Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 26: Zombie Holocaust (1980)

There's really nothing quite like a rip-off of a rip-off. Not only because you get to see how blatantly someone has decided to cash in on a successful film, but generally you'll get to see how they cashed in on multiple successful films.

After all, if you're going to be ripping stuff off you might as well cover as much ground as you can, right?

Well, Dawn of the Dead was a huge success and it was followed by Lucio Fulci's Zombie. Now, while Zombie didn't copy the plot of its inspiration, it was so obviously meant to cash in on its success that in Italy Zombie took its title from Dawn of the Dead's Italian release: making it actually Zombi 2.

Today's film, however, shamelessly copied Zombie's plot and also ripped off Cannibal Holocaust, to boot. Hence the title. However, it was re-christened for US release as Dr. Butcher, M.D. (which the poster above assures us means "Medical Deviate"), and had a few minor alterations made.

Unfortunately, I was only able to view this cut of the film in time for this review, but the differences are mainly a few scenes being trimmed for pacing reasons and the whole film being given a really, really goofy new soundtrack.

Oh, and it opens with a cheap sequence of a zombie rising from his grave and wandering what looks like Central Park, which was apparently lifted from a completely separate unfinished film by the distributors. Never mind that part, however, because it has absolutely nothing to do with our story.

Actually, you'd be better off forgetting about the very idea of zombies for most of the film, but more on that shortly.

The story proper starts off with someone in a New York hospital's morgue sawing off a cadaver's hand and making off with it. This makes things awkward for the anatomy class the next day when the cadaver meant to be examined shows up missing the hand that the professor's assistant, Dr. Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli), swears it had the night before. The professor proves to be a man with no sense of humor, since he dismisses the class as soon as someone makes a joke about the missing hand.

"Wait, how many hands does a human normally have, again?"
"Two, doctor."
"...I knew that."
This is apparently the most recent of a series of such corpse mutilations at this hospital. Hilariously, neither Lori nor the professor notices the orderly behind them looking hysterically shifty. At any rate, the professor refuses to go to the cops because it would make the hospital look bad.

At her hideously 70s apartment, Lori discovers that somehow the word has gotten out anyway, because she receives a visit from nosy reporter Susan Kelly (Sherry Buchanan). Susan has heard about the mutilations and she knows Lori's shift schedule, yet she somehow doesn't know that Lori is also an anthropologist. A certain dagger on Lori's wall is given significant attention during their conversation--most likely because the symbol on the handle will prove to also be present as a tattoo on the chest of the orderly when he is caught red-handed.

No, literally, he was about to eat a cadaver's heart raw.

"Uh, he was like this when I found him?"
However, now that the professor finally mentions the police, the orderly breaks free and leaps to his death out of a window. And in arguably the film's most infamous scene, the mannequin's arm plainly breaks off when we see him hit the ground, but his arm is intact when the actor reappears on the ground.

Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch) and his associate George Harper (Peter O'Neal) are brought in to discuss the events, as it appears that this has happened in several other hospitals around the country. Only one other suspect was caught, but he was shot dead by the police--presumably for not being a white cannibal. Going over the slideshow of the crime scene photos, Lori notices something and asks for George to zoom in on the picture of the dead suspect.

I didn't even realize it was possible for the "enhance" cliche to utilized with a slide projector.

Sure enough, the dead man also had the same tattoo as the orderly from her hospital. It isn't long before Peter is able to dig up that both men came from the Molucca Islands in Southeast Asia. What's more, they confirm with Lori's anthropology colleague the symbol tattooed on both men belongs to a sect that worships the god Kito. Even more intriguing is that Kito is also the name of the island where this sect is based.

Peter intends to mount a small expedition to go find out why natives from that region are suddenly eating cadavers. Lori actually grew up in the Molucca region herself, but she isn't interested in offering any insight she has by coming along--especially once it's revealed that George is inviting his girlfriend, Susan, along.

However, after someone breaks into her apartment and steals her fancy Kito dagger, she apparently changes her mind.

You just can't get that quality of plastic craftsmanship anywhere but Kito!
Upon arriving, they make contact with Dr. Obrero (Donald O'Brien) to get the lay of the area first. Obrero is very little help, since he seems to loathe the area and the natives especially, considering them nothing but savages. Still, he advises he will let them borrow a boat and a few of his men to go visit the island of Kito the following day.

Did I mention that if you actually know who Donald O'Brien is, the American cut has already spoiled the reveal that he is "Dr. Butcher" in the opening credits? I mean, Obrero seems plenty shifty enough to give it away anyways, but still...

Of course, it's now time for Lori to strip naked so she can supposedly take a shower, but really so the audience can leer at her naked body. We're not the only ones leering, however. Lori doesn't notice the native peering in the window, so she's in for a surprise when she returns from her shower. After putting on nothing but a tiny t-shirt that barely reaches to her butt, she pulls back the bed cover--and discovers someone has left a maggot-covered severed head on the bed, next to the Kito symbol in blood.

"What can I say? Soon as my head hits the pillow, I'm dead! Get it? I'll be here all week, folks."
Everyone else comes to her room to see why she screamed, and Obrero rather casually writes it off as no big deal because the natives would have killed Lori if they wanted to. I really don't think that's the best takeaway from this, Doc.

Undaunted, our heroes continue to the island the next day with Obrero's man servant Molotto (Dakar) and three unnamed native bearers. Molotto unfortunately tells them they need to make a stop to fix the boat engine, which means they have to put to shore an island before they meant to. With night approaching, they make camp and one of the native bearers manages to disappear into the woods.

Peter sensibly, if callously, makes the decision for the group to wait until morning to look for the lost man. So naturally, in the morning they find his mutilated and partially devoured body.

"He doesn't seem grateful that we brought him our ideas of civilization."
Somehow, this makes Peter realize the island they're on is Kito. Molotto makes a rather flimsy excuse about forgetting which island is which, but Peter is not sure he buys that. However, they have bigger problems. Their first encounter with the island's natives quickly goes South when another bearer gets scared off and manages to run into a fatal trap. However, he survives the trap just long enough for the natives to catch up to him: they then slit his throat, drink his blood, and disembowel him to eat his intestines.

Okay, sure, zombies eating intestines is easy to buy because they're mindless eating machines--but why would cannibals go for the guts instead of any of the much better portions of human anatomy?

Peter and George kill a couple of the cannibals, but it becomes clear that they need to find a way off the island. Obrero reaches them by radio that night and tells them he will meet them at an old mission building on the other side of the island. However, the last bearer gets a bamboo spear through his belly and Lori only just saves herself and Susan from a cannibal sneaking in their tent by burying a machete in his forehead.

However, the next morning the cannibals intercept the group. Susan is carried off, but when they try to save her Peter and George are swarmed. George gets the short end of the stick, as he is not only disemboweled but has both of his eyes pulled out and eaten. The cannibals swarm Molotto and Lori, too, but they are scared off when several zombies finally show up.

"Brains! Braaaaains! Brai--aw, damn it, the cannibals already ate them all again!"
It's not really clear why the natives are so frightened at this point, since all the zombies do is stand around growling. Still, it lets Peter, Lori, and Molotto escape to the abandoned mission. Obrero is waiting, along with a couple men, but he claims the rest are hunting down the cannibals. He also tells Peter and Lori to go find a nearby dinghy and take it back to the main island, since he will be coming back with the boat once he wipes out the rest of the cannibals and maybe even rescues Susan.

Something about the whole thing makes Peter realize that things don't add up. He declines Molotto's help and, on the way to the dinghy, he confides to Lori that he realized that he never told Obrero which island they were on but he still found them with no problem. Unfortunately, the dinghy is a bust since only one of its two outboard motors still works--and that one's no good after Peter uses it to kill the zombie that suddenly attacks them.

Of course, Peter is right to be suspicious. After narrowly escaping a cannibal trap, they find a zombie that is wearing Susan's scalp like a wig and playing with her camera. The real Susan has been scalped by Obrero and he is preparing to transfer her brain into the body of a dead man. The most notable part of this sequence is when Obrero forces her mouth open and pulls out what looks like a tooth or a tonsil. It's notable because he claims her screams were bothering him so he "removed her vocal cords."

That's...that's not how that works, Doc.

Peter and Lori find their way back to the mission building, but they're too late to save Susan since her skull has already been cut open. Naturally, the zombies are working for Obrero and they capture Peter, while Lori escapes only to be captured by the cannibals.

He assures Peter that the work he has been doing will allow humans to live for hundreds of years. Though given all the shambling corpses I think maybe most humans would take issue with his plan. Obrero also helpfully advises that he's the one who convinced the natives to bring back the practice of cannibalism, though I don't really understand how that was helpful to his goals.

"All right, you're taking me out of this picture right now."
Obrero sets to work on doing the same thing to Peter he was doing to Susan, except he didn't think to keep the table of scalpels as far away from his victim as possible. So even though Peter passes out from anesthesia while trying to get a scalpel, when he comes to he finds that he did grab one and he starts cutting away his restraints.

However, Peter only manages to kill Molotto and then he gets recaptured. He'd be a complete goner if Lori hadn't somehow become queen of the cannibals in the interim. How? I have no idea, since all we see is the cannibals painting flowers on her naked body to prepare her for a ritual sacrifice. Yet, when they get her on a stone tablet that has a convenient imprint that fits her naked body perfectly, the tablet suddenly tilts--and this, for some reason convinces the cannibals that she should be their queen.

I don't know, man.

The film wraps up hilariously abruptly at this point, with the cannibals turning cavalry. They kill and eat Obrero's zombies--which can't possibly taste good--and then Obrero himself. Lori shows up and embraces Peter. And that's literally "The End."

Burning Man just keeps getting weirder.
This is an incredibly stupid movie. The plot makes basically no sense, the gore effects are exuberant yet awful, and the acting is delightfully terrible--you particularly have to love how bored Lori appears to be with being made into a human sacrifice.

I really did not expect much of this film, and that was definitely the way to approach it. I mean, you may have noticed this is probably the only zombie movie where the zombies are the ones getting their guts munched on. That's just one of the many things it does wildly wrong.

And yet, I would be lying if I said I didn't get kind of a kick out of this one. It moves at a pretty decent clip and while it's never even remotely bordering on good, it is at least fun.

If you want a pretty good Italian zombie movie, obviously you should watch Lucio Fulci's Zombie. However, if you want a hunk of shameless sleaze, this fits the bill nicely.

Welcome to the Day Twenty-Six of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for Z!

And that's the end for 2017! Check back in with us again in 2018, to see if we still have the willpower to keep this going!

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