Sunday, April 12, 2015

The first time I saw Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE and didn't quite know it

Back in the mid-90s, I was cutting my teeth as a young Horror fan.  I was getting more and more access to films I'd heard or read about in the pages of Fangoria or from word of mouth.  Again, this was all pre-internet, so I could only learn about this films by word of mouth and what I'd find at the local video store . . . I hadn't even gone to my first Horror convention yet!

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!"

Seems legit.
"What now?" I thought. "Fulci made the first sequel, too?"

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.

I do a lot of my thinking here.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Dawn of the Dead: My Soundtrack Holy Grail (Goblin edition)

At the risk of letting this blog become dedicated to All Things George A. Romero (hey, besides this entry here, I've got a couple of other cool ideas I'm digging up from the Crypt) . . . I wanted to share, with you, the story of my hunt for the once elusive Dawn of the Dead soundtrack.

You see, in the days before the internet, there was a time a where people actually went out and purchased CDs, records, or cassettes of soundtracks they were looking for.  The main spark for this entry here at Constriction Pictures stems from an old friend asking me to burn a copy of the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack for them; matter of fact, I think I may have, but I don't remember.  The point is though, right now, you can google the soundtrack and instantly download it from pretty much any message board or blog similar to this one.  For me, the thrill of the hunt, and ultimately the glory of actually finding it in the flesh, has always been more rewarding than a quick and easy download. 

Just look at this cover art.  Stark, simple, and amazing.

The year was 1993 or early 1994 at the latest.  A random, after school hang session with some of my buddies resulted in talk of Dawn of the Dead. Can’t really say how or why it crept into our conversation, but the end product saw us renting the film and me rediscovering something that I had first seen at the impressionable age of 5.

Of course, when Mom came home, I got busted for having people over when no one was home and I had to deal with Dad later. But, needless to say, the damage was done and on that fateful evening, I was set on a path that I'd follow for the rest of my life.

I was now a fan of Dawn of the Dead.

Now, what had a very unique effect on me was the score that the film contained. It was haunting and eerie, yet the coolest music I had heard in a long time. The fact that it was instrumental appealed to me even way back then; in fact, I still stand by the fact that Horror movies need a good, strong instrumental score! At that point in time, I was going by what the film's credits stated "Music by The Goblins with Dario Argento" . . . um, excuse me, who and who?  I could barely pronounce Argento's name at this point, but my interest was peaked, to say the least!

I'm not sure where I first discovered that there was actually a soundtrack album available, but so began an almost ritualistic journey to the mall to search every single soundtrack section in the hopes that I'd find the CD of my dreams. In fact, back in those days, on the East coast we had a mall music store known as The Wall (which is now commonly known as F. Y. E.); one of the cool things that The Wall was known for was their lifetime music guarantee . . . whenever you purchased a cassette or CD at one of their stores, you were given a square, blue sticker that you could place on the case of your recently-purchased music. Should anything happen to your item -- be it a scratch or your car's cassette deck got a little hungry -- The Wall would replace it for you. For free. For life. Or until they got bought out.

But, I digress . . . The Wall also had a special order program where you could go to a little kiosk in their stores and look up pretty much anything. If you found it, you could print out a little receipt-like piece of paper that was your special order form. As luck would have it, the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack by Goblin was listed in their database! Score!

So, there I was, barely 13yrs old printing out a special order ticket for the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack and walking it up to the counter. I was told to come back in a week or so. Was it REALLY this easy?? way it was.

Of course it wasn't.

What was an incredibly foreign concept to me at the time was that the soundtrack was out of print. WHAT?? Not one single employee of The Wall ever told me it was out of print; all they ever told me was that it was on back order. Dammit. Seriously, I can't tell you just how many different malls I'd gone to printing out special order forms at The Wall for this record . . . and always coming up empty.
Okay, damn you . . . so this was to be a foot chase. No problem. Like The Wall, I would eventually hit every mall or independent record store in the remote area (courtesy of my Mom and her mini-van). If it wasn't a store, then it was a flea market where I'd search through dusty old milk crates of records I cared nothing about, but still, I always came up empty.

What's a kid to do when he REALLY wants to listen to the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack in the car or in his headphones when he's walking to school? Obviously, he sits in front of the TV with a tape recorder and records the audio of the movie . . . only momentarily lashing out at people who might unknowingly call the house, thus interrupting the afternoon's recordings. Seriously folks, if you thought the mullet geek with the dirtstache in Trekkies was horrible to his friend when their phone call disrupted his precious interview time . . . you didn't know me as a kid!

So, the quality was incredibly poor and there may have been the occasional phone ring or parental interruption, but it was something...

Some time later, Mom and Dad took me to my first Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors convention in 1995 -- where, again, I was unable to locate the Dawn soundtrack, though I did see a vinyl copy of the soundtrack for Day of the Dead. But it was what I discovered after that convention that made an impact . . . shortly after that show, while thumbing through a recent issue of Fango, I stumbled across a personal ad that read "Dawn of the Dead garage kit" . . .

"What the hell is that?", I thought to myself.

Anyway, I sent away for a mail order catalog from the address, which was listed in Michigan.

A few weeks later, I received what basically amounted to a Horror collector's zine in the form of a photocopied catalog, detailing various -- and quite costly -- items for sale. The company was called Classic Horrorz and it was run by a guy named Ron Causey and his buddy Terry Prince. As I thumbed through the catalog, feverishly scanning for anything Dawn of the Dead-related, I quickly came across a CD titled "Zombi/Tenenbre", a split collection of selected tracks Goblin had recorded for both Dawn of the Dead and Tenebre (a film I hadn't seen at that point).

The price was a whopping $75 . . . hey, that’s a lot of money to a 13yr old who has no income outside of being a good kid to his folks! This, of course, ended up being the first version of the Dawn soundtrack that would wind up in my collection.

I don't know many times I traced that 'bald head' image!
Released by Cinevox Records in 1990, the split release compiles tracks that Goblin recorded for Dawn (aka: Zombi) as well as Tenebre.

The tracklist is, as follows:


1.) L’Alba Dei Morti Viventi

2.) Zombi

3.) Safari

4.) Zaratozom

5.) La Caccia

6.) Tirassegno


7.) Tenebre

8.) Gemini

9.) Lesbo

10.) Flashing

11.) Waiting Death

It’s interesting to note that, had I not also ordered a dubbed copy of the Dario Argento cut of Dawn of the Dead shortly before I ordered this CD, I would have only known three of the Dawn tracks! Still, I finally had some of the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack in my possession!!

Being that the titles were in Italian, I was desperate to know what they meant . . . so, I headed over to my local, favorite pizza place and asked my good friend and owner, Tony, if he could translate, which he happily did!

April 1997 saw me attend my second Chiller Theatre convention in East Rutherford, NJ. There, I picked up yet another split release of the Dawn soundtrack! This version featured all ten tracks of the Dawn soundtrack – with the inclusion of “The Gonk” (here labeled as “Mall Muzak”) as well as Goblin’s complete score for the Australian shocker Patrick.

A decent bootleg featuring the entire Goblin score

There's been some speculation about this release and whether it's some sort of promo or just a bootleg . . .if the horrid print quality of the cover art and the hissy quality of the audio weren't dead giveaways, it's definitely the latter.

Sometime in 1998, as Dawn of the Dead was celebrating its 20th anniversary, Cinevox released a really cool special edition of the soundtrack on CD.  I picked this one up at a Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors convention for $15 or $20; this particular release includes the original 10 tracks, as well as 6 additional -- and highly sought-after -- unreleased tracks.  There's also a throwaway bonus track entitled "Zombi (The Living Dead's Voices)" which sounds like someone messing around with a guitar effects pedal.

This is pretty much the definitive edition of the soundtrack!
Simply put, this release rocks!  To FINALLY have the complete Goblin score in collection was a dream come true.  Of course, there was also the search for the De Wolfe Library cues that were pain-stakingly assembled by Romero during the film's post-production...but that would be a separate quest in and of itself.

Sometime in 2000 or 2001, I managed to win an original Varese Sarabande vinyl LP off of eBay.  I've gotta say, on my iPod, a rip of this particular vinyl version gets the most airplay without a doubt.  Also around this time, I picked up a vinyl copy of the original Italian release from Cinevox as well.

In 2004, I picked up yet another vinyl re-issue, this time from Dagored, with an interesting (and creepy) cover.  Nothing too special about this release, as it's merely the a repressing of the original version, though this time on 180gram vinyl.  Still, a cool addition to the collection.

Well, I think that about does it for my Dawn of the Dead soundtrack collection in terms of the Goblin score.  I don't have too much in the way of the De Wolfe tracks outside of the 2004 Trunk Records collection of "unreleased" library cues.  Other than that, I've got mp3 versions of fan-made "Ultimate Edition" collections. 

Thanks for checking out another entry here . . . stay tuned for some more A Nightmare On Elm Street stuff coming up!