George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was released throughout Europe under the title Zombie (alternatively Zombi) as what is known as “the Argento cut.” People were clamoring for a sequel, they were prepared to say “shut up and take my money” to any kind of zombie movie that came along. Romero wasn’t making any new sequels yet so the good folks in Italy stepped up to the plte to fulfill that demand (not an uncommon practice). If you want a crash course in some of the top Italian directors, the Zombi movies are a good place to start. Some of the more renown Italian directors, not necessarily the greatest; no Fellini or Passolini here. It’s not necessarily the best work of these directors either as they were all kind of slumming it but the films do serve s an introduction.
ZOMBIE 2 – LUCIO FULCI
Alternatively known as Zombie Flesh Eaters but mostly as just Zombie. The film was supposed to be directed by Enzo Castellori (The Inglorious Bastards, 1990: Bronx Warriors) who backed out because he didn’t feel much like directing horror. So horror maestro Lucio Fulci was brought on board. Well, “horror maestro” is really a title he earned post-Zombie as this is the film that suddenly made him a top name in the genre. It’s most people’s first introduction to Fulci’s work and many end up surprised to see that he made a name for himself directing films across all genres.
Zombie is a cult film notably because of its heavy and intense use of gore and it’s campy, exploitation feel. There’s tits in this movie – something lacking in Romero’s zombie films (although NotLD did give us some zombie butt). Most famously there is the Zombie Vs. Shark sequence.
Not surprisingly, this scene exists because of the notorious Rene Cardona Jr. Fulci wanted nothing to do with this but producer Ugo Tucci, being inspired after meeting the animal butcher Cardona, drugged a shark and staged the scene. The scene is only exciting until you realize someone was drugging sharks.
Otherwise, Zombie is a great flick. Unlike the other films carrying its trademark.
ZOMBI 3 – BRUNO MATTEI
The only one that’s technically a legitimate sequel to Zombie even though the only similarity here is that it happens to be another movie with zombies in it. Fulci started work directing this but then retired due to failing health, so Bruno Mattei was brought in to finish it up. While the finished film uses footage half by Fulci and half by Mattei, Bruno still considers this to be Fulci’s movie.
I consider it to be Mattei’s movie though. It looks and feels like Mattei’s work; Heavy military action, tongue and cheek humor bits (like a talking zombie at the end), and quick pacing to distract from the absence of character or story are things typical of Bruno Mattei. Zombi 3 is through and through an exploitation film, and Fulci was never really one to do exploitation. Mattei, on the other hand, made some of the best exploitation films to come out of Italy: Strike Commando, Robowar, SS Girls, Women’s Prison Massacre. Zombi 3 certainly has a lot more in common with Strike Commando than The House by the Cemetery.