Director: Bruno Mattei
Cast: Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, Geretta Geretta
Year: 1980 / 1984
Length: 99 / 97 min
Label: Blue Underground
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- Bonded By Blood – Interviews with Co-Writer/Co-Director Claudio Fragasso and Stars Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua & Massimo Vanni
- Hell Rats Of The Living Dead – Interview with Director Bruno Mattei
- Theatrical Trailers
- Poster & Still Galleries
The wonderful Blue Underground is at it again with this double-feature Blu-ray showcasing two films from exploitation master Bruno Mattei and his co-director, Claudio Fragasso. Hell of the Living Dead (1980) and Rats: Night of Terror (1984) represent two of the most enjoyable entries in Mattei’s lengthy exploitation resume. Both are so-bad-they’re-good, full of absurd plots, ridiculous acting, gore, nudity, and some outrageous special effects.
Hell of the Living Dead
At Hope Center #1—a secret research facility in Papua New Guinea—a dangerous chemical leak begins transforming the staff into murderous zombies. Elsewhere, a crack team of commandos are sent to deal with terrorists coincidentally protesting the Hope Centers. Though the government denies that these testing facilities exist, the commandos are sent to resolve the mysteries situation surrounding Hope Center #1. They come across a journalist (Margit Evelyn Newton) trying to get to the bottom of the story, but the whole group is soon attacked by zombies hungry for their flesh and must make a desperate attempt to survive.1980’s Hell of the Living Dead (Virus: L’inferno dei morti viventi) is an obvious rip-off of George Romero’s genre-changing works Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), right down to the illegal use of Goblin’s Dawn soundtrack. But this is a Bruno Mattei film, which means it is so awful that fans of exploitation and cheap horror likely won’t be able to turn away—I know I couldn’t. Hell of the Living Dead is irreverent and nonsensical, throwing in everything from a political motive for the zombies (an attempt to wipe out the citizens of third world countries), stock footage of native ceremonies, and gratuitous breast shots. This Spanish-Italian coproduction is a hopeless mess, but has a delightfully gory conclusion. Like many of Mattei’s other films, the script is marked by a series of characters making laughably terrible decisions, which results in some over-the-top violence. If you can suspend your disbelief long enough to ignore the fact that this is supposed to be a movie about a guerilla military team—and long enough to ignore heaps of racism and sexism—you’re in for a treat. It’s certainly more memorable than a number of other Romero/Fulci rip offs, including Mattei’s own Zombi 3 (1988). There is a particularly hilarious scene where Lia, the journalist, strips nude, paints herself, and runs through the jungle for the sole purpose of communing with the natives. There are other memorable moments of nudity, gore, and an abundance of hilarious overacting. You could play a drinking game with the misuse of stock footage alone, which serves not only to pad out the running time, but to occasionally confuse an already murky plot.
Rats: Night of Terror
“Computers and corpses are a bad mixture.”
Sort of a low budget mashup of The Thing (1982), Mad Max (1979), and Food of the Gods (1976), Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso’s follow up to Hell of the Living Dead (1980), Rats: Notte di terrore is equally as stupid and nonsensical, but will provide possibly even more fun for the right kind of audience. Genre rip-offs are a common feature of Italian cult cinema—particularly animal attack movies, usually riffing on Jaws, and post-apocalyptic films—so it’s not all that surprising that Mattei decide to fuse the two. After all, he is the genius responsible for SS Extermination Love Camp (1977), The Other Hell (1980), Porno Holocaust (1981, co-directed with Joe D’Amato), and Caged Women (1983); all of which are “inspired by” earlier, more well-known films.In 2015 (we’re almost there, so start stockpiling the rat poison!), motorcycle-riding survivors of a nuclear holocaust find a strange village full of mutilated corpses. It is relatively safe and comfortable, provides shelter, and has a large food supply, fruit trees and clean water. They decide to temporarily hole up there, which, as the title suggests, becomes a night of terror. The oasis-like shelter turns out to be an elaborate trap set up by a horde of genetically altered, super intelligent rats eager to feast on human flesh. Rats: Night of Terror could not accurately be described as a good film, but anyone who loves trashy Italian movies from the ‘70s and ‘80s will certainly find a lot to enjoy. Ottaviano Dell’Acqua (stuntman and extra in everything from Ladyhawke to Gangs of New York to 2019: After the Fall of New York) stars as Kurt, though the acting from Dell’Acqua or the rest of the cast is certainly not one of the film’s strong points. There are shoot-outs, frequent temper tantrums, people getting eaten by rats, nudity, sex, and a variety of other things, but the scenes of straight dialogue are just painful. As with Hell of the Living Dead, the characters also all make incredibly stupid decisions—first this is comical, later infuriating—simply to propel the plot forwards and lead them towards certain death. Speaking of hilarious, the rat effects defy written description. Some are unbelievable, like the famous scene where a rat crawls into a girl’s sleeping bag, eats its way through her, and comes out of her mouth. But many scenes involve rats sitting around the room while the actors stand in place and scream in terror. Buckets of rats are dumped on the actors, rats are thrown through the air, and so on. I think some of these are rubber stand-ins, but many of them seem to be real rats.
Though inferior to other rat-fests like Of Unknown Origin (1983), Food of the Gods (1976), or even Deadly Eyes (182), this unbelievably cheesy film still has a lot to offer for exploitation fans. And if animal attack films and the Italian post-apocalyptic genre is part of your cinematic bread and butter, you definitely won’t want to miss this.
According to Blue Underground, both Hell of the Living Dead and Rats: Night of Terror have been newly transferred from the original, uncut negatives, and the basic HD image for both films appears to be of high quality, with minimal print damage. Colors are strong, if a trifle garish in Rats—certainly the cinematography of neither film can be accused of being too subtle—but this is likely inherent in the source material, rather than resulting from the digital restoration. Being shot mostly at night, Rats veers toward black crush in shadows, but this too seems to be part of the cinematography. The one rather serious problem that afflicts the presentation of both films is that someone got really carried away with DNR filtering. So much so, that any semblance of film grain has been all but wiped out. Detail tends to smear and the image is quite soft at times, especially in Rats. In Hell of the Living Dead, there is evidence of edge enhancement as well. This is a shame, since otherwise; the restoration of both films looks solid.
Both films are presented with original mono English dubs, and the quality of the sound is serviceable. There is nothing really wrong with it. It sounds true to its source. Dialogue tends to be clear, so no problems with following it. But there is not much depth or amplitude to the sound either.
Blue Underground gives us several very interesting extras with this release. First is a 50-minute making-of featurette called, Bonded By Blood, consisting of a series of interviews with Co-Writer/Co-Director Claudio Fragasso and Stars Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua & Massimo Vanni. This is full of anecdotes from the sets, and gives a very good idea what when into making both films. Next is a 9-minute interview with Director Bruno Mattei, which is just as interesting. He takes us behind the scenes of both films, and one gets the impression that he doesn’t take himself or his films too seriously. We are also given theatrical trailers and an image gallery.
This blu-ray release from Blue Underground is recommended to fans of cheesy Italian exploitation films, especially if you happen to be partial to zombies and killer rodents. Overzealous DNR filtering remains a problem, as far as the restoration of the films is concerned, but right now, this seems to be the best way to see these two films.