Director: Jean Rollin
Screenplay: Julian Estaban, Jesus Franco
Starring: Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou, Anouchka
Duration: 83 mins
BBFC Certification: 18
Have you ever wondered what a 1970s episode of Doctor Who about Nazi zombies would be like if it was written and directed by Benny Hill? No? Me neither, but I no longer need to as I’ve been unfortunate to watch Zombie Lake. Jean Rollin is famed for his low budget eurotrash films, but this is quite easily the worst on his CV. Some of Rollin’s films are so bad that they’re fun to watch for fans of a bit cheese, but Zombie Lake is just plain awful. Sorry, that should be Awful (believe me, the capital A is needed).
The film opens with a young woman visiting a lake that the locals call ‘Lake Of The Damned’. Before long, she has disrobed and entered the lake for a swim. This allows for Rollin to provide many minutes of underwater camerawork to show off the young woman’s naked body from every angle in his typical style. The activity in the water awakens an undead Nazi soldier who tries to grab her, but she escapes to shore. Now, I have to point out that this zombie is just an actor painted green, which proves a problem when he emerges from the lake as you can visibly see the paint washing off. This becomes more apparent in the close ups when he catches up with the young woman and kills her. I guess it wasn’t deemed necessary to reapply the paint to the actor.
When investigators come to the village, the Mayor tells the story of the Lake Of The Damned. During World War II, the village was occupied by German soldiers. One of the soldiers falls in love with a local girl, who gives birth to his daughter. After visiting mother and baby, he and his unit are called away on a mission. In the woods, they are ambushed by local resistance fighters who dispose of the bodies in the lake. Upon hearing of the death of her lover, the girl dies of heartbreak leaving their daughter an orphan. The Mayor says that these events happened ten years in the past, but the modern setting of the film is clearly the 1970s!
Zombie Lake is a prime example of style over substance. It is a well shot atmospheric film, but the script is poor and the performances bordering on amateurish. Credit must go to Rollin for trying to bring something new to the genre, with a subplot about the zombie soldier meeting his daughter and a bond forming between them, but I’m not sure it really worked within the context of the film.
While not the worst film I’ve seen, Zombie Lake does run close. If you really must watch it, I recommend doing so with a few alcoholic beverages. Mrs Gammon and I found the ordeal much more bearable with them.
Black House Film are distributing Zombie Lake on DVD.