BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: When Frederick Burdsall isn’t at work or watching movies while covered in cats, you can find Fred in the front seat of Knoebels’ Phoenix. 

Way back when in the time of the dinosaurs there were these places called Drive-Ins. You can pretty much count on both hands how many still exist today but they were magical and I consider myself fortunate to grow up in a time when they were prolific. The one near me was the Tacony-Palmyra and it boasted 2 huge screens with 3 films every night. One side was your standard movie fare but the other….oh, the other screen was heaven to a guy like me. 3 horror movies every weekend and for 10 straight weeks my friend and I would get some beer and head over to see Maniac, Zombie and whatever third feature had been added for that weekend. Most were forgettable but one in particular remained in my memory and that was the Bruno Mattei film Hell of the Living Dead.      

 Under the pseudonym Vincent Dawn and assisted by Claudio Fragassi ( who gave us the sensationally awful Troll 2) we start in New Guinea at a chemical research facility named Hope Center 1 where they are working on a project called Operation Sweet Death, a gas which will turn those it comes into contact with into zombies. Unfortunately, a rat in the works has created a leak and now the lab techs are turning on each other.

After the 4 commandos are introduced in a hostage rescue scene (which would have surely resulted in dead hostages in real life) we jump to New Guinea where they are investigating why contact with Hope1 has ceased. Believing it to be just another eco-terrorist takeover they set out in their jeep and cross paths with Rousseau and Max, a journalist and her cameraman already being stalked by the dead.

The group suffers several more attacks, one in a nearby village and another in a seemingly abandoned plantation that is anything BUT abandoned before finally reaching the river and their raft, with the dead hot on their heels. Once across, they finally reach the facility where they discover the grisly truth. Will anyone make it out alive to warn the world of what’s to come? 

There is certainly no end of things you could crap on this movie about. The dubbing is comical in a few scenes and Goblin is credited with scoring the movie but in reality they just used Goblin music lifted from Dawn of the Dead. Footage from the film La Vallee was also incorporated into the movie. Shot in Rome and Barcelona it was originally scripted to take place in Africa but was considered too costly.  So by all means watch and enjoy Hell of the Living Dead in all of its eye-popping, maggot eating, head crushing glory and I’ll see you at Knoebels.  

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