WARNING: The trailer is the original French Trailer, in other means NSFW!
Today we will continue on some zombie movies, this time it is an UFO, a pearl as I call it. So bad it is so good. Today we will discuss about “Le Lac Des Morts Vivants” aka “Zombie Lake”, probably the best movie from Jean Rollin. Filmed with a ridiculous budget, with pathetic actors, with a scenario that some attributed to drunken med school students. But it has this charm, this audacity that any Hollywood yes-men would never ever bet a buck on it.
The story plot is about a lake somewhere in France in which some German Nazis were put down to rest during the Liberation of France. However, the dormancy is ended when a young woman decides to skinny dip into the lake (that is for the underwater scene clearly a swimming pool!). Surely the presence of fresh meat may have raised the appetite of some these German Nazis that are surprisingly still fit and fresh for cadavers that may have been there for 5-10 years (you will know why I give this timeline later). They decide to have a snack on her and pull her down in the bottom of the lake.
The disappearance and the subsequent recovery of the body raises some waves in the nearby village, in particular to the mayor played by an aging Howard Vernon. It seems the mayor understood the meaning of this murder and recall the ambush done by some villagers to these German Nazis during the Liberation battle of France, in which they got rid of their bodies in the nearby lake.
As if it was not enough, we discover that indeed one of the Nazi soldier had a love relationship with one French woman of that same village (that was a common story in the WW2 France and later led to a massive lynch mob against these women), resulting in the birth of a little girl. Of course, her mom died during labor.
The problems just started and only got worse when a whole group of girls, labelled as a nearby basketball club, stop by the lake and decide to play basketball like walruses. To only end up naked and skinny-dipping in the nearby swimming pool, eh-lake and raising the appetite of the zombies. Only one girl will make it through, topless of course, to the village pub to alert the population.
Now that the zombies are completely awake, they decide to emerge from the lake (some rumors the camera was filming too fast, so the actors have to walk slower to make it through). Now in the village, they attack surprisingly to villager girls and raise the ire of the mens, holding their forks and hunting shotguns (remember we are in France). Add on it now that one of the zombie Nazi recognize his biological daughter and takes under his protection.
That is something about these movies, especially about Jean Rollin ones that summarizes the French touch: a Rabelaisian view of life in which a good wine, good meal and pleasure of flesh is part of the good life, something that in France you would not be surprised to see women topless on the beach or even naked for advertising shampoos (things you would never see in the US, Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction is a grim reminder). It was a time where VHS was a powerful vector to spread movies through video-clubs and also providing an affordable distribution model for filmmakers with micro-budgets. If you want to explore French horror movies, you should definitively get into it with Jean Rollin. The movie plots are weird, the acting are just disastrous but you get free boobs and a good amount of laughs.
One week before Halloween and still a lot of movies I did not talked about it. I will therefore speedup and propose a daily post to cover up the most essential movies collection. Tonight we are getting back to Fulci with the first movie of his unofficial trilogy “Gates of Hell”, that will also include “The Beyond” and “The House by The Cemetery”. In this one, we have again the presence of living dead but this one is way more gore than the previous movie. “City of the Living Dead” aka “Frayeurs” in French, a movie that haunted me during my childhood just by evokating VHS cover of it.
The plot is a bit weird but damn efficient and insane for the dose of gore. The movie starts with a priest hanging himself in a cemetery in the town of Dunwich (anyone see the reference to HP Lovecraft here?), we don’t know much why but this scene is the trigger of all the events in this movie. It starts with the opening sequence with the music of Fabio Frizzi that will give this heavy and oppressive music all along the movie. It is followed by a session of mediums, as if they experienced the event or forecasted it, with one of them, Mary, fall on the floor, apparently dead. The mediums warn the police officers that came to investigate the death that the evil is in town. A passing by journalist, Peter, is intrigued by these claims and this death and investigate. The day after, Mary is freshly buried when suddenly she wakes up from her torpor, yelling for her life. Peter hearing the sound, come and try to break the coffin using a pickaxe. This scene is surely what has inspired Quentin Tarantino in “Kill Bill”, in the chapter “The Grave of Paula Schultz”.
Things become even weirder when Bob, a young greaser, adventures into an abandoned house to see an inflatable doll suddenly inflates. First surprised he rapidly get disturbed when this doll starts to bleed out maggots from her orifice. Later on, Bob and Emily witness the first apparition of the deceased father, that literarily results in Emily’s eyes bleeding followed by a complete internal liquefaction of her body. Bob, considered as the murderer of Emily, is savagely taken apart by a mob, with his head drilled by Emily’s father himself! Evisceration, internal organs liquefactions, brain squeezing are some of the hallmark of the movie. It also has a very disturbing ending, as Mary and Peter manage to destroy the dead priest, escape from a graveyard to just hear Mary screaming. We never know what Mary saw and what happened. Are Mary and Peter became living dead? Are the rest of Dunwich became living dead?
These are the hallmarks of Fulci movies, a very dark ending, in which the main protagonists are trapped in the same nightmare than they just managed to escape. Some people suggest that this is a direct reflection of Fulci atheism, translating that death is only the final, with no happy ending as religion tells us (Paradise). This is a great movie if you want to see some genuine horror movies from the 80s. Something you will not see anymore nowadays.
10 days before Halloween and such many movies to talk about. But today we will about the other zombie movie that came from Italy, straight from Lucio Fulci’s mind. Trying to surf on the trail blaze of Romero’s “Dawn of The Dead”, also named “Zombie” for the EU market, Fulci will bring his version of zombie that are probably the most iconic ones: the rotting, putrid flesh zombie. Fulci will open the door of Italian horror movies, in my own and humble opinion one of the best production from Italy.
The plot starts in New York, as a ghost sailboat enters New York’s City waters. A NYPD boat arrives to inspect the boat with two police officers, one of them got bitten by a man showing sign of decomposition and killing him. The second officer shoots him, making the rabid man fall into the Hudson River. The daughter of the boat owner is questioned, as no trace of him is found but the last time he was reporting, he was stationed somewhere in the Caribbean, in some remote island to conduct his research. This lead the main character, Anne Bowles (played by Tia Farrow) to investigate what happened to her father. This leads her to go to the Caribbean, accompanied by a journalist and a couple of adventurers. In the meantime, in the island, dead people are suddenly re-animated by a voodoo curse and their numbers keep growing.
What makes it unique aside of his decomposing zombies? Well many things. First the soundtrack, signed by Fabio Frizzi that will compose with Fulci in several movies. It is the kind of winning duet that we have with Georges Lucas/Steven Spielberg and John Williams and that we will experience within the next decade with Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. No classical music here, more synthetic sound but also very deep and heavy composition making the atmosphere insane.
Second is the famous enuclation scene of Olga Scarlatos by a zombie with a wooden chard, that worth some fistful of gore scene.
Third is the famous underwater zombie. In one scene, the actress Aureate Gay decide to go skinny-scubadiving near the island, to better be confronted by a white shark. As she tries to hide from the shark behind a reef, she gets assaulted by an underwater zombie. Using coral to blind him, she managed to escape, only to see the zombie swim towards the shark and literally attack the shark. Some rumors have been discussing that the shark was highly drugged to shoot this scene, making it even more unreal.
Fourth is the particular set that Fulci will establish his signature about living-deads: rotting, flash-eating zombies. No fast-runners zombies here, but very determined and dangerous zombies that will mark his following movies “The Beyond” and “City of the Living Dead”. What Fulci fail to achieve in terms of budget, he compensate with the gore effects that are as impressive as Tom Savini’s one.
Tonight we have a special guest in our Halloween Month retrospective of horror movies that marked my mind forever. Tonight I will talk about THE ZOMBIE MOVIE OF ALL TIMES. That’s right, tonight I will talk about “Dawn of The Dead” aka “Zombie” in Europe. This is the cult movie of all zombie flesh eaters fans outside. Never equalled by any remake, even the Walking Dead failed to impress (is it to tell you). Why this movie is so awesome? Well read.
First of all, I wanted to mention that there are two major director’s cut available whether you are in the US or in Europe. Back then Georges Romero allied with Dario Argento (the Itialian maestro of giallos and horror movies from Italy) to distribute the movie worldwide. You have therefore two cuts: The Romero’s director’s cut and the Argento’s one. Because I watched as the French version, I found the Argento’s one amplifying Romero’s genius by adding a more intense course (through cutting actionless scenes) and adding the music of the Goblin on top that gives a nice progressive rock/synth from the 70s to it. It makes it simply impressive.
The film starts on Fran, a TV reporter napping among a nightmare, only to be waken up by a colleague to take her shift and also have some rest to revitalize. We only see the disaster of what these people: a massive outbreak of zombies, way far from what we experienced in “Night of The Living Dead”. We can see people panicking and keeping the signal on air with two speakers discussing about the zombie outbreak: one rationalist and skeptical that brings this nihilist but yet most pragmatic approach (burn the bodies of those that just died) and the second one, antipode of the first speaker claiming it is insane and completely no-sense, inhumane. It clearly puts us to think what we should do in that situation. In case your dearest person is becoming contaminated by the zombie plague, will you just shoot him as you would shoot in a shooting range or will you be lost by your feelings and putting your own life at risk?
The insanity is just starting, as the local TV director enter the stage and yell about how come all programming are stopped. He yells he wants to have the normal shows and programs running on air, because tele spectators will rate down the station if not so. The insanity of consumerism of the previous decades ad nauseam, started to be served by Romero itself. Fran escape with Stephan, her recent boyfriend, as he has a safe plan.
The following sequence takes place over a building in a thing that looks like a siege from SWAT. We get introduced to Roger, the maverick hero that is also the most reckless of all four main characters. We can see an ultimatum posed and Roger advising some tips to a rookie, when aside one veteran utterly makes racist comments, claiming these thugs are welfare queens enjoying state welfare when himself is struggling and working. Here comes the another nuggets as we can see that the siege is indeed held by inhabitants refusing to give their dead relatives to law enforcement. It is a reminder of the same climate of violence and racism that were taking place in LA riots in 1963. This is our first time we can see zombie, being literally their head exploded by shotgun shots (a remarkable work from Tom Savini in terms of special effects). Roger after his adrenaline rush is just realizing the gravity of the situation and arrive face to face with another SWAT, a SWAT that have shot the racist veteran earlier on. Here we get introduced to Peter, the black main character that indeed will show all the quality of the hero from all four. Again, Romero makes the exception by putting a person of color as the savior of all four, shredding into pieces the myth of the white man savior. Among their first encounter and ice-breaking moment, appears a one-legged priest from a smoke, telling the two SWATs that all the corpses are located in the laundry room and they are free to do anything they want as they receive the final graces. However he warns them that they will soon rule over them.
We arriving back on Stephan and Fran that have indeed used the TV station helicopter to meet Peter and Roger. In the Romero’s cut, we can see Stephan and Fran facing another pair of cops taking a boat to escape the hell, followed by the arrival of Peter and Roger. This scene is deleted from the Argento’s cut and make us meet straight the four.
As they escape they fly over the countryside, we can see National Guards and locals, enjoying the shooting range, it could almost come out from the National Rifle Association as people shoot zombies, with one can of beer in one hand and a cigarette. It surely tells the absurdity of some gun enthusiasts are patented gun nutters, ready to shoot if approved. As the helicopter lands down to refuel in a municipal airport, we can see even more zombies, in particularly zombie children that Peter will not take any seconds to shoot on range with his M4. Thats some brutal to see children being shot in a movie!
Then come the big chunk of the movie as the hero find an empty shopping mall and decide to use it as a shelter. First they consider it as a safe stop, then realize that they can use it as a castle. Here Romeros is hitting straight in the American heart: the shopping mall. The temple of consumerism of the 70’s put to the mid 2000s when the e-commerce decided to pull the plug on many malls. It reminds me a novel from Ray Bradbury’s, one of those I read when I was in 3rd grade in which some people lives in a shopping mall and realizing their dream. Come on, who else would be not happy to be locked inside a mall and enjoy the ownership of all the materials and produces, without worrying about to afford them? It directly hits hard on the American psyche, as the whole social life for anything is driven by one thing: credit history (that you only gain through having credit cards). Even more when we see zombies flocking through the mall, in which Stephen tells Fran “this place had an important meaning to them in their prior life”. That makes it so unique and exciting, you will never find in any other movies.
Today we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the SEGA Master System, the first video game system that was distributed by SEGA outside Japan (there was the SEGA SG1000 before the Master System and the Japanese version was named the SEGA Mark III).
For me it was my first love with the 8-bits consoles post-Atari (my first console I got my hands on was the Atari 2600 when I was 4). It was through my BFF that I got introduced. It was the console of the misfits, the console of the nerds, the console of the alternative when everyone was mainstream with the “Nintendo Entertainment System”. What made it so special? I have my bunch of reasons.
Firstly, the colors. You can argue as you want but the color on the NES were fairly ugly despite having a palette of 54 colors. The Sega Master System had 32 colors with 64 colors using a raster effect. The problem with game licenses were kind of having the right cards in your hands, but some editors have published in both consoles. Lets see the comparison of Double Dragon between NES and Master System:
Secondly the sound chip. I found the SEGA sound system much more appreciable on the ear than the NES. Being greeted by the SEGA Master System was an enjoyable experience:
If you were in Japan or having a Japanese SEGA, some versions were greeted with the Space Harrier theme:
What I really despised is the decision to remove the FM Synthesizer from the US and European version of the Master System and was sold separately as an FM Module. To give an idea of what we missed, there is a video comparing the same game without and with the FM Synthesizer:
It makes such a big difference, that makes the gaming experience even more enjoyable.
Thirdly, the games proposed. Yes, Nintendo was all about Mario and Zelda, as well as Castlevania. Yes, Alex Kidd never reached the cult status of Mario. But if like me you grew up playing on coin-op games, arcade games (back in my days it was during carnivals and fairs we had a chance to play arcade games), this was the console you wanted to have. All SEGA hits built on the System 1/16 and the subsequent different iterations (Shinobi, Golden Axe, Altered Beast, After Burner, Out Run, Space Harrier, Super Thunderblade, Hang On, Fantasy Zone…..) as well as third-parties that have dual licenses such as Taito (Rastan), Irem (R-Type, Vigilante) it was back then the only way to play these games at home.
Another remarkable thing is the popularity of the SEGA Master System in Europe, in particularly in France. Here is a French commercial from 1989/1990 when the SEGA Master System sales was full-sail: http://www.ina.fr/video/PUB3784122096. It was fairly popular that one TV game show called “Le Chevalier Du Labyrinthe” was offering a SEGA Master System as a prize:
If I have to put a game list I really loved to play on the Master System (arcade ports excluded, I would recommend the arcade version through MAME), here would be my list:
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Astro Warrior/Pit Pot
Golden Axe Warrior
Fantasy Zone II: the Maze
Nowadays, the SEGA Master System can be found. I have starting collecting my consoles here in the US (and plan to migrate my collection from France to the US next time I travel back to France). What I can tell? The price are going high fairly crazy, I believe we have a generation of retrogress now getting into full age and with the $$$ to afford it. I am scouting the Goodwill bid site (www.shopgoodwill.com) and the Master System naked (no games) are easily going for $60-100 especially if it is complete in box (CIB). I am not even not talking about the version 2 that is probably go even higher. To give you an idea, Goodwill got this stuff donated and in a regular store it would have been gone for $5-10 as is. I feel Goodwill found a way to make some easy money on folks. Games usually range between $5-10/game but I have seen some lot going to $100 (like Phantasy Star). If you like some exotic variants, you should go visit Brazil where SEGA under the distribution by TecToy got a real popularity there and even Brazilian-specific games.
Half-way through Halloween and tonight time to give the salute to the spiritual father of all boogeymen, the Jason Vorhees, the Freddy Krugger, the Scream slashers, the Sleepaway Camps, they Jeepers Kreepers: Michael Myers from the “Halloween” franchise.
If Michael Myers may have gotten some inspiration, it is certainly from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”, straight from Norman Bates. But where Norman Bates has this split personality allowing him to appear normal and reenacting his dead mother, Michael Myers is the ultimate boogeyman: fearless, careless, apathetic, calculator, mute and foremost fully evil.
What makes it even more is the modus operandi of the plot. The story starts in Haddonfield, Illinois representing the typical surburbia (indeed the filming location occurred somewhere in California), in October 31st 1963. Nothing predates the following sequence, as we see kids running for trick or treating. We start indeed the sequence as the first-person, through the killer’s eyes, sneaking and peeping over a window. Then suddenly, John Carpenter’s soundtrack kicks in with a strident sound that give you goosebumps, followed by the piano tunes that makes the music of Halloween unique and easily identiable. This first-person point of view makes it unique as we are witnessing the action of the murderer and we are incapable to do anything about.
The effect is even more accentuated when we assist of the stabbing of the victim, yelling “Michael” before being killed and follow the escape of the killer, hearing to its breathing through the mask until stopped by his parents outside and revealing the identity of the killer: Michael Myers.
It is followed by “15 years later”, following Dr. Sam Loomis (played by Donald Pleasance) and a psychiatric nurse. Dr. Loomis will play a significant role and the first sentence he will make about Michael is “the evil is gone!”. Donald Pleasance is certainly being the best acting role. It had this credibility as a psychiatric doctor, discussing and letting us know more about Michael Myers.
Now Michael Myers out, we see Laurie Strode followed by a ghostly figure, wearing a grey jumpsuit, a white mask and heavily breathing through his mask. Try to watch it at night, that gives you some goosebumps. Here we are, the ultimate boogeyman, stalking on his victim like a predator on his prey.
It has very interesting cameos, as the two kids are disguised as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. In the TV set, two horror movies are played: The Thing (the original, but maybe already announcing John Carpenter next movie in the making) and the Night of the Living Dead from Romero.
If you ever have to see a slasher once in your lifetime, watch this one. Also try to put your hands on Halloween II that immediately continue where we left this one. Halloween III is interesting but not linked to the first two opuses. I would also say forget and ignore the sequels, as well as the remake by Rob Zombie that I found were not convincing to me. Always prefer the original to the copies.