Boy, they sure don't make 'em like they used to.... In 1979 Italian exploitation extraordinaire Joe D'Amato made Porno Holocaust, boldly fusing hardcore porn and gory splatter together in one film. Box office gold seemed certain, but it was not to be - Porno Holocaust with its sucking, fucking and flesh eating zombies, proved a misfire. Undaunted, D'Amato took another shot at the formula in 1980 with Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (or Sexy Nights of the Living Dead, the title on the print used for Shriek Show's DVD) which pared down the sex of Porno Holocaust, and amped up the horror. Erotic Nights of the Living Dead's threadbare plot concerns a property developer (Manlio Certosino) meddling in the affairs of a seemingly deserted island which he intends to exploit for the Caribbean tourist trade. Despite the warnings from the island's two sole inhabitants, an old man and his beautiful bewitching grand daughter (Laura Gemser), and against the advice of the cautious skipper of his yacht (George Eastman) he continues with his plans unwittingly causing the dead buried in the island's graveyard to rise up and take revenge...
At two hours Erotic Nights is a bit of a slog, the hardcore stuff adds a lot of fat to the movie, but the film has a number of longeurs where the film grinds to a halt so D'Amato can spend someone else's money pointing his camera at pretty shots of the ocean. The sex while not as frequent as Porno Holocaust really has only one big hardcore sequence where Certosino beds two whores in his hotel room. The other sex scenes are not nearly as explicit - Laura Gemser (who never preformed hardcore sex on celluloid) has two soft love scenes in the film. Also, worth mentioning the rather astonishing sequence where George Eastman kicks back with a stripper who has an amazing technique for uncorking champagne bottles (and yes, you should rush out and buy the DVD for this scene alone). The zombie element in the film is strictly poverty row stuff - don't expect any of the moldering creations of Giannetto De Rossi that shuffled through Fulci's zombie epics, the living dead in D'Amato's film are as mangy as they get.
Despite the disastrous pacing and the low budget, Erotic Nights of the Living Dead somehow works. Whatever the shortcomings of D'Amato's cheap day-for-night photography, the film does have a strange dreamy atmosphere to it, and there's at least one extraordinary sequence, where Gemser and Eastman are frolicking in the surf as the zombies watch them from the shore. The presence of Laura Gemser in D’Amato’s films always lift them out of the mire, and she's especially gorgeous here; the director really caught her beauty at its most ethereal. George Eastman (who penned the screenplay) is good too, he has real presence in the movie, and like Gemser is one of Joe D'Amato's greatest assets (his appearance in the D'Amato's 1981 film Absurd turns a routine slasher film into a minor classic). Must mention also the brilliant electronic soundtrack, by the unlikely sounding Pluto Kennedy (or Marcello Giombini if you prefer) which to me sounds like a sickly and feverish Tangerine Dream.
Shriek Show's DVD is fine addition to their Euro-cult library and is a good presentation of D'Amato's film in all its cork popping uncut glory. Extras include about 27 minutes of alternate scenes, a photo gallery and the French opening credits as an Easter egg. Be warned though - Shriek Show has put out a softcore edition of the film also, so be sure to avoid that.