Starring Robert Marius, Massimo Vanni, Marina Loi, Beatrice Ring
Directed by Lucio Fulci, Claudio Fragasso, Bruno Mattei
Distributed by Severin Films
Lucio Fulci. Claudio Fragasso. Bruno Mattei.
Individually, each one of these men was capable of creating some of Italy’s most notorious horror exports; but together, whether intentionally or not, they blew the zombie subgenre to insane heights and made one of the craziest schlock fests of the ‘80s. Continuing the great Italian tradition of cobbling together a series using loosely-related films, Zombie 3 (1988) – which is actually Zombi 3 – is the “sequel” to Fulci’s epic Zombie/Zombi 2 (1979), which is itself a “sequel” to Zombi (1978), the Italian title for George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, with that particular cut being overseen by Dario Argento. Zombie 3 has nothing to do with any of the other films, though, and it is entirely its own deformed, bloody beast – just as its “sequels”, Zombi 4: After Death (1989), and Zombi 5: Killing Birds (1987), are unrelated, too. Still with me?
The film may be a riot, but the most interesting drama took place behind the scenes. Depending on who you ask, original director Lucio Fulci either left the Philippines due to illness or he quit following prolonged issues with the producers. Regardless, what Fulci had shot amounted to around 50 minutes after editing, leaving both Fragasso and Mattei to helm additional footage in order to beef up the running time. There was just one slight problem… the original leading actors refused to return. Faced with a thankless task, the two shot new footage that adds up to around 40% of the final film. Luckily for all parties involved, Zombie 3 is a film so deranged and out of control that the cobbled-together cut is entertaining enough to ameliorate the lack of cohesion.
Scientists on a remote jungle island are experimenting with a new serum, Death One, which has the ability to reanimate the dead. But these corpses don’t come back as regular citizens, so after the first zombie leaves a toxic mess inside the research chamber Dr. Holder (Robert Marius) decides to give up on the project. Just as he is about to hand over the serum to the military a group of rebels attacks the convoy and nearly everyone is killed, with one criminal managing to escape with the container of Death One. During the chase a military officer is able to shoot the serum out of the criminal’s hands, and when the man goes to pick it back up shards of glass cut his skin, infecting him with the deadly toxin. Already beginning to succumb to Death One, the man checks into a local hotel, where his condition rapidly deteriorates. The military tracks him down, finds him dead, and then kills off the remaining staff & patrons in order to stop the spread of the virus… except when the bodies are cremated the resulting ash cloud blankets the island and spreads Death One further than anyone could have guessed…
Then, all new characters (read: the original cast) are introduced, with a group of GIs on a break looking to score some strange wool in one plot while tourists Patricia (Beatrice Ring) and Glenn contend with zombie birds and machete-wielding undead in another. The GIs figure the best way to avoid these flesh munchers is to hole up in an abandoned house with a lot of firepower. Two of the group, Bo (Massimo Vanni) and Carol (Marina Loi), take a car and drive off looking for help, a trip that doesn’t end so well for one of them – well, both, really. As scores of the undead begin to appear from every rotted-out shack, waterway, bridge, and hotel the remaining survivors band together and attempt to fight their way off the island before Dr. Holder and his government cleanup crew arrive to eradicate everybody – infected or otherwise.
Although technically the third film in an unofficial series, don’t expect any of the wry social commentary found in Zombi or the lavish style of Zombi 2 because Zombi 3 is like the wild younger brother who never got his shit together and continues to party like he’s twentysomething. The lack of a consistent story and other salient drawbacks are completely misdirected by the on-screen insanity, with the film being such a wild ride you can not only forgive the filmmakers for their folly but praise it, too. The undead aren’t just lumbering sacks of fetid flesh, instead gaining abilities based on what the story requires. For instance, when one of the GIs turns zombie he can speak and taunt the remaining survivors; none of the other zombies have a language outside of various grunts. I appreciate the lack of concern over any semblance of realism because the missive was clearly “Entertain At All Costs” and how can a film where a severed zombie head flies out of a refrigerator and onto a man’s jugular be considered anything but a success in that regard?
The film has been given a new 2K scan by the fine folks at Severin Films and the resulting 1.78:1 1080p image is punchy and bright, offering up something refined and filled with crisp little details. Colors appear distinct and natural, with rich saturation to make them pop. There is an appreciable depth to the image and on the whole there is strength in the sharpness. The overall image quality takes a bit of a dip when smoke is introduced into the environments – and there is plenty of it. Like, Cheech & Chong levels of smoke. Film grain is mostly smooth, though it does spike at times to appear a bit noisy. Nighttime scenes are often filtered with a little blue and offer up some rich atmosphere.
The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track is proficient enough, presenting the dub with good fidelity. There is a nice bit of separation among the dialogue and sound effects, though the real highlight is Stefano Mainetti’s score. The wild action on screen is perfectly complemented by Mainetti’s wildly energetic soundtrack, which is nearly wall-to-wall in its coverage. There are also a couple of random generic rock songs peppered throughout but, by and large, Mainetti’s score dominates the proceedings and it is gloriously ghastly – and even better, it’s included in this package!
There is an audio commentary track, featuring stars Deran Sarafian & Beatrice Ring.
The Last Zombies – An Interview with Screenwriters Claudio Fragasso & Rosella Drudi – Want to know more about the behind-the-scenes drama and how this production somehow managed to lurch to the finish line? Here is one account, as Fragasso & Drudi recall the difficulties in making this schlock masterpiece. In Italian with English subs.
A trailer is included in HD.
Tough Guys – Interview with Actors/Stuntmen Massimo Vanni & Ottaviano Dell’Acqua – The big takeaway from any of these interviews is you probably don’t want to ever film in the Philippines. In Italian with English subs.
The Problem Solver – Interview with Replacement Director Bruno Mattei – Making a movie is tough; finishing one that is partially completed for another director and without any of the principal cast is a nightmare. In Italian with English subs.
Swimming with Zombies – Interview with Actress Marina Loi – In Italian with English subs.
In the Zombie Factory – Interview with FX Artist Franco Di Girolamo – The man behind some of the melee shows off his studio, as well as demonstrating how certain effects were achieved. In Italian with English subs.
Finally, my favorite bonus feature of all, a complete CD soundtrack of Stefano Mainetti’s score. Now you can blast all the hot tunes from Zombi 3 on your way to grab a burger from In-N-Out, or rip it digitally and take it to the gym, imagining all those weights as zombie heads waiting to be crushed. Truly, the greatest gift of all.
- BRAND NEW 2K REMASTER OF THE FILM
- The Last Zombies – Interview With Co-Director/Co-Writer Claudio Fragasso and Co-Writer Rossella Drudi
- Tough Guys – Interview with Actors/Stuntmen Massimo Vanni and Ottaviano Dell’Acqua
- The Problem Solver – Interview with Replacement Director Bruno Mattei
- Swimming with Zombies – Interview with Actress Marina Loi
- In the Zombie Factory – Interview with FX Artist Franco Di Girolamo
- Audio Commentary With Stars Deran Sarafian and Beatrice Ring
- Bonus Disc: CD Soundtrack
Truly a bastion of B-movie bravado, Zombie 3 is a start-to-finish shock of pure lunacy and it is as riveting as it is confounding. Severin Films’ release is monumental, presenting not only solid a/v quality but a host of bonus features capped off by what is always my favorite extra ever: a copy of the soundtrack on CD. Highly recommended.