Zombies. First recorded in an 1819 history of Brazil by the poet Robert Southey and then introduced to the West in W.B. Seabrook’s 1929 novel The Magic Island, then used as a monster by Hollywood in all manner of films until perfected in Pittsburgh in 1968. Since then, I’ve seen how every nation and generation treats zombies. I’ve thrilled to their Italian cousins, awash in splatter and excess. Cataloged all the forms, from Return of the Living Dead’s punk rock undead and Tarman to Burial Ground’s incestual walkers. I’ve seen zombies created by voodoo, by ultrasonic radiation meant to destroy insects, by Venus probes and government chemical warfare and even when Hell became full. And I’ve grown old enough to become angry at their 20th century running and mainstream progeny.
But I’ve never seen a French zombie. Not until now.
La Revanche des Mortes Vivantes — or Revenge of the Living Dead Girls — was promoted as the first French gore movie. Even better — or worse — it comes in two versions. There are two versions: a horror version and an erotic version which has a different ending and is much longer, nudge nudge wink wink. Here, the living dead girls aren’t zombies, but instead just dressed up to commit their crimes. Those scenes are all missing in the horror version, which makes the movie that much more difficult to understand.
The film makes an attempt to be about the environment, but this is a film as subtle as someone dropping a car on your foot. Long story short: the CEO of a chemical company and his secretary take some shortcuts to get rid of chemical waste and somehow, it gets into milk. French girls love milk. French girls drink milk. French girls die. Then, the rest of the toxic waste is poured into the graveyard, which is never a good idea. French girls become French zombies.
Anyone that made milk better look out. These girls mean business. And if that means they have to bite off someone’s tallywhacker or shove a sword into someone’s panty hamster, they will. And they do.
Some say that Jean Rollin made this under the Pierre B. Reinhard pseudonym. If so, he was ripping his own Living Dead Girl off. I think that’s also wishful thinking, because I don’t know if Rollin could make a film this inept. Don’t take that the wrong way. So many critics of this film savage its acting, special effects and pacing. But they probably watched this alone when it demands to be viewed with a gang of inebriated, like-minded folks who don’t question why the zombie women suddenly decide to have a four-way lesbian makeout with one of their victims. Of course that happens. Why wouldn’t it? Instead, they throw around terms like gratuitous nudity, shameless trash and pointless drivel.
Obviously, if you’re reading Drive-In Asylum, you’ve either seen this or now I’ve pretty much talked you into it. I didn’t even get to the undead fetus in the bathtub, either, which has died because his father had a zombified hand and fooled around with his wife. Yep. It’s that kind of sick.
Also, to add to the open of this article, I now know that French zombies can think, plan and create traps. They also like to make out and play the pipe organ in churches, if you’re making a list at home. Because you should be. You never know when one of les morts ambulants is going to shamble in and try to make graveyard love to you.
You can get this from https://severin-films.com/shop/rotldg-2blu/Severin, who just put it out on blu ray.
This article originally ran in Drive-In Asylum #16, which you can buy right here.