Zombie and Maniac are now available on 4K UHD from Blue Underground.
For their first 4K UHD discs, Blue Underground unloads both barrels with two of their most popular and notorious cult classic horror/exploitation classics: Lucio Fulci’s incredible Zombie (aka Zombi 2, aka Zombie Flesh Eaters) and Bill Lustig’s deeply seedy and controversial Maniac.
One of Lucio Fulci’s best and most enduringly popular films, Zombie is undisputed as a classic from one of the great Italian horror masters. The film’s tagline “We Are Going to Eat You!” and immediately iconic poster image are known to virtually all horror fans regardless of whether they’ve seen the film, pulling the viewer into a nightmarish tale of zombie outbreak on a remote Caribbean island.
The film’s fantastically moody electronically-infused score by Fabio Frizzi is among the most memorable and haunting of all his works — no small feat considering he’s one of the most influential and respected of all the great Italian genre composers.
Zombie is especially famous for jaw-droppingly iconic scenes. An underwater skirmish between a zombie and a shark (which looks spectacularly dangerous even purely from a stunt perspective). A terrified woman’s eye slowly pierced on a wooden shard. The dusty, worm-ridden undead slowly rising from their shallow graves. The Brooklyn Bridge swarming with zombies as the infection takes root in the City that Never Sleeps.
Zombie delivers on gruesome thrills, memorable moments, and a killer ending. It’s also among the fraternity of Italian genre films that play better in English than in its original language, thanks to its US-based setting (the film’s story begins in New York City before moving to the Caribbean) and English-speaking cast members.
The film looks incredible in 4K. The famously crusty zombies have never looked crustier. Grain looks exceptionally fine and the restoration is pristine.
1980’s Maniac — one of the most controversial films of all time — was met with shock, puzzlement, and outright condemnation when it was unleashed on the public. The film follows the story of a deranged and homicidal serial killer as he murders many, many victims in terrifically nasty ways.
But more disturbing perhaps than the film’s violence is its depictions of misogyny and the tortured mind of lunatic Frank Zito, captured in a riveting and disgusting performance by legendary character actor Joe Spinell. Jay Chattaway’s haunting score provides the film with a palpable sadness, and the surprising introduction of a romantic interest (Caroline Munro) for Zito delivers a truly weird curveball as we ponder whether Frank can overcome his debased, horrifying ways and be cured by love.
The film remains shockingly impactful and frankly unpleasant to watch, though I greatly respect its place in history and commitment to telling its gruesome and strange tale so effectively.
The decision to announce Maniac as a 4K launch title for distributor Blue Underground is a puzzling one to me. The 16mm film is inherently soft, and it would seem that the picture would get little benefit from the upgrade. Perhaps this was simply motivated by practical factors — that the film historically sells well and director Bill Lustig can easily distribute his own film.
But that being said, the film does indeed look as good as — better than — it ever has, and this is undoubtedly its definitive home video presentation. I simply can’t imagine it possibly ever looking any better, both on account of how incredible the restoration is, and the limitations of the 16mm source.
These initial 4K discs releases from Blue Underground are handsomely packaged and feature-packed. My copies both came with embossed slipcovers, which highlight not only the cover artwork, but the logos (title, Blue Underground, and UHD) on all 4 sides. Both covers utilize the classic poster art and look great.
By comparison, these differ a bit from the recent 3-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray releases of both titles released in late 2018 (and which included the same 4K restorations, compressed to 1080p Blu-ray discs). The new 4K editions do not include a soundtrack CD, lenticular artwork, booklet, or Blu-ray copy of the film, but do include the second disc packed with extras (which on Maniac are especially impressive). For viewers who aren’t motivated by the 4K upgrade, especially considering how great the Blu-rays looked, the Limited Editions remain arguably the definitive physical packages.
Besides a 4K presentation, both UHD discs also feature Dolby Vision HDR and a new Dolby Atmos mix.
Special Features and Extras — MANIAC
With Maniac, the amazing features are, to me, more interesting than the film itself. I don’t particularly like the movie, but I love this treatment. This is a truly stacked and relevant wealth of extras which truly serve to analyze the film, its controversial place in history, and its star Joe Spinell.
Disc 1 (4K UHD Blu-ray):
- Audio Commentary #1 with Producer/Director William Lustig and Producer Andrew Garroni
- Audio Commentary #2 with Producer/Director William Lustig, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli, and Joe Spinell’s Assistant Luke Walter
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spots
- Radio Spots
Disc 2 (Blu-ray) Extras:
- MANIAC Outtakes (18:53)
Bill Lustig shares recently discovered 16mm clips showing deleted and extended scenes and behind-the-scenes-glimpses
- “Returning to the Scene of the Crime” (7:53) with William Lustig
I love a good locations featurette. This one’s particularly great, a locations tour with Bill Lustig hosting. It’s especially interesting in that many of the grimy, rundown NYC locations are now renovated and beautiful
- “Anna and the Killer” (13:04) with Star Caroline Munro
Munro discusses how she was approached to join the film as an emergency replacement, her enjoyment of working with Joe Spinell, her thoughts on the film’s famous controversy
- “The Death Dealer” (12:07) with Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini
You know him. You love him. He’s one of the best in the business and discussing his craft.
- “Dark Notes” (12:12) with Composer Jay Chattaway
On his career and influences, especially how Bill Lustig’s sensibilities and love for Ennio Morricone made a deep impact on Jay’s scoring approach
- “Maniac Men” (10:35) with Songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky
Another really incredible and unusual feature. Bill Lustig visits the songwriters of the 1983 song “Maniac” (of Flashdance fame) to detangle the myth that it was influenced by, or even written for, the film Maniac. Includes a live performance of the song.
- The Joe Spinell Story (49:20)
Another really impressive feature, which has been sold as a standalone DVD, chronicles the life and tragic tailspin of Joe Spinell, a talented and beloved actor whose declining last years were a blur of drugs, alcohol, and strip clubs. interviews paint a picture of a kind, engaging, and helpful actor who was adored and respected by his fellow thespians.
- Mr. Robbie: Maniac 2 Promo Reel (7:24)
Joe Spinell’s death prevented Maniac 2 from being made, but this short reel depicts him back in action, killing a man in a restaurant kitchen
- MANIAC Publicity
There’s actually a ton of stuff under this banner, including Bill Lustig on Movie Madness, Joe Spinell on the Joe Franklin Show, and a Q&A from the Grindhouse Film Festival, among several other shorter clips and interview snippets.
- MANIAC Controversy
This unusual feature is probably my favorite part of the release. The disc’s massive video archive of “controversy” material includes many newscasts and reviews of appalled anchors, hosts, and critics either outright condemning the film, or talking about its violence and depictions of misogyny. This collection is a true gem of film history in its own time.
- Easter Egg: Joe Spinell at the Dive (8:19)
Hit the down button from the disc’s main menu to access this hidden feature — Joe Spinell doing a stand-up comedy routine
Special Features and Extras — ZOMBIE
Disc 1 (4K UHD Blu-ray) Feature Film + Extras:
- Guillermo del Toro Intro
- Audio Commentary #1 with Troy Howarth
- Audio Commentary #2 with Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater
- “When The Earth Spits Out The Dead” — Interview with author Stephen Thrower
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spots
- Radio Spots
- Poster & Still Gallery
Disc 2 (Blu-ray) Extras:
- “Zombie Wasteland” with Stars Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson & Al Cliver, and Actor/Stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua
- “Flesh Eaters on Film” (9:38) with Co-Producer Fabrizio De Angelis
- “Deadtime Stories” with Co-Writers Elisa Briganti and (Uncredited) Dardano Sacchetti
- “World of the Dead” with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Production & Costume Designer Walter Patriarca
- “Zombi Italiano” with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi
- “Notes on a Headstone” with composer Fabio Frizzi
- “All in the Family” with Antonella Fulci
- “Zombie Lover” — with Guillermo del Toro
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Zombie 16:9 screen images in this article are sourced from the 1080p Blu-ray disc versions of these restorations (not 4K discs); screen captures originally captured by Dan Tabor for a previous Cinapse article. Acknowledgements to Matt Paprocki and DoBlu.com for the screen captures of Maniac.