Directed By: Jess Franco
Starring: Manuel Gélin, France Lomay, Jeff Montgomery
Trivia: When released on video in the U.S., the title was changed to Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies
Between 1981 and 1983, director Jess Franco, one of the premier names in exploitation cinema, directed a total of 26 films, which averages out to a little more than a movie every month and a half! This level of output staggers the imagination, and I couldn’t help but wonder how he managed it. That is, until I saw 1982’s Oasis of the Zombies (aka The Treasure of the Living Dead, aka Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies, etc., etc). I suppose when you don’t worry about things like basic filmmaking techniques and rudimentary storytelling, you can churn ‘em out by the dozen!
The search is on for Nazi gold, which is buried somewhere in the deserts of Africa. A number of interested parties are looking for it, including college student Robert Blabert (Manuel Gélin), the son of a British soldier who, prior to his death, was one of the few people who knew where the treasure was hidden. Accompanied by his girlfriend Sylvie (Caroline Audret) and several classmates, Robert heads to Africa, intent on finding the loot and returning home a very rich man. But even if he does locate the gold, Robert and his crew still must deal with the undead Nazi soldiers that guard it, decaying zombies that rise from the sand to kill anyone who ventures nearby.
Oasis of the Zombies gets things rolling with a pre-title sequence, in which two young ladies make a trip to the desert to do a little sightseeing. After a few minutes, one of the girls thinks she hears something, and her eyes dart all around, searching for the source of the noise. We’re not really shown what she’s seeing, save a close-up of an ominous-looking web with a spider resting comfortably in the middle of it. Surely, I thought, this spider must play into the scene somehow, right? Wrong! I’m guessing it was there, chewing up valuable screen time, simply because Jess Franco thought it looked cool. The downward spiral continues when the scared girl runs off, and two hands (presumably belonging to a zombie) lunge out of the ground and grab her legs. Does she kick to free herself, reach down to pry them off her, or move so much as an inch in any direction? Don’t be silly! Why do that when you can stand perfectly still, and scream? The hilarity continues during a flashback sequence, where we see the battle between the Allied forces and the Nazis transporting the gold. It’s a sequence full of gunfire and explosions, yet is shot in such a way that we have no idea who’s killing who, or, more importantly, which side is winning. Even the zombies themselves are a letdown. Along with the poor make-up (the blood on their faces appears to have been stenciled on with red crayon), there’s no consistency in how they look. The first undead Nazi to come stumbling out of the brush resembles a guy with bad sunburn, while a compatriot who shows up a few seconds later is almost entirely skeletal, wrapping its bony hands around someone’s neck and strangling him to death. With many scenes that play out far too long (a desert rescue feels like it drags on forever), and more characters than we can possibly keep track of, Oasis of the Zombies is, plain and simple, a poorly-constructed motion picture.
Here’s the kicker, though: I kinda enjoyed it! Like I said back when I reviewed 1974’s Countess Perverse, Jess Franco films are usually a mess, and Oasis of the Zombies is no exception. But what can I say? Maybe it’s because I went in with low expectations, or perhaps the planets were in perfect alignment. Who knows? For whatever reason, I had a good time watching this piece of shit.
And I’ll tell you something else: I’ll probably watch it again!