Sunday, August 1, 2010

Oasis of the Zombiies (Jesus Franco, 1981)

If you ever meet someone who says that Jess Franco makes shitty movies, rather than immediately questioning their cinematic open-mindedness, you might ask, "have you just seen Oasis of the Zombies?"

While not necessarily good, this film is so much more than a mere zombie movie. It is a World War II movie, a treasure hunting adventure, a college road-trip film, and ultimately a coming of age story. In fact, there is so little zombie action that one might question the theater the entered, or DVD they are playing, as to the title of the film they are actually viewing. If you are ever forced to watch it, say if you are in a dog toy shaped satellite, you will learn at least one lesson: zombies love legs.

Fellow Fraco-philes will be aware of Uncle Jess' ability to please the gam-centric viewer. You could make a drinking game of Eugenie de Sade where one must drink whenever Soledad Miranda's legs are not on screen. You would save a lot of alcohol and livers. Oasis, however, is more of a tease in this regard. Our first two characters are young girls joy-riding in the North African desert. Their shorts are a mere illusion of pants. The leg enthusiast will be immediately pleased. Unfortunately, you will soon notice a lack of bare mobility appendages, and wonder where Uncle Jess is going with this one. Perhaps the producers, certainly aware of Franco's style, wished to push him from his comfort zone and deny him the leg fest we all desire. Jess fights back in vain, and a good portion of the leg viewing winds up be those of the futballer-built frame of the secondary lead, Javier Maiza (oddly, in an uncredited role, despite his participation in at least 40% of the film). Fortunately, what legs Jess is allowed he rations out so that the viewer shall not starve.

But what of the story? If there is anything movies have taught us of history, it is that the Nazis had huge stashes of gold, which they routinely drove around the world in less than perfectly protected convoys. Here we have a tank, a truck, and a troop transport taking Nazi gold through North Africa. The Nazis are no match for the twelve British soldiers armed only with machine guns who have been sent to stop them. The Brits win the battle, but only Javier Maiza survives. He winds up in the care of a local sheik who nurses him back to health. In lieu of a thank you gift, Javier knocks up his daughter before returning to battle. Before he goes, however, the sheik informs him that the oasis where the battle took place is now haunted with the living dead.

Years later, Javier is killed by a former Nazi who is looking for the missing gold. Only Javier knows the location, and wisely tells the Nazi everything he knows so that said Nazi may immediately kill him. This leads us to the college student, Robert, the son of Javier and the sheiks daughter. He and his friends, upon learning of Javier's death, quickly find out about the Nazi gold, and practically scream "road trip!"

Once the four students arrive in Africa, they do everything in their power to avoid looking for the gold. They go shopping, and then ride along with a local doctor to see a sick man. Luckily, the sick man is the previously mentioned ex-Nazi, who escaped the zombie attack, despite being bitten. He raves about the walking dead before expiring, and the locals, who are used to zombies, burn his body to purify him. The doctor and his assistant decide to go along on the treasure hunt, certainly out of scientific curiosity.

Long story short, they arrive, the zombies kill everyone except Robert and his girlfriend, the sheik shows up. He asks Robert, "did you find what you were looking for?" Robert's reply, in heartwarming finality is, "no, but I learned something about myself." Aww...

Ultimately, I am not sure what to think of this one. The plot idea is a good one, yet poorly executed. There is no mention of why the Nazi-zombies walk the Earth. Is it because of duty, greed, fear of punishment? And how did they become animated? I don't need a real answer, but give me conjecture from the locals at least. In the end, Robert does not continue to search for the gold. It is hinted that if you survive until sunrise the Nazi-zombies disappear, so why not search in the daylight. Then, the girls at the beginning were killed in daylight... I don't know. Watch this one at your own peril, I guess.

16 comments:

Mickey Glitter said...

OMG. I have this movie, picked it up in one of those 1 million movies for $10 or something. After reading your review, a rewatch is in order!!

Darius Whiteplume said...

:-) It isn't _unwatchable_, bu whew, is it all over the place. This is the only Franco-Zombie movie I have seen, but hope the others are better.

Yum-Yum said...

I'm still not sure about this flick (the picture you paint sounds hit and miss). But I must say, kudos for using the expression "gam-centric, DW. :)

dfordoom said...

I generally don't like zombie movies but I liked this one. Franco could make great horror movies, but he also has a talent for making what are essentially silly fun romps of movies, and that's how I see Oasis of the Zombies.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Yum-Yum - I occasionally try to write in the style of others [nods your way] ;-)

@dfordoom - this is my first foray into European zombie films (unless you count the Hammer film "The Plague of the Zombies"). Call me a lover of formula, but make mine Romero. I think I enjoyed the first half more than the second, but I guess in many ways it was a well rounded film, if poorly executed.

dfordoom said...

The only zombie movies I like are Jean Rollin's. Especially Night of the Hunted and The Living Dead Girl. I've never been able to get into Romero's movies I'm afraid.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I have "Living Dead Girl" on the way after Tenebrous Kate and The Vicar of VHS's recommendations. My only real Rollin experience is with the sequences from Franco films. I'm trying to expand my Eurosleaze horizons. I have Fulci's "The Beyond" queued up as well.

dfordoom said...

I'm afraid I don't like Fulci's movies at all.

Jean Rollin is not to everybody's tastes but I adore his movies. They're very surreal, very poetic, but with sleaze as well. The Living Dead Girl is definitely the best Rollin movie to start with. Although Night of the Hunted has Brigitte Lahaie! So I'd start with either of those two.

I'm a major eurosleaze fan!

Darius Whiteplume said...

I was always intrigued by the cover art for "The Beyond" though I know that to be a poor way to judge any movie (except with Roger Corman, who builds films around the poster :-)

I have R2 copies of "Ilsa/Tigress" and "Blood Sabbath" on the way via eBay.

dfordoom said...

Blood Sabbath is actually a lot of fun. And proves Americans could do horror sleaze as well!

Darius Whiteplume said...

I'm mostly getting it to round out my Uschi Digard and Dyanne Thorne collections. I imagine Uschi is only there as the occasional eye candy, and not sure how big Thorne is in it (no pun intended - well, maybe a bit). Plus, I can always go for a good cult slaughter film.

Kal said...

Is he to legs what Russ Meyers in to da boobies? I am loving how you are turning me on to these movies that were previously unknown to me.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Kal - that might be a fair comparison, though while Meyer couldn't do without the boobies, you could conceivably take the legs from Franco.

Glad you are enjoying my little phase :-D

Daskaea said...

Man, after reading all your reviews of Jesus Franco, I am now compelled to watch some. This weekend's science experiment.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Daskaea - Hmm... Where to start though? Unfortunately there is nothing streaming on Netflix. Not sure if there is anything on Hulu/Fancast...

"Vampyros Lesbos" and "A Virgin Among the Living Dead" have been my likely favs so far. Franco's "Count Dracula" is very true to the original story, but frankly the original story is kinda boring.

"Eugenie de Sade" is a rather tacky film, but again very true to the original story. I did a review/comparison here.

dfordoom said...

I'm a huge fan of Franco's movies. I'd rate Eugenie de Sade and Venus in Furs as his best. I also rate Female Vampire and Doriana Gray very highly but be warned the latter is very explicit sexually. Very. And Female Vampire is controversial even among Franco fans. Vampyros Lesbos is superb.

I also love his lighter stuff, his comic-book style movies such as The Girl from Rio. His talent for tongue-in-cheek romps is often overlooked.

If you prefer your horror a bit more conventional you're best to start with his early movies like The Awful Dr Orloff.

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