10 October 2004 | Bunuel1976
ZINDA LAASH aka THE LIVING CORPSE (Khwaja Sarfaraz, 1967) ***
This was one of the films I watched over Christmas via Mondo Macabro's exemplary SE DVD. I had never heard of the film before it was announced for release but I was immediately intrigued by it, and even more so after watching the trailer which had been made available online.
Well, now that I've watched it, I'd say it's a pretty hard one to classify and even more so to recommend: it's more than just a horror film (at the time only the second ever produced in Pakistan) and, frankly, not for all tastes. It follows the basic plot line of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' novel but obviously substituting locations, names, time periods, etc. During the Audio Commentary, Pakistani film critic Omar Khan repeatedly says that while the film-makers were doing their utmost to emulate the style of both the Universal and Hammer films which is very fairly captured, in my opinion, via several atmospheric sequences (especially those set in the vampire's mansion) and a shock moment or two (the first screen appearance of Stoker's notorious baby-feeding scene, a lady vampire is repeatedly stabbed in the presence of a little girl), what came out of it most distinctly perhaps was their basic lack of confidence in how to tackle the material at hand.
This is clearly evident in their making the vampire a 'Professor' (shades of Jekyll & Hyde) rather than a Count, for instance, but especially in its bizarre soundtrack comprised of unauthorized lifts from James Bernard's Hammer Dracula scores, cues from popular (but, in this case, wholly inappropriate) classical and contemporary tunes and most surprisingly (for a Western audience, at least) musical numbers that come out of nowhere and go on for minutes at a stretch, thus effectively stopping the film dead in its tracks! The actors involved (some of whom were highly respected in their country) are adequate under the circumstances but, for obvious reasons, cannot hope to compete in the horror stakes with the more 'professional' approach of the genre stars we know so well. The final obliteration of the vampire at the climax, however, is quite nimbly made and highly effective.
The DVD transfer was as good as could be expected (the main offender is some jittering around the half-way mark). The extras are surprisingly plentiful and very interesting: we've got an Audio Commentary, a three-part Documentary on South Asian horror films (featuring excerpts from a number of unbelievably tacky and campy recent genre efforts), a shorter Documentary about the making of the film proper (comprised of interviews with surviving cast and crew), the trailer I mentioned earlier (more a promo for the DVD), a poster/stills gallery, and there's even an Easter Egg highlighting an unused song originally written for the film that we were mercifully spared from.
In the end, THE LIVING CORPSE is a goofy but agreeable and oddly endearing film, one of three 'revisionist' takes on the Dracula 'legend' I received on the very same day incidentally; having recently watched Jess Franco's VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970), I look forward now to checking out the last one of them Paul Morrissey's BLOOD FOR Dracula (1974)!