Stars: Anouchka, Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou
Director: Jean Rollin
Released by Redemption / Kino Lorber
Reviewed by Steven Ruskin
Leave it to Jean Rollin working with a script by Jesse Franco to figure a way to get Zombies, Nazi and a Girls Volley Ball team into one exploitation film. The film starts off with a young lady taking an idyllic walk to a deserted cabin in the woods. The lady takes a completely revealing sun bath and then goes to cool off in the nearby lake. She is barely in the water when she is attacked by a zombie dressed if a full World War II Nazi uniform. You sure know just what you’re getting into right from the start. There is an investigation and after much chit chat we get to see a nice long flash back sequence that explains it all.
During the War this quaint little village in France was being guarded by a very small detachment of German army men. There were maybe seven of them. One of the girls in town is saved from enemy motor fire by a young soldier. She falls for him and they have a fling. She bares his child but dies soon after. Meanwhile the townspeople have set up an ambush for the soldiers who are all cut down in a hail of bullets by the resistance. In order to hide the bodies from an approaching German patrol they throw them all in the lake. The war ends and years pass by. However the lake remains the center of spooky tales
We return to the present time, which probably should be sometime in the fifties judging by the age of the young girl who was fathered by the solider. She looks to be about ten, but don’t let that worry you. It certainly didn’t bother anyone connected with the production. Seemingly borrowing a page from Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Two Thousand Maniacs (1964) and a few from George Romero the long dead soldiers choose this moment to rise up from the lake and seek revenge on the town that betrayed them. Never mind that they invaded the town in the first place. There is even a tender reunion between the young German solider, who is now a zombie and his little girl. He gives her a necklace that her mom had given to him. The high point in the film and likely the reason most people will want to give this one a look see is the arrival of the girls volley ball team by bus to the lake. They bound out and prance around like extras in a nudist camp film. They are all smiles and giggles as clothes fly every which way and they take to the lake to cool off. At one point as two of the girls toss a ball back and forth. The subtitles refer to it as a basketball. Don’t let that fool you, it is a volley ball. In a series of increasingly revealing shots the zombies come up from the depths to grab at their prey. They toss them about and maul them. Most of the make up on the zombies consists of green greasepaint. It drips off their faces as they slosh around in the water. Those uniforms, some complete with helmets sure looking like they held up pretty well being submerged in the water all these years.
It should be noted at this point that there is no gore or really gruesome special effects. Much of the time the attacking zombies appear to have a mouthful of red liquid that they leak out over the necks of their victims as they attack. The zombies run amuck in the tiny village until someone figures out a way to stop them. Despite the overall cheap production values three is some entertainment value to be had here. Fans of dead Nazi soldiers who have turned into zombies on the rampage will get some cheap thrills here.
Video – 1.66:1
This is a very enjoyable presentation. Colors are all strong and stand out when called upon. In the more brightly lit scenes healthy detail is apparent. Granted there are specs of dirt and the more than occasional scratch but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Zombie Lake looks quite good. The materials sourced for this transfer have been presented without any undue fuss or muss. While not pristine fans will be more than pleased.
Audio – French and English 2.0 Mono, Subtitles are offered in English.
The audio feels dubbed and done in post production along with the effects is either language although much of the film seems to play on a purely visual level. The music does not add much to the proceedings. This is a very cheap track. Those used to dubbed Euro titles of this style will feel right at home.
Extras – An unusual extra lets viewers see the credit sequence and the Zombie attack on the girl’s volley ball team done in clothed versions that were alternate versions made for television. They completely defeat the entire purpose of making the film in the first place. So often it is the other way around with a sneak peek offered of the more explicit censored footage. The original trailer is here along with others from director Jean Rollin. The cover is very well done.
On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic:
Movie – Fair
Blue-Ray – Good