'Zombie Lake' (1980) & 'Oasis of the Zombies' (1982)

by Michael Barrett

29 March 2013

 
cover art

Zombie Lake

Director: Jean Rollin
Cast: Howard Vernon

USDVD release date: 26 Feb 2013

cover art

Oasis of the Zombies

Director: Jesus Franco
Cast: Manuel Gelin

USDVD release date: 26 Feb 2013

Redemption has released two early ‘80s zombie films that can easily be confused by the non-connosseur. Both are Eurociné productions scripted by Jesus Franco and sharing much the same crew: photographer, composer, editor, etc. Oh yes, and both are about Nazi zombies. However, they are differentiated by the styles and obsessions of their directors, Franco (on Oasis of the Zombies) and Jean Rollin (on Zombie Lake). Again, the casual eye may think both directors are similarly languid, but their signatures are apparent even though they used pseudonyms. That implies they regarded these products as inessential in their filmographies, and we’d agree.

Rollin’s film, although less interesting than his other zombie movies (e.g. The Living Dead Girl, The Grapes of Death), manages to be another of his elegiac sonnets about yearning for death and the love that transcends it (or delivers it). The setting is a French village haunted by an incident that occurred in WWII, which the mayor (Howard Vernon) says was ten years ago. That means the film is set in the 1950s; some details don’t really support that, but never mind. The French Resistance killed some German soldiers and tossed them in the lake, which has its own evil history, and now the decaying, green, flesh-gobbling zombies emerge whenever damsels go skinny-dipping, which is all the time.
  
A lengthy flashback is devoted to the forbidden love between one soldier and a local maiden, who dies while giving birth to a daughter. Ten years later, the dead father lavishes his affection on the girl and protects her from his marauding buddies, even getting into a smackdown with another alpha zombie. She thinks nothing of kissing her daddy’s green hand, and she will be the key to helping the z-boys move on to their reward. It’s all very tender, in between the topless women who stand around getting eaten and all.

In Franco’s film, the Nazi zombies are for some reason guarding a cache of gold in the oasis where they died. Again there’s a flashback including a wartime romance, this time between a British soldier and an Arab woman who dies birthing a son. That adult son carries on the legacy of searching for the gold amid Franco’s endlessly nervous, restless, jittery zooms and desultory moments of worm-infested carnage when the editor goes into overtime with jagged snippets. At nearly the last minute, the survivor of a previous attack thoughtfully mentions that the zombies are afraid of fire and keeps shouting “Hurry! Hurry!” as everyone takes forever to light a match. This is the lesser, more enervating movie.

In the classic Nazi zombie sweepstakes, neither film comes close to Ken Wiederhorn’s Shock Waves, so it’s clearly untrue that if you’ve seen one Nazi zombie, you’ve seen them all. Both films can be watched in their English dubs or in French with subtitles. Rollin’s film also comes with the alternate English title sequence (it’s actually called Zombies’ Lake, which is also what the English trailer says) and alternate clothed versions of the skinny-dipping scenes. The trailer includes a curious struggle with a pants-less zombie that didn’t make the final cut, perhaps because it proves he’s not green all over.

Zombie Lake

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Extras rating:

Oasis of the Zombies

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