Oasis of the Zombies
oasis of the zombies | jesus franco | manuel gelin | Eduardo Fajardo | france lomay | zombies | nazi | zombie | curse | france | spain | jeff montgomery | lina romay | myriam landson | antonio mayans | javier maiza | eric viellard | caroline audret | albino graziani
Film: Oasis of the Zombies (La tumba de los muertos vivientes)
Director: Jesús Franco
Writer: Jesús Franco
Starring: Manuel Gélin, Eduardo Fajardo and France Lomay
This film was on that I’m pretty my father bought on a whim back in the VHS days. It should be pointed out that he loves zombie films so just seeing the title would suck him in. I’m pretty sure he didn’t like this one and probably has only watched it that once. This is my second seeing this, being I gave it a rewatch for a horror movie challenge I’m doing. The synopsis is an expedition searching for treasure supposedly buried by the German army in the African desert during WWII comes up against an army of Nazi zombies guarding the fortune.
We begin with two young women in a jeep that are driving through the desert. They stop off in an oasis and the woman driving wants to get out and look around. We do see that there is some metal debris that is left here, one of which has a Nazi swastika. They go deeper and one of them gets scared. She goes to flee and arms come out of the ground, grabbing her. Her friend is also attacked.
We then shift to Colonel Kurt Meitzell (Eduardo Fajardo) with his wife (Lina Romay and Myriam Landson). They stop off at a man’s house as they want him to join them on an expedition. Kurt goes in to speak with him and his name is Captain Blabert (Javier Maiza). It turns out that Kurt is looking for Nazi gold that his unit was transporting during World War II. Capt Blabert knows where the oasis is located and he will only show him if they’re splitting it. Kurt agrees to this, but as Capt Blabert gets a map, shows him and then Kurt stabs him in the hand with something. Capt Blabert goes to hit him, but dies and Kurt takes the map. He tells his wife he didn’t want to come, but she doesn’t believe that. He scolds her as they leave.
We then switch to a young man name Robert (Manuel Gélin). He gets a telegram telling him that his father is dead. He is saddened by the news and elects to go to Africa to where his father lived since the war. He reads a journal that tells the story of the gold in the oasis and the part his father played in it. He also learns who his mother is, Aisha (Doris Regina). He convinces his girlfriend, Sylvie (Caroline Audret) as well as his friends, Ronald (Eric Viellard) and Ahmed (Miguel Ángel Aristu) to come with him to find the gold that is conservately worth 6 million dollars.
While this is happening, we see Kurt arrive at the oasis along with his wife and two men. The two men are told to not investigate the oasis at night, but they do anyways. They start to dig and hear weird noises. They’re attacked by zombies that guard the oasis from intruders. The two men as well as Kurt’s wife are killed. He gets bit on his neck, but gets into his jeep and flees into the desert.
Robert and his friends arrive and befriend another group led by Prof Deniken (Albino Graziani). Ronald falls for Erika (France Lomay). I’ll be honest, I’m not sure here if the professor and his group stumble on to the oasis or if they know of it, but both groups end up there for a night of terror.
Now I will say that, even after the second viewing of this movie, I love the concept. There’s a lot of talk that the Nazis were into the supernatural as well as having large amounts of gold that they confiscated. I really like the idea that this random unit is traveling across the desert with it and there’s a British unit after them. The oasis being tainted by the amount of bloodshed there is also a pretty cool one as well. I am confused if it was buried ahead of time, because the Nazis themselves couldn’t have due to the ambush. I do think this is a plot hole that wasn’t explained.
The problem then becomes quite a bit with the story. I like the idea of this college student learning a family secret and then going to search for it. Hell to be honest as a 30+ year old man, if I found out my family knew where there was 6 million in gold, you better believe I’m going try to find a way to get to it. I even like that Kurt is after it as well, since he trained the unit. A partial problem there is that he doesn’t look German at all.
Another issue is that I don’t know why Prof Deniken and his crew are there. I don’t recall it being said that Ronald or Robert told them about the gold, because why would you? It is possible that Erika did. The likelier thing is that they just ended up there as they’re traveling across the desert which is fine.
My final issue though is with the zombies. I’m pretty sure the first two girls are attacked during the day. We have this issue where they can only come out at end, at least which is what is established later in the film. I don’t like this ‘dead by dawn’ aspect to the zombies. I like the idea of them being cursed to be stuck there and killing anyone who comes there. Some also move pretty fast while others walk. I just feel there is a bit of incontinency here.
I’ll move to the pacing next. I actually don’t mind how the film builds. We are giving the initial scene where we don’t see anything. We do get introduced to the characters and have different groups going to the oasis at different times. An issue here though is that we don’t see the attacks on Prof Deniken’s group. It really just doesn’t build as much as I wanted it to. The ending though is fine as I do like the full circle aspect we get there. The editing is fine as well. We get cuts to all of the zombies, which is fine to show us the make-up. I also like cutting back to Capt Blabert to see what happened to him.
To the acting, I’ll be honest is that no one really stood out to me. Gélin is fine as the lead here. It is interesting to me that he really doesn’t seem like the hero though. We don’t focus much on him outside of coming up with the idea to come here. Fajardo is a villain, but that is only established by what he does to Capt Blabert. It might have been deepened the story to have him going against the college students to build tension. Lomay is good looking and we see her topless a couple of times. All of Robert’s friends are kind of generic. We don’t get as much sleaze from co-writer/director Jesús Franco as you’d expect either. I could tell though early on with the focusing on the first two girl’s butts.
As for the effects of the movie, they’re actually hit or miss for me. Some of the zombie make-up I thought looked really good. Other times I just thought it looked quite weird. The attacks that are done don’t really fit for zombies. These are in line more with voodoo zombies, but they seem to bite at times while others they just attacked. I think more consistency would have helped. The film is fine fro the most part, it is kind of shaky at times and doesn’t have the most professional feel.
The last thing would be the soundtrack. To be honest at times I really dug it. There are some really creepy songs here that made me feel anxious. The problem is that they also use these when nothing is going on that is scary. It really messed with the tone of those scenes where we should be getting rocked into a lull before something creepy happens. For the most part though, I really did like the selections used. The dubbing isn’t great here either. The voices don’t match up quite a bit and the voices are just a bit off for me.
Now with that said, I don’t really think this is as bad the Internet Movie Database is rating it. I think there are some define issues here. The concept we have is really good, but the story they constructed around it is lacking. I actually things that could be added wouldn’t be that difficult to make this a much better movie to be honest. Because of these decisions, the pacing is off. The ending just kind of happens as well. None of the acting is that good and the effects are inconsistent. This also goes for the zombies and their lore. I like the soundtrack selections, but I think they were misused at times as well. Regardless, this is one I still enjoyed and I think actually fixing story issues or going sleazier like I know Franco could have would have made this much better actually. This is definitely a below average film with unrealized potential.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 10