ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST aka DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. (1980) Reviews and overview

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Zombie Holocaust is a 1980 Italian horror film directed by Marino Girolami. The movie stars Ian McCulloch (Zombie Flesh Eaters; Contamination), Alexandra Delli Colli (The New York Ripper) and Donald O’Brien (Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals). Known in Italy as Zombi Holocaust, it is also known as Zombie 3 and Zombies unter Kannibalen.

Following the success of his Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977) and Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), producer Fabrizio De Angelis came up with the idea of cashing in on both films’ subjects at the same time. He re-used the basic story of Zombie Flesh Eaters and added elements of cannibal films. Furthermore, the scene in which Alexandra Delli Colli is anointed as a naked blonde goddess is a rip-off of a similar highlight featuring Ursula Andress in The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978).

For the film’s U.S. release, Terry Levene’s Aquarius Releasing re-titled the film Doctor Butcher M.D. (perhaps because slasher films were all the rage?), slightly reduced the violence and gore, and inserted graveyard ghoul footage before the opening credits (one tombstone reads ‘Snuff Maximus’) from Tales That Will Rip Your Heart Out, an unreleased short film by Roy Frumkes (Document of the Dead; Street Trash).

Levene also replaced Nico Fidenco’s pulsing, synth score (a slight reworking of his Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals soundtrack) with a grating aural assault by American composer Walter Sear (The Oracle; Blood Sisters; Lurkers) that was apparently originally used for a seedy Roberta Findlay movie called Anyone But My Husband in 1975.

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Aquarius (who also released Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond as 7 Doors of Death; Umberto Lenzi’s Make Them Die Slowly and U.S. sci-fi horror exploiter Evils of the Night) even created a travelling “Butchermobile” to promote the movie in New York (see images from Gore Gazette below). Before the film’s US Shriek Show release on DVD, this Doctor Butcher M.D. re-edit was the version most North Americans saw via Paragon and Thriller VHS releases.

Plot:
In New York City, a hospital worker is found to have been devouring bodies in the morgue. Morgue assistant and anthropology expert Lori (Alexandra Delli Colli) discovers he was from the Molucca islands where she grew up.

Anthropologist Doctor Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch) investigates, and he and Lori discover that similar corpse mutilations have occurred in other city hospitals, where immigrants from this region are working.

Doctor Chandler leads an expedition to the islands to investigate, where he liaises with Doctor Obrero (Donald O’Brien). Included are his assistant George, George’s eager journalist girlfriend Susan, Lori, local boatsman Molotto assigned by Obrero and three guides.

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The crew are hunted by cannibals and zombies, the latter created by the sinister Doctor Obrero who is experimenting with corpses…

Reviews:
“Though the basic premise of exploitation is to rip off successful film trends, too many aspects of the film mirror Fulci’s “Zombie”, from identical settings, cast (Ian McCulloch and Dakkar both star in the film), and plot devices. However similar the overarching storylines may be, the cannibal aspect of the film makes it too damn fun to make a casual viewer care.” Cinematic Wasteland

“The film’s reason for being is to show bloody scalpings, bodies being eaten and ripped to bits, interspersed with shots of Colli’s body.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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“As with most Italian cannibal films, the savages are played by real natives and presented with almost unpalatable realism. Some of the gore effects are quite good but other than that the movie is a stock accumulation of familiar motifs.” Peter Dendle, The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia

“It isn’t plagued by the almost requisite animal violence seen in most entries, and while it delivers the gore in spades, it also piles on the cheese by the pound! And despite the provocative title, there are only about six or seven zombies in the entire movie. The zombie makeup is some of the weakest ever seen on the screen, but the special effects are still amazing stuff.” DVD Drive-In

“Featuring some of the worst zombie make-up in the entire run of Italian Romero knock-offs, the movie gets by not because it’s competently made but because it’s bat-shit crazy. Infamous for its scene in which McCulloch’s character handily disposes of a shambling corpse by using a conveniently placed outboard motor, the movie’s chock full of gore…” Rock! Shock! Pop!

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“Ian McCulloch doesn’t really bother varying his performance from the one he gave in Zombie Flesh Eaters (his character is even called Peter again) – he just stands around looking worried, which is fair enough, since Donald O’Brien’s scene-chewing portrayal of Dr Obrero conquers all before it. Meanwhile, New York Ripper star Alexandra Delli Colli finds several opportunities to take her clothes off and gets an all-over cannibal paint job as a reward.” The Spinning Image

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“Director Marino Girolami was a veteran filmmaker who was ending a long career with his work on Zombie Holocaust and you have to admire the fact that, as opposed to many other filmmakers who have found themselves in a similar situation, he made an honest and unapologetic exploitation film, a shameless rip-off of about a thousand other films.  Instead of being embarrassed by the film’s silliness, he instead embraced it and his cast did the same.” Through the Shattered Lens

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