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Zombie Lake (1981) | God help us! Jean Rollin’s soggy horror rises again on DVD!

A decade on from the end of the Nazi occupation of France, a small rural town finds itself engaged in another war. A platoon of dead German soldiers are beginning to return from their unholy water grave – a cursed lake where the Spanish Inquisition held black masses and sacrificed children to appease evil spirits that would rise up in search of fresh blood.

At first, the town’s Mayor (Howard Vernon) refuses to take action, despite reported attacks on local women and the instance of a city journalist to investigate. But when a women’s basketball team is massacred and a local homicide squad arrives, the Mayor rally the townspeople to drive the Nazi soldiers into a infernal trap…

This 1981 Spanish-French horror film, which is also known as Le lac des morts vivants, was supposed to have been directed by Jesus Franco. But when he bailed Jean Rollin (Female Vampire) was roped in to put it together. But it’s a soggy mess.

Franco favourite Howard Vernon looks so bored as the Mayor of a picture postcard but deadly dull French town lives in a castle folly decorated in gargoyles; while the locals (made up of extras) seem to spend every waking moment in the town’s one and only tavern.

Lime green makeup is the only attempt at special make-up for the film’s zombies, so they end up looking like a bunch of Shreks in Nazi clobber – and certainly pale beside Shock Waves’ genuinely scary barnacle encrusted Storm troopers (that film’s highlight).

Interestingly, the zombie attacks come off as quite sexual, with lots of passionate kissing rather than any primal flesh tearing. Given Rollin’s penchant for eroticism, I wonder if this was his only creative contribution to the film, which some off a bit Benny Hill in its ludicrous attempts at titillation by chucking in nudity at every turn.

In a riff on Frankenstein and little Maria from the Universal classic, there’s a side story in which Helena (Anouchka), the 10-year-old daughter of one of the Nazi zombies befriends her undead dad (Pierre-Marie Escourrou, TV’s Une femme d’honneur) who ends up having to protect her from his bloodthirsty pals. This is actually more interesting than the main story, and provides the film with a moving (read: melodramatic) ending in which little Helena helps to release her dad’s restless spirit from its eternal torment.

The last 20-minutes sees the zombies walk very slowly into an ambush to the tune of an avant-garde score made up of drum and a harpsichord. It’s a bizarre choice, and just as patchy as the film as the music ranges from some melodramatic piano and string to jaunty la la la tunes every time there’s a nude swimming scene. And when the screen isn’t swelling with muzak, the incessant birdcalls are really grating.

Which leaves me with this last question: How would you react if your dead Nazi soldier dad came back as a pond dwelling green-tinged zombie?

Zombie Lake is out on DVD in the UK from Screenbound & Black House Films

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New Euro cult sleaze and horror labels Maison Rouge and Black House Films to launch in March

Zombie Lake

From Screenbound come two brand new Euro cult film labels, Maison Rouge and Black House Films, which will specialise in sleaze and Euro Horror.

Maison Rouge kicks off with two classic titles, the first is from master of  Jess Franco – Female Vampire (aka Bare Breasted Countess) – which arrives on DVD on 6 March 2017, followed by two Patrice Rhomm classics Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg on DVD 13 March 2017 and Elsa Fraulein SS set for release on 17 April 2017.

The first release from Black House Films will be zombie classic Zombie Lake from French horror maestro Jean Rollin, set for DVD on 20 March 2017 and Juan Fortuny’s Crimson on 17 April 2017.

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Screenbound’s managing director Alan Byron said: ‘When Screenbound started as Odeon Entertainment 13 years ago with several music productions, our first step into film sales was representing Nigel Wingrove’s Jean Rollin and Jess Franco Euro-shock and sleaze titles for Salvation Films. In a sense, we have now come full circle by launching our own new cult labels – Maison Rouge and Black House Films – which will showcase the best and basest of Euro Exploitation over the next three years. Maison Rouge will focus on sexploitation and once established will bring in new as well as retro cult features. Its sister label, Black House Films, takes its inspiration from the Church of Satan and will release dark, Gothic horrors from the 1960s to 1980s.’

Both imprints are being released on DVD with each having multiple poster art cards inside for collectors. Most releases will have special features included and a selection of titles will be released on limited edition Blu-ray with O Cards.

Alan Byron continued: ‘Plans are already in place to pick up another 20 films for these labels which already have a distinctive design appeal that is being appreciated by the fan base’.

So what do you think? Leave a comment here about which titles you’d like the labels to resurrect…

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Get 50% off Island of Terror on Blu-ray and DVD

Island of Terror

Celebrate Island of Terror‘s 50th birthday with Screenbound’s special voucher code terror50 to receive 50% off on Island of Terror in both DVD and Blu-ray!

Offer ends tomorrow Sunday 20th March.

The legendary Peter Cushing and Edward Judd star as two doctors who lead the desperate the inhabitants of Petrie’s island in a fight for survival as a strange type of silicate organism threatens to engulf the island, and then the world…

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

The Atomic Submarine (1959) | It’s Destination Inner Space for this Boy’s Own adventure

The Atomic Submarine (1959)

When several atomic submarines disappear in the North Pole, pride of the US fleet, the Tiger Shark, embarks on its most strangest and fearful voyage ever. Hitting an underwater electrical storm, the sub’s crew discover extraterrestrial forces are at work and begin to stalk an alien craft they dub, Cyclops, 1200-feet below the surface. When the two titanic craft become locked together in a death grip, the sub’s commander Reef Holloway (Arthur Franz) and his young rival, scientist Carl Neilsen (Brett Halsey), head inside the mysterious craft with a team of frogman. Coming face-to-face with a gigantic one-eyed inhabitant, they learn of its plans for colonising the Earth and set in motion a plan to take the alien menace down. But first they must escape its radioactive death ray…

The Atomic Submarine (1959)

The World of Century Twenty FirstNow this one of those old sci-fi films that I remember so well as a kid as two things really stood out: the electro-sonic soundtrack which combines a Bela Bartok-inspired piano score with Hammond organ and theremin; and the gigantic one-eyed alien. That memorable score is by Alexander Laszlo, a film composer who scored dozens of features in the 1940s and 1950s. A big experimenter in electronica, he also did an inventive score for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, called The World of Century Twenty First, narrated by Vincent Price. This is a collector’s item today, fetching upwards of $US100 for the original record.

The Atomic Submarine (1959)

Now there’s no question that the film’s special effects are sub-par. It consists mainly of a kid’s spinning top toy for the flying saucer and a submarine model kit that youngsters of the period got in boxes of Cheerios. I had one too, but rather than firing little torpedoes, it had a receptacle where’d you put an aspirin (I think) which made the sub dive then float back to the surface. It made bath-times were so much fun. Ah, but back to our Boy’s Own adventure.

The Atomic Submarine (1959)

The interior of the Cyclops is just a large expanse of blackness with a console of lights and a hand puppet for the alien. But that eyeball in a sock is quite something – especially for an eight-year-old back in the 1960s and 1970s. Given that this was made only a few years before Irwin Allen brought his outer and inner space adventures to our TV screens, this film most certainly inspired The Derelict episode in Lost in Space (both settings as vitually identical), and it could have served as the entire premise for Allen’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film and TV series. The stock characters and the use of stock footage are also trademark Irwin Allen, while the narration is a device he used for the Lost in Space pilot. Then there’s the Explorer diving bell itself. In Voyage it became the flying sub, while in Lost in Space it was the pod.

This new DVD release from Screenbound is based on a print struck in 1987, and it really shows up those poverty row effects. But who cares? This nostalgic sci-fi is a whole lot of fun and great treat for a rainy day. The only extra is an unrestored trailer (watch it below) that plays like a war propaganda film complete with newsreel styled music.

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