With the zombie invasion brought on by George A. Romero’s seminal Dawn of the Dead, Bruno Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead (1980) [aka Night of the Zombies, Virus, Zombie Creeping Flesh, Zombie 4, I think that’s it.] brought to the screen a film rich full of horrible use of stock footage, zombie clichés, and a serious violation of background scores.
With my recent noodling and research within the business aspects of Italian Splatter Cinema, I’ve come to many conclusions when intimately viewing and critically analyzing interviews of the many producers, directors, actors, et al that give their tidbits on what it was like to make the film in question.
The crucial and most proliferating main point unearthed?
They just don’t give a damn!
Contrary to popular belief, the only thrill said Italian filmmakers get out of pre-production, production, and post-production of an Italian-made horror film is going to the bank to watch the funds accumulate.
But…getting back on track…with the above-mentioned tidbits of information left for you to consume, consider why a film like Mattei’s was, more often than not, ridiculed and/or banished beyond recognition. Mattei, like most of the Italian filmmakers of the era, was looking to ride the “Romero Wagon”, but, with a meager budget that could only hope to produce a mediocre financial gain. Business as usual. His resulting effort was Night of the Zombies.
Although not an overtly bad film, its major flaws are out in the forefront, meaning that if you are seriously offended by some of the filmmaking tactics that Bruno Mattei rips-off, than you are taking the film too seriously.
Way too seriously for your own good…like you should stop the film, breathe a deep sigh of relief for feeling like an imbecile, and go have a Yoo-Hoo!
Mattei knew that the film score used for this film was eerily reminiscent of the very bandwagon he ceremoniously rode. Not only was a piece of Goblin‘s original score for Dawn of the Dead inserted throughout the film but a prominent piece from the epic Italian Alien (1979) rip-off Contamination (1980).
Mattei also knew that despite the non-invigorating punch of the blue, the S.W.A.T. team’s jumpsuits resembled some far-out take on “Dawn of the Dead”. If you look closely, you might even glimpse the previous owners name tags that once adorned the suits beforehand: Wooley, Roger, Peter, Rod.
He also blatantly misuses and misrepresents footage of the esoteric French documentary Des Morts (1979) that stood in for many of the key island scenes introducing the New Guinea tribes.
This was not a seriously dim man!
In contrast, Bruno Mattei and company used what they had and spent as little as they needed to, to create a film that would earn substantially and cater to fans of George Romero’s zombie cinema. As with all film efforts, this is the primary idea.
The premise of the film is still there. Claudio Fragrasso crafted a script with light social commentary and plenty of kill scenes. The idea of creating a bio-weapon to use on 3rd World denizens so that they could eradicate each other is overlooked completely within the film. I believe it to lend a healthy crutch to the gore and cheese acting that is so prevalent within films of this magnitude.
All in all, this is a healthy effort in Italian Splatter Cinema that warrants many viewings and discovery for years to come.