One of those films was Lucio Fulci's classic Zombie (or Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombi 2, etc depending on what side of the pond you're from). I'd heard stories about it being an "unofficial sequel" or blatant ripoff of Dawn of the Dead and I'd even seen the VHS big box release from Wizard Video during my almost weekly treks to the video store.
But I'd never actually seen it.
Flash forward to 8/18/95, my 13th birthday. My Gram -- who was the greatest grandmother a kid could ever have asked for btw -- took me on a trip to the Palmer Mall in Easton, PA. You see, Palmer Mall had a great Suncoast Video store that I loved browsing and this birthday trip was no different, as Gram was letting me pick out some presents.
Now, any time I walk into a record/video/toy store, my eyes are HUGE, right Jack? For some reason, I immediately went for the THX widescreen boxset of the Star Wars trilogy. Dubbed as my "last chance to own the original Star Wars trilogy on video" my interest was peeked . . . how could I resist? I mean, it's not like George Lucas was going to screw with the movies we all know and love . . . right??
With a sizeable VHS boxset (which I still have mind you) under my arm, I had some spar birthday money left over . . . what to get, what to get . . . the constant question hanging over a young Horror fan's head in a video store. It must have been about $10 that I had leftover because I was searching through the Horror VHS and I distinctly remember the one I picked being $9.99.
"What about Lucio Fulci's Zombie?!"
Sure, why not! I immediately went to the end of the Horror section, looking under "Z" for, well, ya know . . .
"Hmmm . . . I don't see Zombie, but I see Zombie 2 and Zombie 4: A Virgin Among The Living Dead"
Not exactly what I was looking for, though seeing the word "virgin" in one of the titles was waving a huge flag to this particular pubescent young gentlemen! I looked at the cover of Zombie 2 which was billed as "The Lucio Fulci Classic!"
I scanned over the back of the box which gave a brief plot summary . . .
Shredded corpses are discovered on a boat adrift in New York harbor. A note tells of a strange plague on the remote island of Matool.
A pretty woman journeys there to see that her father is all right. He's NOT all right! The island is infested with RAVENOUS ZOMBIES -- Zombies with a BIG TASTE for flesh! They're bad to the bone!
Lucio Fulci's graphic masterpiece!
Okay . . . at this point, I was REALLY confused. But, the label in the bottom, right of the box stating "WARNING: Viewer discretion advised. This film contains violence & nudity" ultimately sold me on it! I had to have it!
"Hell," I thought to myself, "the zombie dude with the worms in his eye is on the cover of this, so it's gotta be related in some way!"
Later that afternoon, we got back to Gram's house and I was itching to check out this Zombie 2 business . . . friggin' Star Wars could wait! I popped that VHS into the VCR as fast as I could and I clearly remember the warm, summer air that day as the tropical setting of the movie seemed to resonate with me and, honestly, kinda freak me out about watching it.
The movie started with voodoo drums and a shadowy English fellow blasting a sheet-wrapped zombie in the face -- right in the goddamn face -- with a revolver before announcing "The boat can leave now. Tell the crew." Instant gore! I loved it!
"Hmmm...the title says Zombie 2, but it looks like it's been superimposed over something else . . ."
Man, the print on this particular version of the movie is in terrible shape! Shitty full-screen cropping and a filthy picture made it feel like I was watching something I wasn't supposed to be watching. All these years later though, it's still fun to give this particular version a view simply for the nostalgic feelings it brings back. One of my favorite memories of this version was sitting in my friend's kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, post-sleepover Saturday, watching the tape on a tiny TV/VCR combo simply because his little brother wanted to see the nudity!
Of course, not long after watching the film, I realized that it was your basic bootleg release of what is commonly known as Zombie, which I would see a few years later when Anchor Bay released their Widescreen Presentation collector's edition in 1998. Seeing Fulci's masterpiece in its correct aspect ratio made it a lot more enjoyable, as it appeared to have been made by someone with talent (which the fullscreen transfer clearly doesn't).
Ever since that fateful day, almost 20 years ago, Zombie has become a definite favorite. It opened up the world of the late, great Lucio Fulci to my young eyes. In fact, at my second ever Horror convention, a Weekend of Horrors as a matter of fact, I managed to pick up an original Zombie one sheet, which hung proudly displayed in various locations of my old bedroom before taking its rightful place in Crypt's bathroom.
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