Zombie – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

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Film Title: Zombie (1979)
Release Date: 2020
Rating: NOT RATED
Runtime: 92 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Distributor: Blue Underground
Audio: Dolby Atmos / DTS-HD MA 5.1, 7.1, 1.0
High Dynamic Range: HDR10 / Dolby Vision
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Release Date: 5/26/20
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Tisa FarrowIan McCullochRichard JohnsonAl CliverAuretta GayOlga KarlatosStefania D’AmarioOttaviano Dell’AcquaCaptain Haggerty

Jump to Sections:
Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full 4K Tech Specs found at the bottom

zombie_4k_1click to view a 4K Screenshot

The Movie

“Zombie” as it was titled (here in the United States) on its release in 1979, was originally titled “Zombi 2” in its home country of Italy. The reason for that was because of “Zombi” being the Italian release title for George A. Romero’s film “Dawn of the Dead” which had just been released the year before this, in 1978. In fact, the producers actually decided to use this title to cash-in on the success of Romero’s film, and even went as far as to market it as an unofficial sequel. Neither the director nor the screenwriter(s) in any way intended this to be a sequel to that film, as it was to stand on its own as their own work.

This film was directed by acclaimed Italian horror director Lucio Fulci.  Fulci was very known for his contributions to the horror genre, directing such genre films as “City of the Living Dead” (1980), “The House by the Cemetery” (1981), “The New York Ripper” (1982), “Manhattan Baby” (1982), and “A Cat in the Brain” (1990).

The screenplay to this film was written by Elisa Briganti along with Dardano Sacchetti (uncredited). The story involves at first us seeing a man in profile with a gun aimed at a body wrapped in sheets, that we assume to be a zombie. The man waits for the zombie to reanimate and rise, and when it does he fires a shot, then proclaims:

“The boat can leave now. Tell the crew.”

Oddly enough, after the opening credits, the first thing we see is a boat floating around abandoned in New York close to landmarks (for the time) such as the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. It even gets passed by the Staten Island Ferry. Eventually, a group of NYPD harbor patrol officers comes across the boat after numerous reports. The two officers board the boat to find that it is indeed abandoned, well at least it seems to be. It’s full of nasty garbage, a severed chewed hand from a human being, and oh yeah… a stowaway of sorts. Let’s just say this boat seems to have been carrying something and this will be all the more relevant by the end of the film.

Meanwhile, the NYC authorities try to locate the man who the boat belonged to, yet only manage to find his daughter “Anne Bowes” (Tisa Farrow). Anne tells the detectives she has no clue where her father is. She is however determined to find her father, and she’ll do whatever it takes to find more clues as to where he may be. Along the way, she ends up crossing paths with a reporter “Peter West” (Ian McCulloch), given the assignment of researching the mysteriously abandoned boat. Anne and Peter decide to work together in trying to find her missing father. Peter gets word that leads them to a Caribbean island called Matul. They meet a couple that own a boat, “Brian” (Al Cliver) and “Susan” (Auretta Gay), who eventually come to an agreement to help them on their journey to the island.

Meanwhile, on the Matul island, one “Dr. David Menard” (Richard Johnson) is running a small hospital trying to help the strangely sick people of the area. His wife “Mrs. Paola Menard” (Olga Karlatos) is fed up with his works on this small Caribbean island and wants to leave as she makes apparent from the first introduction. While Dr. Menard is trying to help the people of his island afflicted with a strange sickness (as mentioned) there have started to be rumors from those in the area that the dead are beginning to rise. The way the dead are said to be rising can be compared to the voodoo legend of zombies.

Let’s just say the rumors are true, and this island is overwhelmed with sickness and is starting to be overwhelmed with the walking dead (zombies). The daughter, the reporter, and the couple with a boat are having a bit of an odd time themselves on their way to the island. They do eventually make their way to the island, but just in time to see it start to really become overrun by zombies. This is some great zombie horror that is right up there with the legendary films from director George A. Romero, who made the zombie genre popularized in the United States and abroad. Director Lucio Fulci was a great filmmaker, and this is one of his true classics. Be sure to look for Fulci’s cameo in the film as the head of the newspaper that sends the reporter on his assignment.

Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)


zombie_4k_2click to view a 4K Screenshot

Video Quality

This movie is presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, despite it being shown during its theatrical run (as well as on the 2011 Blu-ray) in the 2.35:1 OAR (original aspect ratio). In its 4K UHD Blu-ray debut, Lucio Fulci’s 1979 horror classic “Zombie” receives the HDR10 and Dolby Vision forms of High Dynamic Range.

As mentioned, this film was previously released on Blu-ray back in 2011 (also from Blue Underground), but as of a few years ago, the 1979 horror classic received a 2018 4K restoration. This restoration comes from the original camera negative (uncut and uncensored). Said 4K restoration was done by Augustus Color (based in Italy). Zombie was shot on 35MM film using the Arriflex 35 lic camera, according to the technical specifications listed on IMDb.

Technical Info time. First off, this time around it [the film] (on 4K UHD Blu-ray) is on a BD-100 disc, using 65.5 gigabytes for the movie itself, out of 78.34 gigabytes total space used. That’s one nice improvement over the previous Blu-ray from 2018, which used 25.1 gigabytes for the movie, and that’s an even bigger improvement over the original 2011 Blu-ray which just used 20.0 gigabytes for the film.

This 4K encode in HEVC (high end video codec) hits video bitrates as high as 90Mbps like it’s nothing, very early on just five minutes into the film. Very, very impressive, especially for a 1979 film! Also, regarding specifically this 4K presentation of the 4K restoration, there’s a really visually pleasing amount of film grain preserved which gets pronounced in a very tasteful manner.

Now, to show off how much of an improvement this new 4K restoration truly offers, I’m going to do some screenshot comparisons between the 2020 4K UHD Blu-ray and the original 2011 Blu-ray releases.

2020 4K vs. 2011 Blu-ray Screenshot Comparisons:
SOURCES: 2020 4K UHD Blu-ray (left), 2011 Blu-ray (right)

So, as you can tell, from those screenshot comparisons, there was drastic change back in 2018 vs. 2011 not just in terms of quality and the amount of detail, but also the color timing and even some adjustments were  made to the brightness on scenes. There’s obviously a considerable bit more of the field of view finally present here, and it is properly filling up the 2.40:1 aspect ratio this time. The title sequence has been redone and I personally like it better this way. Some purists may be upset by this choice, namely the changing of the logo, but in fairness it is more visually pleasing this way. The logo for the film seems a tad bit off though, is my only complaint about the title sequence change. I don’t get why they couldn’t just recreate the logo for that. That all translates over absolutely perfect to the 4K UHD Blu-ray format.

This 4K presentation, from the 4K restoration, is extremely impressive, especially in comparison to the original 2011 Blu-ray release. There’s still a very nice amount of film grain preserved, but it doesn’t feel quite as gritty as it did before, and it comes with a certainly impressive and creepy amount of newfound detail – thanks to being from a new 4K scan, used for the restoration, even more-so now finally in full 4K resolution with HDR behind it. The color timing has been even more corrected lightly here, as you can tell in comparisons between the two versions, as well as between the 2020 4K and 2018 Blu-ray. As a result of color palette changes, you also get a more accurate representation of flesh tones. The black level is certainly solid here, as about 15 minutes in during a nighttime scene you’ll really notice during the near pitch dark. The addition of high dynamic range (via HDR10 or Dolby Vision) helps to show off that solid black level even more than before.

The underwater scene involving the woman scuba diving, while dark as it is, still presents us with a lot more detail at the sea creatures and such. Plus, the shark looks more detailed than ever before. You’ll really appreciate this restoration effort when the famous part of this scene comes along, not too much later. The detail found in daytime scenes, even not those during peak sunlight, is pretty remarkable in comparison to what we saw before. Hell, even that underwater scene holds a large amount of detail and it’s pretty dark.

The detail that really got my attention was that of the famous scene involving a splinter of wood (as pictured in a screenshot below). That scene has never seemed more intense and filled with enough clarity to really creep me out that much before. It especially holds even more clarity in true 4K and felt every bit as uncomfortably sharp, in a good way, as I had expected.

There’s just a slight subdued nature to color palette here, but some colors such as reds really stand out to be pretty bright: be it for clothing or blood. The jungle latter in the film doesn’t appear as bright of a green as you’d expect, but it does have a somewhat pleasing color to the foliage. It’s just the film’s visual style, and it’s being represented correctly here via this restoration. There are some colors that come across bright, and it’s important that blood red be one. Thankfully it is and it makes things all the more convincing.

It’s great to finally see the 2018 4K restoration of this classic make its debut on the 4K UHD Blu-ray format in true 4K resolution with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision forms of high dynamic range too, none-the-less. What you get here is one very impressive and downright perfect 4K video presentation for a 1979 Italian horror film. Here with Zombie [on 4K], the folks at Blue Underground have started out their presence on the 4K UHD Blu-ray format right with some pure reference material.

Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)


zombie_4k_3click to view a 4K Screenshot

Audio Quality

Audio on the 4K UHD Blu-ray debut of “Zombie” is presented this time around in a newly created English Dolby Atmos mix, whereas the past few two Blu-ray releases the film featured both English and the original Italian 7.1 and 1.0 lossless mono mixes. Those original mixes are back (slightly different than the first Blu-ray) with English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and original 1.0 Mono, as well as Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and original 1.0 Mono mixes. I’m not sure why they only opted for a 5.1 lossless surround mix, perhaps because the Atmos includes a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core for those who can’t fully decode that format [Atmos]. Therefore, it does technically include a 7.1 English surround lossless mix.

The addition of the height speakers in the Dolby Atmos is something I want to first focus on specifically, and then cover the other audio formats included in general later along the way. So, for starters (literally) as the film begins you’ll notice the height channels being used for the sound effects (first drums and then a gunshot). Next, the sounds of the synthesizer music that is the theme comes through each height channel speaker in a very pronounced manner. It adds a whole lot to the overall audio presentation here and is sure to leave you feeling immersed.

In terms of the height channels in the Atmos mix here, really… everything gets used by them aside from dialogue. We’re talking obviously like sound effects and the music, as mentioned, so it’s a lot of fun and intensifies all of the above. There’s even some little pans across the left to right channels mainly emphasized by the height speakers as the boat opens things up rustling trash and other debris around to play with your mind a bit. The horns of the approaching helicopter and such make great use of these new channels in the Atmos mix as well. It’s honestly just gravy all throughout and as I said, a fun new experience to hear the film in this type of audio mix. Now, let’s look back at the previous audio mixes and the use of the rear channels, the front left & right channels, center channel, and subwoofer.

As previously mentioned in regards to the 2018 Blu-ray of this film:

The lossless mixes here sound like they may have received a bit of reworking, seeming to come across a tad bit more impressive this time around, namely the 7.1 mix. The rear channels get some decent use for the ambient noises, such as the waves or things passing by and so forth early on in the film for scenes on the boat. Sound effects come across pretty realistic for a 1979 film here. The original musical Score is well represented in the 7.1 mix.

25 minutes in, when on the island, you’ll hear the background drumming comes through the rear channels slightly as well as through the front left and right channel speakers. Then, 27 minutes, the drumming starts to intensify as we see a closeup of an actress that is upset, setting the vibe perfectly. The drumming continues to get nice use throughout the mix in the background or at times intensifying to set the mood. Dialogue on the English and Italian surround mixes is very nicely driven from center channel speaker. 40 minutes in and the sound of wind gets used for the rear channels, as do the sounds of creatures in the jungle on the island later.

Startling sound effects can be used in the rear channels and even throughout (at times) in this surround mix. There are some really intense moments for the first hour of the film, but all lacking much bass. The subwoofer really doesn’t get a lot of action here until there are some slightly louder climactic scenes in the latter third of the film. It’s an improvement over the previous lossless surround mixes, and it’s nice that we now get lossless Mono mixes for both English and Italian languages. It’s not the most intense surround mix you will ever hear, by no means whatsoever, but it’s enough to do this film justice, as well as the lossless original Mono mix. Purists will be happy to see that finally getting a lossless mix.

Lucio Fulci’s Zombie earns itself a perfect 5 rating for overall audio quality on this release. The Dolby Atmos is just downright intense and adds remarkably so much more to the experience. Sure, I still personally do obviously (occasionally) enjoy the Mono mix here, as it proves to be the most impressive to a purist, but even the new Dolby Atmos and the lossless surround sound mixes all deliver impressive audio presentations for a 1979 film from a Mono sound source. This seems like it is the best this film is ever going to sound on home video.

Audio Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)


zombie_4k_4click to view a 4K Screenshot

Bonus Materials

Bonus materials on this release include:

  • A Blu-ray Disc of the film is included. It features only bonus materials that are listed a bit further below.

The 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc includes the following extras:

  • An Intro by Guillermo del Toro (0:24 – HD)
  • Audio Commentary #1 with Troy Howard (Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films)
  • Audio Commentary #2 with Star Ian McCulloch and Diablok Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater
  • Featurette “When The Earth Spits Out The Dead” (33:05 – HD) is an interview with Stephen Thrower (author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci) discussing the film as well as the other works by the film’s director. Thrower’s interview here proves to be very informative and entertaining.
  • Trailers feature Dolby Digital 1.0 sound and include:
    • International Trailer (3:43 – HD)
    • U.S. Trailer (1:30 – HD)
  • TV Spots feature Dolby Digital 1.0 sound and include:
    • TV Spot #1 (0:32 – SD)
    • TV Spot #2 (0:32 – SD)
  • Radio Spots (2:05 – HD) include four total.
  • Poster & Still Gallery (9:51 – HD) plays as a slideshow and features Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound.

The Blu-ray Disc is where the bonus materials are found, which are presented in a variety of SD (standard definition) and HD video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. These include the following:

  • Zombie Wasteland” (22:19 – HD) is comprised of interviews with primary cast members Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson & Al Cliver, and Actor/Stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua. You’ll know that last guy as the most famous zombie from the entire film.
  • “Flesh Eaters on Film” (9:38 – HD) is comprised of an interview with Co-Producer Fabrizio De Angelis.
  • “Deadtime Stories” (14:30 – HD) is comprised of interviews with Co-Writer Elisa Briganti and (Uncredited) Co-Writer Dardano Sacchetti.
  • “World of the Dead” (16:29 – HD) is comprised of interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Production & Costume Designer Walter Patriarca.
  • Zombi Italiano” (16:34 – HD) is comprised of interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi.
  • “Notes on a Headstone” (7:25 – HD) is an interview with Composer Fabio Frizzi, responsible for the film’s original Score.
  • “All in the Family” (6:08 – HD) is an interview with Antonella Fulci. It’s worth noting that Lucia’s daughter (speaking Italian) is subtitled here.
  • Zombie Lover” (9:36 – HD) is an interview that features the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro discussing his love for this film, which he considers to be one of his favorites.

Overall, it’s one great set of bonus materials — just as it has been in the past but there’s one small problem here. Unlike the previous Blu-ray version: you don’t get the film itself on Blu-ray here (just its second bonus disc), you also don’t get the CD of the film’s original soundtrack, and lastly you don’t get the cool booklet found in the 2018 Limited Edition Blu-ray, so that’s all certainly worth noting as to why I didn’t rate this 4K version as highly for bonus. Those things matter, but one can only assume that people previously owned the film on Blu-ray and likely it was that version? Let’s hope so, because I know I’ll still be holding onto mine. Hell, I still have the original 2011 Blu-ray of this film still to this day. Most fans of films own a lot of versions of them. Still, all of that said, this is an excellent set of extras.

Bonus Materials Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)


zombie_4k_5click to view a 4K Screenshot

Closing Thoughts

Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie” still, some forty years later after its original release, proves to be one of the most memorable and influential horror films in the zombie sub-genre. Lucio Fulci left us with one very excellent film here. It’s just one of the most widely loved films out there featuring the living dead obsessed with eating flesh. This film does have a bit more similarity to true original voodoo oriented zombie legend. It’s not the same type of plot that you’ll find in a Romero zombie film.

Blue Underground really has absolutely done Lucio Fulci’s 1979 horror classic complete and utter justice here visually and in terms of sound with this 4K UHD Blu-ray debut release, taken from the film’s 2018 4K restoration. Visually, this looks just downright shockingly detailed and holds some tasteful film grain in every shot, with a subdued color palette but finally a bit more accurate color timing with the addition of high dynamic range in the most popular varieties being that of HDR10 or Dolby Vision, as well as obviously more accurate flesh tones and a solid black level as a result.

The sound mix is the really new area here as well for Blue Underground as they’re doing Dolby Atmos on this release (along with another debut title, “Maniac”) on the 4K format. They’ve also included the original surround (7.1 and 5.1) and Mono mixes in both English and Italian languages. The real fun is to be had this time around with the Dolby Atmos which adds a whole hell of a lot to things with the height channel speakers being used very nicely all throughout the film for the sound effects and music. So, it’s safe to say that the sound mixes found on this release are enough to leave any fan pleased, even if they’re not hip to the whole immersive sound thing.

Lastly, the bonus materials round things out here with a pretty impressive rating but I do have to deduct for the lack of an actual Blu-ray of the film itself, as well as for the lack of some other physical extras included on the 2018 Limited Edition Blu-ray (as previously reviewed). That said, this still manages to be a very highly recommended upgrade in terms of catalog horror on 4K. This truly earns perfect 5 ratings on both overall video and audio quality, making for one excellent release.

In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4.5 (out of 5) for bonus materials


Overall Verdict:
Very Highly Recommend Upgrade

Available As:

2020 4K UHD Blu-ray Release


4K UHD Blu-ray Screenshots:

2020 4K vs. 2011 Blu-ray Screenshot Comparisons:
SOURCES: 2020 4K UHD Blu-ray (left), original 2011 Blu-ray (right)
2018 Limited Edition Blu-ray Screenshots

Packaging:


4K UHD Blu-ray Technical Specifications:

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Exact Runtime: 1:31:24
Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (with a DTS 5.1 core), English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono (with a DTS 1.0 Mono core), DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, DTS 1.0 Mono, Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
Languages: English, Italian, French
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, German, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai
HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision
Disc Size: BD-100
Disc Use: 78.34GB total / 65.5GB for film
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