Saturday, 16 May 2009

Vincent Dawn ... Of The Dead

Island Of The Living Dead

‘‘It’s written by hand, it must be very ancient !’’

When the dead don’t stay dead and the Earth won’t consume their carcass, they shall rise up to feast upon the flesh of the living. Cursed by a disease ridden crew of Spanish Conquistadors, ship wrecked off the coast of a remote Filipino island, a peaceful people have their idyllic paradise desecrated. Forcefully ravaged of its resources and stripped of its innocence. These malicious marauders rape, pillage and cull a harmonious community of its people, until a dark day of retribution is served unto their dark souls. A resurrection of the dead !.

An opening descriptive of terrifyingly biblical proportions to tempt you in to the delights of not a multi million dollar Hollywood horror, to tear at your throats and paralyse you with fear, but to prepare for the deliriously re-imaged dumbfounded-ness of Zombie lore Bruno Mattei style. Yes the lord of the un-dead schlock-buster is back, bolder and badder than ever with his own inimitable flambé of flesh feasting for the 21st century. A veritable regurgitation of the great works of Romero, Fulci and even unashamedly ripping his own material, it in itself of course previously Xeroxed from other genre legends. Bruno’s bowel belching gregarious gruel may not fall far from the same apple tree of his better know peers, an acquired taste for sure, but his film flavour is far from rotten to the ‘gore’!.
A team of modern day treasure hunters, trawling the seas in search of rich antiquities, get caught up in a mysterious fog enshrouded storm that assaults their small ship. With the night having fallen upon them they struggle to gain their bearings as the ocean waves pummel their craft. Their forward motion is abruptly halted as they run aground and cause damage to the main engine. They weather the storm till daybreak when the fog clears and reveals to them dry land. An uncharted island that is nowhere to be found on their maps. A haven they must go ashore and investigate to seek help, and find fresh water.

Leaving the boats engineer behind to work on repairs, the rest of the crew transfer to shore by row boat. The compliment of five men and two women split into two groups to search the island for signs of life and useful supplies. Off they trek into the tropical jungle that lay beyond the beach. It’s not long before Filipino babe Yvette Yzon’s character Sharon, along with her designated two male companions, stumble upon an old world graveyard. A serene area set out with rot infected wooden crosses. As the trio look around a frightful figure of a man stumbles towards Sharon. ‘‘They’re coming to get you Barbara’’, is the cry from one of her ship mates, and of course he’s right on the Romero button as this, sure enough, is lifted directly from the iconic opening of Night Of The Living Dead (1968). There’s clearly more things wooden than just crosses here. The shuffling figure of a man comes too close for comfort and announces full on his intent to tear into the female flesh of a startled Sharon. Who wouldn’t want some of the tasty ‘Pino pie that is the highly attractive beauty Yvette Yzon !?. To her rescue springs the kung fu cabin boy, serving up some Zombie fu to the un-dead crooner looking to woo and chew his curvaceous crew babe. This Zombie knows how to fight back though so its grapple time at the O.K Cemetery !. Cabin boys days of swabbing the decks and hanging his rod overboard, in hope of a catch like Miss. Yzon, are pretty much numbered as other Zombies arrive for the impromptu off beach barbecue.

Reunited with her remaining crew members Sharon and the others are all now fully aware of the islands Zombie uprising. With night closing in they must seek refuge, as the darkness seems to act as a calling card for the living dead to come out on mass. They find brief sanctuary in a stone fortitude, harbouring beneath its centuries old fascia a myriad of catacombs. Before retreating to this sanctum they have to fight their way through a horde of frenzied Zombies seeking their human supper, and a typically well staged Mattei mêlée ensues. The encroaching dead become target practice for the protagonists, who quickly learn that head shots bring about finality. That doesn’t stop them shot gun blasting arms and legs off their antagonists in explosive bloody fashion, nor body splattering them against walls with gory dispatch. It’s shoot and squelch time and no body does it better ‘B’ movie style than Director Bruno Mattei, using his equally well known pseudonym here of Vincent Dawn. There’s even room here for both the bizarre and wryly humorous. The bizarre being that one blasted Zombie instantly displays re-growth of a bullet severed lower arm and hand. Bizarre in that this is never touched upon again at all in this particular movie, but perhaps hints at a new strain of Zombies to come !?. The ingeniously wry moment of humour is delivered with subtle aplomb as a discarded cigarette is stubbed out under foot with meaningful intent by a Zombie. It clearly goes to show that even after death smoking may seriously harm your health !.

Safe for the time being in the heart of the refuge the enterprising Captain Kirk, yes the scriptwriters dared challenge the wrath of Khan to boldly go with the name of Kirk for the ships captain, uncovers books of scripture that reveal detail as to the islands history. The Latin text speak of prophecies of the dead. How every cadaver that is not destroyed immediately becomes one of them … one of the living dead !. It is also written about gold that was brought to the island by the Spanish, rescued from aboard their shipwrecked galleon back in the early Seventeenth century. If there is one thing sure to keep the insane amongst any group of people forgetting the safety of their own lives it is for the greed of riches beyond their wildest dreams. Never mind the endless number of limb loving Zombies looking for a fresh meal, outside of the Island Burger Rats, these treasure hunters want their own feast of tasty trinkets. Only Sharon keeps her logic of reason for self preservation above all else.
Bruno Mattei has in many quarters always been an easy target. Labelled a hack director and disregarded for pretty much his entire career. Those that take the time to appreciate just what he achieves from working on a micro budget, and his real flair for entertainment value on a return for that investment, are rewarded with rough edged movie jewels. Here he once again displays quality of production for what is a marginally financed shot on video outing, yet he musters together everything he possibly can to deliver an end product that far exceeds what the investors would have signed up for.

There are some truly great interior sets on display here. Dust encrusted décor, enshrouded with cobwebs and dressed in a texture of colour that is reminiscent of those Roger Corman films from the Sixties, based upon the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. He has always been able to call upon the experience of cast and crew who have been in the business for many, many years. Here he has the benefit of Eighties Italian Action movies regular Jim Gaines, who playing a character nicknamed Snoopy presumably also worked on this project for peanuts !. Older generation and experienced character player Gaetano Russo, who started his film career with Seventies Italian Giallo and Crime flicks such as, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats (1974) and Rome Armed To The Teeth (1976), is also on hand. Mattei’s ability to also unearth new talent such as he has here with the delightful Yvette Yzon, is also a sign of his true credibility.

The movie escalates towards an exciting conclusion with Mattei throwing everything into the mix including talking Zombies and a Vampiric high priest laying claim to ruler of the island, as well as cult leader to a posse of skull faced un-dead padres. Now what the ‘flock’ is that all about !?. Who cares, as in this world of the unbelievable anything goes. Sharon has become the feisty femme, freedom fighter, and wields a grim reaper sized scythe as she sets about cutting Zombies down to size. It’s her against the denizens of the dark in Hell’s inferno, and with the living dead rising up all around no tomb is left unturned.

This then is the penultimate regurgitation of the Zombie pantheon from the maestro Mattei, his conveyor belt of reanimated corpses grinded out for another brilliantly banal ‘B’ movie horror Action film, that only he could pull off. Bruno Mattei recycles so much here that he must have worn the yellow jersey when he won the race to bring this one home.

Dedicated To Bruno Mattei & Mike Monty

Review: Paul Cooke / Source Czechoslovakian DVD PAL

Island Of The Living Dead (2006)
Director: Vincent Dawn aka Bruno Mattei
Starring: Yvette Yzon, Ronald Russo, Alvin Anson,
Ydalia Suarez & Jim Gaines


  1. EXCELLENT review...I've watched the final pair of Mattei films at least 4 times each! Great fun...spread the word BB!

  2. A fantastic delivery, Paul, and a true example of the kind of genuinely enthusiastic passion that is unleashed when 'BB' Cooke and Bruno 'Vincent Dawn' Mattei cross paths for some Big Screen Fun meets Super Spoken Sensation on Paper! Great going, and a wonderfully written piece that has encouraged me to fully admit here that I have unfortunately yet to see any of Bruno Mattei's campily realized, fond farwell zombie and cannibal revivals. These goodbye's to the world Bruno only served to add color to have clearly been embraced by 'Vincent Dawn' lovers galore and as one who adores the man myself, I can only put them off for so much longer before a feeling of guilt sweeps over my ever loving Mattei heart and soul. Not to mention - any nod from one who has truly studied the man the way Mr. Paul Cooke has can only be a sign of 'must have, must see' from the established veteran of respected Euro-chatter that this dear friend of mine and writer extraordnaire is. Thank you, Paul.

    P.S. - I will send a more detailed message via e-mail, but after near tear-filled discouragement at the shallow puddle of response that my very passionately delivered own piece on THE EVIL (1977) was left floating in, I have decided to swim back to the Triple B ship after giving things some thought. I was more than hurt that I put such time and effort into a film I truly feel is beyond worthy of serious discovery, only to have it all but kicked into a sewer drain when it came to encouraging feedback (with Paul being the exception). I feel that equal coverage of ALL genres from now on will assist in avoiding such ignored follow-up, as we need people coming here looking for all walks of cinema to get each genre their solid Ballistic fanbase.
    We will discuss further in private, but great going here, Paul, as far as your latest in concerned! ;)

  3. sorry...*is concerned, is what I was meaning to end that with;)
    We need an edit function!

  4. Thanks for the feedback guys. A heartfelt delivery Devin, and one I both understand & appreciate.
    This is for Bruno, as is the Review for the sequel that has just hit this Blog. Even with shot on video budget restraints Bruno delivers the banal with brilliance. Great Fun. Pick 'em up Devin & revel in the gory grin factor that only Bruno Mattei could bring about.