The Dead Shall Rise!!!

Your old pal Brain Hammer is back from the grave and ready to party! This latest batch of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT are a terrible trio of cult clas-sick Italian zombie flicks from 1980. The undead will feast!

 

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980)

A gifted psychic named Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) dies from sheer fright during a séance after receiving a morbid vision of a priest named Father Thomas hanging himself in the cemetery of a cursed town called Dunwhich. Dunwhich is built upon “the ruins of the original Salem” which also hide one of the seven gates of Hell. As foretold in the book of Enoch, the suicidal preacher hanging himself causes the unfaithful servant to go straight to Hell and for the next three days the moon will turn red and the cities’ dead will walk the earth. Horrendous, awful things begin happening in Dunwhich that will shatter your imagination.

For starters, Mary isn’t really dead and was buried alive. Luckily for Mary, the pathologist played by none other than Lucio Fulci himself didn’t bother giving her an autopsy! Mary is saved from an agonizing death inside her partially buried coffin after a hard boiled reporter named Peter Bell (Christopher George – RIP) slowly realizes that Mary is screaming at the top of her lungs inside the casket and does the only logical thing – he grabs a fucking pick axe and slams it right into the part of the coffin where Mary’s face would be! After saving Mary’s life Peter hesitatingly agrees to join her on the quest to find the mysterious town of Dunwhich. According to the prophecies of Enoch, if the portals of Hell aren’t closed by All Saints Day no dead body will ever be able to rest in peace again and the dead will rise up all over the earth and take over the world. Peter and Mary have to destroy Father Thomas’ body to close the gates of hell and save humanity.

Meanwhile, the horror in Dunwhich reaches a fevered pitch as the dead priest wanders the town looking for victims. Staring into the eyes of the evil priest is enough to cause one unfortunate girl (Daniela Dora) to cry tears of blood and then puke up her internal organs, much to shock and disgust of her soon to be brain dead boyfriend (future director Michelle Soavi!). The plague of the dead also manifests itself in the form of sudden earthquakes that cause massive property damage to the local watering hole, angry cat scratching that rips the flesh of a neurotic woman named Sandra (Janet Agren) with incest issues, and undead grandmothers that chomp off a mortician’s fingers.

The town’s madness begins to infect its dimwitted citizens as well. A jealous father takes out his rage and confusion on the town pervert – Bob (the one and only Giovanni Lombardo Radice!) and puts a power drill through his brain. Once Peter and Mary finally make their way to the cursed city they are welcomed by maggots that fall like rain. Peter and Mary brush off the maggots and then team up with Sandra and her shrink Gerry (Carlo De Mejo) before heading into the decrepit catacombs underneath the priest’s grave site for a fiery final showdown with the possessed priest.

This is my favorite Lucio Fulci film, and one of my all time favorite films too. I’ve been a big fan since witnessing the film’s ability to shock and horrify firsthand. I was introduced to this one via a 1990 rental of the Paragon “Gates Of Hell” vhs that caused several of my friends (and their little sisters) to leave the room disgusted. Since then, I’ve watched this one more times than I can count. I think “City Of The Living Dead” is a perfect film, and Fulci’s true masterpiece. This is also my favorite of the many genius works that Lucio Fulci and writer Dardano Sacchetti worked on together. A lot of people prefer “The Beyond,” but I think “City Of The Living Dead” has a much more blasphemous and hallucinogenic vibe. It’s also a considerably more stylish film than “The Beyond” and possesses a truly morbid atmosphere that few other horror flicks can come close to matching.

The late great Christopher George turns in another one of his trademark winning performances. Chris was on a fucking tear in the early 80’s, appearing in one classic genre flick after another before his untimely death in 1983. He also starred in the classic 1980 vigilante flick “The Exterminator” and the following year appeared in both “Enter The Ninja” and “Graduation Day.” Who knows how many more amazing films Christopher would have starred in if only given the chance? The mind boggles. It’s great that Christopher and Lucio were able to work together, even if they didn’t get along and Christopher supposedly filled Fulci’s pipe full of maggots!

Fulci’s favorite leading lady, Catriona MacColl (“The Beyond,” “House By The Cemetery”) and his favorite female victim – Daniela Dora (“The New York Ripper,” “House By The Cemetery”) both star here and both contribute greatly to the film’s success. Catriona does a remarkable job in the role of Mary. Her scene inside the coffin when she wakes up buried alive is fantastic. Daniela steals the entire movie and instantly ensured a place in the annals of horror history for participating in what has to be one of the most insanely sickening death scenes ever captured on film. Daniela proved her “guts” by having the nerve to swallow actual sheep entrails and regurgitate them on camera at Fulci’s command! This is only one of the memorable moments of “City Of The Living Dead,” but the iconic image of Daniela crying tears of blood and then slowly puking up her innards is what immediately comes to a horror fan’s mind when you hear the title.

The living dead mostly take a back seat to the buckets of blood and maggots, but there should be more than enough gut barfing and brain ripping to keep gorehounds happy. The splatter effects from Gino De Rossi (“Zombi II,” “Cannibal Ferox”) are about as top notch as they come. But for some random and completely hysterical reason, whenever the frequently repeated closeup shot of the brain ripping is shown the hand doing the ripping clearly belongs to a black man with hairy knuckles! This makes the climax to the aforementioned gut barfing scene unintentionally hilarious as clearly it’s not Daniela’s hand ripping out Michelle Soavi’s brain. The zombies we do get to see look fantastic, as they were created by the legendary Rosario Prestopino (“Zombi II,” “Burial Ground)”. “City Of The Living Dead” is a film with GUTS, and a lot of them.

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD should be considered mandatory viewing for all horror fans. Sharp eyed Italian horror buffs will get a kick out of seeing so many familiar faces. (Watch out for Perry Pirkanen of “Cannibal Ferox/Holocaust” legend in a small yet pivotal role as a perverted gravedigger!) I really can’t say enough good things about this one. “City Of The Living Dead” is a horror clas-sick. Anchor Bay and Blue Underground have both released “City Of The Living Dead” on dvd. The dvd features the theatrical trailer and radio spots. BUY IT!!!

 

 

HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980)

“Hell Of The Living Dead” begins with some distinctly inept and Aryan First World scientific types cooking up a demented plan to make the Third World savages eat their dead instead of starving to death. “Operation Sweet Death” is suddenly unleashed upon the population of New Guinea after an accident at one of the evil government chemical plants releases the infectious lethal virus that unexpectedly causes it’s victims to instantly return from the dead as bloodthirsty zombies.

A SWAT team on vacation in New Guinea after recently eliminating some pesky Earth conscious terrorists stumble upon the zombies and waste a lot bullets blowing holes in them before finally discovering the value of a head shot. The crack commandos team up with a sexy female reporter with a knack for nude anthropology and her headstrong and tender tummied cameraman, and try to escape the jungle with their lives and limbs intact. The survivors seek refuge inside a large mysterious mansion and discover both the origins of “Operation Sweet Death” and a horrific horde of the creeping dead waiting to devour their living flesh.

I’d be lying if I called this movie anything but fucking garbage, but it’s some highly entertaining fucking garbage. “Hell Of The Living Dead” was one of many Italian made zombie movies made in the early 80’s to cash in on the incredible success of George Romero’s “Zombi” and Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi II.” The dreaded duo of co-writers and directors Bruno Mattei (“Rats: Night Of Terror”) and Claudio Fragasso (“Monster Dog”) were at the helm of this notorious horror howler that was released countless times under multiple titles including “Virus,” “Zombie Creeping Flesh,” and “Night Of The Zombies.” “Hell Of The Living Dead” runs an incredible 103 minutes, and is ruthlessly padded with stock jungle documentary footage that includes endless shots of birds and monkeys in action and is peppered with pungent shots of rotting skeletons and bloated naked corpses.

On the plus side, if you can somehow get past the sheer overwhelming length of the film and survive the countless reels of alternately tedious or nauseating stock jungle footage you will find a very amusing rip off of Romero’s “Zombi.” Goblin’s fantastic score for “Zombi,” as well as cues from their “Contamination” score are lifted and recycled here, most likely without their permission. Hearing the score to “Zombi,” and watching a bunch of blue jumpsuit sporting SWAT unit members running around with machine guns battling zombies – it’s pretty much impossible not to compare this movie to Romero’s far superior undead effort.

What originality there is mostly comes in the form of the impressively gory and over the top scenes of zombie carnage and the sheer unintentional hilarity of the storyline, dialog and dubbing. “Hell Of The Living Dead” has a well established reputation for being one of the very worst Italian horror flicks of all time. It’s hard for me to hate any old school zombie flick with this many repeated scenes of zombies gorging on guts, zombie children getting the machine gun treatment they deserve, rotting priests with pearly white teeth, and a dead grandma with rats in her gaping abdominal cavity! Special attention must also be given to leading lady Margit Evelyn Newton, who looks fantastic while running around the jungle naked and while getting hers in the film’s eye popping climax.

Both Anchor Bay and (more recently) Blue Underground have released HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD on dvd (same disc, different packaging). The film is presented completely uncut and uncensored and the dvd also includes the theatrical trailer, poster & still gallery, and “Hell Rats Of The Living Dead” – a brief interview with Bruno Mattei. “Hell Of The Living Dead” is never going to considered one of the all time greats, but the massive amounts of gore, gunfire, and Goblin should make this sick flick a big winner for Italian horror fans with a taste for cheese, sleaze and cheap laughs.

 

 

ZOMBI HOLOCAUST (1980)

The legendary Ian McCulloch (“Zombi II,” “Contamination”) stars as a NYC detective named Peter Chandler. Peter teams up with the beautiful and brilliant Dr. Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli) to investigate a bizarre series of cadaver mutilations occurring at a hospital. Corpses begin turning up with freshly removed limbs and internal organs. The deviant butcher is revealed to be a native of the primitive island of Kito named Turin. Crazed with blood lust, Turin refuses to be captured and jumps out of a window to his death (watch out for the mannequin arm that snaps off and flies away and then magically reappears!).

Coincidentally enough, Lori is an expert in anthropology who grew up in Kito as a child. Peter convinces her to return to the remote island on the Archipelago along with himself, detective George Harper (Peter O’ Neil) and George’s annoying reporter girlfriend Susan (Sherry Buchanan). Lori assures Peter that “all primitive people practiced cannibalism – without exception,” yet Peter is convinced that the answers to the mysterious mutilations will be found in Kito. Peter contacts a world famous surgeon named Dr. Obrero (Donald O’ Brien) who heals the natives in the small islands near Kito. Dr. Obrero warns the group that the natives of Kito are the most savage that he has ever encountered and that they reject any attempts of being civilized. He then offers the group a boat to Kito and his dimwitted assistant Molotto (Dakkar, who played a similar role in “Zombi II”) as a captain/guide.

Shortly after arriving at Kito, the group is welcomed to the jungle by the fierce cannibal tribe. The cannibals quickly make a hot lunch out the trio of natives that were working as guides. Then the following day the cannibals capture George and Susan. George has his eyes gouged out shortly before losing his limbs, and Susan is apparently scalped, as one of the cannibals is later found wearing her bloody hair as a wig. Peter and Lori are then saved from imminent devourment by the inexplicable appearance of the walking dead! The rotting zombies scare off the cannibals, which gives Peter, Lori, and Molotto enough time to escape and run away.

They meet up with Dr. Obrero at a nearby chapel and Dr. Obrero again offers them a helping hand, this time in the form of a small motor boat located just up the beach. After a wild battle on the beach where he reduces a zombie’s face to pulp with an outboard motor, Peter begins to smell a rat and starts to suspect that Dr. Obrero might be hiding a secret even more sinister than the cannibals or the zombies. His suspicions quickly lead himself and Lori back into danger, and it isn’t long before Peter gets an up close and personal look at Dr. Obrero’s brain transplant experiments and Lori is captured by the cannibal tribe, stripped nude, and treated as a golden goddess by an Ace Frehley lookalike in a bizarre mating ritual.

Once the four idiots make their way to Kito the flick plays out in similar fashion to cannibal clas-sicks like “Cannibal Holocaust” and “Emmanuelle And The Last Cannibals.” Then the zombies finally show up and the shit really hits the fan as the film wraps itself up and begins shamelessly ripping off Fulci’s “Zombi II.” The ending of the film, which takes place in a burning primitive hospital is a direct lift from Fulci’s film.

On the plus side, the splatter in this flick is simply outrageous. There’s a very juicy neck slitting that I particularly enjoy. The scenes of Dr. Butcher in action hacking away at Sherry Buchanan’s brain and vocal chords are also especially pukeworthy. The unbeatable combination of cannibals, zombies, and primitive brain surgery ensures that no flesh will be spared and guarantees a good time for gorehounds.

Marino Girolami’s “Zombi Holocaust” is one of my favorite zombie flicks. It’s an undisputed grindhouse classic that was marketed to perfection in the States under the title “Dr. Butcher M.D.” The immortal tag line “He is a depraved sadistic rapist, a bloodthirsty homicidal killer – and he makes house calls!” is one of the greatest of all time. That description of the film is completely inaccurate of course, but they don’t call them exploitation flicks for nothing. The marketing of the film and the opening scenes that take place in NYC set this up as more of a simple slasher flick and that works at keeping the unsuspecting first time viewer off guard. “Zombi Holocaust” can best be described as a brutal combination of the always popular cannibal and zombie sub genres.

Shriek Show released an excellent dvd of ZOMBI HOLOCAUST that includes an uncut anamorphic wide screen transfer, still and poster gallery, trailers, talent bios, an interview with special effects maestro Maurizio Trani, and bonus scenes from Roy Frumke’s unfinished film “Tales That’ll Rip Your Heart Out” that were originally added to the US theatrical version. There’s also some fantastic liner notes from writer Chris Poggiali and nifty reversible cover art. Good gory fun!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD AND GUTS FLOWING!!!

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