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(aka "Orgia de los Muertos" or "Return of the Zombies" or "Beyond the Living Dead" or "Terror of the Living Dead" )

 

directed by Jose Luis Merino
Spain/Italy 1972

 

Serge (Stan Cooper aka Stelvio Rosi) arrives in the rustic village of Skopji from London too late for the funeral of his uncle, the Count Mihajli. As it is nearly nightfall, Serge finds no transport to the village and must walk there via the cemetery road where he bumps into the hanging corpse of his cousin Mary (Aurora de Alba), who was shown creeping into the tomb to retrieve some documents from her father's corpse. Serge becomes a suspect when it is learned that he is the count's heir and it is learned that the woman was dead before she was hanged. While trying to solve the mystery and clear his name, Serge has to contend with a house full of greedy suspects including the Count's wife Nadia (Maria Pia Conte), butler Ivan (Charles Quiney), necrophiliac grave digger Igor (guest star Paul Naschy), the count's scientist colleague (Gerard Tichy) and his damsel in distress daughter Doris (Dianik Zurakowska). Serge disbelieves claims of supernatural involvement until the Count himself makes an appearance at a sťance conducted by Nadia.

Although the walking dead figure into the plot, the US title THE HANGING WOMAN is less of a spoiler plot-wise placing emphasis on the mystery aspect of the film. A Spanish-Italian co-production, the film combines the rustic Spanish look with the sex and gore more prevalent in Italian gothic horror films. The period setting is mostly well-sustained and the Pyrenees exterior locations are atmospheric (it's a great film to watch on a cold winter night). The walking dead are quite creepy and are quite a contrast to the flesh-eating marauders of later, gorier zombie films (more jaded horror viewers might be surprised as to how well this older film holds up). The pacing is brisk and there is one nifty clue to the main culprit's identity.

In THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH, Spanish Pablo (Emilio Caba) is distressed over his French girlfriend Dominique (Dianik Zurakowska) having to visit her family in Brittany. Dominique takes him to a cemetery and performs a ritual and makes a pact with him that whoever dies first will come back to guide the other one into the afterlife. Driving home from dropping Dominique at the airport, Pablo has a brief spell of deafness after which he learns that Dominique's plane has crashed and that there were only a few survivors. Waiting to hear if Dominique's name is among the survivors, Pablo comes home to find Dominique waiting for him. Their happiness is cut short when Pablo learns that Dominique was among those killed in the crash. He seeks the guidance of a college mentor regarding the supernatural occurrences (Dominique's family seems to be as ghostly as her), Pablo is nevertheless drawn to Dominique and the pact he has made with her.

An understated chiller, THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH was produced by American Sidney Pink in Spain and directed by prolific Xavier Seto. Although the plot sounds like an extended TWILIGHT ZONE episode, it also seems equally influenced by the eerie CARNIVAL OF SOULS. It matters little that the seasoned viewer will guess much of what is going on as it is the film's execution of the plot that is most satisfying. Beautifully photographed in black and white by Francisco Sanchez (whose subsequent color work in Spanish horror was less effective) with light jazz scoring contributing to the off-kilter atmosphere, THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH has been little seen outside of its scant US release. It has mainly made the rounds in the gray market circuit while officially languishing under the ownership of Troma (who owns the Sidney Pink catalog) until now.

Eric Cotenas

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Theatrical Release: September 1975 (USA)

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DVD Review: Troma - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Troma

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:34:56
Video

1.40:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.0 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono)
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Troma

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.40:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by director Jose Luis Merino (in Spanish with English subtitles)
• An interview with director Jose Luis Merino (in Spanish with English subtitles; 16:9; 21:39)
• An interview with actor Paul Naschy (in Spanish with English subtitles; 16:9; 14:30)
• Paul Naschy 101 (16:9; 9:55)
• THE HANGING WOMAN trailer (4:3; 2:19)
• Photo, Poster, and Lobby Card Gallery
• The Sweet Sound of Dubbing: interview with dubbing director Ben Tatar (English; 16:9; 25:09)
• BONUS FILM: The Sweet Sound of Death (1965) directed by Xavier Seto
• (English-dubbed; 4:3; 1:16:36)

DVD Release Date: September 29, 2009
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Troma's disc is an admirable effort but not "The Final Cut" as it states on the box. The prints of THE HANGING WOMAN were edited of gore and nudity for an R-rating. The film's export version under the title RETURN OF THE ZOMBIES turned up on US video and featured the missing footage but itself was shorn of expository passages to fit the film on a T-90 cassette. Compiled from video sources, the Troma version is curiously missing some non-sexy/non-gory footage in one early scene where Doris tells Ivan to take Serge to the mayor's house after the discovery of Mary's body. Quality is acceptable on interlaced televisions but not so hot on progressive monitors.

THE HANGING WOMAN prints also dispensed with the opening credits which played over the beginning of the funeral and the US version commenced with the first shot after the director's credit and saved the display of the US title for the discovery of the titular hanging woman about four minutes later (the actors and crew were credited on an end credit crawl full of Anglicized pseudonyms). This composite features the original export opening credits but clips the export title from the sequence. It is likely that film materials were never sought out and Troma went with what was readily available. Troma thoughtfully subtitles the moderator's comments in white and the director's comments in yellow which is useful if you are watching the film with the feature audio while reading the subs. Although director Merino admits that Francesco De Masi's score consists of "canned" material (tracks written by the composer for no film in particular), he claims that the tracks used were "virgin" to movies before this one though some tracks of the score can be heard 9 years before in Riccardo Freda's LO SPETTRO (THE GHOST). The commentary was obviously recorded using the covered Spanish version as the sync lags (not due to the recording itself but the different editing of the Spanish version) and Merino comments suggest that he was either not aware of or does not remember shooting uncovered scenes. Director Merino also provides a subtitled interview as does guest star Paul Naschy. The quality of the interviews suffers because they were shot in static medium shot but the editor tried to punch things up by enlarging the image periodically to close-ups in which video grain becomes extremely noticeable. Shane Dallman provides a Naschy career overview and American actor Ben Tatar (who became an English dubbing director in Spain from the prolific 1968-1977 period of Spanish horror filmmaking) also provides an interview. The American HANGING WOMAN trailer and a photo gallery round out the extras (the photo gallery is recommended as it features some great German, Italian, Spanish, and English posters and lobby card though one unrelated poster for the film BABA YAGA appears for some reason).

 


The most substantial extra in the package is THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH, an effective black and white 1967 chiller by Xavier Seto (produced by American Sidney Pink with dubbing directed by Ben Tatar). The film (reviewed above) is related to the Merino film only by the appearance of actress Dianik Zurakowska (seen here in her introductory performance billed simply as "Dianik") and that it also happens to be a Troma holding. The black and white image is letterboxed during the credits then fullscreen for the body of the feature but (according to a post at the Latarnia forums) it is missing some footage (approximately 8 minutes) that turned up in previous video versions (but it is still worth viewing for people interested in more subtle ghost stories than zombie mayhem). Although the composite of THE HANGING WOMAN is not perfect, the DVD package in total is quite impressive (especially for the less-than-$10 retail price).

 - Eric Cotenas

 



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(aka "La llamada" )

 

directed by Xavier Seto
Spain/USA 1965

Reviews    More Reviews  

DVD Review: Troma Films - Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:16:36
Video

1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.4 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono)
Subtitles none

 

 



DVD Menus
 

 


Screen Captures

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Troma

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 




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