When Richard Johnson delivered the famous opening line in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh-Eaters, little did he know that three decades later his words would gain a double meaning. In the recent UK blu-ray release the boat doesn’t just leave the undead-infested Caribbean island of Matul; it leaves the film itself – or at least a sizable portion of its hull does.
Six seconds of the boat’s initial appearance in New York Harbor, directly after the opening credits, have been accidentally cut from the movie (note: just the blu-ray – the DVD is fine), leading to the distributor, Arrow Films, repressing the disc and offering replacements to customers.
Full details of the replacement programme are on Arrow’s website. (2014 update: the details are no longer there, as the offer has closed.)
The company says the error is due to a problem with the disc’s branching. The film was originally released under various titles in different countries, and the blu-ray gives viewers the option to watch it as Zombie Flesh-Eaters (as it was in the UK), Zombie (the US release) or Zombi 2 (its Italian title). However, some sources have disputed this explanation, claiming that the missing footage isn’t actually on the disc.
Whatever the reason for the error, it has clearly disappointed many people who’ve bought the film in its first two months of release. To see how the cut affects the scene in question, watch the video at the bottom of this page, which a customer posted on YouTube. The first clip is from Blue Underground’s US blu-ray and shows how the scene should play, while the second clip is from Arrow’s faulty UK release. You’ll notice that the unplanned snip also affects the title music, which now exits with a hard cut rather than a fade.
The loss of footage from any film is always unfortunate, but for a movie such as Zombie Flesh-Eaters, which in the UK has a long history of censorship, ‘boat-gate’, as it’s come to be known, is awash with irony.
Though at first there appeared to be some resistance from Arrow to the idea of issuing replacement discs – and then, in a plan that thankfully only lasted one day, it was decided to charge £5 for them – I appreciate the company ultimately taking it on the chin and fixing its mistake at no cost to its customers.
The proud proclamation on the sleeve – “Strong uncut version!” – really ought to be true for what is in all other respects a well-reviewed release.