And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Zombi Holocaust (1980)
I get the scars and the one eye but...why the cat nose?

I get the scars and the one eye but…seriously, why the cat nose?

After years of sneering contempt, Lucio Fulci’s zombie flicks are just now gaining some traction among the mass critical community. Nostalgia goggles allow everyone to view things like Zombi 2 or The Gates of Hell as artifacts of a bygone age now that we’re slumming amongst remakes and sequels. Not so with Fulci’s contemporaries in the Italian movie business, many of whom enjoyed long and critically acclaimed careers. Careers Western critics have studiously ignored, because the only people watching Italian movies that don’t feature zombies are art snobs who sneer at the zombie films.

Not that there isn’t good reason to sneer at Zombi Holocaust; it’s nobody’s prize pony, despite being arguably the most famous thing in director Marino Girolami’s oeuvre. Girolami’s one of those guys you’ve never heard of with a filmography stretching all the way back to the 40s. By the time Zombi 2 debuted, Girolami enjoyed the kind of reputation you need to have if you’re going to direct films without Hollywood’s Power Elite. He was quick, but not sloppy-quick in the Herschell Gordon Lewis, Ed Wood style. More a professional, practiced quickness, recalling Roger Corman’s directorial heyday in the 50s.

Like Corman, Girolami found himself directing/writing/producing/whatevering a wider variety of genre pictures as the 70s slowly died around him. Spaghetti westerns, cheap action romps, what we now call “softcore erotic thrillers”; legend has it he was so prolific, distributors asked him to credit some films to pseudonyms, lest the market grow over saturated. Continue reading

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Zombi 2 (1979)
"I want to eat the heart of it...New York, New York...yes, sir..."

“I want to eat the heart of it…New York, New York…yes, sir…”

It’s an old story but I’ll tell it again: George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead premiered in April, 1978. By September, it reached Italy under the title Zombi, because alteration doesn’t translate well and, hey, at least the title’s illustrative. I might’ve gone with Zombis myself, but nobody asked. Instead, hoping to cash in on Dawn of the Dead/Zombi‘s international success, Italian action/Western/thriller/giallo director Lucio Fulci gave us Zombi 2 the very next year.

Released in America in the summer of 1980 under the title Zombie, Fulci’s film (which I’ll refer to as “Zombi 2” from now on just for the sake of clarity) became a matinee and drive-in sensation. It’s another case of the right film in the right place at the right time, finding its natural audience in the English-speaking world’s teenagers. Between Night and Dawn, Romero managed to raise a whole generation of horror fans who didn’t want to wait ten years for the next zombie movies, damnit. We wanted them now. So what if half the cast have their lines dubbed? Some of us put up with way worse just to get our giant monster movie fix. Continue reading