An abandoned yacht floats into New York waters prompting the Harbour Patrol to investigate. They find a squalid, cramped interior aboard the yacht, filled with rotting food and a towering, corpulent walking corpse that takes a bite out of one of the Patrol Guards before toppling into the water when the other guard unloads his weapon into it.
Journalist Peter West (played by Ian McCulloch star of 70s cult TV favourite The Survivors) soon gets wind of this and ends up pretending to make out with Anne, the daughter of the schooner’s owner (played by Mia Farrow’s sister Tisa), in order to avoid getting arrested for trespassing on the yacht where they were both looking for clues. A note found on board the boat points them to the tropical island of Matool. Peter’s Editor (a cameo from director Lucio Fulci) agrees to bank roll an all expenses paid trip to find out more, most probably because he’s glad of any excuse to get rid of Peter. As Peter himself points out he only has a job because his uncle owns the paper.
Peter and Anne head to the tropics and hook up with an island hopping couple Bryan (Fulci stalwart Al Cliver) and Susan (Auretta Gray) who agree to take them to Matool on their boat. Matool is not a safe place though, the dead have begun to walk and are attacking the living causing the natives to desert the island. Only Dr Menard (Richard Johnson), who works at the local mission, refuses to leave no matter how much his wife Paola (Olga Karlatos) implores him.
What follows is one of the most jaw dropping, heart pounding, undead jungle romps ever committed to celluloid. Shot as an unofficial sequel to Dawn of the Dead, to cash in on the popularity of Romero’s film in Italy, this is the film that cemented Fulci’s cult status as an extreme horror director. It was also one of the films that created the ‘video nasty’ hysteria of the 1980s here in Britain, when a loophole in the law allowed Vipco to release a version on video that included the one minute and forty-six seconds worth of cuts that the BBFC had demanded.
The script by Dardano Sacchetti (but credited to his wife Elisa Briganti) is a fairly pedestrian attempt to blend horror and adventure movies, but Fulci’s imaginative and innovative direction lift the film to a whole new level. Though to Sacchetti’s credit he did come up with both the scenes that have made this film infamous. Namely the gratuitous scene of an eyeball being pierced by a splinter and the underwater battle between a zombie and a shark (yes a shark!).
Arrow Video have not only restored all of the previously missing footage, they’ve also painstakingly restored the quality of the original print, making this probably the single best version of the film ever to appear on the UK home market. There are plenty of extras and special features including an interview with McCulloch and a fascinating documentary on the rise and fall of the Italian zombie film. Not all the special features are of the highest quality though, one is simply a film of somebody flipping through a copy of the original script for ten minutes (yes really) and another is a film of a Q&A session with composer Fabio Frizzo from the Glasgow Film Theatre that looks like it was shot with a camera that someone smuggled in inside a bag. This is a small quibble however in what is an otherwise unmissable package.
If you are a fan of zombies, extreme cinema or classic Euro-horror then you really can’t afford to be without this excellent two disc release from Arrow Video. Buy it now or we’ll set our undead minions on you – well go on then – you’ve been warned.
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