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Image Entertainment presents
Zombie Lake (1980)

"And we've used it as an unholy grave during the war, but the soldiers we threw in were not a sacrifice, and they're coming back with a vengeance."
- The Mayor (Howard Vernon)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: March 30, 2001

Stars: Howard Vernon, Pierre Escourrou, Nadine Pascale, Annouchka
Other Stars: Anthony Mayons, Youri Rad, Jean Rollin
Director: Jean Rollin, Julian de Lasema (credited as J.A. Laser)

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (gore, nudity, language, sexual contact, bad zombie makeup)
Run Time: 01h:23m:11s
Release Date: March 27, 2001
UPC: 014381911121
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- CB-B- D-

DVD Review

Zombie Lake has a reputation as one of the worst zombie movies ever made, and while the zombie makeup is laughably bad, it's actually much better than its reputation would indicate. At least, that's the case for exploitation fans who like their gore with heavy doses of explicit nudity.

A small French village has a lake nearby, which attracts numerous beautiful, well-endowed young women to go skinny-dipping. However, unbeknownst to them, during World War II a Nazi patrol was ambushed and killed by the resistance and the bodies dumped into the lake. Now (a dubiously indeterminate number of years later), the Nazis have become zombies with a taste for human blood. At first, the mayor (Eurohorror veteran Howard Vernon) is in denial, but soon the body count becomes so high that even he can't ignore the little problem in the lake.

Cult favorite director Jean Rollin (who also has a supporting role) clearly had a major hand in the production. There is plenty of lyrical nude underwater footage, and a completely whacked subplot about a daughter (Annouchka) fathered by one of the Nazis who now protects her in zombie form. Of course, everyone is dressed in 1980s clothes, but the daughter is only about ten, making the time frame of the film impossible. The zombification of the Nazis is casually explained as being the result of black masses being held at the lake in the Middle Ages, which is hardly plausible, but the whole notion of underwater Nazi zombies is completely irresistible and make almost any goofy explanation tolerable.

The main drawback of the movie is downright terrible makeup for the zombies. Basically, there is a little latex slapped on (and is usually peeling off), and the faces are covered with green greasepaint. A few dollars should have been spent on the makeup; it would have made a lot of difference in making this a little more respectable.

The acting is passable, although the female victims are questionably motivated for constant disrobing. However, this viewer found that perfectly enjoyable. While not exactly "the most terrifying zombie massacre ever to come to the screen" as the hyperbolic box copy states, it's an entertaining little piece of exploitation cinema.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic picture is quite good, with bright colors and sharp detail throughout. The underwater photography occasionally looks a little digital, and probably would have benefited from an RSDL presentation. That would also have helped with the annoying shimmer which is visible on the numerous rapid tracking shots. There is a little frame damage at the reel changes, but overall the film looks quite good.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrench, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Both the original French audio track and the badly dubbed English track are a nondescript mono. There's little noticeable hiss or noise, and overall the presentation is adequate. As would be expected, there is little bass response to be heard.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Clothed version of nude scenes
  2. English version of main titles
Extras Review: A few odd extras are included. One is the alternate version of the nude scenes, performed with clothing (albeit wet clothing). There is no audio to these scenes. Without the sex content, this really would have been a movie to avoid. It is nonetheless interesting to see what likely was seen on US drive-in screens.

The English version of the main titles is included, but only the overlays are shown, and not the scene underneath, which means there are long segments of blank screen.

An anamorphic trailer, which gives away the entire movie (and includes plenty of nudity itself) is included, as well as some sparse production notes.

The point I find completely appalling about this entry in Image's "Euroshock Collection" is that while the original French audio is included, there are NO English subtitles to go with it! Those who don't speak French must instead deal with the godawful English dubbing. Why would they do this? Is it the same desire to save ten dollars that led to the awful zombie makeup? What an incredibly stupid omission! Hopefully Image will repress the disc with proper subtitles included. As a result, the Extras grade has been substantially devalued.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Lurid and sleazy, though fairly entertaining as a result, this is a must for fans of sexy Eurohorror. A nice transfer, with some decent extras, but what's up with no English subtitles? Stupid, stupid, stupid.


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