the Living Dead
= Highest Rating
Aristide Massaccesi (19361999), aka "Joe D'Amato",
was a talented Italian cinematographer (What
Have They Done To Solange?) and director (Beyond
the Darkness) who spent the latter half of his career making
porno flicks. Going from an assistant camera operator for Mario
Bava to the helmer of Tarzhard
and The Anal Perversions of Lolita
might seem a precipitous slide, but he apparently made a good
living directing such hardcore sex romps.
Massaccesi was just as prolific in the somewhat more mainstream
exploitation field, directing low budget Italian horror, science
fiction, and fantasy films under a variety of aliases. Inevitably,
the two genres he's most known for horror and porn were
melded together in 1980's Erotic Nights
of the Living Dead, starring his favorite leading lady,
the exotic Laura Gemser (Emanuelle
To be charitable, Erotic
Nights isn't really indicative of Massaccesi's talents.
Actually it's quite putrid. Neither horror fans nor porn-dogs
will find satisfaction. Cross a bad zombie film with a bad porno
film and what do you get? A horrendously bad zombie-porno
film, that's what. It doesn't work as either one.
A bizarre opening at a mental hospital starts
things on a promising note, at least in terms of cheese potential.
The film then quickly segues into the main story, which for
the first hour chiefly concerns the sexcapades of two horny
Americans in the Tropics. (The Caribbean? Central or South America?
The movie never says just where.) John Wilson (Mark Shannon),
a smarmy, egotistical architect with a Magnum P.I. mustache,
is on a business trip to purchase a small island on behalf of
his partners, an investment group keen to build a tourist resort
there. With the deal complete he intends to go to the island
and survey it. To get there he hires fellow countryman Larry
O'Hara (The New Barbarians'
George Eastman), a hulking, slovenly charter boat captain. Before
setting sail, though, Wilson hires a couple of local prostitutes
for a hotel room mιnage a trois while Larry shags the
wife of a wealthy fishing enthusiast and is given a private
performance by a nightclub stripper. (Who, I must warn, masturbates
with a champagne bottle, popping the cork with her vaginal muscles.
For real.) Wilson asks the two hookers if they'd like
to accompany him on the boat trip. They're agreeable provided
they get paid, but when he tells them the destination is Cat
Island they flee the scene in fright. ("Here's your
money! Here's your MONEY! Wait a minute, you dumb whores!
You forgot your money!")
Next day Wilson shows up at Larry's boat
with a new girlfriend named Fiona (Dirce Funari) in tow, a hot-to-trot
European golddigger he picked up at the hotel. Wilson learns
from Larry that the locals consider Cat Island to be cursed.
No one ever dares go there, even though it's supposedly uninhabited.
The captain isn't bothered by native superstitions, however.
As their excursion begins, Wilson warns Larry to keep his hands
off Fiona (who'd obviously be receptive to such a move) and
concentrate on nautical matters.
The trio arrive at the island, which at first
seems to be deserted like they were told. Amid the palm trees
they come upon an old graveyard which Larry explains is all
that's left of the village that once exited here, before its
population was wiped out by natural disasters long ago. As Wilson
begins his survey and Fiona teases Larry with her topless sunbathing,
it's discovered that they don't exactly have the place to themselves.
True to the name, Cat Island does indeed have a cat
black one (of course) that slinks around the cemetery, its hissing
and growling badly out of sync with the soundtrack. A strange-acting
old native man (with a very big knot on his head) then appears,
muttering cryptic warnings to leave or suffer the consequences.
The man's alluring, sarong-wrapped granddaughter (Gemser), who
has a habit of mysteriously popping up out of nowhere and then
disappearing like a wraith, reinforces these admonitions but
also seduces the newcomers with promises of carnal delights.
Finally the visitors get creeped out enough to decide to leave,
but their boat's motor inexplicably won't start and something
is stirring in that old jungle cemetery. Maybe there's a bit
of truth to those local superstitions after all...
Despite the potential of the scenario,
Erotic Nights of the Living Dead isn't very erotic at
all and its horror component comes up short. I don't know which
is more boring: the zombie or porn stuff. The explicit sex only
involves Shannon and the two whores in the hotel suite (mostly
oral, with a very demure 'money shot', set to music that could
almost be a parody of bad '70s porn scores) plus the sleazy
bottle trick by Eastman's stripper friend. Neither Gemser or
Funari get involved in the truly hardcore stuff, though they're
happy to get naked at the drop of a hat and share a softcore
lesbian scene. Laughably, Eastman always has sex with his pants
on. (Is that be because he actually wrote this mess, under the
nom de plume Tom Salina?) The horror elements are simply
much too sparse in the first hour not to mention illogical
given the plot while the gore is cheap-looking and almost
totally ineffective. (One zombie appears to bleed chocolate
milk.) As for the titular monsters, these spindly, bandy-legged
zombies dressed in head scarves and rags aren't scary or particularly
creepy, and are so slow they make George Romero's shuffling,
lethargic ghouls seem like Speedy Gonzales in comparison.
Some of the terribly dubbed dialog provides
the voice actor dubbing Shannon's character sounds like an
elderly man in his 70s, for instance but these occasional
chuckles in no way compensate for the other 98% of this nearly
two-hour waste of film stock. The undraped Gemser and Funari
are easy on the eyes, sure, but after the earlier X-rated three-way
we keep expecting them to get nasty, which they don't.
Tragically, even the
hardcore stuff sucks. It comes completely out of left field,
has nothing to do with the story, and even worse, gets kind
of icky. The infamous bottle scene is just plain vulgar. And
I'm sorry, but a good porn scene does not feature prominent
display of a guy's nut sack with huge warts on it, dead
center in the foreground and impossible to ignore no matter
how hard you try. Mark Shannon's gonads are easily the most
horrifying aspect of the film. I am SERIOUS, y'all!
I sure hope those
two hookers got a bonus.
Show has issued Erotic Nights of the Living
Dead in two versions, the "explicit" edition
described above which uses the
onscreen title Sexy Nights Of The Living Dead
and the non-pornographic "General Release" cut (shorn
of 24 minutes of hardcore footage). The explicit version is presented
in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced; the transfer
is relatively free of print damage but colors looks somewhat muted
and washed-out in spots. The mono audio track is unfortunately
quite thin and flat sounding, with dialog slightly muffled, though
Bonus features: the X-rated theatrical
trailer (under the Sexy Nights title), a sizable image
gallery of movie stills/Laura Gemser cheesecake shots, and a selection
of 'alternate' footage that appears to consist of 'night' scenes
from the film lensed without the use of a day-for-night filter.
You also get trailers for other Shriek Show releases. A pointless
Easter egg, located on the main menu screen, reveals the French
opening credits. (Just a static shot of the island cemetery with
superimposed French language titles.)