in many countries from one time to another. The movie was Cannibal Holocaust.

Cannibal Holocaust was released in 1980 and the basic plot centers on a group of journalists who disappears into the wilds of the Amazon to film the natives who are suspected of practicing cannibalism. The group disappears and a New York. Anthropologist, Professor Monroe, goes into the jungle to locate them and find out what happened. With the help of local guides he finds the bodies near the encampment of the feared cannibal tribe. He is at first feared but eventually the tribe welcomes into their camp and invites him and his guide to a feast. He bargains for the film canisters and has to take part in the feast that involves him participating in cannibalism in order to get them. He returns to New York with the recovered film.

The bulk of Cannibal Holocaust  is this film, showing the film crew’s journey into the jungle and their descent into depravity and eventual torture and death at the hands of the natives they sought to film. Monroe brings the film back to New York where the local television station wants to broadcast the footage. Monroe insists on watching the film first after hearing that the film crew had a reputation of brutality toward locals and also a reputation of “setting up” atrocities so they could film it. After seeing the footage he recommends it be burned. At this point we watch along as he screens it for the execs and watch as the brutality unfolds.

We watch as the three men and woman embark in the Amazon and begin the trek into the “Green Inferno” as the locals call it. Almost immediately bad luck befalls them as their guide, Felipe, is bitten by a poisonous snake and dies soon after. The team continues on eventually encountering a group of the Yacumo, one of the tribes they set out to find. Deciding the best way to find the tribes camp is to follow them, they callously shoot one of the tribesmen in the leg to slow him down so they can follow. Arriving at the camp they resort to intimidating the tribe and set fire to one of the main buildings filled with tribesmen in order to film an “attack” on the peaceful tribe by cannibals. The leader of the team is so aroused by his murderous act that he roughly has sex with the female member, Faye, in front of the surviving tribesmen , while the last member, Andres, secretly films it.

Leaving the tribe they come upon a forced abortion by the side of a river and the ritual stoning of the women. They comment that it is most likely a ritual punishment for adultery. At this point we switch back to New York and Professor Munroe. He has seen the last reel of the film, that details the groups death. Once again he argues that the film should be destroyed, but the executives will not agree until they have seen the footage. Munroe again starts the film and we are thrust back into the jungle.

Several days have apparently passed since they left the Yacumo and the film crew states that they are in a different part of the jungle. They are in search of the feared Yamamomo tribe who they blamed the slaughter of the Yacumo upon. Suddenly they come across a young female member of the tribe and for unknown reasons they attack her and take turns raping her while filming the attack. Unknown to them another tribe member is watching from the tall grass as the scene plays out.

Faye tries to protest the rape but she is held back. It’s not clear if she is upset more about the rape or about her boyfriend Yates taking part. The film cuts and we see the team surrounding the young woman who has been impaled on a large stake with the end protruding from her mouth.. Yates is seen smiling at first, then strikes a concerned look for the camera as he explains that the girl was probably killed for a violation of the tribes sexual taboos. While it is not clear who killed the girl, we are strongly led to believe it was the film team. We then cut to the team once again in the jungle. They find themselves surrounded by natives in apparent anger over the attack on the girl. The team fights back as the tribe attacks but one by one they are caught and brutally killed. Yates, the last one killed keeps filming, seemingly taking more interest in the film than his friends lives. In the final shot Yates is speared and drops his camera, then falls dead in front of the lens.

Back in New York the executives are shocked and disgusted. They agree with Munroe that the film should never be shown. The tapes are destroyed. As Monroe walks out of the building and down the street, the last words of Cannibal Holocaust were “ I wonder who the real cannibals are.”

The brutality of the film crew on the natives and the filming of the crews death are disturbing enough. What really sets this film apart and causes it’s notoriety though is the animal slaughter. Throughout the film several animals are brutally killed for the film. It is real, it is not fake and it is brutal. The animals include a snake, a spider, a monkey, a pig, a turtle and a ferret. The turtle killing is especially is hard to watch as the team pulls it from the water, and viciously slaughters it. The scene goes on for several minutes.

Another scene involves a monkey. It is reported that the director actually had a fake monkey, but that the natives insisted on using a live monkey, since monkey brains were considered a delicacy. The scene took two takes so two monkeys were killed.  Director Ruggero Deodato now says he regrets the animal slaughter. They are the reason the film is still banned and considered  controversial.

Ironically the director was arrested for the scenes involving the human actors. Apparently because the animal scenes were so real some authorities believed that he actually had the actors killed for the film. He had the entire cast sign non disclosure agreements and non publicity agreements as a way of gaining publicity for the film. The apparent disappearance of the actors lead fuel to rumors of their death. Deodato was forced to break their agreements and summon them to appear or face charges of murder. Like wise the young girl who was impaled was compelled to appear . The director also had to explain exactly how the scene was done, which involved her sitting on a mounted bicycle seat and holding the point of the spear in her mouth.

What is interesting to me is that none of the human death scenes in Cannibal Holocaust look particularly real. I think the unrelenting reality of the animal deaths simply made the human deaths look more real. What is not known to many people who have watched the film is that there is actual footage of humans being killed in the film.

At one point a “documentary” is shown that has supposedly been shot by the film team before their journey to South America. The film shows actual executions from Africa and South East Asia. Professor Munroe is told that the film crew apparently set up these atrocities. This gives us insight into Yates character before we see his actions in the jungle.

Deodato has said he was making a film purely for shock value. If this is true than he accidentally made a film with deeper meaning . I can in no way condone the animal slayings, and while I have seen it once, if I ever watch it again it will be a censored version. Still the slayings add a rawness that otherwise would not be there. I think the human killings would look silly without them.

It is interesting that the “cannibals” are not guilty of as many atrocities as the “civilized” film crew, at least on-screen. Also since the sickening animal slayings almost all come from the film crew, we have little sympathy at watching their obviously fake deaths.

Deodato effectively points the camera at us and says we are the true savages. We go about our everyday life taking no concern over the brutality all around us. We automatically assume that anyone not as civilized as us has no worth. Who are we to judge our lifestyle as superior to theirs? True we don’t practice cannibalism but we have devalued human life to the point that death no longer affects us. We routinely step on others to get where we want to go and never consider those we harm in the process. In our race to civilization have we lost our humanity? Maybe we all need to get back to the jungle .

Cannibal Holocaust is available in R rated and Unrated versions. It contains graphic male and female nudity, sex, scenes of violence including rape and other sexual violence, profanity and actual animal slayings. Be warned though, t is not for the squeamish.