It's hard to keep a good zombie down, and the regular re-emergence of Lucio Fulci's seminal Dawn of the Dead rip-off onto home video is quite the indication it will never go out of style.
One of the most quintessential Italian splatter flicks ever made, this epic bastard sequel to George A. Romero's masterpiece launched the horror movie career for director Fulci, whilst simultaneously leaving a noticeable boot print on the map for Italy itself. Known around the world by an oft-bizarre assortment of alternate titles ‒ including Zombi 2 (its original title, as christened to cash-in on the release of Dawn of the Dead, which was called Zombi in Italy), Zombie Flesh Eaters, Woodoo, and Sanguella, just to name a few ‒ Zombie is said to have made over £3 billion worldwide.
A desolate sailing vessel drifts into the harbor of New York City one day (an opening Luigi Cozzi copied verbatim in his delirious bastard sequel to Alien, Contamination), resulting in a very Italian-looking police officer getting his throat chewed out by a decaying member of society. This sends an investigative reporter (Contamination star Ian McCulloch, in the first of his legendary Italian horror trilogy, which culminated in 1980 with Dr. Butcher M.D.) to search out the truth. With the missing boatowner's daughter (Tisa Farrow, sister of Mia) in tow, the pair jott off to the Caribbean ‒ only to discover a disease-infested tropical inferno brought to (after)life by a somewhat mad scientist (the one and only Richard Johnson).
Or maybe the voodoo rituals of the local (and, for the record, almost entirely unseen) superstitious natives are to blame. It's kind of hard to say, since Zombie's narrative isn't as terribly worried about cause as it is concerned with effect. Fortunately, Fulci's first official horror film has had a positive effect on established and curious gore-hounds alike since its premiere, wherein Fulci and makeup guru Giannetto De Rossi took audiences over the brink with an assortment of messy moments, most memorably Olga (Purple Rain) Karlatos' infamous "splinter in the eye" scene. To say nothing of that show-stopping, jaw-dropping, batshit-crazy moment where an underwater zombie appears out of nowhere and promptly engages in a fight with one very real shark.
You can't make stuff like this up, kids. But the Italians sure as hell could!
Zombie has seen numerous home-video releases since those glorious days of analog. While several of those versions ‒ along with their varying qualities ‒ were about as legitimate as bastard sequels themselves, advancements in home video technology (to say nothing of commitments by the devoted people who keep putting it on home video) have made it possible for us to find something new in the film each and every time. Here, in what I believe is the seventh domestic digital release since the advent of DVD itself, Blue Underground has revamped their previous DVD/Blu-ray incarnations with a 40th Anniversary Limited Edition release presenting the film in a breathtaking new 4K scan.
Available in impressively packaged 3-Disc (2 Blu-rays plus a bonus soundtrack CD sporting Fabio Frizzi's immortal synth score) sets featuring three different lenticular 3D covers, Blue Underground's new Zombie BD is a genuinely stunning thing to behold, as the company has gone to the original camera negative for this presentation. If you've been a fan of the film long enough, you will undoubtedly recall the satisfaction we all experienced when Blue Underground first debuted the title on DVD in the first half of the 2000s and we were finally able to seethings. Well, I'm happy to report the sheer joy we shared then will be blown out of the water (along with any sharks and zombies contained therein) when you see the color levels alone.
Devoid of the annoying, varying degrees of assorted hues many die-hard fans have had to endure over the years, BU's 4K remastering gives Zombie a gorgeous visual makeover on-par with Synapse Film's beautiful BD debut of Suspiria. Honestly, I can't even begin to describe how crisp, clear, and colorful this transfer is. From beautiful blue skies and plush green foliage amid the terror-laden jungle backdrops, to the newly-visible dark necktie Ian McCulloch is suddenly wearing in the beginning (seriously, did anyone ever notice that before?), this MPEG-4/AVC 1080p encode is never anything less than dynamic all the way around. Put simply: the horror looks more realistic now! (If this doesn't win some home video award, it'll be a crime.)
I should point out that the credits for this version (and one of the theatrical trailers) have been recreated (sadly, the title card from Jerry Gross' hugely successful release of the film onto the grindhouse circuit in the early '80s has been replaced altogether), which may upset a few of you purists out there.
Even the audio of this set has been revamped for this very special occasion. Blue Underground's Zombie features all-new DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack options in English and Italian, with DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono selections available in English, Italian, and French. Subtitles for this Region-Free release are plentiful, with tracks included in English (for the English audio), English SDH (for the Italian dub), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Russian, Swedish, and Thai. But those are the only plentiful supplemental materials to be found here: we also get an entire graveyard's worth of new and archival bonus features alike to dig through here.
Recently recorded goodies for this release include an introduction to the film by Guillermo del Toro, audio commentary by the always-busy Troy Howarth, and a fine new featurette entitled "When the Earth Spits Out the Dead" with author/historian Stephen Thrower. The remaining special features have been culled from previous domestic releases, ranging from the 1998 Roan Group Laserdisc commentary with Ian McCulloch and Jason Slater to the 2011 Blue Underground BD extras. The aforementioned bonus CD included with this must-have gem houses nine tracks from composer Fabio Frizzi, as well an all-time favorite Italo disco track, "There's No Matter" by Linda Lee, which is briefly heard in the background before Ian McCulloch and Tisa Farrow meet on-screen.
Wrapping things up in the proverbial white bedsheet of death (you fans will get that one) is a 22-page illustrated booklet, featuring ‒ among many magnificent classic stills and images ‒ an essay by the aforementioned Stephen Thrower. All in all, there's a whole new undead world to behold throughout this entire release. So much so, that there is no way I could not beseech you to pick up Blue Underground's 4K restoration of Lucio Fulci's Zombie, for this is about as Highly Recommended as they come.