Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso and Rosella Drudi – or “Vincent Dawn”, “Clyde Anderson” and “Sarah Asproon” – are well-known names/pseudonyms to a certain breed of film fan. They were the squad that set up a regular factory line during the mid-'80s, generating a whole catalogue's worth of trash action and horror titles together. Fragasso and Drudi's defining work came in the form of Troll 2 ('90), the so-called "Best Worst Movie" that stood out amidst a filmography solely comprised of ineptly entertaining dreck. Mattei helmed 12 films (most of them with the help of these two co-conspirators) between '87 – '89, becoming one of the great workhorses in Italian exploitation cinema history. Together, they were a strangely unstoppable force, their movies taking on alternate monikers that often matched the colorfulness of their creators’.
Now, Severin has re-issued three titles from this legendary collaborative run on Blu-ray, offering up a trio of near mythical schlock, ready-made to melt your face. All spectacularly insane for different reasons, Zombi 3, Zombi 4: After Death, and Shocking Dark are a great primer for the rest of their disreputable collection...
Zombi 3  (d. Lucio Fulci, Bruno Mattei [uncredited] & Claudio Fragasso [uncredited], w. Claudio Fragasso)
Lucio Fulci suffered a stroke after turning in his first cut of Zombi 3 - a Philippines-based return to the zombie rip off franchise he'd begun almost a decade earlier with the Romero riffing Zombi 2 ('79). That early work-print ran only 70 minutes, so producer Franco Gaudenzi requested second unit director Bruno Mattei (Violence In a Women's Prison ['82]) and writer Claudio Fragasso (Hell of the Living Dead ['80] - which Mattei also helmed) sit in and do some post-production doctoring. They cut the gore maestro's footage down to less than an hour, before shooting and adding in forty-plus minutes of their own, resulting in a movie that doesn't remotely resemble the Italoschlock classic whose name it bears.
Don't get this writer wrong: that's a great thing. Zombi 3 plays more like Mattei and Fragasso's island bound Return of the Living Dead ('85); total Filipino anarchy as a secret serum leaks following terrorists' attempts to steal it from a military lab. After a single flesh eater is spawned, killed, and has its body burned, the crematorium fumes lead to the titular monsters running amok in the jungle, hunting a group of partying kids while being combated by soldiers ordered to keep the area quarantined. Zombie birds, zombies with machetes, a reanimated, hungry head that flies out of the freezer (which was reportedly one of Fulci's favorite gags), and even an undead baby all gnaw and tear at their food, as Mattei and Fragasso cut it into a bona fide action/horror hoot. On your couch, this is a total riot. With the right audience (or just a gaggle of drunken buddies), Zombi 3 would surely achieve total Facemelter status.
Shocking Dark  (d. Bruno Mattei, w. Claudio Fragasso)
Shocking Dark is Bruno Mattei's Aliens ('86) rip-off that was released in many countries under the title Terminator 2. Mind you, this was a full two years before James Cameron blew minds with Judgement Day ('91), but in the great Italian knock off tradition, Fragasso and uncredited co-screenwriter Rosella Drudi were there to sell tickets at the behest of their producers. Working on commission, they mashed elements of Cameron's seminal sequel with that director's original robot from the future murder opus, while Mattei shot the whole thing for roughly the price of a Genoa Salami sandwich.
Only a certain type of cult film fan is going to love Shocking Dark. It's bizarre, goofy, and somewhat overlong, even at only 89 minutes. Whole scenes and line readings from the American classic are replicated, while the monsters who attack a group of Marines (dubbed the "Megaforce") are really mutated survivors of a global warming holocaust that's hit Venice. You're going to have to go in understanding the very nature of Italoschlock cash-in culture that dominated their '70s and '80s genre scene, but there's a definite novelty to watching these sorts of era specific curiosities, as they're purely driven by a capitalist mindset, and own a shoddy charm that will win you over if you let it. Now grab a shotgun and start mowing down those rubber men-in-suit beasts coming to kill us all.
Zombi 4: After Death  (d. Claudio Fragasso, w. Rosella Drudi)
Claudio Fragasso, Bruno Mattei and Rosella Drudi had a solid little smut factory working by '89, churning out low-rent title after low-rent title, each destined to be re-packaged and sold the world over, depending on what each territory wanted. Keeping this in mind, it makes sense that Zombi 4 was shot back-to-back with Fragasso and Mattei's Strike Commando 2 – which Drudi holds a “story by” credit on – in ’88. The Philippines had become a veritable second home for the foursome, with their action and horror sensibilities often cross-pollinating, resulting in a unique strain of late-'80s Italoschlock.
Zombi 4 foregoes all of Zombi 3's pseudo-science insanity, opting instead to take place on an island that's been cursed by a voodoo priest, whose wife wouldn't be saved by a team of medical researchers looking to cure cancer. Now, the scientists' daughter has hired a team of scumbag mercs to escort her back to the isle of doom, just so she can have some answers regarding what happened to her parents. That's all the plot you get, as Fragasso and Drudi craft a hybrid of jungle grunt machismo and fog-shrouded Fulciesque gore porn. Nothing really new is being introduced into the series, but at least one viewing is a must for Italian exploitation aficionados, as there's enough splatter to satiate, even if the Zombi moniker has essentially been milked for all the slime it's worth.
Zombi 3, Shocking Dark, Zombi 4: After Death are all available now on Blu-ray from Severin Films.