Many classic movies are getting the royal treatment on Blu-Ray: Citizen Kane, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, and even the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Later this year another unparalleled achievement in the annals of cinema history will be released in the highest of definitions: Lucio Fulci‘s ultraviolent gorehound epic Zombie. Long a staple of the grindhouse circuit and a film beloved by fans of horror around the world, the film is being released by Blue Underground on Blu-Ray and DVD in an all-new 2-disc Ultimate Edition on October 25, 2011 with a brand new widescreen transfer, enhanced sound, and a walking dead-plagued island full of bonus features.
You can check out all the details below at the end of this article along with a new promotional trailer for the Ultimate Edition. (Click the image at right for larger view of the Blu-ray cover.)
Until he died on March 13, 1996, Lucio Fulci worked as one of the most prolific directors in the Italian film industry. Over the course of his nearly four-decade-long career, Fulci directed movies in just about every genre in existence; he made comedies, westerns, historical dramas, crime dramas, erotic thrillers, spy adventures, and giallos (Italy’s version of the slasher film, which turned out to a great influence on American slasher films). But the movies that would forever endear him with horror fans worldwide were his trilogy of zombie films. To this day fans of Fulci’s films will debate which of those is his best one until they’re blue in the face. While 1981’s The Beyond may be the director’s unquestionable masterpiece of bleak and surreal apocalyptic horror and 1980’s City of the Living Dead remains a popular fan favorite, in my opinion his greatest walking dead epic is the one that started it all: 1979’s Zombie.
Released in the United Kingdom as Zombie Flesh Eaters and most of Europe as Zombi 2 (to avoid confusion with George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which had been released overseas as Zombi in a cut supervised by Dario Argento), Zombie was the movie that garnered Lucio Fulci more international attention than any of his previous films. The film was designed to capitalize on the success of Dawn of the Dead but Fulci and writers Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti took the template of an outbreak of flesh eating ghouls and relocated the action to a tropical island and used voodoo rituals as the cause of the dead returning to life. The concept was best utilized previously in 1943’s I Walked with a Zombie, directed by Jacques Tourneur and produced by Val Lewton.
Zombie was filmed on location in New York City (for the beginning and closing sequences), Mexico (for some underwater shooting), and the Dominican Republic (the bulk of exterior scenes on the island), with additional interior scenes filmed at Rome’s Elios Studios. Fulci assembled an international cast to play the beleaguered characters forced to do battle with hordes of the undead in a hostile and unforgiving land: Tisa Farrow, sister of actress Mia; Scottish actor Ian McCulloch, who would go on to become a fixture in Italian horror films of the 1970’s and 1980’s much like Farrow; British actor Richard Johnson, best known to horror fans for his performance in Robert Wise’s classic cinematic ghost story The Haunting; and Greek actress Olga Karlatos, later to be seen as Prince’s mother in Purple Rain. Several of Fulci’s best known collaborators were brought in to work on the film. Sergio Salvati‘s cinematography gives each frame of film a grungy, oppressive look that gets under your skin even when the zombies aren’t on screen. Giannetto De Rossi designed the gruesome make-up effects that went way beyond how zombies had looked on screen for decades, most notably in Romero’s films. No more were the dead simply rising from the earth with tinted skin and a bit of blood dribbling down their lips or a piece of flesh hanging off their cheeks. The zombies of Fulci’s film would become the new standard-bearer in the genre thanks to De Rossi’s brilliant make-up effects. Fabio Frizzi crafted the electronic symphony of doom and despair that infused the images of the film with a dark power that completes the grim yet elegant machine that is Lucio Fulci’s Zombie.
When the movie was released in the U.S. in July 1980 the most effective aspect of the promotional campaign was a striking theatrical poster that presented an image of a rotted corpse (the “worm-eyed zombie” played by Italian actor and stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua) with the caption “WE ARE GOING TO EAT YOU!” in stark, blood-red lettering over the photo. That image was also used when the movie was released on video by Wizard Video, in the grand old days of the big box.
This was also the movie that gave us one of the most iconic images in the history of horror cinema: the spectacular underwater battle between a zombie and a shark. It’s a testament to the staying power of that scene that Microsoft used a snippet of it in last year in a commercial as part of their ad campaign for the Windows 7 software.
The film will be presented in a brand new 2.35:1 widescreen transfer in 1080p with 7.1 DTS-HD, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX and Original Mono audio options. English, English SDH, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles will also be included. The bonus features will include a combination of previously issued material and newly created interviews and featurettes, including an interview and introduction by filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro.
Disc 1 Extras:
“¢ Audio Commentary with Star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater
“¢ Theatrical Trailers
“¢ TV Spots
“¢ Radio Spots
“¢ Poster & Still Gallery
“¢ Guillermo del Toro Intro
Disc 2 Extras:
“¢ Zombie Wasteland – Interviews with Stars Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson & Al Cliver, and Actor/Stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua
“¢ Flesh Eaters on Film – Interview with Co-Producer Fabrizio De Angelis
“¢ Deadtime Stories – Interviews with Co-Writers Elisa Briganti and (Uncredited) Dardano Sacchetti
“¢ World of the Dead – Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Production & Costume Designer Walter Patriarca
“¢ Zombi Italiano – Interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi
“¢ Notes on a Headstone – Interview with Composer Fabio Frizzi
“¢ All in the Family – Interview with Antonella Fulci
“¢ Zombie Lover – Award-Winning Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about one of his favorite films
The 2-Disc Ultimate Edition of Zombie hits Blu-Ray and DVD on October 25, 2011.