(This Blu-ray features reversible artwork, one side for each film)
ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST is a film that’s been on my radar for many, many years. I remember seeing the VHS cover long ago, when I first started watching horror flicks (this would have been around 1983 or so), but I never had the chance to give it a look. That’s a shame, too… ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST is schlocky by today’s standards, but back then I probably would have found it terrifying.
Imagine my surprise to discover just recently that DOCTOR BUTCHER, M.D. is the same film. When I say ‘the same’, I mean it’s literally the exact film as ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST…except it has a few updated scenes thrown in to Americanize it. Thanks to Severin and CAV releasing them together in a 2-disc Blu-ray set, I had the opportunity to watch them back-to-back. And interestingly, the Americanized version is not nearly as good as the original. But regardless of which is better, there’s no denying the interesting legacy the films have produced, nor the huge entertainment value you’ll gain by watching them.
If you are not familiar with ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST / DOCTOR BUTCHER, M.D., here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distribution:
It sparked riots on 42nd Street, spawned a generation of gorehounds on VHS, and forever set an insane standard for Italian mad doctor/zombie/cannibal carnage worldwide: Ian McCulloch (ZOMBIE), Alexandra Delli Colli (THE NEW YORK RIPPER), Sherry Buchanan (TENTACLES) and Donald O’Brien (EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS) star in this blood orgy of gut-munching, eyeball-gouging and face-chopping originally known as ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST, which a notorious American distributor would then re-edit, re-title and re-release as a certified grindhouse masterpiece.
Severin Films now presents both films fully restored for the first time ever from original vault elements discovered in Manhattan and Rome, and loaded with all-new Bonus Features that finally reveal the unbelievable truth behind its bizarre history, infamous marketing and still-deviant legacy.
To alleviate any confusion, I’m only going to discuss ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST in the rest of this review. DOCTOR BUTCHER, M.D. has a few extra scenes and an updated score, but neither adds anything to the original film. If anything, the added scenes look ridiculous compared to the rest of the film, and the music sounds like something 60’s stoners would listen to while getting high.
ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST is shot fairly well for the most part, however the cinematography is certainly dated. There are several quick-zoom-in shots that are used as an attempt to add intensity to the scene…but any veteran film watcher will tell you these no longer work. The HD transfer is sketchy, and the film is still full of grainy images and barely visible low-light shots. I have to wonder how bad the original source material was.
The acting in ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST is much like it is in every other cannibal/zombie film from this time period. The men are gruff and take charge from the get go, while the women ae helpless and do a lot of screaming and moaning when in distress. These stereotypes made me a smile a couple of times, particularly when I thought about how they compared to horror characters in today’s films. Most women in horror films these days are just as tough as they are pretty!
The special effects in the film are outstanding, particularly for that time period. There’s plenty of carnage, and gore-hounds should definitely be satisfied here. The cannibals enjoy tearing open live victims, and the results are gruesome to behold. I tip my hat to the special effects team, for sure.
This Blu-ray set of both films is a big win for me, and I’ll gladly add ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST to my list of Favorite Italian Zombie flicks. Oh sure, it’s got its flaws (the zombies walk like six-year olds pretending to be Frankenstein), but they are a big part of what makes the film so much fun. In addition to the two films, this Blu-ray set comes with a slew of Special Features that include:
DISC 1 DOCTOR BUTCHER MD
• Featurette: Butchery & Ballyhoo: Interview with Aquarius Releasing’s Terry Levine
• Featurette: Down On The Deuce: Nostalgic Tour Of 42nd Street With Temple Of Shock’s Chris Poggiali and Filmmaker Roy Frumkes
• Roy Frumkes’ Segment Of Unfinished Anthology Film ‘Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out’
• Featurette: The Butcher Mobile: Interview with Gore Gazette Editor & Butcher Mobile Barker Rick Sullivan
• Featurette: Cutting Doctor Butcher: Interview with Editor Jim Markovic
• Illustrated Essay: Experiments With A Male Caucasian Brain (…and other memories of 42nd Street) by Gary Hertz
• Theatrical Trailer
• Video Release Trailer 1
• Video Release Trailer 2
DISC 2 ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST
• Featurette: Voodoo Man: Interview With Star Ian McCulloch
• Featurette: Blood Of The Zombies: Interview With FX Master Rosario Prestopino
• Featurette: Filmmaker Enzo Castellari Remembers His Father Director Marino Girolami
• Featurette: Sherry Holocaust: Interview With Actress Sherryl Buchanan
• Featurette: Neurosurgery Italian Style -Interview With FX Artist Maurizio Trani
• Featurette: New York Filming Locations Then Vs. Now. A look at the Big Apple locales as they are today
• Audio Bonus: Ian McCulloch Sings Down By The River
• International Trailer
• German Trailer