Vengeance of the Zombies (US - DVD R1)
Reviewer Gabe Powers has a harem of murderous zombie girls ready to kill, kill!
Paul Naschy plays twins, one a good Hindu, the other an evil Voodoo priest. Evil brother's on a rampage, turning dead women into his zombie minions and reeking revenge on some people that may or may not deserve it. Good brother will probably get around to stopping him, as soon as he's done having sex and making money off British tourists.
I've now reviewed two sides of Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy's career, the honestly good ( The Hunchback of Rue Morgue) and the underdeveloped and bland ( Night of the Werewolf). Now it's time for me to cover the man's most celebrated side, his cheesy side. Vengeance of the Zombies (aka: La Rebelión de las Muertas) is pretty much the perfect good-bad movie. The filmmakers aren't completely inept, but the budget is minute, and the script ripe with unoriginality.
The most important ingredient to a successful good-bad movie is its integrity. One simply cannot make a purposefully bad film and expect it to be good; the value of such strange entertainment comes from an honest filmmaker's best failure. Director León Klimovsky and Naschy himself knew exactly what their audience was looking for thirty-four years ago, and it's pretty much exactly what modern horror audiences are looking for: sex and violence. The 'plot' is really just a shell to get us from one awkward sex scene to another bright red gore scene. The relatively tame nature of these naughty sequences only adds to the charm.
What really makes the film memorable is the totally narcissistic nature of Naschy's bizarro script. He plays three characters, the good Hindu mystic, his evil and scarred twin, and Satan himself. The Satan design is actually kind of cool, and the scar make-up effectively icky, but Naschy (a very obvious Spaniard) made up to look like an authentic Indian (complete with a turban, eye shadow, and olive painted skin) is really the bad movie cake's icing. Hilarious.
The relative seriousness is the key here, but the brisk plot doesn't hurt either. The last thing anyone wants is a boring and bad movie. Naschy piles on the plot elements and genres, ensuring that Vengeance of the Zombies doesn't miss the boat on any popular fad or a chance to pay homage. Krisna (or Kantaka, I'm not really sure which was which) is not content only to sic his zombie maidens on his victims, he spends a great deal of the film running around in a black coat and hat, complete with constantly changing masks (I have expected a Guy Fawks mask to show up), an outfit very similar to that worn by Italian Giallo killers. In what I'm guessing is a kind of strange homage to Jacques Tourneur, the she-zombies are only ever filmed in slow motion, which is dreamy and kind of creepy, but after a while becomes simply hilarious. When they attack their victims too, are trapped in half speed.
And I can't finish this ode to the macabre without making mention of the film's intrusive and grossly inappropriate soundtrack. I'm guessing this is an extension of the Giallo angle (when I say guess, I mean just that, I'm no Naschy expert). Dario Argento's first film, Bird with the Crystal Plumage, ran on a very influential Ennio Morricone free-jazz score. The style caught on, and usually works for the mod-influenced Giallo. Here composer Juan Carlos Calderón (who also scored Naschy's definitive ode de Giallo Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll) doesn't concern himself with silly things like 'atmosphere' and 'mood' and goes for broke with the swinging jazz. Zombie's attacking? Your Voodoo effigy burning? Attacked by Satan himself? Let's dance!
BCI Eclipse once again does right by Naschy. The transfer is anything but perfect, but really as close as one can possibly expect from the source material. From what I understand this is the best transfer of the film available on the market, though I haven't had a chance to compare for myself. There is, of course, some grain, but details are sharp, only at the cost of minor edge enhancement. The transfer is an unmated 1.33:1, but if one chooses (and I chose) they can easily use their widescreen television's zoom function. Heads are not chopped and toes are snug.
Are you still dancing? Good, but don't expect CD quality jazz here. Like BCI's Night of the Werewolf release (and the German release of [/i]Hunchback of Rue Morgue[/i] I've got) there's a lot of peaking and distortion on this track, mostly in words that begin with the letter 'S'. "SSSSSSo, howSSSSSS it going SSSSSally? SSSSeen SSSSuperman SSSSSinSSSSS SSSSSaturday?" It's not horrible, but it is a problem.
The remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track is in dubbed English only, so traditional Naschy fans will have to stick to the Mono Spanish track. Like I've said before, I actually enjoy bad dubs on good-bad movies, so I listened to the rather mono-like 5.1 track. The bass addition is nice, and I appreciate there not being a whole bunch of artificial surround effects.
BCI doesn't overwhelm us with extras again this time, but this is still a nice collection. Things start with another amusingly overwrought introduction from Naschy, who's under the impression that the film has some kind of important meaning for the Indian people. After the film fans can enjoy the original international theatrical trailer, the original Spanish-language opening and closing credit sequences, an alternate ‘clothed’ versions of the nude scenes used for the original Spanish theatrical release, and still gallery which include a nice selection of poster art. This DVD is uncut, apparently the Spanish special edition features the clothed scenes, but it's still fun to compare the two. The best extra, just as it was for Night of the Werewolf, is Paul Naschy expert Mirek Lipinski's liner notes in the included booklet.
A fantastically enjoyable 'bad' film, Vengeance of the Zombies comes highly recommended to viewers with the appropriate pallet. The presentation leaves a little to be desired, but BCI is off to an admirable start. I can't wait to see what they release next. Hopefully a nice region one version of The Hunchback of Rue Morgue is coming soon.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 15th May 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Castilian
Extras: Paul Naschy Introduction, Alternate Scenes, Trailers, Original Titles, Stills, Liner Notes
Easter Egg: No
Director: León Klimovsky
Cast: Paul Naschy
Length: 90 minutes
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