Tag Archives: Zombie

Shock Waves (1977)

 

Nazi zombies from Shock Waves (1977)

Arise Zombie! Shock Waves

When it comes to the genre of Nazi Zombie movies, the field might be a bit small but it’s filled with good choices, and Shock Waves is probably the best choice of them all.  Wait there is a whole sub genre of Nazi zombie horror?  Yes, yes there is Virginia. Recent films like Dead Snow and Dead Snow 2, join the Outpost series, and  Jean Rollin’s 1981 Zombie Lake (and a few other odd entries) but the king of them all is Shock Waves from 1977.

Shock Waves stars Hammer Stalwart Peter Cushing as a former Nazi scientist along with Brooke Adams, who sizzles the screen in her bikini, and former Flipper star Luke Halpin all grown up. Shock Waves also stars one of the most iconic actors in horror, John Carradine playing one of his usual gruff, cantankerous characters.

The film starts off with Brooke Adams being found floating adrift, looking far worse then she does later in the film. She relates her story, which becomes the main body of the film. Carradine is the captain of a broken down boat taking Adams and a group of vacationers on an island tour, a three hour tour. Well actually it’s about ninety minutes. Halpin is his long suffering first mate, who has attracted the eye and attention of Adams.

Brooke Adams in a yellow bikini in Shock Waves

Brooke Adams helps make Shock Waves (1977) visually appealing

Things quickly go from cantankerous, to bad to worse, as the boat is enveloped in a strange orange haze, then side-swiped by a mysterious ghost ship. The crew and passengers find themselves scuttled on a mysterious island, sans the Captain and with a rusting hulk looming nearby. They go ashore to find a seemingly deserted hotel, where they run into Cushing and his strangely British sounding German accent.

Peter Cushing in Shock Waves

Peter Cushing gives his best go at a German accent in Shock Waves

People start to disappear and Cushing relates how he helped engineer Nazi super soldiers who could exist in any extreme and were virtually indestructible, When the reich was collapsing he was ordered to dispose of his group of water breathing zombies (is that an oxymoron? breathing zombies?). He accomplishes this by sinking the ship they are on, in what was probably not such a smart way to get rid of water breathing monsters.

The castaways aren’t buying it till the goggle clad undead attack in force, forcing a desperate fight and flight to get off the island.  This eventually takes us full circle, and spoiler free, to the opening scene.

I have a fondness for horror films from this era, and Shock Waves is one of my favorite. It is also highly under rated and gets no where near the buzz of other horror classics of the seventies. While it might not be a genre defining film, it is a one of those movies that still packs an impact today.

The effects aren’t flashy but they come across as reaslistic. No rotting, walking dead, type zombies but they look suffeciently water logged, and the goggles and Nazi uniforms add a chillingly creepy look to the undead.

The actors all do there job, Carradine is the same old Carradine as he is in so many movies, gruff, angry and mean.  Cushing gives his usual commanding preformance in his limited screen time. He is perfect in the role, even though the accent doesnt exactly fit. If I have one issue with Shock Waves, it’s that I would have loved to see much more of Cushing in the film.

Brooke Adams and her bikini almost steal the film from the two horror icons. Acting wise, she holds her own. Oscar worthy? No, but for one of her first starring roles it’s good enough, and doesn’t hurt the film. The scenes of her in a bikini though are truly epic. She wears a swimsuit like a swimsuit should be worn,and her underwater scenes rival those of Jacqualine Bisset in The Deep, without the wet t-shirt.

Brooke Adams in a bikini

Bikini clad Brooke Adams has a glow about her in Shock Waves

The one thing that makes Shock Waves a classic, in my opinion, is the armosphere. From the very opening a sense of dread hangs over the movie. From the lighting, to the sound, to the zombies themselves,Shock Waves is one creepy movie. The mood and atmosphere is also one of the things that make it just effective today as it was when it was released.

While so many movies, even the acknowledged classics like Halloween and The Hills Have Eyes, are heavily dated, and dont hold that same punch, Shock Waves still makes for great late night viewing.

Shock Waves is available now on Amazon video on demand and DVD and is scheduled to be released on Blu Ray later this year. Do yourself a favor and check it out on which ever format you prefer

Shock Waves


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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.

Zombie Holocaust [Blu-ray]


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Zombi, or Zombi 2, either way it’s the best of the Italian Zombie Films

Zombi eye gouge scene

One of the biggest knocks about Italian horror, like Zombi, from American audiences is that the narrative is often confusing and sometimes downright nonsensical. In Italian cinema, the look and the atmosphere of a film is much more important than the script for the most part. However Lucio Fulci’s Zombi has a relatively easy to follow narrative for Italian fare.

Zombi is an unofficial sequel to the Italian cut of Dawn of the Dead. The classic American zombie movie, a cult classic, in it’s own right, was recut by Dario Argento and rescored by Goblin for it’s Italian release. Since Argento’s Dawn was released as Zombi, Fulci’s film was dubbed Zombi 2 in Italy. I wont get into the myriad of names and miscellaneous names slapped onto the horde of zombie films released in Italy and other areas of Europe, as that would take a full post of it’s own.

Zombi

Zombi is the movie that made Fulci a horror sensation, and is in my opinion the best of thee European zombie films, with the possible exception of the first Blind Dead movie. I still think Zombi is technically better but the blind Templars hold a special place in my heart for pure coolness.

The Italians, especially Fulci had a way with gore and he spares no brain nor blood in Zombie. In Great Britain it made the infamous video nasties list, alongside such notorious movies as Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit on Your Grave, and Fulci’s own House by the Cemetery. A full, uncut, authorized and legal version was not released in Britain until 2005. Progress marches on, but it marches slowly at times.

Zombi starts out in New York City where a strange ship drifts slowly into the harbor. Officers investigate only to be attacked by a hulking zombie. One officer is bitten and dies, the other officer shoots the zombie, who falls overboard.

Reporter Peter West is sent to investigate the boat, where he meets the boat owners daughter. They decide to investigate by sailing to her father’s last known location, the island of Matool. They join with a couple Bryan and Ann to help investigate the island. Apparently Ann loves to swim and scuba dive wearing nothing but a g-string. YES. Before they reach Matool, Ann decides to do just that. The scenes of her diving topless would be one of the most well remembered scenes in the movie (still is with me) if not for the next scene.

Here we are treated to probably THE most iconic scene in zombie movie history. Sorry Romero, you may have had the biggest impact on modern zombie film, but this scene is classic. So classic it was just used in a mainstream commercial. That’s right the shark vs zombie. Way before the Sci Fi channel decided to mix and match shit that should never go together, Fulci did it and made it work. No need for former teen pop stars past their prime. This scene is made of awesome. If you haven’t seen it, I wont give any details, just see it.

Zombi Shark vs zombie

After the attack the group heads on toward the island, where the dead are rising in ever increasing numbers. Dr. Menard is trying to find the cause of the outbreak, but is only holding his own. As night falls we are treated to another iconic scene and a Fulci trademark, when a woman’s eye is slowly impaled on a wooden splinter. When the group finally lands and meets Dr. Menard, the zombies are in full attack. Graves all over the island are starting to open and the dead, some centuries in the ground are rising. The survivors race to the boat to escape, fighting zombies along the way as their numbers dwindle. Who will survive? Will they make it to the boat and back to New York? And what will they find there. Like I said, got to watch it yourself.

Zombi

As far as Italian cinema goes, Zombi is pretty easy to follow. It’s a pretty straight forward plot, but still contains all the great imagery and atmosphere of which the Europeans are famous. Some of the scenes are iconic and part of cinematic history. A bloody part of history maybe but still, they deserve their praise. The eye gouging is hard to watch even today, and to me looks far more realistic than most CGI eye gags.

The shark versus zombie scene is another that is part of zombie history. The fact this was filmed with no visual tricks should amaze film makers and fans alike. The scene was filmed in a giant tank with a real shark, and a real stunt man. The shark was fed horse meat loaded with tranquilizers before filming began. Still bravo to that stunt man for getting in the tank.

Zombi, or Zombi 2, whichever you prefer is one of the goriest nastiest zombies the general public is every likely to see. Once confined to drive in, and late night showings it is now readily available in several different cuts. It rivals Day of the Dead, but for pure gore, I still personally give the nod to Day. The Salazar elevator scene still makes me wince to this day.

Don’t look for a huge amount of social commentary or deeper menacing. This isn’t a Romero flick, this is a pure zombie horror survival movie. It keeps the action moving, cutting between the island and those on their way there. The slowest moment in the film is when we are treated to the wonderful scenic view of Auretta Gay as Susan diving topless.

The ending is meant to foreshadow that inescapable doom, in the same way that Dawn, and to a lesser extent, Night did, but for me that was the weakest part of the film. I think by the time I had seen Zombi, I had already seen similar endings, in similar films till I am a bit jaded. Even though it’s my favorite, it was far from my first Italian zombie shocker.

Zombies in New York Harbor

As a kid in school back in the late 70s, and early 80s the papers were full of drive in ads. These ads were usually heavily saturated with European horror fare, especially zombie movies. I was too young to go to the drive in, but those wonderful ads were enough to set my heart on fire. I still have a special place in my heart for these films, even the really bad ones. Zombi isn’t one of the bad ones, it’s one of the best ones. People who only know a zombie from The Walking Dead or Warm Bodies, should definitely consider checking out Zombi. If you can take it

Zombie (2-Disc Ultimate Edition) [Blu-ray]


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