Video of he Spanish language version of OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, directed by Jess Franco for Eurocine. This version is in Spanish language only, note the different music, credits, cast members and alternate scenes. I'll have some comments on the new Redemption OASIS Blu-ray up here later.
OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES [aka L'Abime des Morts Vivants, La Tumba de los Muertos Vivientes, Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies]
Two young, scantily clad women drive their jeep into the small oasis in search of thrills and World War II artifacts. As they examine battle debris from Rommel's desert legions . Suddenly, the women are attacked by rotting zombies who appear out of the sand, living dead sentinels still protecting a buried Nazi treasure.At another desert location former Captian Blabert (Javier Maiza) is visited by Kurt (Henri Lambert), another former Allied officer who fought the Nazis in North Africa. After discovering the whereabouts of the oasis where they believe the treaure is buried, Kurt murders Blabert and sets off to claim the prize for himself. Sometime later Blabert's son, Robert (Manuel Gelin), convinces his girlfriend and a group of college friends to accompany him to North Africa to find out how his father died and conduct their own search for the treasure
This is not the first Nazi zombie film, that may be Steve Sekely's REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES, a B minus mid 1940s John Carradine horror item. By the time this Eurocine effort went into production the zombie trend had ramped up again with the world wide success of Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE 2 (1979). The Nazi zombie sub-genre had also reappeared with Ken Wiederhorn's atmospheric SHOCK WAVES (1977) and the Jean Rollin directed Eurocine coproduced Z minus epic, ZOMBIE LAKE (1980), the latter also now available on BD from Redempton. Jess Franco was actually set to direct ZOMBIE LAKE and had completed a treatment (using plot elements from his 1963 EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOFF) and scouted locations. But budgetary disputes with Eurocine led him to eventually decline directing, but did subsequently make this Nazi zombie film for the French production company, along with an alternate Spanish language version, with a different score, cast and some alternate scenes which was produced and distributed by Marte, a Spanish company.
I first encountered this French language version via the legendary Wizard VHS back in the mid 1980s, and later found another US VHS version titled BLOODSUCKING NAZI ZOMBIES, which ran around 75 minutes and was in extremely poor video quality. This version has been released on DVD by Cheezy Flicks. while IMAGE released a 16X0 upgrade, from original Eurocine elements with French and English language options, but without English subtitles available. This disc, released in 2001, did not contain the alternate Spanish language version, which has been released in Spain on VHS and on a Divisa DVD. There is also another US DVD version available on the Mill Creek CHILLING CLASSICS 50 movie pack. Having seen all of the above home video incarnations, I can report that the new Redemption Blu-ray is definitely the only way to go. This BD [onscreen title: OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES] features stunning colors, razor sharp resolution, fine detail and superior luminosity. The nocturnal zombie attacks in the final reel, the best staged/photographed part of the film, featuring atmospheric back lighting of the zombies as they mass atop the dunes before the final attack, are much more effective because they are not reduced to a murky haze as they are in all the previous video versions. And the figures are much more menacing seen in silhouette as opposite to close ups where the cheap FX make-up is sometimes amusingly apparent. One zombie, for instance, is represented by a skull attached to a stick, a kind of crude puppet effect, made all the more visible in HD. One would think that the desert doesn't offer much opportunity for striking color, but the BD reveals startling bursts of green foilage, explosions of hot red, electric blue, canary yellow desert flowers and a dazzling array of sand tones. The colors are impressive even seen reflected in the aquamarine pool at the center of the oasis.
As or the film itself, I've always wished the presence of Franco's talented Spanish DP Juan Soler, appearing as a cameraman who wants to document the zombies ("This ain't Hollywood"), were made more of and that the possibility of a self reflexive/film-within-the-film element were expanded to give the proceedings a unique Jess Franco-interactive quality. Given that the only acting honors go to Anthony Mayan's dignified desert Sheik and that the alternate casting of Lina Romay and Eduardo Fajardo, along with the wailing voodoo score featuring singer Carloto Perla, composed and performed on the synthesizer by Jess Franco (as Pablo Villa) are preferable but aren't available on this version, the Redemption BD maximizes the impact of this French cut. The French track allows the film to play much more effectively as a zombie horror set in an exotic locale (both versions were shot in the Canary Islands) and the English subtitles are most welcome.
A 2m 58s vintage theatrical trailer is also on the bonus menu along with trailers for the Redemption BDs of ZOMBIE LAKE, FEMALE VAMPIRE and EXORCISM.
I'll be exploring the film itself and the alternate Spanish language LA TUMBA DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTES in a future blog post.