‘Death was the only living thing…’
Garden of the Dead is a 1972 American zombie horror film directed by film John Hayes (End of the World; Grave of the Vampire) from a screenplay by Jack Matcha. It was also released as Tomb of the Undead.
The film stars Duncan McLeod, Lee Frost (director of The Thing with Two Heads; Love Camp 7, House on Bare Mountain) and Susan Charney.
At the Hoover work camp of the Windsor County Department of Correction, a place where formaldehyde is produced, the warden, whose methods are cruel and outdated, realizes that his career is over. The camp soon will be closed.
Among the prisoners, there is a faction that has become addicted to the fumes of formaldehyde. Encouraged by their ringleader, Braddock, these men frequently indulge in an orgy of breathing fumes and dousing themselves with the liquid. Later, they make an initially successful escape but are then nearly all shot in the ensuing chase.
As guards dig the graves, barrels of formaldehyde that have been riddled by gunfire leak onto the corpses and into the graves. The corpses then come alive, some pushing their way out of the dirt, and kill the gravediggers. Taking shovels, an axe and other weapons, the zombies proceed toward camp, chanting: “We will destroy the living!”
“The zombie make-up is at once ineffectual and yet also overdone. Because they’ve dead only a matter of hours they can’t be decomposing but instead wear stark black and white make-up that makes them look more like members of the KISS Army than the walking dead. Although this is by no measure a good film it is at least fun (occasionally hilarious). It fails in what it sets out to do, but it’s stupidity, combined with its brevity, make it a decent way to kill an hour.” The Zombie Site
“As a movie, it’s cheap and careless, with an awkward pace and ridiculously mismatched canned 1950s jazz score … But some of the convict actors seem to be having fun. If not for the slow pacing and dark lighting, the camp value would be higher.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“This scruffy low-budget production anticipates the pointless and depressing amateur zombie movies of the early ’90s by almost twenty years.” Peter Dendle, The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia
“Garden of the Dead really has very little going for it. At just an hour or so it is surprisingly slow moving, and even the rare gory bits manage to be low octane. But I quite liked it – the 60s feel, perhaps, or the corniness of Carol in her flimsy nightdress, or the agricultural feel of the dirt-caked zombies armed with their crude tools.” Prison Movies
“It’s all incredibly silly, campy stuff.” Glenn Kay, Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide
Cast and characters:
- Philip Kenneally
- Duncan McLeod
- John Dullaghan as Sgt. Burns
- John Dennis
- Susan Charney
- Marland Proctor as Paul Johnson
- Tony Vorno
- Jerome Guardino
- Lee Frost
- Eric Stern
- Virgil Frye
- Phil Hoover
Image thanks: The Zombie Site