“Hell Of The Living Dead” (1980)


Alfred Hitchcock once said the purpose of film is to entertain.Italian filmmaker Bruno Mattei took these words to heart, and it became his mantra.For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Bruno Mattei, I’ll give you a brief explanation.Mattei was the king of the low budget “B”movie horror/exploitation craze of the 1980’s.His films are described by some as “So bad they’re good” and a lot of  cult horror fans, including myself cannot help but love his work.His 1980 film Hell Of The Living Dead, is by far my favorite of his.Is it a bad movie? Of course it is.Thats where the enjoyment lies.

A good amount of his films follow what I call the “Mattei Formula.”First take a successful film, base your own film upon it, add stock footage and lifted soundtracks, and you have yourself a Mattei picture.As you can probably assume this is a film that is closely based off of George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead.Complete with a lot of the same soundtrack Goblin supplied for the film.

Mattei would write and direct this film with the help of Claudio Fergasso. The two had previously collaborated on Zombie 3.So you know your in capable hands when you have the duo that almost single-handedly destroyed Lucio Fulci’s reputation.

The film starts out at a plant where an experiment called “Operation Sweet Death” has accidentally released a contagion.Due to a rat bite, a epidemic breaks out all over the plant, causing its inhabitants to turn into zombies.The plot then shifts to a small squad of strike commando’s preparing to storm the US embassy in Barcelona,Spain. to free some hostages being held by terrorists.No exaggeration, Their uniforms are almost a direct copy of the ones worn by the SWAT team in Dawn.The terrorists are trying to get “Hope” centers shut down in third world countries, which of course our trusty government deny existence of.

The terrorists are defeated and the team heads to New Guinea to investigate the mysterious lack of communication with Hope center #1.There they join forces with a reporter and her cameraman, who just so happen to be investigating the same thing.Coincidence?

Now, here’s where the traditional Mattei touch begins to take form.For the scenes filmed in “New Guinea” and by that I mean Barcelona, Mattei simply places existing stock footage to simulate a tropical location.He chose scenes from the 1972 French documentary film La Vallée. Even going so far as to overdubbing some of the dialogue.Of course during their travels they discover the whole island is infected with the living dead.The make up effects used are very similar to the ones Savini used.Almost comic book like.Only with a lot more gore.These scenes were actually cooked up by Fergasso, and then later placed into the film. Fergasso would also go on to provide some of the scenes for another one of Mattei’s films Rats.

Eventually they do make it off of the island, and return to the plant.Minus a few squad members of course.And in typical Fergasso fashion the rest of the team and the reporter and killed off in horrific ways.That’s one of hid trademarks, the abrupt “Fuck You” ending as I call it.Just watch the ending of Troll 2 if you don’t believe me.

The film concludes with a bloody zombie attack in the United States.The epidemic has spread worldwide.Unlike other previous Italian zombie films.Which had an ending of questionable fate for the protagonists.This time nothing is left to the imagination.Although it’s quite the obvious copycat of Dawn, I’ll say this much it’s a LOT better than some of the sequels Romero released after Day Of The Dead.


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