After producing some well-received giallo pieces in the 1970s, Lucio Fulci’s standing as a horror director reached its peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s – elevated on the back of a horde of zombies. Brought in as a hired gun to direct Zombie Flesh Eaters, the movie turned out to be Fulci’s international breakthrough. He was able to use this new stature to produce his famed Gates of Hell trilogy was born – this being City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, and The House By the Cemetery.
Every one of these ended up caught up in some level in the UK’s video nasty controversy – Zombie Flesh Eaters and The House By the Cemetery were on the Department of Public Prosecutions’ “Section 1” list of material successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, The Beyond was on the “Section 3” list of material which had not been successfully prosecuted in and of it self but which police could confiscate under a “less obscene” charge, whilst City of the Living Dead, whilst never on the official list, was sometimes seized by the police anyway since it was a Fulci movie and often lumped in with the others.
For this article I’m going to cover both the Gates of Hell trilogy and the movie which made the sequence possible.
Zombie Flesh Eaters
Though the franchise this kicked off is known as Zombie Flesh Eaters in the English-language market, it was promoted in its native Italy and some other markets as Zombi 2 – in other words, a supposed sequel to Dawn of the Dead, whose Italian cut was released under the name Zombi. This sleazy action on the part of the studio kicked off a naming mess tha’ts almost as controversial as the content of the film itself (and of the many films which tried to freeride on its infamous reputation).