Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hell of the Living Dead (1980)



This is one hell (no pun intended) of a strange movie, but it's actually even stranger that I never reviewed Bruno Mattei's masterpiece before here on Ninja Dixon. I might just have fooled myself over the years, thinking I sometime in the past took the time to write down a few wise words about Hell of the Living Dead. I first watched this at Katja and Linus place. I was young and handsome and Linus (rest in peace, buddy...) recommended me to watch his bootleg-tape of this one, second or third generation - so the quality it was crap. "It's way better than Dawn of the Dead" Linus told me. I didn't agree on that then and I'm not doing it now either, but it's a movie that's getting better and more absurd for each year and I've grown to love it like a mother loves her bastard retarded son.

A experiment gone wrong unleashes a deadly gas on the world... a gas the transforms dead bodies to the living dead! A SWAT team (dressed like the team in Dawn of the Dead) goes out on their own adventure during the zombie breakout and hooks up with some souls on the way. Surrounded by stock footage they continue on their way to their destiny...

Hell of the Living Dead is something unique, a movie so stupid - but yet heart-warming - that it's still the Mattei-flick with the highest EQ in his whole filmography. The sloppily written script by Claudio Fragasso is demented fun and it never lets down, even during the boring scenes - because when a scene is boring there's always a fucked-up line to make everyone happy again. One of the best things with it is the high quota of stock footage - and the jungles of New Guinea is filled with everything from African elephants, owls, monkeys and this, THE best stock footage material ever used in a movie, in slow motion of course:

Who shot this footage from the beginning? The one who gives the answers gets a kiss.
It's easy to make fun of Hell of the Living Dead, and yes: it's worth making fun of. But like most other movies by Mattei it's also packed with action, gore - just pure, clean good old-fashioned fun the Italian way. There's gore-galore (always more than I remember), an "original" score by Goblin (Maestro Mattei, to his death, claimed Goblin wrote the Dawn of the Dead score for this movie and not for... Dawn of the Dead - bless that crazy old man!) and acting like this:

"Can you... act a little bit more?"
Most of the story is a mix of Dawn of the Dead and everything else Mattei found at the local cinema at the time, which not is a bad thing. It's a good collection of random scenes of carnage and absurdity and a surprisingly huge amount of cynical humour. No one is safe here, NO one, and even if - for example - Lucio Fulci's Zombie Flesh Eaters is a heavier zombie film with an even darker ending it feels even more here how hopeless the situation is. Everyone is fucked and they know it.

The gore? Yeah, it's shocking and very cheap - often with slabs of meat put on top of the actors and extras and blue-faced zombies ripping the flesh apart. There's also head-crushings, nasty bites, lots of squibs, head-shots and entrail-ripping for the whole family - and of course the famous eye-gouging at the end. It looks okay for being a low budget Italian zombie film shot in Spain (doubling for New Guinea) and still packs a punch with nasty violence and bloodshed.

The only thing I actually don't like with this film is the footage from Thierry Zéno's Des morts (1979), the documentary about death that includes a lot of very gross stuff with rotten and swollen bodies - and some of the worst stuff is of course used in Hell of the Living Dead. I must admit I always fast forward during that sequence - which actually ends well, with a fun and corny zombie attack on a tribal village in a Spanish forest somewhere. That's good. That's fine. Makes me feel good.

Another thing that makes me feel good is why these three zombies wears green body stockings?
It's with a slight hesitation I now will say that Hell of the Living Dead is a masterpiece in its own little way, but it is. It's a trasherpiece and it's one helluva trasherpiece - but there together with Burial Ground and Zombie Holocaust.

Thanks Bruno. You always make my day a little bit happier. 

A treasure in my collection, a signed poster by Mattei - to Kit by the way, as in my dear friend Kit Gavin.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Hell of the Living Dead is something unique, a movie so stupid - but yet heart-warming - that it's still the Mattei-flick with the highest EQ in his whole filmography."

Films with EQ can be entertaining.


"One of the best things with it is the high quota of stock footage"

Was Mattei a big fan of Ed Wood..?


"The only thing I actually don't like with this film is the footage from Thierry Zéno's Des morts (1979), the documentary about death that includes a lot of very gross stuff with rotten and swollen bodies - and some of the worst stuff is of course used in Hell of the Living Dead. I must admit I always fast forward during that sequence"

Never heard about that film, I can understand why you use the fast forward.


"It's a trasherpiece and it's one helluva trasherpiece"

Stuff like that can be awesome.....good review ninja, thanks for the tip.

Megatron

Ninja Dixon said...

Thanks! :)

It's a pretty interesting and serious doc, but also very graphic and honest. But nothing I'll rewatch! :)

forestofthedead said...

Thank you for reviewing this. Love this movie.

Anonymous said...

Ninja: So it´s not one of those exploitation/mondo films disguised as an serious doc?

Of course it´s hard to tell nowadays....just like all the so called docs at Kanal 5 & TV3 etc.


Megatron

Chris Hewson said...

Have you ever seen Claudi Fragasso's 80's-tastic zombie movie Zombi 4: After Death?

Ninja Dixon said...

Patrick, it's my pleasure! And I really forgot how fun it was!

Megatron: No, it's a serious one - and hey, don't bash what I'm working with right now! :D

Chris: Yes, I love it! I've reviewed it earlier. Magnificent trash, totally unpretentious - and weird casting with Jeff Stryker! Lol!

Alex B. said...

I also fast-forward through the documentary footage :)

Nigel Maskell said...

The stock footage originally appeared in the 1974 documentary Guinea ama aka Nuova Guinea, l'isola dei cannibali directed by Akira Ide. The documentary is a particularly harsh and grim mondo feature that had an english language friendly release a couple of years back as "The Real Cannibal Holocaust"

Though this footage found it's way into the later documentary you mention before ultimately falling into the hands of Mattei.

Indeed, if memory serves, Guinea ama has not been referenced as the source of the footage but it is where it originally comes from.

I do have a copy of Guinea ama and have reviewed it in the past. It was a bit of a chore to watch- at times tedious, at times grim, occasional forays into ethnocentrism and homophobia as gay "westernised" tribal men are shown wearing colourful frilly shirts and holding hands in a segment clearly designed for cheap laughs at their expense.

It also features some unpleasant piercing and circumcision practices- most of which seem to involve lopping off pieces with sharpened bamboo and a pebble.You can't unsee stuff like this.

While Mattei may have used other sources for some of the stock footage the majority is from Guinea ama including the famous ceremony footage such as the guys with the large clay masks that was badly integrated into the movie :)

Details of the One 7 dvd release are here:

http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/49477/real-cannibal-holocaust-the/

Ninja Dixon said...

Thanks for the information Nigel! :)

Anonymous said...

Ninja: Sorry....yeah....I will avoid bashing your employers in the future...hahahhahah

Megatron

Nigel Maskell said...

Anyhow, when it comes to the film- the review is spot on! This is a trashterpiece. I love that by the way "trashterpiece"

Anonymous said...

Wowwww!! Great review of the movie and... AWESOME signed poster!!! I am trying to get something signed by Mattei to complete my collection and is impossible to find something. If you meet somebody who wants to sell something signed by him, please, contcact with me: maruqete@hotmail.com