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First they brought us THE BEST OF SEX AND VIOLENCE (1981). Then,
just when you thought it was safe to put another tape in your VCR, FILMGORE (1983)
was unleashed (see review here).
Finally, they completed the tasteless trifecta with ZOMBIETHON (1986). Of course,
the “they” I speak of is producer Charles Band and director Ken Dixon, who concocted
these semi-pointless, way-out compilation mix tapes under Band’s Wizard Video label
in the ’80s. When it comes to cinematic expectations, if T&A and a bit of the
red stuff is all you’re after, look no further.
ZOMBIETHON (now out on DVD as part of Full Moon’s new
Grindhouse line) offers its viewers bite-size versions of seven Wizard-licensed
films that happen to contain at least one zombie. The only original footage consists
of numerous, delightfully simple wraparound vignettes that always end or begin in
a small movie theater stuffed to the gills with an unhealthy mixture of lifeless
mannequins in zombie FX and actors wearing creature masks. It’s a pretty novel idea,
and if you think about it too hard, it’s downright clever! I would assume the undead
have little interest in plot development and onscreen human interactions, so why
wouldn’t a zombie projectionist recut the reels to include only the scenes containing
their flesh-munching counterparts and some au naturel meals of the female variety?
But what could possibly make this 90-minute compilation of boobs and blood appealing
to (barely) human fright fans like yourself and I? Right—boobs and blood.
ZOMBIETHON opens with our first linking segment, a woman being
chased by an actor in a rubber zombie mask (albeit an impressive one). She runs
through the bushes, out into the lifeless streets and finds refuge in LA’s old El
Ray Theater, which is filled with ghouls waiting patiently for the zombiethon to
begin. She sits between two of the undead just as a 15-minute condensed version
of Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE begins. The first three films are given a much lengthier
treatment than the later clips, and at least in this case, it’s warranted. Although
the atmosphere is completely lost, I’m willing to bet the plethora of nausea-inducing
gore sequences and full-frontal nudity derived from Fulci’s undead opus will suffice
for anyone who bought something titled ZOMBIETHON.
Next, a bikini-clad sunbather is attacked at the beach by an
inspired, mechanical undead thing. She too ducks into the theater for cover, just
in time for Jean Rollin’s ZOMBIE LAKE—a French softcore Nazi-zombie romp that’s
nowhere near as good as it sounds. This segment feels a lot longer than it is, consisting
of more full-nudity clips than zombie snippets, mirroring Rollin’s film as a whole
precisely. If you’re a fan of impressively full pubic hair and lackluster undead
attacks, this portion is for you.
The following bit was seemingly filmed the same day on the same
beach, except this time there’s an attempt at a little character development. A
woman in a transparent gown offers a lyrical voiceover about the pains of being
alive accompanied by shots of crashing waves and a red-tinted voodoo-doll ritual
which resurrects a beach zombie. It picks up the woman, who wistfully utters, “I
want more out of life. Let's go the movies.” This line, along with a pink, heart-shaped
screen-cut, transitions us into a handful of clips from Jess Franco’s OASIS OF THE
ZOMBIES, which do an excellent job of making the film seem more interesting than
it really is. However, we do get those gorgeous shots of zombie silhouettes shambling
across the sand dunes.
Then yet another woman is stalked, though this time she has an
infant with her. They dodge some zombies and surprisingly don’t duck into the theater—yet.
We get a few quick scenes from Riccardo Freda’s FEAR, one of the few Laura Gemser
films I have yet to see. Apparently the scene included is a dream sequence, and
there are no actual zombies in the film.
With the mom-and-daughter combo in, our theater is now packed,
leaving all wraparounds to take place there, while the clip segments get shorter
and shorter. Considering the quality of the films to be screened, let’s be thankful!
Pierre Chevalier’s THE INVISIBLE DEAD is up next, followed by
Jess Franco’s A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD and finally, Ted V. Mikels’ ASTRO-ZOMBIES.
The zombie projectionist gets a little too wrapped up in his work and the credits
roll. But not before all the zombies in the theater throw a New Year’s type bash,
complete with party hats and blow horns. It surely is a sight to behold!
Available now from Full Moon’s official website, http://www.fullmoondirect.com
ZOMBIETHON is sure to please anyone who blindly loves anything undead-related. But
I also can’t help recommending this one to all fright fans reading this, mainly
due to its rock-bottom price tag of $10 and its nostalgic personality. However,
that low cost comes with a few drawbacks, mainly the VHS transfer quality that rudely
makes itself apparent during more than one occasion, as well as the lack of special
features aside form a quick introduction from Band.
I’ve been curious about this one for many years, having come
very close to spending way too much on its VHS counterpart many times (like, $100
too much!). Thankfully, I waited, because the only time this one’s going back into
my DVD player will be to provide background imagery next time I invite some of my
best fiends over to party like it’s 1986. Or if I want to watch OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES
without falling asleep!
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