Let me take you back the days of italian zombie movies, with one of the slightly more obscure films, even if we’re still in the familiar territory of italian directors credited with laughable american pseudonyms and a plethora of alternate titles, it wouldn’t be an italian zombie from that era if it somehow got the alternate title of Zombie 3 (yes, with an extra “e”), others trying to link it to the “Zombi non-series” or the cannibal subgenre, one that happens to have been mostly dominated by italian genre directors.
Zombi Holocaust does have 2 recognized alternative titles, Queen Of The Cannibals and Dr. Butcher: M.D., and to be honest they’re not too that outrageous or mystifying, because this one decide to go ahead and combine a cannibal and zombie movie together, throwing in a mad scientist that created his own zombie army, as an expedition to the Eastern Indies finds out more than they bargained for, as this group of doctors and journalist went there to investigate, after episodes of cannibalism by immigrants of that particular island started happening in various city hospitals.
The title itself it’s a clear giveaway of this being half cannibal movie, half zombie flick, after all, and it’s nice blend of these kinds of exploitation cinema, with the cast being almost completely made up of american or non-italian actors, in this case without the usual elements of animal torture-mutilation, which i’m gonna have to count as a plus, personally. Really not a fan of actual animal deaths for a movie.
As you could expect by its hybrid nature, the movie doesn’t really excels as a zombie movie or a cannibal movie, but it’s thankfully better than the sum of its parts, it’s a fun exploitation romp that throws a lot of things into the meatgrinder, resulting in a fairly obvious genre meatloaf, one that fans of italian cinema or genre horror will enjoy a lot, thanks to a good amount of decent-to-good gore, going from cannibals cutting people open and feasting on their guts to skull cap removals, with the stand out scene being a zombie’s face being cut to pieces by a motorboard engine’s fanblades in the head.
Speaking of which, this lies one of the problems, as in the zombies don’t really come into the plot until 47 minutes into the movie (with decent but not great make-up), before that it’s a fairly typical cannibal movie, and with the zombies also comes the deranged experiments of Dr. Obrero / Dr. Butcher (Donald O’ Brien, who was behind the cannibals as well, and wanted to successfully transplant brains into dead men to make them live again. But sadly the zombies themselves are the side dish and don’t factor in too much into the plot, aside from scaring away the cannibals.
I wouldn’t count the movie being shot in New York and Santo Domingo like Zombi 2, shot an year prior, as pretty much every italian zombie or cannibal movie was shot there, even Porno Holocaust.
Also, the finale is a bit confusing and poorly explained, like one of the women is captured by the cannibals, painted on (gotta have the “painting the totally naked lady” in your italian exploitation film about cannibals), and brought to what seems like a sacrificial altar shaped like a wheel, but all of the sudden they spare her, start cheering, then she is escorted back to the lab by the cannibals, who attack the zombies, just in time for the slightly abrupt finale.
I have the italian DVD version by RaroVideo that includes six minutes of cut scenes (which also feature a literal “boob cut”, kinda random), but there’s no footage that explains that properly, so i’m just gonna go ahead and guess their god Kito elected her Queen Of The Cannibals or something.
Still, the acting is mostly decent, characters are fairly okay and not detestable, overall a pretty decent movie (exploitation bias aside) from Marino Girolami, credited as Frank Martin here, but with a prolific filmography under its belt, like many italian directors mostly known today for horror, but that also put out everything from westerns to chrime thrillers, action dramas, peplums, or “sexy comedies”, including the beloved – but unknown outside Italy – Pierino comedy film series.