Much coveted of late among handle bar-mustachioed genre collectors of the day are the vhs releases from Wizard Video, often packaged in oversized cardboard boxes with eye-grabbing art. Back in the early to mid-eighties, when I was very much obsessed with such things myself, Wizard, as run by B-movie staple Charles Band, was certainly among my favorite companies, my small box copy of Fulci's Zombi (1979) was among my first purchases, as was my big box H.G. Lewis' 2,000 Maniacs! (1964), which was released under the Force label (File Under Useless Info: pre-dating the big box Continental release, which had a gory screenshot instead of the original poster art that Force chose). Thirty years later, I sat down to a later Wizard release, in tonight's review, Zombiethon, a compilation of genre clips much like the company's others, The Best of Sex and Violence (1981) and Filmgore (1983), that I'd last seen thirty years ago as an impulse rental at one of my local video store haunts, drawn in... by the big box and the excellent art. What else?
You don't find roses growing on stocks of clover, so think it over.
After watching a grown woman in a schoolgirl outfit being chased by a low budget zombie into the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, she finds herself surrounded by a low budget zombie audience, intent on watching splattery highlights from zombie movies that just so happened to be available for purchase, in most cases, on Wizard Video. It all starts off promisingly enough, with Fulci's Zombi (1979) providing neck-bitten cops, zombie v. tiger shark, Olga Karlatos' eye v. wooden splinter, and Auretta Gay's toothy tracheotomy at the mouth of the wormy eyed poster zombie highlights. It's mostly downhill from there. A robotic-looking cyborg zombie harasses a sunbather and then Jean Rollin's dreadfully inept Zombie Lake (1980) is next, and many underwater full crotch shots of aquatic tarts about to be fatally dunked by green-skinned nazis follow. If you weren't goose stepped to sleep by the last clips, Jess Franco's amateurish Oasis of the Zombies (1982) also provides some nazi zombies, rotten for all the wrong reasons.
"I was turned to steel in the great magnetic field when I traveled time for the future of mankind, y'know..."
Next to enter the living dead-packed theater on Wilshire Boulevard for a linking segment are a young woman and her small daughter, after which Riccardo Fredda's Fear aka Follia omicida (1981) serves up some nightmarish giallo weirdness and precious little zombie action. Fake bats, fake spiders, a chainsaw, perhaps, but not a whole helluva lot of zombies. Things don't improve from there, with Chevalier's Dr.Orloff's Invisible Monster aka/ The Invisible Dead (1970) as the next film to be featured. Was that a fucking invisible gorilla I just saw? Franco is again represented, with scenes from his 1973 effort, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, a notoriously incoherent mess, further butchered by cuts, where he appears in a supporting role, roaming the halls and spouting nonsense to a severed chicken head. After more corny rubber-masked zombie gags at the theater, it seems only fitting that the unfulfilling compilation wraps up with excerpts from Ted V. Mikels' Astro Zombies (1968), a movie that neither John Carradine's three thousand dollar contribution nor Tura Satana's bountiful bobblers could save.
Take a coffin, built for two, add a girl and a ghoul, that's a game for me and you now!
I'd already seen or owned all but one of the movies featured in Zombiethon by the time I'd seen it (more historical minutiae: I screened it with 1986's David DeCoteau's Dreamaniac as a double bill, as they'd both turned up on the shelves the same day) so my enthusiasm for the production was terse at best, to begin with. In the end, it lasted slightly longer than my attention span after throwing their Atari release of Halloween into the ol' wood grain 2600 console when I was fourteen. Thirty years later in the era of dvd and Blu-ray, I'm no longer excited by the lure of Wizard's catalog (certainly not replacing them on vhs for a hundred a pop, either), but that doesn't stop me from occasionally biting on Charles Band's disc releases, as a trip down Nostalgia Road, to a time when that huge box full of lurid imagery actually did mean the world to me. On the scale, one Wop sounds about right.
I sit and wonder, why oh, why you left me, oh Sandy...