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Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Italian Zombie Movie - Words with the Director

David Brown

If you are new to the site or to the zombie movie genre in general you might have missed my earlier review of The Italian Zombie Movie parts 1 & 2 posted here. As I stated in my full review, this is such a great movie to watch if you are willing to turn off your brain and enjoy a movie for zombie fans made by zombie fans. I had the great distinction of being able to interview the Writer/Director/Producer, Thomas Berdinski, to see what kind of insight he could give us into the inner machinations of his mind and some behind the scenes news about the movie.

Zombies & Toys:  If you were bitten, would you want to be shot or left to change?
Thomas Berdinski:  I would definitely want to be undead for a while. Why not? There's plenty of time to be totally dead later. I also like playing as a zombie when I play “Left 4 Dead” with my 11 year old nephew. He beats me whenever we play anyway, so at least this way I have an excuse!

ZT:  Any favorite zombie movies/books/games?
TB:  Wow, that would be almost too many to list! I'll start with the movies that inspired me – “Zombi 2” by Lucio Fulci, “Burial Ground” by Andrea Bianchi and “Cemetery Man” by Michelle Soavi. Zombie books that are high my list include “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” by Jane Austin and Seth Graham-Smith, “Dead Beyond the Fence” by Brian Kaufman and “Eaten Alive! Italian Cannibal and Zombie Movies” by Jay Slater. As for games, I don't have time to play as much as I'd like, but “Left 4 Dead 1 and 2” and “Dead Rising 1 and 2” I enjoy playing with my nephew.

ZT:  If we were to make a toy of you, would you be a zombie or survivor? What accessories would you come with?
TB:  I would want to be a survivor; in fact, I'd want you to make a toy out of the character I often play at conventions when promoting my Italian Zombie Movies: Sascratch! Sascratch is the half-human half-Sasquatch offspring of a Bigfoot from the year 25,000,000 A.D. (when the Sasquatches and humans finally resolved their differences and started to breed...) He travels through time hunting zombies and promoting The Italian Zombie Movie. Accessories would include his zombie bite-proof cape, his man-purse filled with Italian Zombie Movie DVDs, futuristic guns and ammo and his ultra-hip Time Travel glasses...

ZT:  You have described this miniseries as "the first no-budget horror/sci-fi/comedy miniseries to give audience what REALLY made the European zombie genre of the 80's so entertaining". That being said, what are some of your favorite zombie movies that Europe has given us?
TB:  I like different movies for different reasons. What I was referring to there was the rampant sexism (and even misogyny) that was so commonplace in European horror movies in the 80s which is so pathetic and politically-incorrect today that it is often laughable! The movies that I found the most sexist/misogynistic would probably be “Burial Ground”, “Patrick Still Lives” and “Hell of the Living Dead” but there are plenty of others! I based a lot of the ridiculous sexist dialog in my movies on those films. I'd never seen another movie that parodied the sexism of European horror movies – that's what I think makes our zombie movies the most unique. Outside of that, some of my favorite Euro horrors include “The Beyond” by Fulci, “Suspiria” by Dario Argento and “The Blind Dead” series by Amando de Ossorio.

ZT:  How did you go about creating all the guts and gore for the movie? I guess what I am wondering is if any of the guts were edible?
TB:  Most of the juicier stuff was created by our special effects guru Joe Tardani; who I've known since childhood. Somewhere along the way, he learned how to make fantastically realistic intestines out of hanks of sausage casings, Jello, stuffing mix, bread crumbs and Kool Aid. Not only are they edible, but they taste sickening sweet (thanks to the Kool Aid and Jello...) His actual ingredient ratios, etc., are a big secret, but I think our guts look much better than the guts in most gory movies I've seen (and they cost a lot less to make too!)

ZT:  What for you was one of your favorite scenes from the miniseries?
TB:  That's a tough one because we had so much fun making these movies... I have to say I really enjoyed the scenes between the sexist oaf Ruggerro (Dan Grams) and his (unbeknownst to him) Succubus girlfriend Maria (Laurie Beckeman). The scene where they get trapped in the car by the blinded zombie is a favorite, as is the scene where the eggs magically fall from the sky; signifying (at least in Ruggerro's mind) the apocalypse. Also, every scene with the alien characters (myron Erickson and Terry Madden), especially when they battle “the first living dead machine” - that was fun to shoot and to watch. Bruno (Jeff Bromley) and his Michigan Militia cohorts (Keith Zahn and Chuck Alderink) had some funny chemistry, especially when you know the actor who played Bruno is a former Navy Seal. I still get a little sad when Katriona (LaShelle Mikesell) the psychic gets killed by the zombies in the garage. The flying head sequence was a blast (Christy Mack). The Queen of the Zombies (Kathy Price) was always a hoot, on and off camera... Sorry, I just can't decide!

ZT:  I saw a tagline stating "The Biggest Laughs - The Grossest Effects - The Lowest Budget", if I may ask, how much was the budget on this movies?
TB:  We are a no-budget movie. We didn't raise any money at all. Everyone involved was a volunteer and provided their own costumes, make-up, props, even software and computers in the case of the technical folks involved. Of course, we had to pay for things like sausage casings and latex, but we would just do that with whatever cash we had in our pockets and go from there. We shot this movie week-to-week, shooting two-three scenes each month until it was finished; solving effects problems as they arose with whatever we had on hand. The biggest expense was hard drives to store all of the DV footage on. I probably spent $4000 on hard drives (over the 4+ year shooting schedule! - It's hard to schedule volunteers who are also soccer moms, soccer dads, soccer kids!)

ZT:  How many eggs were utilized in the egg scene?
TB:  Now that's something I've never been asked before! Most of the eggs weren't real eggs at all but were plastic eggs from the local hobby store. Plastic eggs are reusable! We did throw about 2-3 dozen real eggs at Ruggerro and his car (it really was his car!) but the vast majority of them were plastic, so probably 60 or so of those. There were also digital eggs falling from the sky – perhaps a million of those!

ZT:  Will we be seeing any more ACME products in upcoming projects?
TB:  Definitely – Looney Tunes is an uncredited inspiration!

ZT:  What was one of the hardest scenes to film?
TB:  Probably the scene where the dozen or so zombies are attacking Ruggerro around the trailer and at his car. Unlike most zombie movies which splatter a little blood and flour on the faces of their zombie extras and call it good, our zombies have full latex masks on ala “Burial Ground”. And once the actor put on that latex mask, it had to stay on until the shoot was done – otherwise the mask fell apart. The masks had very small eye and ear holes so there was very little air circulating into them. Also, the small ear and eye holes made it difficult to communicate with the actors. Add to that, the 80 degree weather that evening and you had a very difficult situation to direct. All that said, I think it was one of the better scenes in the movie, maybe because the actors playing the zombies really did feel near death?

ZT:What got you interested in the zombie movie genre and horror movies in general?
TB:  It's funny – I started making movies when I was 8 years old. I was really into Japanese giant rubber monster movies at that time, so I was making my own versions of Gamera, etc., plopping live snapping turtles on my train board. Anyway, one afternoon I saw my first zombie movie – “Horror Express” - with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas on one of those “Chiller Theater” shows. I was probably 10 years old? Well, it got me really excited to make a zombie movie, so I got my friends together and we set up this amazing miniature train wreck (which I am still amazed by today) that was going to be the source of the zombies. We got everybody all covered in blood and started filming a bunch of 8-10 year olds rising from the wreckage of the train. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I never finished that movie. I kind of think I've been purging those demons ever since!

ZT:  I have to ask, were the two aliens in the movie inspired by many sci fi movies from the 50's and 60's?
TB:  Actually they were inspired by characters in two very obscure episodes of Star Trek – The Original Series: “Return to Tomorrow” and “Savage Curtain”. The episodes are completely unrelated. It's fun - I've had Trek fans come up to me at conventions and tell me they recognized the homage we were paying to that great TV show.

ZT:  Are there currently any plans for a third part to the Italian Zombie Movie as the trailer near the end of the mini-series teased?
TB:  Yes, Part 3 is in pre-production right now. My plan is to start shooting this spring. Fortunately we've made enough money on Parts 1 & 2 that we will actually have a budget for this one (!) which will allow us to perhaps bring in a “name” actor or two and have more special effects. The good thing about Part 3 is you will not need to see Parts 1 & 2 beforehand. It starts where Part 2 leaves off, but it is an entirely new story.

ZT:  What is next for you, a great director/writer?
TB:  I'm nowhere near a great director/writer (hope to be someday!) but I do have more projects in the works. Part 3 is the next biggie, of course. We're already shooting effects for that one and I'm still working on the script. I am also considering entering a short horror film competition where all of the filmmakers are given the same plot, but they get to do whatever they want with it. I also have a pretty ambitious sci-fi that I've been dreaming of forever. Hopefully that will start to come to fruition once Part 3 is completed.

ZT:  Would you consider yourself to be more like Ed Wood or Sam Raimi, when it comes to your approach to film making?
TB:  From what I've read about both, I'm probably more like Sam Raimi. I really like to do everything when I make a movie. I write the script, pick the actors, produce the movie, direct the movie, edit the movie, write and perform the music, play some of the roles, do the effects – I love every aspect of movie making. This is what I've read Raimi was more like in his earlier years. Now that he has $100 million budgets, he delegates. I probably would still try to do everything!

ZT:  What is your dream project, if you could make a movie with an unlimited budget?
TB:  If I had all of the money in the world to make a movie I would remake that Japanese giant rubber monster movie classic “War of the Gargantuas”! I just loved that movie. And I would do it just like they did – with amazing miniatures, guys in rubber monster costumes, real explosions – nothing would be digital at all – I would make it a 100% homage to the amazing Japanese kaiju filmmakers!

ZT:  If anybody wants to help out with your future productions how may they do so?
TB:  The best way to reach me is via Facebook at “Thomas Berdinski” or “The Italian Zombie Movie”. You can also email me at We’re always looking for talented, energetic people to help with our crazy movies!

As I said before, this was a very fun interview and shows just how in tune with the movie Tom is. If you haven’t yet seen this movie you can find it in our very own store by clicking here. Trust me when I say that you will not be disappointed with this movie. It is one of the next sleeper hits and is a must own if you are a fan of classically humorous and gory movies.

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