An expedition searching for treasure supposedly buried by the German army in the African desert during WW II comes up against an army of Nazi zombies guarding the fortune.
With a title like 'Oasis of the Zombies,' it's reasonable to expect an abundance of rotting corpses walking across the screen — or, at least a plentiful number of them, possibly even a small crowd. The word "oasis" has nothing to do with the walking dead or their quantity, but it implies and conjures a set of expectations; it just sounds plentiful. Coming from the director of Euro-sleaze Jesús Franco, we can also anticipate gratuitous nudity and plenty of blood.
Sadly, especially for the horror-hounds out there, Franco fails miserably in satisfying either of those possibilities. Showing some restraint in the nudity department is totally fine, but in the gore and violence area, it's practically blasphemous and unforgivable, especially in a Z-grade movie that features Nazi zombies!
As if jealous of Jean Rollin's terrible yet unintentionally funny 'Zombie Lake,' Franco set out to make an even worse mess with dime-store make-up, gauze, and what looks like cheap, clumpy plaster.
Alternating between four actors and the head of a store-bought dummy — you know, the silly, foam kind you're tempted to buy every year at Halloween — we're meant to believe a horde of resurrected dead guard a fortune of Nazi gold. Every time someone comes snooping around, they come up from the sand or from underneath a pile of dead palm-tree branches.
The editing tries to make the gang appear larger in number than they really are while creative camera angles try to hide the fact that some guy is holding the stupid-looking dummy with a stick and shaking it all about.
This is so laughably bad that even Franco tried to hide his shame under the pseudonym A.M. Frank. It's rather ironic seeing as how he prominently associates his name with all the other garbage he produced prior to this botched fiasco.
Granted, using different names is nothing new for the filmmaker, whose career spans an impressive six decades — with Clifford Brown being the most commonly used, closely followed by Frank. But it's interesting nonetheless to note his attempt at creating some distance, despite also being responsible for the script, which is credited to a mysterious A.L. Mariaux.
What made him decide to change the credits? Was it the pathetic makeup and the ludicrous special effects? Was it the horrible acting of the entire cast, including the dummy's comical performance? Or was it after seeing the final cut that he decided to remove his name?
As far as the plot goes, it is all Franco, where we get small pockets of drama and internal conflict with just enough wiggle room in between for the camera to fill in the gaps with the visuals. Unfortunately, those visuals worth remembering or talking about are very few and far in between. Some sequences linger so long that they seem purely done to extend the overall runtime. At one point, I found myself dozing off to a scene of a man riding a camel. When I awoke, the man was still riding towards the camera without missing a beat.
The movie's dramatic aspects come from an unrewarding flashback that explains the origins of the Nazi treasure. There's also some lame romance with a mustached, muscle-bound giant and a young, dainty beauty which inspires a gang of four kids to drop out of college in search of the gold. Once there, they meet with another archeological team that eventually warns the four idiots to stay away, even after discovering them nearly dead at a campsite. What a tick: the one scene of nudity involves a member from that team feeling a little frisky on the same day they were attacked. Well, that's pretty stupid.
Nevertheless, the real problem is Franco making his audience slog through two acts of vapid conversations before a large cast of extras finally show up for a mostly thankless climactic battle. The legendary filmmaker of some very raunchy material tries to make an interesting zombie horror movie, but he also has us waiting for long stretches of time for some zombie action which ultimately amounts to nothing special.
'Oasis of the Zombies' is a neat and clever title, but the finished product is really more like "Barren and Desolate Wasteland of the Zombies."
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber brings 'Oasis of the Zombies' to Blu-ray under the distributor's "Redemption" label. Housed inside a blue, eco-elite case, the Region A, BD25 disc goes straight to the main menu with a still photo of the cover art and music playing in the background.
For anyone who's owned previous home video releases of 'Oasis of the Zombies,' this new 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.66:1) will be a near revelation. It's shocking to see the movie look this good, full of bold, energetic colors and natural flesh tones with excellent, revealing textures during close-ups. Granted, the source used hasn't aged well, showing lots of scratches, dirt, white specks and brown vertical lines everywhere. And the transfer is far from perfect, as several scenes will have viewers thinking they're watching crummy stock footage. Yet, this is the sharpest the movie has ever looked, with clean, distinct lines in the foliage, clothing and the hilariously shoddy makeup. Contrast is well-balanced and stable for the most part while blacks are generally strong with plenty of visible shadow details. It's an average, often inconsistent presentation, but a surprise nonetheless.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the uncompressed PCM mono soundtrack, which comes in two options: the original French and English dub. It is an awful listen all around, but I'm sure the quality and condition of the source is largely to blame. The ADR work is just plain terrible as dialogue — clear and distinct as it may be — is never synchronized or even closely matches the movement of the actors' lips. The lossless mix is mostly flat and dull with nearly no differentiation or distinction between the sound effects. Forget the smallest hint of any bass, but the few times the design tries to show some life in the upper ranges, the action is full of horrible, ear-piercing distortion, ruining all clarity and sounding like one noisy, garbled mess. The high-rez track is consistently riddled with pops, hissing and subtle noise, making the movie more difficult than it already is to watch.
This is a mostly bare-bones release with a small assortment of trailers as the only supplemental extras.
From the director of Z-grade Euro-sleaze Jesús Franco, 'Oasis of the Zombies' is arguably one of his worst movies, which is actually saying something if you've watched his other work. And sadly, it remains just as I remember it: a slow, boring chore with hardly any of the filmmaker's usual vulgar touches to make it the least bit entertaining. The Blu-ray arrives with the best possible video presentation, but the audio is in bad shape. In the end, this bare-bones release is an easy one to skip.