BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Virus – l’inferno dei morti viventi (1980)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Frederick Burdsall didn’t like this movie as much as I did. Because I don’t like this movie. I love it. 

Bruno Mattei got hired to make this, being asked by Spanish producers to make something like Dawn of the Dead but happier, if that was possible. He made this under the name Vincent Dawn, which the producers requested. Two scripts were written by Claudio Fragasso* and Rossella Drudi, with the one being picked not being the script Mattei preferred.

I wish I could have seen that script** because what got made is absolutely insane.

The movie starts in a top-secret chemical research facility called Hope Center #1. There, the male workers talk non-stop about sex like this:

Technician #1: She may not know much about chemistry, but in bed, her reactions are terrific.

Technician #2: I’m not surprised with that cute little ass.

Technician #1: I’m a tit man, myself.

In the middle of this locker room talk, a rat causes a chemical leak and comes back to life as a zombified rat*** that eats the face of a worker, turning every single person there — eventually — into the living dead.

Meanwhile, four commandos — Lt. Mike London (José Gras, billed as Robert O’Neal), Osborne (Josep Lluís Fonoll, Wheels on Meals), Zantoro (Franco Garafalo, The Other Hell, billed as Frank Garfield) and Vincent (Selan Karay) — wipe out some eco-terrorists who are demanding that the Hope Centers be revealed to the public.

Now that the Hope Center we’ve seen at the beginning of the movie has lost contact with the world, the commandos go to New Guinea to find out why. There, they encounter journalist Lia Rousseau (Margit Evelyn Newton, The Adventures of Hercules) and her cameraman Max (Gabriel Renom), along with a fighting husband and wife who are soon dispatched by a zombie doctor and their dead son.

Their fight dialogue really needs to be shared:

Josie’s husband: These bright ideas you get… bringing a 7-year-old child through this filth! Only YOU could have thought of it!

Josie: There was absolutely no way of knowing the trouble we’d run into.

Josie’s husband: Dumb broad! The living image of a modern mother! You couldn’t be so mean to leave our boy at a nice safe school for a couple weeks! Not her! “Oh, no! Not to bring our boy along with us would be cruel!” Doesn’t matter if he’s eaten by mosquitoes… or wounded by a native lunatic!

Lia Rousseau: Oh, please! You’re not gonna begin that again!

Josie’s husband: Oh, no! I’m sorry! Naturally, the great Lia Rousseau can’t possibly be disturbed listening to the complaints of a man who’s upset about his boy! No, she’s on a special mission. The idol of a TV audience who doesn’t get enough violence and BLOODSHED!

In case you’re wondering, “Is this a Bruno Mattei movie?” Let me satisfy you: when they go to a native village, footage from the documentary New Guinea, Island of Cannibals gets added into the movie and Rousseau having to strip down and get her body painted up. Of course, the mirth of the native village ends up with a zombie attack and the commandos — and journalists — make their way to the overrun hope center, where they learn that Operation: Sweet Death was made to destroy the world’s population so that overcrowding could be stopped, starting with the poor people, of course.

I love the ending of this, as politicians throw paper at one another while zombies have spread into the major cities.

In case you watch this and think, “This music sounds familiar,” I have the answer. It’s all Goblin, which was licensed instead of getting an original score made. It has songs from their album Roller, as well as their songs for Dawn of the Dead, Beyond the Darkness and Contamination.

Alternate titles include Hell of the Living DeadZombie Creeping FleshNight of the ZombiesVirus CannibaleOs Predadores da Noite (The Night Predators) and Zombie Inferno.

I absolutely love the absurd dialogue in this! There’s so much, but this is my favorite back and forth:

Vincent: Patience is the chief virtue for those who have faith. Mahatma Gandhi, New Delhi, 1946.

Lt. Mike London: Up your ass. Lieutenant Mike London, Shit Creek, the year is now.

Also, it has the strange air that the terrorists are right, despite their actions being wrong. Pretty much humanity is doomed in the world of Mattei. Really, for all the bad I’ve heard about this movie, it’s a total success in my eyes.

I mean, it has a scene where a commando puts on a dress, sings a song from Singin’ in the Rain, causes a zombie kitten to leap out of a dead woman’s stomach and then dies while everyone yells, “Bastards! Filthy jackals! Look at them, look at THAT! They’re eatin’ him like PIGS! Goddamned rotten ghouls!”

You can watch this on Tubi.

*In an interview in GoreZone, Fragrasso said this movie was, “designed with lots of love, but in the end it came out a test tube baby, a kind of abortion. But I’m satisfied with the end results.”

**In that script, Fragasso wrote of “an entire Third World made up of an army of zombies, who the armed forces of the industrialized nations would have had to fight.”

**Spoiler warning! I wonder if this rat is the father of the rats we meet at the end of Rats: The Night of Terror?

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