Italian director Bruno Mattei has been accused of many things; the over use of completely inappropriate stock footage springs to mind. However making a good film has never been one of those charges levied his way. Perusing a short list of his cinematic ventures- Women's Prison Massacre, Scalps, Strike Commando 2, The True Story of the Nun of Monza- a pattern of outlandish sounding low budgeted B-fodder comes into focus. As I'm often pointing out however, just because a film is bad doesn't mean that you can't have a good old time. Plugging this IV of Bruno Mattei bad taste straight to my veins is Blue Underground, who are about to drop a special features laden Blu-ray double feature of Hell of the Living Dead and Rats: Night of Terror on a ravenous horror community.
Hell of the Living Dead is infamous for several reasons. The first is the ridiculous number of alternate titles which it's been released under. I first saw it on VHS as wee lad under the moniker Night of the Zombies, though it's also been called Virus, Zombie Inferno, Hell of the Living Death, Zombie Creeping Flesh, and Zombi 4. Several of those hint at the story behind the film. Zombi 4 links this to the legacy of Italian zombie films trying to attach themselves to Romero's Dawn of the Dead (released as Zombi in Italy), while at the same time purports to be the origin story of the flesh hungry undead in George A's movie. References to 'Inferno' point to the cannibal ties of this flick, leading to another facet of its infamy: ridiculously inappropriate use of stock footage.
Hell of the Living Dead features more padding than an attack dog training suit (it also features nude anthropology- but that's another story completely). How does this padding track? Imagine that you're an elite Italian commando unit (I said imagine!) making your way through the jungle landscape. The camera shows you look out the left window of your rugged off-road vehicle. What do you see? Stock footage of monkeys leaping tree to tree in slow motion. You glance to the right to see gazelles prancing through a field. Steady shot straight on of the moving vehicles again, then boom- you look to the left again to glance at more stock nature footage (perhaps those same monkeys jumping in the opposite direction?!). There's a laughable ton of this, which would not in itself make the film infamous. What does, however, is the inclusion of stock footage of native African villagers performing a funeral ritual, replete with gratuitous and unyielding scenes of actual rotting bodies, and one actually being immolated. It is particularly gruesome, and not at all for the faint of heart. Of course cannibal genre fans will eat this stuff right up (totally intentional pun)
Rats: Night of Terror is much tamer fare, but only by direct comparison to its double bill dance partner. This one's a post apocalyptic nightmare which follows a bunch of bikers over two hundred years after the bomb (A.B.). They stumble across a research lab where potable water and lush food are being successfully cultivated. So what if the previous inhabitants have been viciously mauled?! What follows is a gore spattered circus of survival as rats and treachery devour the group from the inside out (literally so in the first case). This would be a poignant message about man's inhumanity to man in a quality film, but here it services the meat grinding plot just fine.
The gore effects are where Rats truly shines, as packs of the mutated monsters burrow out of the hapless future bikers with explosively gut wrenching fervor. Credit for the splatterfest goes to Maurizio Trani, who had previous worked on Fulci's Zombie and The House by the Cemetery. Genre fans will get much more screen time with Geretta Geretta than they're used to in Demons, where she plays the first victim of the outbreak. Here she's Chocolate, a bad ass biker chick with nothing to lose. As of this writing she's still actively working, so kudos to her.
Both of these films have been given the new transfer treatment by Blue Underground, sourced from the original and uncensored camera negatives. The result are startling, rendering the grotesque horror that much more inescapable and unflinching. These are seriously bad movies that make for seriously bad ass group viewing. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll bleed, and then you'll return for more. Blue Underground does it yet again. This isn't for the squeamish, nor the faint of heart, but the hard core contingent of insatiably blood thirsty genre fans will devour this release.
Hell of the Living Dead/Rats: Night of Terror releases to Blu-ray via Blue Underground on August 26th for $29.98. Show this for family night, and never be asked to choose the feature again!
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.
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