Release Date(s)1979 (May 26, 2020)
Studio(s)Variety Film/The Jerry Gross Organization (Blue Underground)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A-
[Editor's Note: We are using a censored version of the cover art. We cannot post the original artwork or Google will flag the site and crush our advertising.]
Zombie (aka Zombi 2 or Zombie Flesh Eaters) blew the lid off the horror genre when it was released in 1979 (and later in the US in 1980). In a mere 91 minutes, it announced Lucio Fulci as a force to be reckoned with; not only upping the ante of the violence and gore seen in Dawn of the Dead one year prior, but devouring the competition entirely. With an atypical plot about a group of people traveling to a tropical island and finding themselves besieged by the living dead, the film manages to shock and disgust in a way that’s still powerful, even by today’s standards.
Well-filmed with real talent behind the camera, Zombie is a gritty experience, the kind that either fuels a horror fan’s desires or turns them off completely. The eye-gouging sequence, to this day, can still make even the most hardcore fans wince. Of course, it’s not just the effect itself, but the build-up. Other films feature similar scenes, but the way it’s presented in Zombie is almost Buñuel like in presentation. The zombies themselves are among the best ever filmed. They move slower with less obvious purpose, which makes them creepier. They can appear completely rotten, covered in worms, or cross-eyed—almost as if they came straight out of a nightmare.
The film’s stark opening with a darkened figure firing a gun at a bagged, rising corpse; a fat, bloody zombie on a boat in the New York harbor eating policemen; an underwater zombie attacking a shark; the aforementioned eye-gouging scene; the subsequent zombie feast of that same character; the Conquistador corpses rising to life and attempting to devour those nearby; the Molotov cocktail-throwing defense of the survivors; and the image of the Brooklyn Bridge full of approaching zombies—all of it makes Zombie iconic.
Zombie was shot on Eastmancolor 35 mm negative film stock using Arriflex 35 IIC cameras. It was finished on film as a cut negative with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The Ultra HD is sourced from a 4K 16-bit scan of the original camera negative (also used for the previous Limited Edition Blu-ray release in 2018). The image is presented at 2.40:1 and features a high dynamic range grade in Dolby Vision (with HDR10 available as well). As impressive as Blue Underground’s Blu-ray upgrade was two years ago, their Ultra HD release tops it with the definitive presentation of the film. It’s thoroughly organic and film-like. Grain levels are tighter, revealing even more detail in the image, particularly in the darker portions of the frame. Fine detail is astonishing, whether it’s the opening, showing off gorgeous shots of New York harbor, or the disgusting beds of ill patients in the tropics later on. Even the zombie make-up holds up remarkably well. The color palette is nicely varied with bold hues, including blues, reds, and greens. Flesh tones look good and black levels are inky deep without a drop of crush. The HDR grade allows the color to pop even more. The blood-spray leaps off the screen with increased clarity, as do the various ocean and island vistas. Everything appears bright, clean, and stable. The disc is also maxed out at around 100 gigabytes with a high data rate, meaning the presentation’s full potential is on display.
The audio is presented in several options: English (7.1 compatible) Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 and 1.0 DTS-HD, Italian 7.1 and 1.0 DTS-HD, and French 1.0 Dolby Digital. Since this is a Region Free release, there are also a multitude of subtitle options: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and English for Italian audio. The Atmos track definitely opens the sound up more with added ambience and panning activity, especially during the New York harbor opening. It also gives more life to the film’s score, as well as additional LFE heft to punctuate gunfire and the rhythmic thumping of the main theme. However, most of the other elements from the original soundtrack are relegated to the front part of the soundstage. The mono track is also no slouch, presented in perfect clarity with no sound effects or score element tampering. All of these tracks are quality presentations, containing no major instances of leftover damage.
The following extras are also included on each disc:
DISC ONE: FILM (UHD)
- Introduction by Guillermo Del Toro (HD – 0:25)
- Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth
- Audio Commentary with Ian McCulloch and Jason J. Slater
- When the Earth Spits Out the Dead... (HD – 33:05)
- International Trailer (HD – 3:46)
- US Trailer (HD – 1:30)
- TV Spot #1 (SD – 0:32)
- TV Spot #2 (SD – 0:32)
- Radio Spot #1 (HD – 0:30)
- Radio Spot #2 (HD – 0:50)
- Radio Spot #3 (HD – 0:23)
- Radio Spot #4 (HD – 0:24)
- Poster and Still Gallery (HD – 150 images – 9:52)
DISC TWO: EXTRAS (BLU-RAY)
- Zombie Wasteland (HD – 22:19)
- Flesh Eaters on Film (HD – 9:38)
- Deadtime Stories (HD – 14:30)
- World of the Dead (HD – 16:29)
- Zombi Italiano (HD – 16:34)
- Notes on a Headstone (HD – 7:25)
- All in the Family (HD – 6:08)
- Zombie Lover (HD – 9:36)
The extras for this release are all carried over from Blue Underground’s previous Blu-ray releases, included their Limited Edition. Guillermo Del Toro offers an optional introduction to the film, giving it very high praise. In Troy Howarth’s audio commentary, he delves into Fulci’s directorial style, even dishing on some of the on-set problems with the cast and crew. The audio commentary with actor Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine editor Jason J. Slater is lively as McCulloch has plenty of comments on the film, working Fulci, and the response to the film. When the Earth Spits Out the Dead features an interview with author Stephen Thrower, who offers his views on the theatrical and VHS releases of the film in the UK. The poster and still gallery contains 150 images of posters, lobby cards, behind the scenes photos, color stills, black and white stills, the US and German press books, soundtrack covers, and home video artwork.
Zombie Wasteland features a Q&A with actors Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, and Al Cliver, and actor/stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua from a 30th Anniversary Reunion panel at Cinema Wasteland. Flesh Eaters on Film is an interview with co-producer Fabrio de Angelis about his experiences working with Fulci and shooting the film. Deadtime Stories contains an interview with co-writers Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti about their backgrounds and working on the film’s script. World of the Dead contains an interview with cinematographer Sergio Salvati and production and costume designer Walter Patriarca in which they discuss how the film was designed and filmed. Zombi Italiano features interviews with special make-up effects artists Gianetto de Rossi and Maurizio Trani, and special effects artist Gino de Rossi about how the film’s make-up and special effects were achieved on a comparatively smaller budget. Notes on a Headstone features an interview with composer Fabio Frizzi about how the film’s memorable musical score was created. All in the Family contains an interview with Lucio Fulci’s daughter Antonella Fulci who speaks about her father and his work. Zombie Lover features an interview with Guillermo Del Toro who eloquently speaks about his experiences with the film and his love for it. Disc Two also contains an Easter egg, which can be accessed by highlighting All in the Family and pressing left to reveal a hidden picture of Auretta Gay. A 5-minute interview outtake with Maurizio Trani plays, highlighting an amusing incident involving Gay’s underwater scene.
Not included from the previous Limited Edition release is a two-sided paper insert advertising comic book adaptations of both Zombie and Maniac; a 24-page insert booklet containing the essay We Are Going to Eat You! Zombies Vs. The Critics by Stephen Thrower; and a CD containing the film’s soundtrack, including the film’s score by Fabio Brizzi and the song There’s No Matter by Linda Lee.
Zombie is the kind of film that’s so effective that you can almost smell it, and revisiting it is a further reminder of how good it is. Blue Underground’s UHD eclipses all previous Blu-ray releases of it, offering a perfect presentation with a quality extras package. It’s truly one of the best 4K upgrades of a genre title, as well as one of the finest releases of the year. Beyond recommended!
– Tim Salmons