Zombie Flesh Eaters

Blu-Ray Rating: *****

Reviewed by: David Graham

Read David Graham's film review of Zombie Flesh Eaters
Zombie Flesh Eaters

The first thing that should commend this Arrow Blu Ray presentation to you is the restoration of the film itself - it's never looked better, and the improved picture really forces you to reassess Fulci's directorial skills, while the clean, crackle-free sound mix allows you to soak up Fabio Frizzi's timeless score and the wonderfully squelchy sound effects in all their glory. No matter how many times you've bought this movie before, if you have any kind of appreciation for its technical merits you really need to own this edition. It's that simple.

An extensive buffet of all-new extras should also get you salivating (there's at least seven hours worth of tasty material here). Calum Waddell moderates a surprisingly sweet commentary with the brutally honest Elisa Briganti - co-screenwriter and wife of Dardano Sacchetti - who reveals that Fulci could indeed be the nasty woman-hating brat he's often perceived to be, though not with her, and also that her writing partnership with her husband was fiery, to say the least. She also talks about her other projects, such as those with maestro Mario Bava - who she obviously idolized -and Umberto Lenzi, where she felt the violence became too gratuitous without an 'ironic point of view'. Waddell does well to keep the conversation flowing, and it's a pleasure to hear such an open, thoughtful interviewee - a great exclusive for this release.

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The other commentary features Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower and ubiquitous Argento expert Alan Jones, who both share a wealth of inside info - indeed it's hard to imagine anyone who actually worked on the film being so forthcoming and in-depth! While the chat gets a little off topic when the two start comparing their first-hand experiences of Fulci himself, it's still riveting to hear their stories, including recollections of the film's impact at the time and amusing anecdotes about how Jones bore the wrath of his Starburst readers for being an early champion of Fulci et al. Thrower, in particular, is a veritable fountain of knowledge, even educating Jones on a few points, while giving interesting little tid-bits about even the most obscure actors (the first zombie we see was apparently a movie dog-handler called Captain Haggerty!). It's another fantastic new yak-trak, which compliments Brigante's more personal commentary without overlapping.

It's a shame not to have Ian McCulloch's (admittedly dry and patchy) commentary from the old R1 DVD release, but at least his interview shows his previously derogatory attitude towards the film (and Fulci) has obviously mellowed with age and the continued work it's given him over the years. Now, having seen and reappraised the film, his memories are noticeably rosier than before. Summing Fulci up as 'a naughty schoolboy' and humorously recounting how hard he was to take seriously due to an uncanny resemblance to Benny Hill, McCulloch confirms how mean the Italian maestro could be towards his female stars (poor Auretta Gay appears to have borne the brunt on this shoot due to her lack of acting experience), but he rationalises this with the observation that these displays of anger were sometimes the only way to get the best from the crew, and Fulci was certainly not the only proponent of this 'technique'.

A Q&A with legendary composer Fabio Frizzi (filmed this year at the Glasgow Film Theatre) shows him to be utterly charming despite his occasional language struggles (for which he's assisted by Arrow honcho Nick Frame), revealing that he wasn't actually on set during filming, which seems surprising seeing as his music provides so much of the atmosphere. He also names his score for The Beyond as his own personal favourite, and he obviously has a genuine affection and appreciation for long-time collaborator Fulci and his work, offering a few amusing anecdotes about the director's simultaneous playfulness and perseverance in getting what he wanted. He also shares fond recollections of the universally loved Luigi Cozzi (who McCulloch also waxes lyrical about), cult director and gregarious owner of the Profondo Rosso shop-cum-museum.

An interview with Gianni De Rossi reveals how much he loved his work - but nothing else about the movie-making process. Ironically, De Rossi is now blind in one eye - perhaps divine retribution for all the eye-puncturing gore-porn he was responsible for! He describes Fulci as 'adorable' while acknowledging his personal issues and impulsive, demanding nature, while talking a little about each of his films of the period. He shares some fascinating tricks of the trade with Waddell and Frame in his workshop, wrapping up with a few amusing anecdotes about Piranha 2, the first feature by a certain James Cameron. It's a sign of how extensive these features are that they've managed to do a '6 degrees of Zombie Flesh Eaters' that leads directly to Titanic and Avatar - Cameron would probably choke on his 3D goggles.

Elsewhere, a short snippet of Dardano Sacchetti showing Calum Waddell and Nick Frame his script proves a little pointless seeing as the pages are contained in the accompanying booklet, while a selection of trailers and radio spots highlight how brilliantly trashy the marketing was.

The best extra in a very strong package is probably the new hour-long contextual doc From Romero To Rome. This is extremely useful for referencing where ZFE stands in its pantheon, featuring clips from predecessors like under-rated Spanish classic Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue and the Blind Dead series, as well as from Romero's films themselves (despite the fact - as McCulloch asserts - that Romero bitterly denies all knowledge of ZFE's existence). Moving on to intriguing and respectful interviews with the likes of Ruggero Deodato and Dardano Sachetti (who gives a little more insight into the origins of the shark scene), it's funny to see the Italians once again cannibalizing not only the West but themselves with the likes of Zombie Holocaust, Cannibal Apocalypse and Erotic Nights Of The Living Dead. It's both informative and entertaining viewing, almost on a par with such canon-opening films as Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed! despite obviously being produced on a fraction of the budget. Kudos to Waddell and Frame all round.

Of course, it wouldn't be an Arrow presentation without the irresistible packaging, and for this release - probably the company's most eagerly awaited since the now out-of-print Dawn Of The Dead - fans are literally spoiled for choice. The reversible quattro-sleeve slipcase is limited to 500 and only available through the company's website, but everyone else can compensate with a lovely steel-book showcasing Graham Humphreys' spectacular new art. Both these releases also come with a double sided poster featuring the original UK and US artwork, the latter containing the immortal tagline 'We Are Going To Eat You!' (if you want a poster of the Humphreys art you're highly recommended to invest in the Death Waltz soundtrack vinyl). There's also a basic Blu Ray box release that's available for around 10 pounds, but lacks the poster. All three do, however, come with a lovely booklet featuring an excellent essay from Thrower, an intriguing censorship history and Waddell's interview with Olga Karlatos, who can't recall much of the shoot but does have an interesting life-story to tell.

It all adds up to another exceptional package from Arrow. No one else is coming close to the love and care these guys are putting into their releases - here's hoping they never run out of old and obscure cult faves to lavish their attention upon!

Reviewed on: 18 Dec 2012
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Zombie Flesh Eaters packshot
A woman searching for her father stumbles on an island of the undead.
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Region: B

Extras: Brand new high definition restoration of the original negative. Optional English SDH subtitles on the feature Audio commentary with screenwriter Elisa Briganti moderated by Calum Waddell Audio commentary, UK exclusive introduction to the film from Ian McCulloch, From Romero To Rome: The Rise And Fall Of The Italian Zombie Film, The Meat Munching Movies of Gino Rossi, Music For A Flesh-Feast, Zombie Flesh Eaters - From Script To Screen, trailer and radio spots, collectors' booklet, reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys

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