Bruno Mattei Zombie Two-Fer : “Island Of The Living Dead”

Posted: March 21, 2015 in movies
Tags: , , , , ,

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Toward the end of his life, Italian Z-grade maestro Bruno Mattei hit upon a novel idea — he would return to the genre that spawned his biggest success (Hell Of The Living Dead) with less money, a videocamera, and no really new ideas to speak of, and hope that lightning would strike not just twice, but four times — because “Vincent Dawn” (as he’s credited internationally on many productions, including this one)  was planning a straight-to-video zombie trilogy this time around, to be shot entirely in the Philippines, utilizing primarily local “talent,” and incorporating a mix of both practical and cut-rate (to be kind about things) CGI effects.  Sounds like a winner, right?

Unfortunately, he only lived to see two of these films get made, and while both are a far cry from Mattei at his best — which, let’s face it, is still nothing close to the dictionary definition of “good” — they’re still reasonably entertaining if you attach a “for what they are” prefix to that statement, so let’s dive right in and take a look at both of them in order, shall we?

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First up we’ve got 2006’s Island Of The Living Dead (or, as it’s know in its native tongue, L’Isola Dei Morti Viventi), a rather standard-issue “weird adventure” tale about a group of freelance treasure hunters who, having lost a big score due to simple (and, frankly, mind-numbing) incompetence at the story’s outset find themselves adrift at sea until they stumble upon a hitherto-uncharted island that pops up out of nowhere through the fog one morning. Deciding to have a look and maybe loot whatever locals there may be out of whatever valuables they might have, they end up discovering the place is cursed with a living dead plague that dates back to the days of the Spanish conquistadors. An admittedly confused mish-mash of both ghost and zombie genre tropes that somehow manages to keep you semi-riveted (even if it’s mostly to see what sort of horrendous dubbing atrocity you’re served up next) ensues,  and while there’s very little (polite-speak for “nothing”) to distinguish this flick from numerous other bargain-basement Fulci rip-offs, the simple fact  fact  is that Mattei, as he was wont to do, is so naked in his open plagiarism that it’s downright fun to watch him go about his shameless business.

Consider : not only is this movie’s title the exact same one that our guy Lucio’s Zombie was released under in several non-pasta-consuming markets, but the opening scene of that generally-regarded-as-a- masterpiece is re-hashed a full three times here before Bruno finally realizes that we probably get the message. I know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that, but to be that out-and-out bludgeoned by the same damn thing over and over again marks anyone  who sits through the full 90-minute runtime of Island Of The Living Dead as a true celluloid sadist.

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Still not enough for ya? Okay, rest easy, because you can be sure that Zombie‘s  famous eyeball-gouging is repeated here, as well, with the law of diminishing returns fully and clearly in effect. The lighting and shot composition employed throughout is brazenly and unashamedly Fulci-on-a-(tiny) budget, as well, and one gets the feeling that it’s really only lack of money preventing Bruno from aping his predecessor’s famous shark-vs.-zombie underwater fight scene while he’s at it.

Needless to say, don’t sweat the characterization or performances or anything of the sort here — among out intrepid crew of freebooters, one named Sharon (played by Yvette Yzon) is given marginally more attention than the others, but you know the drill — they’re all just here to die in increasingly spectacular fashion as events progress. As long as you don’t ask for any more from them than that, you can live with the fact that none of them appear able to do their jobs particularly well.

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It’s probably a reach to say that anyone was exactly clamoring for this brutally cheap gore-fest to make its way onto DVD, but tough shit — Severin Films has seen fit to release it anyway under their InterVision Picture Corp. sub-label, and this time they’ve even managed to toss a few extras into the mix to accompany their admittedly-well-restored (with anamorphic widescreen picture and stereo sound) main feature. It ain’t much, but the original trailer, a five-minute promo reel for international territories, and a 20-or-so-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette consisting primarily of interviews with producer Giovanni Paolucci and screenwriter Antonio Tentori are fun and welcome additions to the proceedings.

All in all, if you take the same attitude going into watching this thing as its makers took while producing it — “what they hell? Let’s see what happens, it’s not as if we’re doing anything else, anyway” — you’ll probably have at least a modestly good time with this one.

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