Killing Nazis was just part of the battle during WWII if you believe some of the more exploitative films knocking around the celluloid wasteland. The problem being according to the whims of various directors and producers is that they had the habit of coming back and having to be killed again. How could you spot them? Well they normally wore rotting uniforms and wandered around with their right arms stuck up in the air due to rigor mortis setting in. It’s a sub-genre that seems to be even more popular today than in the past especially with news that JJ Abrams is preparing to get in on the action with a future film that’s been in development for some time. In the video age things were much simpler than now since Steve Barker’s Outpost (2008) and Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow (2009) kick-started off various franchises and all manner of atrocities to the small screen all over again. It wasn’t just those who should have known better making these films the 1st time around  either as Michael Mann’s The Keep (1983) proved, and that particular movie is still acclaimed by a panzer-division of fans today desperate for an updated hi-def release. Others of the video age that were particularly of note included Ken Weiderhorn’s Shock Waves (1977) and Alvin Rakoff’s Death Ship (1980).

Two other Aryan bastard re-animated scum flicks that it would be completely wrong to describe as classics in any sense of the word however but nevertheless did brisk trade at ye olde video shope were Jess Franco’s Oasis Of The Zombies and Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake (both 1981). Although I say Zombie Lake was a Rollin film he was drafted in at the last second after Franco obviously cringed at the thought of doing 2 such films back to back. Rollin no doubt only accepted the job as the prolific director only really was interested in the cash so he could make another one of his more personal flicks. Production was a total muddle with Julian de Laserna stepping in to shoot many scenes. Rollin is said to have particularly disliked this movie and it went out credited to J.A Laser rather than him putting his name to it. If you look at films made either side of it Night Of The Hunted (1980) and The Escapees (1981) you will easily see there’s no comparison and rightly so many viewers (fans would not be the correct turn) of this and Franco’s Oasis can only argue about one thing, which is the biggest dog’s dinner of a movie?

I have far too many of both directors films for my own good but having watched these back in the day I kind of knew not to include them in my collection despite their being various releases on all available formats over the years. It’s a bit odd that Screenbound are launching their Black House subsidiary with such a howler and on DVD only, especially when Redemption Films/Kino Lorber put it out on Blu-Ray stateside; surely if you were going to sit through this again that’s the preferable way to do so?

Still things look pretty good as the zombies rise from the lake in green make up and chow down on the first skinny-dipping model to bare all and the scenery is not all that is impressive here. The townspeople led by distinguished actor Howard Vernon as the mayor are well aware of what is going on and well they should be as during the war they acted as partisan resistance and put the Nazis in the lake in the first place. This did not happen before one of the Germans had an affair with a local woman and got her pregnant and her daughter is now a young girl who has a link with her father from beyond the grave. Forget the fact that she is aged around 12 and this is obviously set around the 70’s fashion wise, that’s just one of the amusing continuity faux-pas to have a giggle at here. The zombies revolt and a poor girls basketball team get it around the half way mark. I say poor as they obviously couldn’t even afford bathing costumes for the scene and it’s not long before the flesh-eaters venture into town themselves and ham it around the streets, smashing up the local bar and being completely resistant to bullets fired at them. Will anyone survive and will the curse of the lake of the damned be laid to rest?

Yeah you could pretty much write the plot of this one on the back of a postage stamp if you wanted but I have to say that either my appreciation for bad films has improved over the years or I’m literally loopy myself but I could see a certain amount of artistry here that I may have missed originally. Although plodding and ludicrous the film is well shot and I could really emphasise with the zombies here. Well maybe not the zombies themselves but the actors who played them who must have gone through sheer hell as they keep getting in and out of the lake and traipsing around all cold, wet and miserable. The underwater attack segments as they loom up to attack from between the nude actress legs may not be filmed by Jacques Cousteau but they are competently handled and there is a sense of atmosphere here; no doubt due to Rollin’s touch. Pierre-Marie Escourrou is pretty convincing as the lead zombie too and although he doesn’t utter a word is a sympathetic character. But admittedly you are seriously going to have to dig deep to really look upon Zombie Lake as a film that should have stayed anything but drowned.

Exploitation fans from the Eurocine age are going to have a giggle and groan aplenty at this though and it has a certain charm about it. The make-up is not as bad as some of the atrocious SOV films that are doing the rounds today either. The original posters and cover from when this came out on Modern Films Video suggested a right old bloodbath in the gore department but that side of things is for want of a better word “modest” at best. Still that didn’t stop the film getting caught up in the notoriety of the video nasty scare and it ended up on the DPP Section 3 list, mind you practically everything around at the time horror wise did. Black House release this in an uncut form with option to watch in French with English subs so there’s no complaints there. I also noted that trailers include one for old Jess’s Oasis Of The Zombies too so looks like that’s on the cards for future release. Strangely enough I’m actually looking forward to seeing it again too.

Pete Woods