Burial Ground Review
The film opens on an un-kempt, bearded, middle-aged man examining a slab of rock and announcing he has discovered a secret. After making his way to an underground structure and hammering at its walls with a pickaxe, he is overtaken and killed by Etruscan zombies. His name was Professor Ayres (Renato Barbieri). The next day, three adult couples and a twelve-year old boy arrive at the home of the Professor. He has summoned them there to tell of his amazing discovery. Evelyn (Mariangela Giordano) and her husband George (Roberto Caporali) are there with their creepy looking preteen son Michael (played by 25-year old Peter Bark). Along for the ride are Janet (Karin Well) and Mark (Gian Luigi Chirizzi), and Leslie (Antonella Antinori) and James (Simone Mattioli). The seven visitors break up into pairs and with the aid of a maid and butler go about settling in whilst they wait for the Professor. Bedtime arrives and we are greeted with gratuitous nudity and sex and we discover young Michael has an Oedipus Complex. The next morning everyone sets out to explore the sprawling home of the Professor and await his return. After more sexual escapades and a strange reaction from Michael to his parents’ display of affection, all three couples and the boy simultaneously encounter the undead and barricade themselves in the house. This all happens fairly early on and the momentum continues throughout the film.
Burial Ground was director Andrea Bianchi's entry into the world of zombie films. Lucio Fulci had done it better the year before with Zombie 2, and George Romero the year before Fulci with the cult favourite Dawn of the Dead. Short on time (they had to film in four weeks), major stars and financing, he nonetheless created a bizarre little film that is as memorable for its awfulness, as Romero's were for their brilliance. The deaths are creative – the zombies imaginative – and the victims more deserving than usual. And let us not forget the boy.
A very large part of the film's budget went to the wonderful special effects of Gino De Rossi and make-up effects by Rosario Prestopino. The zombie make-up was unique and a world apart from Tom Savini's blue-faced amblers. Clay-like masks were used that were supposed to represent different degrees of decomposition, but some of the background zombie's had all of their facial skin, whilst others were missing noses and eyes and there were varying degrees of maggot infestation. Bearing in mind these are supposed to be resurrected Etruscan zombies, decomposition should have been completed long ago. I was always fascinated with the clothes the Burial Ground zombies sported. Romero's zombies wore what they were buried in, but these zombies had long-sleeved, floor-length dresses made of burlap in different shades of green and brown, and each had a matching neckerchief (presumably to hide the lack of make-up around the neck and collarbones) The blood and guts effects ranged from bright paint-like red, to a more natural looking maroon - sometimes in the same scene. Bianchi's zombies were also technologically advanced with weapons, worked as a team and even had the presence of mind to don disguises in a very humorous (though unintentional) scene.
The score by Elsio Mancuso and Burt Rexon is reminiscent of the late sixties/early seventies. It has that bouncy, upbeat television drama theme feel to it that oddly fits in with the rest of the film. Distorted synthesizer riffs are used as audio exclamation marks for the dramatic and horrific scenes. The dialogue is pure cheese. Example: the boy and his parents are in an art studio in the house and he finds a rag, sniffs it and announces "Mother, this cloth smells of death!" The acting in this film is non-existent. Giordano and Well had a small amount of film experience at the time, but their roles required little more than flashing naked breasts, screaming and looking sufficiently scared. With the exceptions of Mariangela Giordano and Antonella Antinori, they were not attractive characters - inside or out. Peter Bark, the actor who played the 12-year old Michael was chosen because in Italy they were very strict when using child actors in films. It was forbidden to use them in a film with not only sex and gore, but, one that had incestuous overtones. Bark was a local 25-year old man from Rome who was small in stature and they hoped with the right make-up he would be believable as a young boy. That not only failed to happen, but he has earned cult status with true horror film fans who were at once fascinated and repelled by his old man-looking face and ridiculously dubbed voice. His scene with Mariangela Giordano made cinematic history.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Considering the bad condition of the original transfer, the picture quality is very good. There is quite a bit of grain in darker scenes, but the DVD transfer is head-and-shoulders above the VHS. The original print suffered from a darkly lit first half and an even darker second half. The lighting in this version is considerably brighter, and details are much sharper (though in a zombie film, that is not always a good thing). The green and brown colours predominate.
The soundtrack is English Dolby Digital 2.0. Because the film is dialogue (and scream-based) and given that these particular zombies make no sounds and there is little-to-no ambient noises, the sound quality is excellent. The Mancuso/Rexon score sounds brilliant and the dialogue is clear, hiss-free and there are no fluctuating volume levels as there were on the VHS.
Chapter Stops and Menus
There are fourteen chapter stops - they consist of stills from the film, set seven at a time against a static background. The main menu is static, and a soundtrack consisting of screams from the film is played.
Original Theatrical Trailer
The original theatrical trailer, which includes alternate and deleted scenes is included.
Gallery of The Undead
An impressive slideshow of stills and posters in different languages is shown.
Interview With Gabriele Crisanti
There is an eleven-minute on-camera interview with producer Gabriele Crisanti in Italian with English subtitles. Although he appears ready for a nap, he has a wonderful memory and discusses among other things, the castle the film was shot in, why Peter Bark was used instead of a real child, and he gives his assessment of the horror film industry today, special effects and big budgets.
Interview With Mariangela Giordano
There is a nine-minute on-camera interview with leading lady Mariangela Giordano in Italian with English subtitles. She is friendly, relaxed and very obviously braless, dispelling any lingering rumours that she suffered disfigurement at the hands (or more correctly, mouth) of Peter Bark (the mama's boy from Hell).
Trailers from Zombie Holocaust, Last House On The Edge Of The Park, Spasmo and Eaten Alive are included.
A page of text thanking individuals and studios is included.
Burial Ground is not for everyone - only truly hard-core horror fans and lovers of cheesy Italian gore fests will appreciate the bad acting, hysterically-funny dialogue, poor dubbing, gratuitous nudity, technologically-advanced zombies and the most infamous breast reduction ever filmed. Credit is due Media Blasters for the impressive extras and surprisingly good transfer from an admittedly bad source print. The interviews with Mariangela Giordano and producer Gabriele Crisanti are entertaining and educational, and the coming attractions trailers are excellent. Burial Ground is a must-have for horror film collector purists and a must-see for the uninitiated in search of a good laugh and a lot of gore.