1979, The Jerry Gross Organization
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I always thought this Italian horror movie was made in order to cash in on the popularity of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, but it wasn’t until recently that I found out that production on Zombie started before Romero’s classic had been released. This movie’s scenes in New York City were added after the success of Romero’s film (which was released in September ’78 in Italy) in what I’m guessing was a slight attempt to give American audiences something they could relate to.
The producers did make one blatant attempt to cash in on Dawn of the Dead though. The movie was known as Zombi in Italy, so the original title for this movie is Zombi 2. Neither film has any true connection other than their Italian movie titles and the fact that they both feature zombies. In America, this movie is simply known as Zombie but in other parts of the world it’s called Zombie Flesh Eaters (UK) and Woodoo (Germany).
Though the film is considered a classic in the zombie genre, it is primarily known for one scene: zombie vs. shark. That’s right. An undersea battle between a shark trainer dressed up as a zombie and a real-life shark. Is training sharks possible? I’m surprised the shark let the guy get away with as much rough-housing as he did. He’s hanging onto the shark, pulling on the shark, “biting” the shark and shaking the shark. The shark really couldn’t have care less. Maybe he was a bit sedated.
The second most famous moment is “eyeball gag”, where one lady is being pulled through a broken door and ends up getting a large piece of wood stabbed into her eye during the process. It’s a pretty gory and unsettling scene.
Despite the cool zombie vs. shark and disturbing eye ball scenes, the one thing that’s always stuck with me is the close-up on Auretta Gay’s see-through thong-covered crotch while she puts on her scuba gear. Yes, whenever I think of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, I always think of classic 1970s bush. Of course, I enjoyed seeing her boobs as well.
I hadn’t seen this movie since the very first time I watched it. So we’re talking 15 years ago or so. I remember not falling in love with the movie back then but in that time I’ve seen tons of zombie movies, so I was curious if my opinion would be different. It is. The film still cannot compete with Dawn of the Dead, it does offer the same sense of hopelessness and dread. There’s just something about zombies attacking the living in the broad daylight setting of a tropical island that’s extra creepy.
They did a great job providing atmosphere right down to the movie’s theme song:
There’s also tons of gore and action. Sure, this is a horror movie with plenty of flesh-eating but by the end of the movie, plenty of bullets are flying and plenty of Molotov cocktails are exploding. Even though these movies were independent features, they still managed to get the most bang for their buck with all kinds of make-up and special effects. I’ll take low-budget horror movie blood over digital blood (which The Walking Dead TV show is guilty of) any day. The make-up up the zombies is pretty amazing. While Romero & make-up wizard Tom Savini were painting their zombies gray and bright green to give Dawn of the Dead a comic book feel, Fulci zombies were rotting corpses complete with maggots and worms crawling all over them.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever watch this movie again, but I was definitely long overdue in viewing it for a second time and I’m glad that I did. It probably doesn’t get enough kudos from the mainstream as an important zombie film. Most people tend to focus on the Romero movies but Fulci’s take is right up there as being important for the genre and helping to provide a template of what a zombie movie can be.