Night of the Zombies – USA, 1981

night of the zombies

Night of the Zombies is a low-budget horror film directed by Joel M. Reed and starring adult movie star Jamie Gillis, released under many titles, all of which are equally confusing and cause endless mix-ups with similarly-titled movies. Listed below are the monikers the film has appeared under:

Battalion of the Living Dead – an alternative US title, rarely seen, which is unfortunate as it’s one of the few that would distinguish it from others.

Die Nacht Der Zombies – the relatively easy to find German titling.

Gamma 693 – An early American release title and probably its original title.

Night of the Zombies II – Utilising the old trick of attempting to ride the coat-tails of a completely unconnected film, this, as well as the title which omits the ‘II’, is easily confused with the equally low-budget Bruno Mattei title, also known as Zombie Creeping Flesh and Hell of the Living Dead. In case this isn’t confusing enough, they were released only a year apart.

Sister of Death – Another American alternative title, not to be confused with Sisters of Death.

The Chilling – An alternative British release title, not to be confused with the Linda Blair (The Exorcist) zombie affair from 1989.

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Plot-wise, two men are rooting around in the Alps for the remains of soldiers from World War II; they are warned by a kindly policemen that they should beware of zombies (if in doubt, ask a policemen, etc), but carry on regardless anyway, dying a few minutes later. Jamie Gillis, playing a CIA agent, also arrives in the neighbourhood, searching for canisters of Gamma 693, which, it transpires, are exactly what have kept alive Nazi soldiers from 30-odd years previously. The soldiers have been staying alive by eating human flesh, mostly off-camera for budgetary reasons; Gillis is singularly unimpressed and is determined to put an end to these foul goings-on, adopting the novel approach of pretending to be one of the ever-living.

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Having nearly lost the will to live recounting a plot thinner than Donald Trump’s hair, it is my duty to warn viewers of a nervous disposition that the film fails on many counts. Joel M. Reed had already unleashed the terrific Blood Sucking Freaks (1976) on an unsuspecting public, but unfortunately this film is nowhere near as ghoulish, funny nor inspired.

Jamie Gillis, no stranger to the mainstream (he appeared in Nighthawks the following year), appears as bored as the audience, not least as despite the promise of both zombies and Nazis, barely a drop of claret is spilt. The zombies are rotten-looking in the entirely wrong sense, white and blue make-up doing little to inspire dread.

The lead role being taken by a adult movie star and many scenes being shot in the grounds owned by infamous adult movie auteur Shaun Costello, the director of many an eye-watering title, still don’t equate to hectares of naked flesh either, the nudity that is displayed merely reminding you that cleanliness is next to godliness.

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The film is breathtakingly slow, the lines delivered with great thought and purpose, the actors clearly checking in their minds that they really have just said that outloud; you’ll never believe this only lasts 75 minutes.

It isn’t even reasonable to claim this is so bad it’s good, though there is something slightly charming about the fact that many years ago, several people did think this whole project through and still went ahead with it. And made money.

Night of the Zombies

Easily the best aspect is the UK video release, the cover of which homes in on everything you’d want in a film whilst cleverly not displaying what really appears. As the blurb says, ‘Night of the Zombies is a truly shocking film’; we were warned.

Daz Lawrence, Horrorpedia.com

Other reviews:

Night of the Zombies isn’t a zombie movie. It’s a detective thriller that just happens to have seven zombies in it. Typically, this type of deceit would equal harsh, judgmental doom. But since Night of the Zombies is a Joel Reed movie, our reaction shifts. The movie might be talky. It might be impossible to follow. It might pad the running time with the same shot of a music box five times in a row. But it also ignores the traditions of every zombie movie that came before it. And that’s what makes the movie fun.” Joseph A. Ziemba, Bleeding Skull!

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