Monday, June 24, 2013
OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1981)
SOME CALL IT MADNESS!
One of my most obsessive traits is the constant feeling that I NEED to be in the right mindset to watch a movie. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but I've spent countless hours in pre-viewing limbo, going through stacks of everything from Criterion blu-rays to bootleg VHS tapes that I've owned for 15 years trying to figure out the perfect thing to watch, the exact right movie at the exact right time - some call it madness.
Last night, after a rabid fit of indecision, I ended up taking a break from sifting that was so relaxing that I fell asleep. Hours later, I suddenly woke up. It was now 3 AM and figured I'd continue my search for the perfect movie to watch - when my yet-unseen Kino-Redemption blu-ray of Jess Franco's OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES started calling my name. Kismet!
A couple of my Francophile pals likewise adore this one, while others (along with the rest of the human race) seem to think it's a steaming pile of crap. I don't think anyone claims this as Franco's masterpiece, but because of its history and prominence (it was one of the first and most widely available Franco films on the home video market) it's been the false barometer by which some harshly judge the work of a truly masterful artist. Regardless of its imperfections, I always liked OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, and having rented the Wizard big-box a bunch in high school, I have nothing but pleasant memories of it.
That 3 AM magic was alive last night for sure, I soaked into OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES immediately and thusly became totally freaking hypnotized. Clearly one of Franco's more "forced" productions, the film takes cues from Fulci's ZOMBI (though this amounts to no more than the zombies having live worms on their faces and raising up from out of the ground) and has a strong element of Adventure as the loose plot deals with competing parties in search of Nazi Gold. The cheapness of the zombie make-up creates a wonderful smorgasbord of strangely artful designs, perhaps most of which is our friend above, whom at one point shows itself to be a faux zombie head literally being held up by a stick. And obviously, I'd take these bizarre creations over any of the last decade's dreadful, over-done undead any day.
OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES is convoluted beyond belief, to the point where it's fun. There's also an satisfying rawness to the cinematography by Max Monteillet - a thoroughly capable camera slinger who shot some of Rollin's finest films; namely LIVING DEAD GIRL and LOST IN NEW YORK. And to an extreme degree, the blu-ray presentation from Kino-Redemption here is remarkable. If you have even a remote sense of nostalgia for low budget films of this era, you'll no doubt be wowed by the glorious transfer this arguably-undeserving film received. It's a definitive jobber in Franco's cannon, but that doesn't stop me from having a blast with this one.
This is same thing people say to me when I tell them I love OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES:
And I love the actress who played Yolanda (on the right)! She's in the film for only minutes but she's extremely funny.
OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES
Directed and written by: Jess Franco
Starring: Manuel Gélin, France Lomay