Monday, March 12, 2018

Angel of Vengeance (Ted V. Mikels and Ray Dennis Steckler, 1987)

Despite the pleading of Pierre (Pierre Agostino, credited as "Pierre D'Augustino"), who tells him the Major said to leave the local women alone, Manny Laconi (Macka Foley, who played the gym coach on two episodes of Parker Lewis Can't Lose) propositions newcomer Tina Davenport (Jannina Poynter), who has come to a small mountain town to write a book about her father, a Green Beret who died in Vietnam about 15 years ago. Taking to the rustic life like a fish to water, Tina nevertheless finds herself continually harassed by Manny, who eventually shows up at the cottage, only to be coldcocked and arrested. Major Hargrove (David O'Hara, whose credits include playing a cop in an episode of Santa Barbara and Ed Gein on Criminal Minds), the leader of the survivalist militia group in the mountains Manny and Pierre belong to, shows up to transport Manny back to their compound, Tina having chosen not to press charges. The Major and Manny, who once served six years for sexual assault, get into an altercation with some bikers, who follow them back to the compound. The Major and his merry band kill all of the bikers except for Linda (Linda Eden), whom the Major gives to Manny to do with as he pleases. Going into town to get supplies, Manny and Pierre run into Tina out jogging, and Manny decides to bring her with them. Meanwhile, two rednecks leave a gun store after robbing the place and shooting the owner. Tina gets thrown in the same cell as Linda, who she insists needs a doctor. The Major is not happy with Manny for bringing her to the compound. Tina is tied to a bed, and Manny rapes her (offscreen, thankfully). Meanwhile, the two random killers murder a farm family. Tina accuses the Major of cowardice and requests that his men hunt her, giving her a fair chance. The Major gives her two hours, believing an unarmed woman is easy prey, but he is very wrong...

Fans of cult cinema will appreciate the legendary names behind Angel of Vengeance. Ray Dennis Steckler was initially the director, but was sadly fired after three days by producer Jeffrey C. Hogue and replaced with Ted V. Mikels, the director of such infamous films as The Black Klansman (not to be confused with the upcoming Spike Lee movie of the same name), The Corpse Grinders (in which people being ground into violence-inducing cat food is simulated by placing the actors into cardboard boxes and pushing hamburger out the other end), and The Doll Squad, often cited as the likely inspiration for Charlie's Angels. Mikels lived in a California castle for many years with a bevy of beautiful women, so make of that what you will. Angel of Vengeance marks the sixth film I've seen by Mikels, and the most recent in terms of release date. It's probably the weakest of the six, but I would say it has a certain "guilty pleasure" quality to it if I believed in the idea of guilty pleasures. The plot is standard '80s action movie fare, although some of the performances are amusing. Jannina Poynter is certainly attractive, but not much to write home about as an actress. Her response to finding a dead body seems less to denote anger at the killer as annoyance. It's also hilarious how she comes into town wearing an incredibly demure dress, but once she settles in the cottage she switches to a headband, tank top, and short shorts. Macka Foley plays one of the hammiest psycho rapists ever caught on film. David O'Hara is pretty charismaless and unmemorable for a militia leader. Pierre Agostino is likely a holdover from when Steckler was still directing the film, as he played the title character of RDS' films The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher and Las Vegas Serial Killer. One wonders if the name on the bikers' jackets, "Thrill Killers, Inc.," is a in-joke nod to Steckler's film The Thrill Killers. The random killers, Zach (Jason Holt, who also directed six films, four of which he acted in) and his unnamed partner (Ed Walters) chew the scenery almost as much as Foley, and the ending will likely satisfy viewers who've come to hate these pieces of shit. Some of Tina's killings are memorable, as when she jabs two sharpened sticks through a guy's eyes, or when she catches another one in a snare and blows him up with a grenade, leaving only a leg. There's a mediocre country song over the end credits, "Take Me Home" by T. Craig Keller (also the associate producer), and Tina twice sings Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" (Because her methods are totally ones of which the erstwhile Robert Zimmerman would approve, right?) This isn't anywhere near the level of Mikels' '60s-'70s work, but it's worth at least one watch for completeness' sake. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Maciste in Hell (Maciste all'inferno; Guido Brignone, 1925)

The forces of Hell, led by the Lieutenant, Barbariccia (Franz Sala), come to Earth in human form to spread chaos. Barbariccia tries to tempt the superhumanly strong Maciste (Bartolomeo Pagano) with wealth and power, but the virtuous hero will have no truck with the Devil. Soon after, Maciste confronts Prince George (Domenico Serra), demanding he take responsibility for the child he has fathered by Maciste's cousin Rosabel (Polaire). Unfortunately, Barbariccia kidnaps the baby, and tells Rosabel he is dead. Cursing God, she almost falls prey to the demon, but a friendly priest intervenes. Meanwhile, Maciste finds the baby and takes it to safety, reuniting him with his mother in the process. Soon the demons return to Hell, but not before dragging Maciste along with them...

The strongman Maciste is one of the longest-running characters in Italian cinema, debuting in the 1914 film Cabiria, the first of 27 silent films. In the 1960s, with Steve Reeves' Hercules a huge success, Italian filmmakers revived Maciste for a series of "sword and sandal" flicks. Since Maciste was not a well-known character outside of Italy, the dubbed versions often changed the name "Maciste" to other heroes of myth and legend. For instance, Maciste e la regina de Samar became Hercules Against the Moon Men. One interesting aspect of both incarnations of Maciste is that he appears in many disparate locales and centuries, as shown by the title of Zorro contro Maciste, a cinematic crossover with Johnston McCulley's swashbuckling hero. This leads to the inescapable conclusion the strongman is immortal. If so, perhaps Rosabel is actually his descendant rather than his cousin. That being said, this film is somewhat confusing in chronological terms. The montage of wonders Barbariccia offers Maciste includes shots of skyscrapers, yet Prince George's retainers wear powdered wigs and ruffled shirts. Despite this, the film's atmosphere is great. Hell is eerie, and the goatlike makeup on the actors playing demons is exceptional for the era. In human form, they resemble nothing less than stereotypical silent movie villains - think Snidely Whiplash. (Fans of exploitation cinema may recognize some of the Hell footage, as it was reused in Dwain Esper's 1934 sleaze masterpiece Maniac to symbolize the protagonist's madness, as well as footage from Benjamin Christensen's Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages and Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen: Siegfried). There are some cool special effects for the time: a demon's head inflates, while another places a head atop his neck. Franz Sala is more husky than muscular, but he makes a good hero. There is a slightly cringeworthy sexist line regarding the women of Hell's attempts to seduce Maciste, "Even in Hell, women are fickle!" I know this movie is pre-Gloria Steinem, but still... The script is fairly literary, including quotes from Longfellow and Dante. I've seen a couple of the 1960s Maciste films before, but this was the first of the original series I've seen, and I definitely want to check out more now.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Demons (Lamberto Bava, 1985)

A young woman named Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) is walking through a train station in Berlin where a silent man in a metal half-mask (assistant director and future director of genre fare such as The Church and Cemetery Man Michele Soavi) is handing out free tickets to a film showing at the Metropol Theater. Cheryl asks this Man in Black for an extra ticket for her friend Kathy (A Cat in the Brain's Paola Cozzo). Neither girl has heard of the Metropol, but they go to the film anyway. Other viewers include George (Urbano Barberini, Tarl Cabot in the film versions of John Norman's Gor books) and Ken (Karl Zinny of Bava's Delirium), with whom the two hit it off immediately; Tony (Flight from Paradise's Bobby Rhodes), a black pimp accompanied by his employees Rosemary (Geretta Geretta) and Carmen (Fabiola Toledo of Bava's A Blade in the Dark); Tommy (Guido Baldi) and his girlfriend Hannah (Fiore Argento, eldest daughter of co-screenwriter and producer Dario Argento); and blind man Werner (Ladyhawke's Alex Serra) and his daughter Liz (Sally Day). Rosemary tries on a mask on display in the lobby, which leaves a scratch on her cheek. The film plays: it features a group of young people discovering the tomb of Nostradamus, which contains nothing but a book in Latin and a mask. One of the characters tries on the mask, which scratches him just like Rosemary. True to the prophecy in Nostradamus' book, the mask turns the character into a demon, and mayhem ensues. In the real world, Rosemary discovers her wound is bleeding again and heads to the bathroom, but turns into a hideous, green bile-spewing demon herself. Soon, the filmgoers discover fiction has become horrifying reality.

Lamberto Bava may not have been a brilliant filmmaker on the level of his father Mario, the master of Gothic horror, but he did have genuine talent, and of the three films of his I've seen to date, this would have to be the best, and indeed it's Lamberto's favorite of his own films. The story by Bava, the legendary Dario Argento, Dardano Sacchetti (writer or co-writer of such masterpieces as the elder Bava's A Bay of Blood and Fulci's The Beyond), and Franco Ferrini (Once Upon a Time in America and Argento's Phenomena) is surprisingly meta (including fakeout end credits!), and thankfully no explanation is given for why the demons of the movie are real other than Werner's claim the theater is cursed. The gore FX by Angelo Mattei and makeup by Sergio Stivaletti are impressive indeed. The characters are not particularly well-developed, but still entertaining, especially the foul-mouthed Tony, who takes charge of the theatergoers in their escape attempts. Unfortunately, he is not as lucky (relatively speaking) as Ken Foree's Peter Washington in Dawn of the Dead. The idea of a blind man going to the movies is pretty hilarious (according to the film's trivia page on IMDB, deliberately so), but since Werner's daughter Liz is there for a romantic tryst, it makes a certain amount of sense. Sadly, Werner suffers an ironic fate. Surprisingly, redheaded usherette Ingrid (Nicoletta Elmi of Argento's Deep Red) at first seems mysterious and sinister, but ultimately turns out to be an innocent victim herself, something not acknowledged. There are some hilarious scenes with a quartet of punks who steal a Ferrari and snort coke through a straw in a can of Coke and stumble upon the theater, which contains posters for Argento's Four Flies on Grey Velvet Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre, and Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Look out for a cameo at the end by young Giovanni Frezza, who genre fans will know best as Bob in Fulci's The House by the Cemetery. The soundtrack is utterly '80s: besides excellent work by Claudio Simonetti, it also boasts work by Rick Springfield (this would be my second favorite film with a scene where characters snort coke while listening to his music, the first being Boogie Nights), Mötley Crüe, Pretty Minds, Go West, the Adventures, Billy Idol ("White Wedding"!!!), Accept, and Saxon. A sequel by Bava followed in 1986, and as so often happens in Italian genre cinema a number of unrelated horror films were touted as sequels in other countries. Stivaletti said in 2016 he, Bava, and Argento were talking about a 3-D remake, but two years later there seems to be no forward progress. No worries; this version would be hard to top for sheer fun.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Blood of Fu Manchu (Jess Franco, 1968)

The insidious Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee) has his dacoits kidnap ten beautiful women from around the world, and expose them to the bite of the black cobra, which gives them the "kiss of death," causing first blindness and then, as the name indicates, death. He plans to have the women use the kiss on ten influential men around the world, his enemies. Assisting Fu in his efforts is his equally evil daughter Lin Tang (You Only Live Twice's Tsai Chin). An archaeological expedition lead by Carl Jansen (Götz George of the long-running German cop show Tatort) and Professor Wagner (whose actor is sadly unidentified on IMDB). The dacoits open fire on the explorers; Wagner is killed, and Jansen barely escapes. In London, we learn that Jansen was searching for Fu Manchu at the behest of the latter's archenemy, Nayland Smith (The Adventures of Robin Hood's Richard Greene), who is visited by his sidekick Dr. Petrie (Howard Marion-Crawford, the grandson of author F. Marion Crawford). Unfortunately, also dropping in is one of Fu's assassins, Celeste (The Blue Max's Loni von Friedl), who gives Smith the kiss of death before fleeing, only to be hit by a car. Meanwhile, Jansen comes to the mansion of the Governor of Santa Cristabel, saying he needs to arrange passage to Mealia to inform Professor Wagner's niece Ursula of what has happened, but the Governor instead arrests him for his colleague's murder. Fu Manchu suspects bandit leader Sancho Lopez (Spaghetti Western standby Ricardo Palacios) of being a spy for Nayland Smith, and has him captured when his men raid Mealia shortly after an encounter with Ursula, (Franco regular Maria Rohm), a doctor for the local mission service.

Jess Franco is a director whose films run the gamut from really good to blisteringly bad, and this film falls firmly in the middle. The fourth film in a series produced by Harry Alan Towers (Maria Rohm's husband, not coincidentally), and the first of two directed by Franco, this is an entertaining but never above-average film. Based on Sax Rohmer's novel series, this film is likely to disappoint some ardent Fu Manchu fans such as myself. For one thing, Dr. Petrie, the narrator of the early novels, is changed from a basically competent and robust individual into a doddering jackass who seems more concerned about his damn tea than fighting the Devil Doctor. Also, he's apparently in a relationship with an unseen bleach-blonde, so no hint of the literary Petrie's beloved Kâramanèh. Also, Fu Manchu's daughter, known by the childhood nickname of Fah Lo Suee in the novels (as well as such aliases as Madame Ingomar, Koreani, and Queen Mamaloi) has had her name changed for this series, just as the 1931 film Daughter of the Dragon gave the name of Princess Ling Moy to Fu's daughter played by Anna May Wong. (For the record, Fu himself was played by erstwhile CharlieChan Warner Oland.) Fu's organization is never referred to as the Si-Fan, and he doesn't have his faithful marmoset Pekoe. As so many book covers and films have done, Fu is given a mustache despite Rohmer explicitly desribing him as clean-shaven. Even so, if you're not a purist, it can be pretty enjoyable. Or not, depending on how you feel about white actors such as the legendary Christopher Lee playing a Chinese man. Of course, Lee and Oland were not the only white men to play the Lord of Strange Deaths; as recently as 2007, Nicolas Cage played Fu Manchu in a memorable cameo in Rob Zombie's faux movie trailer Werewolf Women of the S.S. as part of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's film Grindhouse. And at least Fu's daughter is played by an actual Chinese woman. Lee is as awesomely sinister as always, and as with the other films of the series he appears in an isolated shot declaring "the world shall hear from me again." There's also some beautiful scenery in the form of the Brazilian jungle used to stand in for Santa Cristabel. There are also plenty of lovely ladies in the film, some of whom provide a bit of frontal and rear nudity. Shirley Eaton appears in a scene lifted from the Franco/Towers collaboration Rio 70, used without consulting Ms. Eaton herself. (Ol' Jess was not above reusing scenes or character names from his other films, as Francophile well know.) This film had no less then three alternate titles in the U.S.: Against All OddsKiss and Kill, and Kiss of Death. Personally, I prefer the original title, as Rohmer always included Fu's name in the title of the books. I do have to say, it's weird that Fu Manchu thinks Nayland Smith would employ a murderous rapist like Sancho Lopez as a spy, but needless to say he's proven wrong. Fu has a group of female scientists working for him, but they sadly only show up for one scene. Of the two Fu Manchu films Franco directed, I'll take this over the oft-incomprehensible The Castle of Fu Manchu anyday. Check it out on Amazon Prime.

As a Sherlock Holmes fanatic as well as a Fu Manchu one, I have to note that three of the main actors in this film have appeared in adaptations of the Great Detective. Considering Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie were essentially Rohmer's versions of Holmes and Watson, this seems pretty appropriate to me. Christopher Lee played Sir Henry Baskerville in Hammer's 1959 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes himself in the 1962 West German-French-Italian co-production, and the 1992 TV movie Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady, and Sherlock's brother Mycroft in Billy Wilder's 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Richard Greene played the aforementioned Sir Henry Baskerville in the 1939 version of Hound starring Basil Rathbone, and Lord Brompton in "The Case of The Purloined Letter," a 1979 episode of the television series Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Interestingly, Greene took over the role of Nayland Smith in the last two films of the series from Douglas Wilmer, who played Holmes in a 1964-1965 TV series and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, as well as having a cameo in "The Reichenbach Fall" episode of Sherlock. Howard Marion-Crawford played the Dr. Watson to Ronald Howard's Holmes in the 1954-1955 TV series Sherlock Holmes.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Sword and the Claw (Kiliç Aslan; Natuk Baytan, 1979)

King Solomon is killed by the usurper Antoine, and his fleeing wife dies giving birth to his son. The baby, who like all males of his line has a birthmark in the shape of a scimitar and a lion's head, is raised by lions himself, while Antoine's wife, who slept with Solomon shortly after her forced marriage and before the king's death, gives birth to a boy herself, only to be placed in the dungeons for the rest of her life after insulting Antoine. Years later, Solomon's son has grown into a feral but heroic Lion Man (Cüneyt Arkin, best known in America for Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam, aka Turkish Star Wars due to its unauthorized use of footage from the original film), who helps the peasants led by Rustam in their rebellion against Antoine and his son Aslan. Lion Man uses his hands like claws, slashing mercilessly at Antoine's soldiers. He also falls in love with Rustam's daughter Ida, while Aslan finds himself drawn to an exotic dancer. Soon, Lion Man and Aslan discover a connection that leads them to join forces against the cruel King Antoine.

Turkish exploitation cinema is pretty popular amongst grindhouse cinema aficionados, from the aforementioned Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam to the Kilink films (inspired by Italian fumetti photo-comics) to 3 Dev Adam, a knock-off film in which El Santo (not played by the real luchador) and a shieldless Captain America take on "the Spider," a sadistic crimeboss version of Spider-Man with eyebrows on his mask. Since 3 Dev Adam was the only other Turkish cult flick I've seen, I was pretty excited when AFGA (American Genre Film Archive) released The Sword and the Claw on Blu-ray last month. I can now say it was very much worth the wait. Set apparently during the time of the Byzantine empire, exactly when and where these events occur are never made fully clear. Some of Antoine's soldiers wear robes, others armor, and some of them have shields that seem to bear the letter "P" on them, for some reason (if there's any historical reference to that, readers can feel free to let me know). The acting feels awkward, and from the way the actors emote it probably would be even without the goofy dubbing, including the longest string of consecutive cries of "Bastard!" The actor playing Antoine hams it up something fierce too. I've heard delivered by a film character since Juan Piquer Simón's Pieces. Cüneyt Arkin (credited as Richard Arkin, incidentally, and more on that below) is a wooden leading man, spending most of the film with no dialogue before taking English lessons from Ida midway through the film, then not speaking again until the film's climax, in complete sentences, apparently having learned human language at a speed that Tarzan might envy, if Lord Greystoke were so petty. The fight scenes are pretty hilarious, with lots of characters jumping around (clearly a trampoline was used), and the gore is far from convincing. Lion Man's mother (whose husband is evidently not the King Solomon) apparently gives birth while fully clothed. The plot twist about Aslan's connection to Lion Man can be seen coming from pretty much the beginning of the film. The fact that Lion Man's family birthmark is an icon that looks exactly like two real things is a pretty goofy plot contrivance. Rustam's fellow rebels include a hairy dude named Hammerfist (of the Boston Hammerfists, perhaps?) and a bald guy who looks a little like Sid Haig in Spider Baby. The soundtrack often sounds more appropriate for the Bolshoi Ballet then a historical epic. When Lion Man acquires a pair of steel claws, it seems redundant, since his old hands worked pretty much like claws anyway. This movie was totally ridiculous, and that's why I loved it. Kudos to AFGA for introducing this Turkish delight to a new generation of American film buffs such as myself. Apparently, there's also a sequel, 1979's Lionman II: The Witchqueen, with a different director and cast. One can only hope AFGA will do that film at some point as well. Bonus features on the Blu-ray include trailers for other AFGA releases (such as Superargo and the Faceless Giants and Three Supermen in the West) and a bonus film, the 1978 South Korean martial arts flick Brawl Busters (whatta title!), which I'm sure I'll be watching and covering here at some point in the near-future.

Unfortunately, IMDB lists the full cast, but not who plays what character. The end credits don't help in that regard either. The fact that many of the actors have both non-Turkish sounding names and a lack of other credits on IMDB makes me think many of the actors used pseudonyms to make the film more palatable to English speaking audiences. Hopefully, someone will track down more info.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Satan's Sadists (Al Adamson, 1969)

At a diner in the California desert, owner Lew (Half Past Midnight's Kent Taylor), waitress Tracy (Jacqulin Cole, credited as "Jackie Taylor"), ex-military policeman in Vietnam Johnny Martin (The Black Klansman's Gary Kent), and cop Charlie Baldwin (Gremlins' Scott Brady) and his wife Nora (Evelyn Frank) are taken hostage by the Satans, a group of degenerate bikers consisting of psycho leader Anchor (Twin Peaks' Russ Tamblyn), his lovesick old lady Gina (Regina Carrol, wife of director Al Adamson), mohawked half-Native American Firewater (Nightmare in Wax's John "Bud" Cardos), hearing aid-using LSD enthusiast Acid (screenwriter Greydon Clark, future director of such cult classics as Black Shampoo and Angels' Brigade, both featuring Jacqulin Cole herself, who had by that time become Mrs. Clark), eyepatched Willie (Deadwood '76's Robert Dix), and the not-as-distinctive Muscle (Bigfoot's William Bonner) and Romeo (Bobby Clark, who may or may not be related to Greydon, and oddly is credited on IMDB for his stuntwork in the film but not his acting).

Satan's Sadists is the third film I've seen by exploitation legend Al Adamson, and without a doubt the best of three, far outstripping The Dynamite Brothers, which is still a better blaxploitation-martial arts hybrid than The Tattoo Connection, and Dracula vs. Frankenstein, featuring J. Carroll Naish, Lon Chaney, Jr., and Angelo Rossitto at an all-time career low. As crazy biker movies go, it's not on the level of Russ Meyer's Motor Psycho, and in terms of flicks about loonies menacing diner patrons, it's probably not up to Ray Dennis Steckler's The Thrill Killers, but it's still damn entertaining. The Satans are drinking, drugging, raping, killing machines. Russ Tamblyn in particular is his usual delightful self, portraying Anchor as a giggling maniac who has absolutely no value for human life. John "Bud" Cardos delivers a fine performance as the only member of the Satans who has any compunctions about Anchor's ruthlessness. Regina Carrol, billed as "The Freak-Out Girl," does a sexy dance over jukebox music, and puts up with some pretty horrendous abuse from Tamblyn, which finally drives her over the edge... Gary Kent makes for a pretty bland hero, but it is cool seeing him use his 'Nam experience in fighting the Satans. Jacqulin Cole is a real looker and a pretty decent actress - it's easy to tell what Greydon saw in her. The film, ironically, was shot at the Spahn Ranch, where another mentally ill gang sadly would soon help end the Love Generation. Greydon's script has some memorable lines, such as Johnny saying "If you're a person, you're somebody?" or Romeo remarking about Nora, "She's sure got nice boobs!" Keep in mind, the person saying this is not 10 years old. There're some cool death scenes, including the first known toilet drowning in a film (interesting to see where that got started!), and psychedelic songs written by Harley Hatcher and performed by the Nightriders. Satan's Sadists is a groovy gas that all exploitation cinema fans must see! If you have a Fandor account, you can check it out there, but if you're still undecided, dig the trailer!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Zombie (Zombi 2; Lucio Fulci, 1979)

A seemingly empty boat appears in New York City's harbor. A patrol boat comes out to investigate, and one of the patrolmen is killed by a deformed zombie, who is killed in turn by his partner. The boat belongs to the father of Anne Bowles (Anthropophagus' Tisa Farrow, daughter of Maureen O'Sullivan and sister of Mia Farrow), whom the police question about what happened. At the morgue, the dead harbor patrolman begins to awaken. Reporter Peter West (Zombie Holocaust's Ian McCulloch) is told to cover the story by his editor. Sneaking aboard the boat to investigate, Anne runs into Peter, who did the same. After discovering a letter from Anne's father, they manage to escape from the credulous guard watching the boat by pretending they came aboard to have sex. The letter reveals that the elder Bowles was one of the victims of a plague on the Caribbean island of Matool. On the island, Dr. David Menard (Deadlier Than the Male's Richard Johnson), who is treating the zombie plague, argues with his wife (Keoma's Olga Karlatos). A native named Lucas (Ator, the Fighting Eagle's Dakar, born Alejandro Barrera) tells Menard, the other natives believe the zombies are being created by voodoo, but the doctor, a scientist and rationalist, is skeptical. Meanwhile, Mrs. Menard falls victim to the living dead. Arriving in the Caribbean, Peter and Anne hitch a ride to Matool aboard a boat owned by two vacationing fellow Americans, Brian Hull (Al Cliver) and Susan Barrett (Auretta Gay). Susan nearly falls victim to a shark while scubaing, but it instead is killed by an underwater zombie, though not before damaging the boat. Arriving on Matul and calling for help with signal flares, they are greeted by Menard, who reveals Anne's father is dead, having fallen victim to the plague. Like many others, Menard killed him once again by shooting him in the head when he started to revive. Menard asks the visitors to check on his wife. When they arrive, they find zombies in the midst of a hearty meal...

Zombie, or Zombi 2 to use its original title, was ostensibly a sequel to George Romero's masterpiece Dawn of the Dead, which was released in Italy under the title Zombi. However, as is often the case with Italian films marketed as "sequels" to existing films, Italian or American, there is no actual relationship between the two. In Dawn of the Dead, the dead returning to life is never explained. In Zombie, it's heavily implied to be as a result of a voodoo ritual. Indeed, Fulci's zombies are an interesting blend of the flesh-eating contagious variety created by Romero and imitated by countless filmmakers, authors, artists, and television writers, with the more traditional undead of voodoo lore. Even so, Fulci does manage to bring something new to the table. It's hard not to love zombies vs. sharks, and Fulci even throws a few conquistador zombies into the mix. The gore FX and makeup are topnotch, and it's easy to see why this became one of Britain's infamous "video nasties." Olga Karlatos receives a pre-death injury that will likely make viewers wince, while the zombies are even more rotted then Romero's. Karlatos does have a shower scene right before the zombie attack, and Auretta Gay wears an extremely tight thong and no top during her scuba scenes, reflecting the Italians' much-debated blending of sex and violence. Fabio Frizzi's music includes electronica and calypso-style pieces. Of all the Italian zombie films I've seen (and I've seen plenty), this may very well be the best!