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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vengeance of the Zombies (1972) review


Paul Naschy (Krishna/Kantaka), Romy (Elvira), Mirta Miller (Kala), Vic Winner (Lawrence), Maria Kosti (Elsie)

Directed by Leon Klimovsky

Bodies are stolen from a morgue and a stream of brutal murders baffle detectives. A Satanist plot is uncovered leading police to an evil witch doctor who uses voodoo to create zombies from the recently dead to carry out his hellish plans. The mysterious and evil maniac also uses Thugee Indian ritualistic style slayings to accomplish his goal of attaining immortality through the blood of his victims.

Delirious, confusing, hallucinatory and irrational describe this nutty Naschy movie. It's simultaneously awful but strangely alluring in it's complete disregard for logic and inability to focus on one idea for longer than a few minutes before plopping another plot contrivance into your lap. The above synopsis is the best I could make out for this one as there is always something new bombarding the screen. Naschy himself says in his excellent memoirs that he wasn't quite sure what he was thinking when he did this one. It is never boring, however. The character of Elvira played by Romy sums it up best with this dialog exchange at an 1:02 minutes into the film, "What's happening here?!! What's this all about?!!"

Naschy is the reason to watch as he plays three roles here. One as the Indian guru Krishna(!), another role as his scarred brother, Kantaka and also as the Devil in a nightmare sequence that is both surreal and unintentionally funny. In addition to the totally wacky storyline, the acting is pretty bad for the most part. The film is so frenetic and all over the place that this doesn't hamper the enjoyment of the film at all but adds to the campiness of the whole affair. The music almost sinks the production sounding like it was taken from a spy or detective movie. It's all jazz and seems woefully out of place especially when its played over all of the murder scenes. But this, too, adds unwittingly to the enjoyment of this unconventional zombie flick. Even still, the main theme is catchy, but the score belongs in another movie.

The make up effects are easily the most memorable portions of the movie. One scene recalls Ossorio's TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1971) in which a zombie rises from a slab inside a morgue to kill an unsuspecting attendant with a soda can(!) no less. A very eerie decapitation scene is the highlight of the film in which Elvira (the dubber pronounces the name Elvira, but the subtitles say Elvire) encounters an old woman in a basement standing up smiling. As she approaches her, she nudges her shoulder then her head falls to the side!

Another scene recalls RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1971) where two bumbling cops are beset upon by three zombie women in a graveyard. The zombies are controlled by a strange man who wears an assortment of Halloween masks before each voodoo murder, or Thugee styled murder scene. It's almost like there were two different movies being made at once-one harboring the voodoo angle and the other a crime story which appears to have been slapped together rather haphazardly. Animal rights didn't exist in Spain either as there is a rather unsettling chicken decapitation during a Baron Samedi-zombie resurrection ritual.

Towards the end, Naschy attempts to explain the entire plot to Elvira but by then you're so numb by all the out-of-left-field shenanigans that making sense of the storyline at this point no longer matters. Then, to throw further kinks into the mix, a final revelation is revealed that seems to have been thrown into the audiences faces for the sheer hell of it. The final credits are a hoot with pics of the cast matched to their names in big, bold red titles with an even more weird and psychedelic end credit music playing.

This may not be a very GOOD movie, but it is a very ENJOYABLE one and I'd watch it again before I'd sit through the recycled gothic horror of NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (1980) a second time. Although WEREWOLF is the better movie, technically, it's not as fun, nor is it as original as VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (1972). I highly recommend it to Naschy fans only as it probably won't appeal to casual horror fans nor will it appeal to fans of Romero or Italo zombie gut munchers. Fans of zombie cinema may get a kick out of it as well just don't expect any flesh eating zombies here. Naschy appeared in another zombie flick the following year entitled BEYOND THE LIVING DEAD.

A number of Paul Naschy films were released remastered and restored through Tripictures in Spain. These US releases are representative of those releases although these versions utilize the English language versions (the Spanish versions with subs are also included) with alternate scenes to the Spanish counterpart.

DVD availability: BCI/Deimos Entertainment


Michael Blanton said...

I found VENGEANCE to a fun film to watch with over-the-top lurid colors, sexy slow-mo zombies, inept supernatural villains and Scotland Yard detectives and a completely hilarious, and inappropriate, 60s psychedelic score. Fun viewing for the entire dysfunctional family! Great Blog! I'm looking forward to future visits!

venoms5 said...

Excellent. Thanks, Mike. I will do my best to post a wide variety of material. I have so much more to post when time permits.

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