Zombie appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not gorgeous, the image looked good given its age and origins.
Overall sharpness seemed acceptable. Although the film rarely offered particularly outstanding delineation, It still managed generally positive clarity.
I noticed no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. With light grain throughout the film, I didn’t suspect any problematic digital noise reduction, and the movie came free from print defects.
Colors felt mediocre, as even the tropical settings lacked especially vibrant hues. I suspect the tones reflected the source, but they still felt surprisingly lackluster.
Blacks came across as pretty dark and tight, while shadows were generally acceptable. Some low-light shots could become too thick, but most offered adequate clarity. A product of its time, this was a more than watchable image.
Given that Zombie exists as an Italian production, one would view its Italian soundtrack as the way to go. However, I don’t feel that way in this case. Though the film used actors of varying nationalities, it clearly asked them to speak English dialogue.
Despite that, the Italian track counts as the “original” because the movie’s initial release occurred in Italy and used that audio. The Blu-ray includes both Italian and English mixes, and normally I go with “original”, but in this case I favored the English track.
I did so simply because it matched the dialogue. Since the actors spoke the lines in English, this made it the logical choice, especially because speech lined up with lip movements better.
However, even in that regard, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 track faltered due to the nature of the source. As mentioned earlier, like most Italian productions, all the dialogue got looped in post-production – and looped poorly in this case, as the lines often don’t match mouth movements especially well.
The dubbed nature of the speech meant lackluster quality as well. The lines tended to be rough and reedy, without natural tones. I could understand the dialogue but it still didn’t sound good.
For the 7.1 mix, effects also delivered problematic reproduction. These elements tended to come across with a lot of reverb, and that made them sound thin and unnatural.
Music worked better, as the score seemed satisfactory. I couldn’t claim these elements displayed terrific reproduction, but they became the best aspect of the mix.
As for the soundscape, it used the various channels in a loose, not especially convincing manner. Music spread around the room in a decent way, but effects failed to create a vivid soundfield.
This meant different sounds came from vaguely correct locations, but they didn’t mesh well, and they seemed exaggerated. While not a bad multichannel remix, this one became more of a distraction than an asset.
Happily, the Blu-ray also came with the movie’s original DTS-HD MA monaural audio, and I found that track to fare better than the 7.1 version. Of course, dialogue still suffered from most of the same problems, though I thought the mono track boasted slightly improved quality, as the lines felt a bit more precise.
The same went for the rest of the mix as well. Despite the inevitable thinness related to the project’s age and budget, music offered superior reproduction, and effects felt more accurate.
Again, nothing impressive came with the mono track, as it still gave us audio from an inexpensive aging movie. Nonetheless, I thought the original mix worked better than the inconsistent and flawed 7.1 version.
Expect a lot of extras on this two-Blu-ray set, and Disc One comes with two separate audio commentaries. For the first, we hear from film historian Troy Howarth, as he provides a running, screen-specific look at aspects of director Lucio Fulci’s career as well as cast and performances, sets and locations, cinematography, story/characters, some history of zombie movies, effects, music, and anecdotes related to the production.
The author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci And His Films, Howarth brings us a lively, engaging commentary. He relates a slew of good details about the film and even makes fun of it at times – gently, but it’s still a nice flavor given that most commentaries come with nothing but praise. Howarth’s chat works very well.
For the second commentary, we find a chat with actor Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine editor Jason J. Slater. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific take on McCulloch’s career and experiences during the Zombie as well as some other notes about the movie.
Though he occasionally tosses in some thoughts, Slater usually acts as moderator, so McCulloch dominates the piece. For the movie’s first half, he gives us a pretty good level of information. The commentary doesn’t threaten to rival the excellence of Howarth’s discussion, but McCulloch offers a fairly interesting view of his time on the movie.
In the flick’s second half, however, the level of information sputters. We still get the occasional nugget but more dead space occurs, and McCulloch/Slater often seem to simply watch the movie. All of this adds up to an erratic commentary that loses a lot of appeal as it goes.
Next comes When the Earth Spits Out the Dead, an interview with film historian Stephen Thrower. In this 33-minute, five-second piece, Thrower discusses the career of director Lucio Fulci as well as specifics of Zombie’s creation. Some of this repeats from the commentaries, but Thrower offers a good overview.
We can watch the movie with or without an introduction from filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. Although he doesn’t say much in his 24-second piece, it’s not everyday an Oscar-winning director provides comments about an obscure horror film, so that’s gotta count for something.
Disc One finishes with a mix of ads. We get two trailers, two TV spots, four radio spots and a Poster & Still Gallery.
Over on Disc Two, we find eight featurettes, and these launch with Zombie Wasteland. In this 22-minute, 19-second reel, we hear from McCulloch, actor/stuntman Ottavino Dell’acqua and actors Richard Johnson and Al Cliver.
“Wasteland” discusses working with Fulci as well as some of their experiences during the production. We get a decent mix of thoughts, but “Wasteland” spends too much of its time with shots of a fan convention, and those make it less involving than it should be.
After this we find Flesh Eaters on Film, a nine-minute, 38-second piece with co-producer Fabrizio De Angelis. He covers working with Fulci and aspects of his work on the movie. This turns into a reasonably engaging chat.
Next comes the 14-minute, 30-second Deadtime Stories. It features co-writers Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti as they look at aspects of the movie’s screenplay and the production. Like “Eaters”, this brings us a largely informative program.
With Zombi Italiano, we locate a 16-minute, 34-second piece. It features special makeup effects artists Gianetto De Rossi and Maurizio Trani and special effects artist Gino De Rossi.
As expected, “Italiano” investigates various effects used on the film. We find a useful discussion of the techniques in this fun chat.
The director’s daughter appears in All in the Family>. It goes for six minutes, eight seconds and delivers her thoughts on her father and his work. Though brief, the interview brings some good observations.
Finally, the set ends with Zombie Lover, a featurette that brings back filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. During the nine-minute, 36-second chat, del Toro discusses his affection for Zombie and his thoughts about it. Del Toro brings a collection of engaging thoughts.
A third disc provides a CD soundtrack for Zombie. It only lasts 27 minutes, but it still adds a decent bonus for fans.
Finally, the package concludes with a booklet. It presents photos, credits and an essay from Stephen Thrower. The booklet finishes the set on a positive note.
As a horror movie, Zombie lacks much to make it excel. While it throws out some graphic gore, everything else about the film seems cheap and boring. The Blu-ray brings generally good visuals and informative supplements along with a subpar multichannel remix. This becomes a quality Blu-ray for a bad movie.