Zombie (Zombi 2, 1 hr 31 mins 1979)
I think I’ve found my favourite zombie movie. I’ve seen plenty, and as cheesy and campy as it is, it is now my fave! Directed by Lucio Fulci, another Italian directing great, it has a spaghetti western flavour with plenty of my favourite monsters: zombies. I was also drawn to it because it starred Tisa Farrow, sister to Mia, so you know I couldn’t pass this one up!
We open on a bright day on the NYC harbour. A lone boat drifts aimlessly along, almost colliding with the Staten Island ferry. When the harbour patrol investigates, the boat is a disaster, with rotting food and items strewn everywhere. A telling omen of chaos and rot which will be in ample supply in due time. One of the salty coppers goes below and finds a rotting hand, and possibly the fattest zombie I have ever seen, who chews him up. Big guy zombie tries to attack again, but gets blasted.
This incident needs to be covered, and what better candidate for that than Peter West (Ian McCulloch), a British playboy-type reporter who confidently sneaks onto the boat that night, only to bump into Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow), the daughter of the boat owner. She is questioned by police earlier in the day and wants to know what happened to her father, who had disappeared 3 months earlier. Peter and Anne find a letter from her father, telling of a mysterious disease he’s contracted while he was on an island. Peter’s editor arranges for them to head off to the tropics to get answers.
On the island of St. Thomas, they meet Susan and Brian (Auretta Gay and Al Cliver), an attractive couple who just want a nice vacation. They reluctantly agree to take Peter and Anne to the remote island of Matool, where Anne’s father was doing research. The island is said to be cursed, and no one will venture out there. On a stop where Susan decides to go scuba diving in a g-string (?!!) for some underwater photos, she is chased by a shark, only to be attacked underwater by a zombie. They tussle, and she escapes both zombie and shark. When the zombie sees the shark cruise by again, a wrestling match ensues. And it’s close, let me tell you, but the shark wins as it chomps the zombie’s arm and swims off in disgust. This has to be the most unique fight scene ever, if not one of the most googled! The boat has now been damaged from the shark hitting the side, so they head to what they suspect is Matool, hoping to get help.
While all of this is going on, Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson), is busy treating his alcoholic wife (Olga Karlatos) like crap and defying the warnings of the locals by experimenting on the mysteriously sick in his makeshift church/hospital. He is determined to find the cause of all this weirdness and rotting flesh, and oh yeah, the re-animation. He believes in science, not voodoo, dammit! His poor assistant is left with Lucas, a local, to bury the dead, head-shot villagers, as he goes to investigate flares sent up by the NYC gang when they arrive at the island.
Little does Dr. Menard know that the sickness has spread, and so have the undead. In fact, one gets into his house and to his wife. When Dr. Menard collects the NYC gang, he recounts how he knew Anne’s father and how he had to dispatch of him after his death. The gang are puzzled and want to help, but, Dr. Menard only asks them to check on his wife. When they arrive at the house, they walk in on zombies eating Mrs. Menard buffet style. horrified, they narrowly escape only to crash their jeep after hitting a wandering undead. More zombie fighting occurs when they stop in an ancient graveyard, and they lose Susan to a nasty biter. They eventually reach the hospital where a gruesome standoff plays out.
Shovel in a zombie face! Dr. Menard gets bit by Fritz “the only other white man on the island”! Lucas gets bit! The assistant gets bit! The NYC gang still carry on by serving molotov cocktails at this not-so-happy hour. Who’s driving, ’cause the kids are getting fired up!
Anne, Brian and Peter fight their way out and almost make it to the boat, but yup, Susan comes back to life. And takes a chunk out of Brian. They decide to take him with them anyway, and leave the burning zombies as they set off back to NYC. Which, it turns out, is also infested. Talk about up the creek! And all Susan and Brian wanted was some R & R. Looks like all they got was “arrrrrrrgh” and “arrrrrrrgh”. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
This was a total zombie romp. I loved the zombie close-ups as they rose from the grave, maggots squirming and dropping out of eye sockets. The zombie effects were pretty gruesome and great for that time. I did find the dramatic pauses before someone got the bite-down to be a bit much. And the obvious dubbing, although dubbed movies have this weird charm for me. As for Tisa Farrow, well, I wasn’t quite convinced. Too many vacant stares, minus the zombie bite. But a gal’s gotta try!
Most Memorable Line: When we get an overview shot of the drifting boat, a radio voice states that the “Skipper of that craft must be a real turkey!” Um, don’t you mean “Jive Turkey”?
Favourite Scene: Has to be the fight scene between the zombie and shark. Close second is when a zombie tries to climb through a window and Brian nails him in the face with a shovel. Sweeeet!!