Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Zombies and Maniacs! Two Need UHD Releases from Blue Underground! Review

Blue Underground has been a major part of my film education and the label continues to grow with the times. Through the years they have went from DVD to Blu Ray, then 2k and now 4k transfers. Now, with the advent of UHD, they have given its most popular titles, Lucio Fulci's Zombie (1979) and Maniac (1980) the ultra-4k treatment.

Maniac (1980) Blue Underground May 26th 2020

Directed By: William Lustig

Starring: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro,

    When I think of down and dirty, gritty New York based  films twisted gems like Driller Killer (1979), Basket Case (1982), New York Ripper (1982) and of course Maniac from 1980 come to mind. Follow the life, loves and deaths of Frank (Joe Spinell) a brutal serial killer that has an obsession with killing and scalping his victims. He happens to meet a beautiful fashion photographer named Anna (Caroline Munro) who, despite lots of red flags starts to date Frank. Will the love of a good woman change this brutal killer or will his demons catch up with him? On the surface Maniac is lacking in a fully developed script yet, it has a whole host of nasty charms on full display. I think that the real magic of the film stems from how Spinell and Lustig carefully crafted and based Frank on several real life killers that were in the media at the time. Thus there is something incredibly unnerving and real about Frank operates from day-to-day. After the titular maniac kills a victim he gets emotional, screaming, crying and even throwing up at one point. This is a vast departure of the mindless, soulless machine-like killer's you typically see in a slasher film. And the other amazing thing about this movie is of course Frank, played to the grimy hilt by the legendary Joe Spinell. Spinell sweats and oozes his way through a performance for the ages. Lustig and Spinell were truly a match made in Grindhouse heaven. The character actor who has been in everything from Rocky (1976), The Godfather (1972) and Taxi Driver (1976) and in Maniac injects both a vile creature, yet at the same time a strange kind of pathos, making it one of the more interesting serial killer portrayals this side of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986).  Playing his love interest is Caroline Munro. The actress is probably best known for her Hammer films as well as being a Bond girl is as always a dazzling performer. She is the beauty to Spinell's beast. Maniac also boasts a harsh vibe with its documentary style but also has some nice touches of the surreal. And, least we forget it features some amazing special effect work by Tom Savini, who even makes a mind-blowing cameo. Its easy to dismiss the film as exploitation trash, yet Lustig's skilled direction and Spinell's creepy presents, literally appearing out of the dark New York streets, is amazing, haunting and with a wonderfully over-the-top finale. Lustig has made a real demented classic for the ages.

Zombie (1979) Blue Underground May 26th 2020

Directed By: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Al Cliver, Richard Johnson

The maggot encrusted living dead film that, for many fans encapsulates the entire Italian splatter. Lucio Fulci's infamous Zombie (1979) or Zombi 2 in Italy, is a cult classic that is still devoured by rabid genre fans. A motley crew go to an island to look for a missing woman's missing father. But, sadly its not tropical fun-in-the-sun as the living dead are being brought back to life, hungry for flesh.

    I love how the film starts out with a nice mystery, but also wastes zero time in getting right to the zombies and some nice gore effects. Fulci never lets the plot get in the way of his magnum-opus of carnage and despite a so-so plot the film saves it self on two fronts: Fulci clearly made this with one bloody-tongue in his cheek and the film has some great dark humor. I mean, the zombie versus shark is not only iconic but such a hoot to watch. Secondly, the film of course has some incredibly done practical effects featuring crunchy zombie make-up's of different variety and plenty of blood, guts. And, damn, we cannot get the infamous eye ball impalement scene scrubbed from our warped-brains. Longtime Fulci composer Fabio Frizzi delivers a pulse pounding score that really gives this film an edge. I love Zombie because its not a deep film and it doesnt aim to be. Its just what you`d want, a nicely paced gore-soaked bit of late '70's horror made by a director in his prime. While this isn't my favorite of Fulci's, (that would be The New York Ripper or The Beyond) Zombie is a fast-paced, well photographed and nasty film that every bit deserves its cult status.

In 1968 Romero offered a fright-filled allegory with Night of the Living Dead and in 1979 Fulci would just get gory- and we wouldn't have it any other way!

Picture: Holy-Freakin-Crap! I didnt think that anything could top the 4k Blu ray transfer which was included in the 2018 3-Disc Collectors-Edition but they did! On both releases the UHD picture is mind blowing in its depth in colors, sharp contrast which showcase all the mayhem, blood, guts and scalping included in both films. Small production details like Frank's apartment from Maniac or the locales from Zombie really pop-out with this new transfer. Night scenes really benefit from this upgrade. And, for those splatter and gross-out fan's this new edition really showcases all the blood, gore, maggots, decay, limbs etc that these films have to offer. The sound is also amazing and Frizzi mesmerizing score for Zombie and Maniac's frantic score by Jay Cattaway (Star Trek: Next Generation) are wonderfully showcased.

Final Thoughts: I enjoy both films on different levels. While both may have flaws in their writing they are engaging, nasty and enjoyable in a fun trashy way. Some fan's were upset that its been less than two-years since the last release of both titles however if you already own both of these-and again, if you are able to view UHD titles its worth upgrading. The picture and sound are incredible and of course, all previous features are ported over on a second disc. I own both releases for both of these films with no regrets. Its amazing to hear that two new UHD titles, New York Ripper (1982) and House by the Cemetery (1981) are in the works. What a time to be alive when we can get some amazing horror titles in such an staggeringly beautiful presentation.

 Blue Underground has given horror fans a real twisted treat here!

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