Severin Films Double Bill: BURIAL GROUND/ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST

Severin films has specialized in bringing insane madness to home video for quite a while now— stuff like Cathy’s Curse, Blackenstein, Drive-In Massacre, The Sinful Dwarf, and Wild Beasts… movies that never cease to amaze me, and now in pristine HD! I recently paired up two Severin releases as part of a bonkers Italian zombie double bill, and can vouch for both of these Blu-rays being the definitive versions of these crazy films released on home video.

BURIAL GROUND (1981)

Burial Ground — also known as Nights of Terror, Zombi Horror, The Zombie Dead and Zombie 3 — was completed in 1981, but not released stateside until a few years later, and is helmed by Italian sleaze-master Andrea Bianchi of Strip Nude for your Killer fame. One of Burial Grounds more interesting tidbits is the casting of 25-year-old Peter Bark as the young boy to avoid Italian laws restricting the use of children in films featuring sexual and violent content, and his memorable performance is, well, it’s a doozy!

In this bonkers, Fulci-esque zombie nightmare, a group of friends visit a countryside villa at the request of Professor Ayres, who’s taken up residence there as he studies an ancient Etruscan burial ground beneath the villa and hopes to announce his findings to the group. As inquisitive minds do, he accidentally reads sacred text within the tomb, unleashing an unstoppable zombie horde hell-bent on making meals out of our sexed up characters. They arrive shortly after the professor is, unbeknownst to them, viciously torn apart by the living dead, and our three couples spend their first night trading off over the top sexual innuendos, public and private sexy time encounters, with one couple even being interrupted by their son, Michael (Peter Bark), who loves to incestuously stare at his naked mother (Mariangela Giordano) a bit too much…

They are soon sieged by the living dead and attempt to barricade themselves within the mansion, but the zombies aren’t lurking for very long in this, showing up swiftly with relentless waves of attacks. Bianchi’s flesh-eaters are also smarter than the norm, as they utilize garden tools and anything else they find as a means to break down any barriers (boarded windows) between them and their next meal, including scaling the mansions walls!

While it doesn’t quite match Fulci’s zombie’s, they do look pretty great, complete with maggots and flesh-rotted faces that would be utilized so well by the Italians. Burial Ground's blood flow is strong, there is no shortage of throat-rippings or decapitations (even a bear trap shows up!) as our characters decide that sexual escapades are a logical choice after barricading themselves in the mansion. Speaking of logic, throw that out the window; this is pure Italian entertainment. The English dubbing in this is deliciously ridiculous, with amazing lines such as “Mama… mother this cloth… it smells of death” and numerous other head scratchers that just flow into the crazy vibe of the movie. The ending is easily one of the most memorable in Italian zombie cinema, a feast of Oedipal madness that features that awkward Michael once again showing WAY too much affection for his mother!

Burial Ground is weird, swiftly-paced, and sleazy enough to be entertaining at a perfect runtime of 85 minutes — just enough to keep the viewer fully interested with its craziness. It’s a must see, especially now in HD, as I had a previous release on DVD and the quality was so terrible that it detracted from the experience. In some circles, Burial Ground is one of the many films known by the moniker of Zombie 3, and If you’re a fan of Lucio Fulci’s zombie movies, you’ll probably dig this as well.

ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST (1980)

Zombie Holocaust, another film commonly referred to as Zombi 3, and known in its re-edited form for American theaters as Doctor Butcher, M.D., is a 1980 Italian zombie/cannibal/mad scientist film that caused quite a stir when it hit 42nd street Grindhouse theaters back in the day, cashing in on the success of Fulci’s Zombi and the wave of Italian cannibal flicks.

When the body parts of cadavers start to go missing at a New York Hospital, an attendant is soon discovered to be the culprit who happens to devour the body parts. After he’s caught, he abruptly plunges himself out of a ten story window to ensure his silence. Luckily, a fellow hospital employee named Lori (who is also an anthropology expert, naturally) notices a strange yet familiar symbol on the dead thief, and is referred to the one person who might be able to help her get to the bottom of these strange occurrences — the board of health member Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch of Zombi and Contamination fame!) After meeting up with Peter, who happens to be investigating similar incidents at hospitals all around the city, Lori concludes that each corpse bears a tribal sign that resembles one from a small island inhabited by cannibals (because anthropology, remember?). Together they organize a team to further ascertain what the hell is going on, and set sail for islands of southeast Asia.

When the rag tag group reach the island, they are attacked and hunted by cannibals, falling prey to many hidden traps, and eventually zombies courtesy of a lunatic doctor (butcher… M.D.) who’s performing strange operations on the locals, hell-bent on creating a legion of the undead and spreading his madness beyond the island. Eventually Lori and Peter become the next targets for his crazy experimentation as they desperately try to keep it together and get off the island alive.

Woof. While I do consider Burial Ground to be an unsung masterpiece of Italian zombie cinema, Zombie Holocaust is a disasterpiece, like a kitchen sink of an Italian horror from that specific moment in time. There are some cool gore effects (the boat propeller to the head) for the time, especially with such a low budget, but If you are expecting a zombie kill fest, they don’t show up until the 50 minute mark and (kinda) resemble the appearance of Fulci zombies (facial resemblance only). In fact, some of the same sets may look familiar to Italian horror fans, that’s because they’re the same sets from Fulci’s 1979 film. The pacing kind of freezes up in the third act of this silly-plotted mess, but even still, I’m a fan of this trash movie. There’s something inherently fun about watching the Italians merge together the zombie-cannibal-mad scientist genres, especially as the second film of a double feature! I’d recommend this for Italian gore fans, but don’t go in expecting a masterpiece. Like I said earlier: it’s a disasterpiece, and certainly a fun watch with friends!

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BURIAL GROUND SPECIAL FEATURES:

Luckily Severin came along and put out an amazingly pristine package that is a must for any zombie fan. The Blu-ray contains the following extras:

  • New restored 2k scan with full shot by shot color correction
  • English and Italian Language Audio Tracks

  • Villa Parisi — Legacy of Terror: Featurette on the historic house location

  • Peter Still Lives: Festival Q&A with actor Peter Bark

  • The Smell Of Death: Interviews with Producer Gabriele Crisanti and Actress Mariangela Giordano

  • Plus other deleted and extended scenes!

 

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ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST SPECIAL FEATURES:

The Severin Blu-ray contains both cuts of the film, and a reversible cover art, I suggest watching the Doctor Butcher M.D. Cut, it flows a little better, making the ridiculous plot seem semi-functional! Each disc is jam packed with an insane amount of features, here’s some highlights:

Disc 1

  • DOCTOR BUTCHER MD: Officially, for the first time ever on disc, DOCTOR BUTCHER MD will be released UNCUT. Transferred in 2k and restored from negative elements from the Aquarius Releasing vaults and from the original negative of ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST in Rome. DOCTOR BUTCHER MD is the official US release version, with extra footage and a unique soundtrack.

  • Featurette: BUTCHERY & BALLYHOO: Interview with Aquarius Releasing’s Terry Levene. A brand new half-hour plus career interview with the mastermind behind DOCTOR BUTCHER MD, the notorious Aquarius Releasing and their network of east coast cinemas.

  • Featurette: DOWN ON THE DEUCE: Nostalgic Tour Of 42nd Street With Temple Of Shock’s Chris Pogialli and Filmmaker Roy Frumkes.

Disc 2

  • ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST: For the first time ever the UNCUT VERSION of ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST in HD. Previous releases of ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST have excised a 5 minute sequence from the middle of the movie and only included it as an inferior quality deleted scene. This sequence has now been restored into the movie, transferred from the original 16mm negative, as it was originally released. Also a new color correction pass and further restoration have been undertaken, making this the definitive release to date of ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST.

  • 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.

  • Featurette: VOODOO MAN: Interview With Star Ian McCulloch. Featurette: BLOOD OF THE ZOMBIES: Interview With FX Master Rosario Prestopino. Featurette: FILMMAKER ENZO G. CASTELLARI REMEMBERS HIS FATHER DIRECTOR MARINO GIROLAMI

Both of these can be found on Severin’s website, as well as a ton of other bonkers titles worth seeking out! Thanks for the craziness Severin, I feel we’d be lost without you!