‘We’ve got to hold on ’til dawn!’
Ahhh, Mr Franco! How nice to see you again!
Oasis of the Zombies is the seventh and final Jess Franco movie on the Nasties, and it’s seven for seven in terms of sheer enjoyment. This is one of the worst of the lot, but it still gives the viewer enough trashy nonsense to pass the 85 minutes amiably enough.
Oasis has parallels with Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake, which we covered a while back. Both were produced by schlockmeisters Eurociné, and Franco was of course originally slated to direct Zombie Lake, before disappearing and leaving Rollin to become captain of that particular sinking ship.
Eurociné must have eventually caught up with Franco though, and sent him off to the African desert with strict instructions to make a Nazi zombie movie, and hopefully a more successful one than Zombie Lake.
Did he succeed?
Yeah, I guess so. I liked Zombie Lake, but this is certainly a more entertaining, better made film, with occasional flashes of Franco’s eye for surreal beauty and quirkiness.
The opening is similar to Zombie Lake, though Franco ups the ante by introducing us to two girls’ asses rather than one.
Take that, Jean.
These girls are complete idiots, with one asking if the desert palm trees are giant redwoods. They don’t seem fully prepared for a drive through the African desert, armed as they are with only short shorts and a camera, and it’s not long before some Nazi zombies (let’s call them Nazombies) rise from the sand and kill them.
Cue the convoluted narrative!
There’s a lengthy flashback scene, where I learnt to my dismay that Lina Romay is not in the English dubbed version, and her part had been reshot with a French actress who is best described as a poor man’s Lina Romay.
It’s a cruel blow, but the show must go on.
There’s some business about six million dollars being lost in an oasis during a fight with the Nazis, and then a couple have sex in the desert, which is always a bad idea because that sand gets everywhere.
It’s okay though, because the man has come dressed as Jesus.
We then meet our heroes, a motley crew that have also decided to visit the most inhospitable place on Earth dressed like they’re going on a pub crawl.
They are there to search for the missing six million dollars, because, as one of those fucking scholars says, ‘six million dollars is a lot.’
No shit, Sherlock.
There’s an establishing shot of the desert that looks like someone just filmed a postcard, and then they’ve arrived. Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to film their first scene in ‘Africa’ in front of a store that very clearly says ‘Canary Islands’ on it, but Uncle Jess is unperturbed by giving away his actual filming location.
It’s best not to dwell on it.
If you enjoy watching girls in cowboy boots and guys in leather jackets drive around the desert – as I do – then you will enjoy the next half hour. If not, you’re shit out of luck.
But what happens next is unexpected. For the climax, Franco finally pulls out all the stops, delivering a slow moving desert siege that is as creepy and weird as anything Fulci was doing at the time. Check out the above screenshot, with the Nazombies standing stock still, just waiting. And what about this –
It’s like what Dawn of the Mummy should have been! It’s a real pity the whole film wasn’t about those wandering desert Nazombies, but I guess some people demand things like plot and characters and stuff.
The conceit is that the Nazombies are afraid of fire, and so the dum-dums have to keep the fire going all night to ward off the undead. It’s a similar plot to my favourite episode of The X-Files, Darkness Falls, which may go some way to explaining why I like this climax so much.
What I’m saying is this – leave your preconceptions at the door. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s not a great film – it’s not even a great Franco film – but it’s way better than you’ve heard. People who call this and Zombie Lake the worst zombie films ever made haven’t seen enough zombie films.
Maybe they are the lucky ones?