Saturday, December 3, 2011

DVD Review: ZOMBIETHON (1986)

ZOMBIETHON (1986)
Label: Full Moon
Region: 0 NTSC
Rating: R
Duration: 90 mins
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: 4:3 Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Director: Ken Dixon
Tagline: Shambling shapes! Crawling creeps! Fleshless fiends! The liveliest Festival of the Dead is about to begin!


If you were a horror nerd in the 80's you might be familiar with Wizard Video, a video distribution company founded by Charles Band of Full Moon Features fame. Wizard released wonderful VHS's with lurid box art of ZOMBIE (1979), THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978) and even John Waters' PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) plus dozens of lesser b-movie, cult and exploitation fare. Wizard also released trio of video compilations, omnibus clips collections of films from the Wizard catalog. Long unavailable and out of print these video compilations are now available for the first-time-ever-on-DVD as part of the FULL MOON GRINDHOUSE COLLECTION from http://www.fullmonndirect.com/.

These video collections featured a wrap-around story that framed the anthology of clips and ZOMBIETHON's hook was a collection of rotting undead gathered together in a dark movie theater to watch zombie movies, natch. They're also peppered with some pretty 80's ladies in various states of undress and nudity, just gotta have it, right? These segments were directed by Ken Dixon (SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY) and are schlocky, slightly surreal vignettes with some decent production value if not much scripting, they're pretty awful but form a decent enough connective tissue linking the zombie clips.

The Wizard Video licensed films featured on this compilation of the undead begin with Lucio Fulci's unofficial sequel to DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), ZOMBIE (1979) aka ZOMBI 2. Surely, I need not tell you what a savagely atmospheric masterpiece this film is, it's simply the tits straight up. Having just watched Blue Underground's 2-Disc Ultimate Edition of the film (reviewed HERE) it was a nostalgic and novel trip watching the murky fullscreen VHS transfer of the film in all it's shitty glory, but don't think I didn't get caught up in it all over again, the clips total nearly 15 minutes in length and at one point I'd forgotten I wasn't actually sitting down for a viewing of the gore-classic until the connective segment started rolling featuring a bikini clad babe being chased by a zombie-mutant into the El Rey Theatre, a theatre that I walked by on a recent trip to LA, fun stuff.The next video entree is Jean Rollin's ZOMBIE LAKE (1981), a film I've never seen but the clips were enthralling; featuring green-skinned Nazi-zombies rising from the depths of a lake to consume a bus load of skinny dipping hotties with thickets of 70's bush, awesome. Goddamn I know this film is just gonna be vile and awful but the seed has been planted and I'm a perv- I just can't help myself and I must own this film against my better judgment.

With another clip of zombies arriving at the El Rey were watching the Jess Franco (SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY) film OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1983). That's right, more Nazi-zombies, fewer nude women, and a bit of a snoozer to be honest. I have a public domain print of this film on one of those 50 pack film collections and I don't think I've ever been able to finish it, it's a pretty terrible film. Another segment featuring a mother and child chased into the El Rey by zombies and were knee-deep in a film called FEAR (1981) which I've never heard of and after looking around it doesn't appear to be an easy find either. This looked more Giallo than zombie-film but there's some great gore to be had including a chainsaw to the neck. Added this one to the to-watch list I keep scrawled on a piece of paper in my wallet, definitely looks intriguing and it fared better than the next two clips; THE INVISIBLE DEAD (1973), and another Jess Franco feature called A VIRGIN AMONG THE DEAD (1973). Lastly we get a reel of clips from the psychotically fun b-movie classic ASTRO-ZOMBIES (1968) featuring the awesome John Carradine as the diabolical Dr. Demarco and the sultry femme fatale Tura Santana...meow. Definitely saving one of the best for last.

Special features include an Charles Band's Grindhouse Intro (8:07) in which Band recalls his beginnings in the industry with the x-rated feature film CINDERELLA (1977) featuring Cheryl Smith (FANTASM COMES AGAIN), his definition of what makes a grindhouse film, the beginnings of Wizard Video's video compilations and the making of SAVAGE ISLAND with Linda Blair (CHAINED HEAT). It's a fun listen, Band is the ultimate bullshitter and always an enthusiastic promoter. There's also what's touted as a Grindhouse Featurette (2:45) but is really just a promo reel for the GRINDHOUSE COLLECTION of films plus a selection of Full Moon Trailers.

Verdict: With ZOMBIETHON we get a schlocky b-movie wrap-a-round with some trashy video clips, many with tons of nudity, a stone cold classic (ZOMBIE), some schlocky cult (ZOMBIELAKE, ASTRO-ZOMBIES) and some real stinkers (THE INVISIBLE DEAD). It's definitely a mixed bag, some of these films are surely unwatchable in their feature length presentations, but I do find some nostalgic value in this video compilation. While I might not throw this on again anytime soon I think it would be a fantastic DVD to play in the background at your next party with the music cranked to 10 and the beer flowing freely. 2 outta 5

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