Well, I had to do it.
After all of the turmoil over my original 1-Star Review on Amazon, which I deleted (see previous blog post), I’m going to write a proper review here, albeit a shortish one.
Fulci’s 1979 opus ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS (aka ZOMBIE, aka ZOMBI 2) is a great piece of shlock exploitation horror. It’s one of the horror genre’s greatest works. Yes, some of the dialogue is daft, and the plot has holes in it big enough to drive a Cherokee Jeep through, but the effects – oh, the effects – are masterful. Sergio Salvati’s excellent cinematography, combined with Giannetto DeRossi’s awesome SFX work, still retain the power to shock and disturb now, as they did 30 years ago.
I don’t need to discuss the plot, as I suspect most of my readers will have seen the film already, and if not, then there are many other places where a plot overview is available. What I’m going to do is review the disc itself.
Firstly, the picture is very, very, VERY good. I don’t normally say that, but Arrow have actually (for once in their sorry-arsed lives) pulled a rabbit out of the hat on this title, and the restoration work does look superb. There are still occasional flaws, but these are probably in the original negative itself, and any further digital cleaning, would probably start making the alterations look flawed. So, yes, Arrow have done good on this one.
The sound choices aren’t so good, especially in comparison to Blue Underground’s seminal ZOMBIE release from a couple of years back. Blue Underground gave us English 5.1 DTS, English 7.1 DTS, Italian 5.1 DTS and Italian 7.1 DTS. Arrow, on the other hand, gives us English Stereo and Italian stereo. In this case, the Blue Underground edition is far better. The film may never have had anything more than a Stereo soundtrack on its initial release, but the fact is, better soundtracks exist for this film, and Arrow didn’t include them. This is one instance where the Blue Underground release beats the Arrow one, hands-down!
The other main issue, is the Extras. Blue Underground included a 90-minute documentary on Disc 2 of their 2-Disc Blu-Ray release, which was simply astounding. It was intelligent, it was detailed, it was entertaining. Arrow’s extras are a real hit-and-miss affair.
On the upside, they include two new Audio Commentaries: one with screenwriter Elisa Briganti and moderated by Calum Waddell. The other, with Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower and horror expert Alan Jones. I’ve not listened to either of them in full yet, but the bits I skipped through seem to be engaging and entertaining.
ALIENS, CANNIBALS AND ZOMBIES: A TRILOGY OF ITALIAN TERROR has Ian McCulloch discussing his roles in ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS, CONTAMINATION and the dumb-but-fun ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST. It’s an okay extra, but we don’t learn too much, and McCulloch whilst a nice-enough bloke, does basically state that he didn’t have much respect for the films. Also, one truly annoying inclusion is Naomi Holwill’s childish animations, that do look like a five-year-old had painted them. I’m sorry, but these kind of things are what makes me give Arrow releases such a hard time. Moreso, when Ms Holwill’s animation is the same scene repeated multiple times – a female character having a splinter in the eye: a supposed homage to ZOMBIE FLESH-EATER’s infamous eyeball scene of the same kind. I love animation. But using the same infantile messes repeatedly, annoy the hell out of me. They make High Rising Productions works seem childish. These are the kind of things Arrow should NOT be including. Please stop including them!
THE MEAT MUNCHING MOVIES OF GINO ROSSI is good, but short. Giannetto DeRossi showcases some of the props he used on may Italian horror films, of the past twenty years or so, and explains how some of them were created. It’s pretty good, but I would have liked it to have been more detailed.
ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS – FROM SCRIPT TO SCREEN, however, is a disaster of an extra. What we get in the mercifully short running time (about 3 minutes) is Calum Waddell basically “oohing” and “ahhing” over an original shooting script of ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS, which originally held the title of ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD. He briefly tries to get the camera to look at some of the script pages, but the camera is hand-held, and the focus is all over the place. This is not a good extra. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, it’s pretty redundant, and borderline sycophantic. Definitely not one worthy of inclusion, other than as a bit of Arrow arse-licking!
Finally, you have FROM ROMERO TO ROME: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ITALIAN ZOMBIE FILM in which various scholars, writers and film-critics discuss memories of the zombie horror movie genre. A fun, and relatively informative extra, but overall, this is still not quite as good as the 90-minute Blue Underground documentary.
There are a few other extras, such as trailers, the full-colour booklet, which is very good, and a reversible sleeve (where you can choose from the original UK artwork featuring the hand coming out of a graveyard, or the infantile scrawlings of Graham Humphreys, that look like a six-year-old was told to come-up with something for a video cover). Take a guess as to which one I chose?! These are nice and fun, but they’re not very fulfilling.
So, ultimately, on the extras front, I prefer the solid work from Blue Underground, over the quantity (and occasionally childish) work of Arrow. I’m sure some people will access this blog entry, and just accuse me of being petty and infantile myself. Well, look, if Arrow wants me to stop giving them a hard time, how about they strive to be a better creator of cult, horror and exploitation works? Are you aiming your releases at teenagers and young adults under 20, who might enjoy newly-created artwork, and immature animated skits/riffs, or are you aiming at adults (with money) who want quality work, created by sensible, mature adults who know their stuff?!
For me, Arrow is still very much a company I have an extreme love-hate relationship with. As I’ve said before, I don’t want to actively see them fail. I don’t want to see them disappear. What I do want, though – and I don’t think I’m asking that much – is that they treat their releases and their content, in a more mature, sensible and adult fashion. Don’t aim to fill your releases with lots of little featurettes, that are nothing more than fluff-fillers. Stop including stuff that is basically nothing more than your production staff going on a little jolly boys outing to Italy, so they can get to meet their childhood heroes, whilst simultaneously fawning over them, like some third-rate celebrity detritus off of a crappy reality show. Start including decent, meaty content, that viewers want to go back to and rewatch. Give us new material, that doesn’t just rehash old tales and myths we all know.
Overall, I still feel that whilst Arrow’s release has the better picture quality, Blue Underground’s release is still my preferred release for everything else. And the 14, 5-Star Reviews on Amazon with all the Arrow fanboys wetting themselves in orgasmic pleasure over this latest Arrow title does not change my opinion of it or of Arrow. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t. Arrow’s release is still a flawed release. No major screw-up’s this time around, but there’s still a long way to go, before I become a regular purchaser of their titles again!
Arrow still needs to grow-up. It still needs to start to decide what it is trying to be. And it still needs to work out what it can do, to change the mindsets of people like me, who bought lots of their products in the past, but now won’t bother, until they start making major improvements. One great release of a film print, does not suddenly make me change my attitude towards Arrow. There’s still stuff they need to pontificate on, and learn from. I just wish I knew when they were going to stop being children, and mature!
To all of my readers, wherever you may reside, I hereby wish you Seasons Greetings and I look forward to seeing you all back here, in 2013. Thank You for your continued support, and for reading my blog. It is much appreciated. Festive Salutations!
ADDENDUM: Readers should be aware – Arrow has fumbled the ball on this release, again! The film has six seconds of footage missing. Arrow are due to sort out some kind of replacement disc programme, but as of 1st February 2013, nothing had been formally announced. As such, I cannot recommend my readers buy this release of the film. For more information, see this article here.