Tuesday, August 11, 2009
An unbelievably bizarre creation, even by far-out Euro-Cult standards, the rather daffy Le Lac Des Mortes Vivantes (Zombie Lake) is part Zombie epic, part sexploitation romp and part war-drama. Shot quickly by Rollin in between The Night of the Hunted and The Escapees in 1980, the story behind the bizarre Zombie Lake is actually more interesting than the film itself, although the work has its fans.
Rollin himself summed up the story behind Zombie Lake very well to Peter Blumenstock in the pages of European Trash Cinema in 1993. He told Blumenstock, “Years ago, I wanted to go on vacation for a few weeks. The morning I wanted to leave, the phone rang. It was a guy from the Eurocine Company and he said, ‘Tomorrow morning we shoot a Horror movies but we have a little problem. The director, Jess Franco, is just not here. Nobody knows where he is. Are you interested?’” After receiving this very unexpected call, Rollin arrived on the set within the next day and as told to Blumenstock he, “took a look at the script and laughed for the next hour, and then shot the film in a very short time.” He also admitted to Blumenstock that, “It was only a technical direction”, and, “Due to the contract…they needed to use the name of a Spanish guy for the credits. They chose J.A. Lazer and what can I tell you, I didn’t care what name they used as long as it wasn’t Rollin!.”
Rollin’s opinion hasn’t lightened up on Zombie Lake through the years and, in all honesty, I’ve never warmed to the film even as an all-out exploitation work. The film is fascinating in that, as far as the cast and crew goes, it is very much a Jess Franco film from the period. Everyone from Franco’s frequent composer Daniel White to famed actor Howard Vernon is on hand for the madness, so Zombie Lake stands as a strange meeting between two of the most distinctive directors of the past fifty years. Now whether Franco would have brought more to the film than Rollin will never be known, but Rollin is mostly on auto-pilot here and, save a few stylish moments, there isn’t a lot to suggest that this is a ‘Jean Rollin’ film.
Cast wise, several familiar faces pop up outside of Vernon including Nadine Pascal, Antonio Mayans, Alain Petit and, best of all, even Rollin himself. The film’s adequate photography is courtesy of Max Monteillet, whom Rollin liked enough to work with again on several occasions after Zombie Lake. While the make-up work of Christiane Sauvage fails to impress, the underwater photography of Henri-Jean Alliet is fairly well-done.
Rollin told interviewer Ferederic Levy, “Zombie Lake is by no means a film of mine”, and it’s a hard production to recommend to anyone other than true Rollin enthusiasts or Euro-Horror fanatics. On the other hand, it is truly the kind of film that isn’t made anymore so perhaps it deserves celebrating for that reason alone. Decide for yourself if you wish, as the film is easy to see courtesy of Image’s DVD, which features a nice print as well as some extra ‘clothed’ sequences as an extra.