I'm actually shocked that so far I haven't covered Italian horror in this blog, especially the Italian cannibal and zombie films of the 70's and 80's. I could explain the two sub-genres, but such has been done to death at this point. So instead I'll just go into this review of Marino Girolami's combination of the two genres "Zombie Holocaust" (released in the US as "Dr. Butcher MD: Medical Deviate") without a long explanation.
In New York (well, an Italian exploitation director's version of New York) where someone has been stealing body parts from the hospital. It seems that Anthropologist Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli) has noticed what looks like an ancient tribal sign, which leads to her and Dr. Peter Chandler ("Zombi 2" star Ian McCulloch) into an expedition into the Moluccas Islands. Along the way, the meet Dr. Obrero (a wonderfully over the top Dan O'Brien) and a tribe of cannibals. Oh, and Obrero has been up to some experiments...
In a lot of ways, "Zombie Holocaust" is a summary of many of the things that make Italian trash films so much fun. It's got gore, some impressive death scenes (including a choice bit involving a boat motor), nudity, a fun score, bad acting, and a devil may care attitude towards things like logic or characterization. In short, it's a combination of "Zombi 2" and "Eaten Alive" (not the Tobe Hooper film.) The film also has the advantage of having a rather nasty sense of humor, which is something lacking in many Italian genre films. O'Brien helps with the films tone, delivering a fun, scenery chewing performance that steals the show from the rest of the cast. Oh, and if the animal cruelty prevelent in many Italian cannibal films bothers you, then you'll be relieved to know that there is none of that here.
If the film has any serious problem, it's the zombies themselves. While the bad make-up effects are a bit annoying, the big flaw is that they aren't much of a threat. They don't do a whole lot, and feel too much like an afterthought, like the director just threw them in without any idea on how to use them.
Is "Zombie Holocaust" a good movie? From a traditional standpoint, the answer is no. The cast is mostly bland, the zombies feel underused, and it at times doesn't feel too professionally done. As an exploitation film though, it succeed with flying colors, and delivers what fans of this kind of fair want.