BR: Zombie 3 (1988)

July 9, 2018 | By

Film: Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Excellent

Label:  Severin

Region: A, B, C

Released:  May 29, 2018

Genre:  Horror / Zombies

Synopsis: Theft of a potion that reanimates the dead leads to mass infections among humans on an picturesque tropical island.

Special Features:  2002 Audio commentary with Stars Deran Sarafian and Beatrice Ring / “The Last Zombies” interview with co-director & co-writer Claudio Fragasso and co-writer Rossella Drudi (18:49)  / 4 interviews from 2002 feature “Tough Guys” with actors-stuntmen Massimo Vanni and Ottaviano Dell’Acqua (4:54) + “The Problem Solver” with replacement director Bruno Mattei (8:30) + “Swimming with Zombies” with Actress Marina Loi (4:30) + “In the Zombie Factory” with FX Artist Franco Di Girolamo (5:50) / Theatrical trailer / Bonus soundtrack CD with first 3000 copies.




The origins of the Zombie franchise stems from a peculiar case in which Dario Argento, the producer of George Romero’s second living dead entry, Dawn of the Dead (1978), chose to release the Italian cut as Zombie – simpler, catchier, and ultimately fruitful for producers Fabrizio De Angelis and Ugo Tucci, who released their own 1979 cash-in production as Zombie 2 in Italy.

Z2 director Lucio Fulci was in top form, balancing the lush colours of tropical locations with finely detailed makeup that enabled assorted dead to emerge from the ground, eating whomever was dumb enough to get in their way. Those bitten but still in possession of their main appendages returned as flesh eaters, infecting the entire island and eventually other regions.

The success of Fulci’s film probably led to the director being nagged to make a sequel, but neither Tucci nor De Angelis were involved with Zombie 3 (1988); that honor belonged to Franco Gaudenzi, an art director on Joe D’Amato’s Emmnauelle in Bangkok (1976), Black Cobra Woman (1976) and Buio Omega (1979), and more fortuitously, Bruno Mattei’s SS Girls (1977).

By 1988 Mattei was a prolific director-producer-editor of genre knock-offs – Strike Commando (1987) riffs Rambo: First Blood Part 2 (1985), and later films Robowar (1988) and Shocking Dark (1989) ripped off Predator (1987) and Aliens (1986), respectively – and his chief scriptorial collaborators were Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi, the pair who would achieve bad cinema immortality with their bizarre sequel-in-name-only, Troll 2 (1990).

The pair’s script for Z3 was reportedly so displeasing to Fulci that he delivered a 70 minute cut, and refused to return for reshoots when the producer was upset with ‘endless’ montages of characters rowing and navigating through a Philippine jungle river.

Mattei, busy making Robowar, was not far from the original Fulci shoot, and with Fragasso’s aide, directed new material written by Fragasso & Drudi which expanded the film’s running time to 95 mins., replacing Fulci’s ‘endless’ paddling montages with new material to smoothen an already weak narrative.

Like Robowar, Z3 percolates with the same tighter pacing (courtesy of Mattei) and fast action (reportedly Fragasso’s specialty), but also the same ludicrous dialogue that may have forced Fulci to plug his ears whenever the actors went through scenes. Fulci was suffering from a lethal illness, and in spite of his great use of abandoned locales – a hotel, a public spa – and kill scenes, there’s sense his heart wasn’t in crafting magnetic material.

Fragasso and Drudi’s most surreal contribution to the zombie genre are zombie birds (an idea revisited in 2007’s Resident Evil: Extinction), and a levitating zombie head (inarguably the most ridiculous moment in Z3). The filmmaker’s most important addition, however, is having the living dead move fast, predating Zak Snyder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead and Marc Forster’s World War Z (2013).

Within Z3 there’s one great example where adrenalized zombies pays off, and another that’s awfully contrived. When a couple stops for gas and the heroine ventures into an abandoned station, she’s chased by a machete-wielding zombie that feels contemporary and is wholly terrifying – the first viewing is so intense it initially masks the camera’s undercranking which accelerates the tension before the sequence’s explosive conclusion. That’s one human vs. one zombie, and it works swell.

Conversely, when one of the heroes explores the old spa for too long, zombies converge from all sides, leaping from bushes, running up stairs, and wading fast through the brackish pool, but with too many zombies moving briskly, scenes become overcrowded, necessitating the doomed hero (actor / stuntman Massimo Vanni) to keep looking back instead of charging up the stairs and heading for safety full speed ahead. The lack of logic bleeds through most of the action scenes – aspects that perhaps drained Fulci from wringing the best from an amateurish script – but what really harms Z3 is the low budget and terrible acting.

Zombie had veteran stage & screen thespian Richard Johnson (Khartoum, Julius Caesar, Doc Martin) exuding gravitas (plus he was the central character to whom everyone converges), but Z3 has no one. The extras hired to play zombies are dreadful, and the makeup budget seemed to cover only hands and parts of faces, leaving other exposed skin looking healthy and well tanned.

At this stage it sounds as though Z3 is a complete disaster, if not outright awful, but that’s not quite the case. Fans of the franchise and genre proper will have fun picking out attempts to inject new ideas, and there is the perverse fascination, much like a coroner, in examining the seams where the Fulci and Mattei material intersect. The script is terrible, but it’s interesting to see how a 50+ min. zombie film wasn’t just goosed, but expanded in the most curious ways.

Mattei’s new material consists of the ludicrously acted prologue in which Death One, a serum designed to resurrect the dead, is stolen and infects its lead thief. The opening resurrection is delightfully disgusting, but whoever directed the manhunt in the prologue decided the mass of armed soldiers shouldn’t pursue the easily visible thief, and the sniper in the tracking helicopter must have the ballistic accuracy of a turnip.

Such directorial finesse heavily affected Z4 – a mess and precursor to Fragasso & Drudi’s infamous stinker Troll 2 (1990) – but the pair’s most curious addition to the narrative is a blind DJ named Blue Heart to whom everyone on the island listens for music and plague alerts. His scenes are cleverly integrated throughout the film, but his increasingly anti-establishment broadcasts are patterned after the live warnings blind DJ Super Soul gives to wanted driver Kowalski, keeping him abreast of a determined police posse in the existential / nihilistic classic Vanishing Point (1971).

The appropriation isn’t mere coincidence: Z3’s star is Deran Serafian, son of VP’s director Richard Serafian, and what makes the usage amusing is how Deran was likely unaware of the new material, as himself and the original cast couldn’t be reunited for the reshoots – hence Mattei’s tone deaf casting choices. Z3’s finale isn’t hopeful, but the final scene is either preposterous, or is a hasty attempt by Fragasso & Drudi’s to add a new evolutionary step to the zombie canon: they not only move, but can speak – aspects carried over in more linear Darwinian stages in Z4.

Severin’s Blu-ray is a major upgrade from the old Media Blasters DVD released around 2002, and later repackaged in a 2009 Zombie Pack, with Zombie 4: After Death, and Zombie 5: Killing Birds. Carried over is the very odd commentary track with Serafian and Ring, co-stars and a former couple whose chiding and banter tends to drift into the irrelevant, often with oblique deadpan statements. Once in a while there’s a nugget of production minutia, but it’s a negligible track that might have worked better as an edited on-camera Q&A with the actors.

Also retained are archival interviews with the film’s two key stuntmen, stunning actress Marina Loi discussing her final scene with Vanni, and makeup artist Franco di Girolamo surrounded by assorted tormented heads and masks. Co-director Mattei also appears where he articulates his contributions yet insists Z3 is very much a Fulci film, with the new material written and directed in the spirit of Fulci. Rounding out the nostalgia trip is a new interview with Fragasso and Drudi as they reflect on their work in Z3.

The last notable extra is a bonus CD that contains the same 15 tracks from Beat Records’ 2005 CD, and is included with the first 3000 copies of Severin’s Blu-ray.

Stefano Mainetti’s percussive main theme is a great homage to Goblin’s Dawn of the Dead, with synth voices, a heavy bass line and atmospheric effects, but half the album is comprised of completely ditzy source cuts, some of which are heard from car and portable radios. Performed by Clue in the Crew, “Tumble Down” is a synth-pop / jazz fusion, but it’s “The Sound of Fear” that ranks as one of the most ridiculous synth-rock ditties ever written for a horror film. The CD’s program alternates awkwardly between score & source tunes, but there’s a good prog-rock version of the main theme, a jazz fusion variation, and a weird jazz lounge cut with female vocals & saxophones. Prog rock excepted, all songs have unremarkable instrumental alternates.

The final film edit really sacrifices fidelity and music continuity: the narrow mono mix lacks the subtleties and instrumental details of the otherwise crisp stereo engineering of the score & songs, but Mattei & Fragasso’s fixations of chase montages mandated hacking up the title track and stitching pieces to form a monotonous loop which makes Mainetti’s main theme sound cheap and lazy.

Zombie 3 is part of Severin’s three-film Bruno Mattei wave that also includes Zombie 4: After Death (1989) and Shocking Dark (1989).



© 2018 Mark R. Hasan





External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography
Vendor Search Links:

Amazon Canada —  Amazon USA —  Amazon UK



Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

Comments are closed.