Q. When is a five-star classic not a five-star classic?
A. When the film is seemingly edited by a blind child with hearing difficulties.
George Romero's Dawn Of The Dead was privy to a fascinating experiment. Whilst Romero created his version of this incredible film, Dario Argento was to assemble his very own interpretation of the feature over in Italy for it's "Zombi" titled release. Like many
other Argento fans, I was so keen to see this film. Argento's take on Dawn, it sounds like such a great idea doesn't it? Oh boy! Talk about being disappointed, this Italian cut not only feels very rushed but it's incredibly shoddy. Once it's been seen, I couldn't imagine anybody choosing to watch this over Romero's theatrical or "director's cut" versions (the director's cut is actually an early lengthier version of Dawn which was shown at the Cannes film festival). This reviewed version is from a vhs copy that a friend sent me. He ran that copy off the now deleted Dutch dvd release which included a full-frame version of the Argento cut (but as Dawn was shot in that ratio, it isn't missing visuals from the sides of the picture). I was warned beforehand as to just how poor it was but I didn't believe him, fool that I was. So what's wrong with it?
For starters, although it does contain the full Goblin score, it's so loud and oft played that it's like a bad joke. There's very little non-music sections in the entire film (Argentophiles might get the impression that it sounds like a Suspiria type experience from that description - trust me, it sure isn't). Argento didn't give Zombi anywhere near the same levels of attention that he gives to his own directed features, this version of the film reminds me more of a Lamberto Bava "Demons" type experience than the classic that it really should be. Why buy the Goblin soundtrack when you could just play this version of the film instead? Just put the film on, turn off the television and hey presto, you have the almost non-
stop soundtrack. It quickly becomes a major irritation to have to struggle to hear the dialogue over the stupidly loud music levels and there are definetly scenes in this film which don't suit music at all. Some of these Goblin tracks don't even suit the scenes that they're being played over, at times it's almost as if the album is merely being played in sequence.
Zombi is one of the mostly fastly paced films that I have EVER seen. Each shot seem to last around 3-4 seconds on average in far too many scenes. It actually hurts my eyes and makes me feel ill when I watch it because of how it's been edited. And that editing
is rubbish! I shall give an example. In Romero's version, we see Savini's biker character fall off the balcony into the fountain and it looks convincing. In Argento's version this is what happens - we see Savini fall off the balcony and then Zombi cuts over to the next shot way too early. We then see Tom Savini halfway through a blatant ground based flip chucking himself into the water. Terrible! At times this editing is so shoddy that I start to wonder when seven year old schoolchildren began to edit Italian films. Zombi features the worst editing that I have ever seen and after having already seen the version that Romero pieced together, it seems even more so.
Important scenes of plot or character development and dialogue have been omitted completely and there seems to be very little (if any) form of satire or social commentary. Zombi just plays like a mindless action film all of the way through. If you hadn't already seen the Romero version, I'm not even sure if you would be able to follow this film's plot the first time around. As remarked upon this site's forum by the person who sent me this vhs copy, Zombi "plays like a fucking computer game version of the original classic." I couldn't agree more. It seems odd when you think about Romero vs Argento on Two Evil Eyes because unlike that feature, in the Dawn Of The Dead/Zombi stakes, Romero is (by far) the very clear winner. Where is my vhs copy of Zombi now? I watched it twice and then sent it onto another intrigued person. I don't miss it at all.
Anchor Bay will be releasing the 3 different cuts of Dawn Of The Dead on dvd so everyone can then finally catch this Italian alternative version. Argentophiles, I know that you don't believe me (I didn't believe it until I saw Zombi for myself) but honestly, do not get excited about catching Argento's version of this film. It's a curiousity and it does contain some very short sequences and dialogue that only made it into this version, so it's definetly fascinating in a kind of deleted scene manner but that's all that I can say in it's favour. Zombi is so inferior and half-hearted when compared to the Romero version that it's pretty shocking and rather embarassing. I couldn't see anybody in their right minds ever choosing to watch this version over either of the two provided by Romero. This is by far, the very worst of the three versions of Dawn Of The Dead and it certainly is not something to eagerly anticipate.