Sunday, May 11, 2008

Zombie Lake (1981)

Zombie Knife Fight.

Did I get your attention? Good, because this one is something else. Directed by the usually reliable Jean Rollin, Zombie Lake walks the line of so-bad-it's-good until luckily devolving to a glorious stew of smut and ineptitude. If you're one to scoff at bad make-up, awful dubbing, or absolutely gratuitous nudity, i'd probably suggest giving this one a pass. For everyone else, this should provide some seriously goofy entertainment.

A small French village starts to experience mysterious murders (mostly of women in various states of undress, including a full (frontal) female volleyball team(!)) that are being caused by some mostly-green fellows that have been rising from the nearby lake. Apparently during World War II some resistance fighters killed a group of Nazis and dumped their bodies in the water, and now they are rising from their graves to take a little revenge.

But that's not all! So, before getting shot-up by the townspeople, one of the Nazis slept with a female villager who ended up having his child before passing away. This zombie-Nazi pays a few visits to his now grown daughter, who doesn't seem to have any problems hanging out with a damp, green, dead guy. The mayor (played by the late Howard Vernon) cooks up a scheme where the young girl lures the lumbering squad into a local mill, where the rest of the town burns them up with a flamethrower. Huzzah.

It's difficult to focus on what aspect of the production is most incompetent. The dubbing is pitiful, with the actors seemingly making up dialogue on the spot as they constantly contradict each other or spew nonsense. The zombie make-up is laughable, and most of the zombies have large flesh colored patches where it has either washed off or was never applied. Most attacks in the film consist of a badly made-up actor nuzzling against an actresses neck, letting fake blood fall out of his mouth. Embarrassing stuff, particularly in one scene where a solider gets shot in the eye and a very visible pipe feeds blood through his sleeve.

But, my own favorite bits are whenever they show the zombies from beneath the water. While above the lake appears dirty and covered with various wildlife, from below it's incredibly clear. So clear, in fact, that you can see the tarp set up in the background to hide the fact that the whole thing was shot in a swimming pool. You can even see vents at the edges of the screen! This sort of egregious error (and it's consistent throughout the film) just adds to the fun.

Jean Rollin (Living Dead Girl, Lips Of Blood) is actually a very capable director and is obviously slumming it here in conjunction with the infamous Jess Franco (who wrote the script). Rollin uses a pseudonym as director (though he also acts, credited, in the film) which implies he knew the results were less than inspiring. There are a few moments (particularly in the WWII flashback scenes) where his talents show through, but this is definitely something to leave off the resume. He is able to keep the pace moving quite rapidly (the film doesn't even run 90 minutes), and is sure to fill the screen with plenty of nubile flesh when things slow down.

Image released the DVD of the film and present the film in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The image quality is quite amazing, with almost no significant damage to the print. The English dubbing as mentioned is particularly rough, though they did see fit to include the original French language track. A pity that they didn't also give the option of subtitles. They also included a few extras, including alternate versions of the nude scenes with the actresses wearing clothes (apparently for television broadcasts), an alternate English opening credits sequence, and the film's theatrical trailer.

A low point in the career of Jean Rollin, but a high point for connoisseurs of awful cinema, Zombie Lake provides entertainment for viewers who like their films quick, smutty and technically retarded. The wonders of DVD bring it to us in crystal clear quality. Thank goodness for technology!

No comments: