Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Mark Shannon, George Eastman, Dirce Funari, Annj Goren
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Astro (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (1.78:1)
Appropriately released the same year as Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust, this undeniably unique exploitation shocker from the wildly prolific Joe D'Amato is the reverse side of the extreme cinema coin. Eschewing gruesome mutilations and animal death in favor of tropical bump and grind footage, this monster mash for the raincoat crowd remains more famous as a title than an actual film. Furthermore, its odd relationship with D'Amato's similar mix of zombie mayhem and hardcore coupling, Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (with which this shares most of the same cast, crew, and locales), has resulted in more than a few filmographies confusing the two for years. However, while Erotic Nights balances the horror and sex about 50/50, Porno Holocaust dives headlong into the latter category with only a few strange monstrous sex scenes tossed in near the end.
The "plot" doesn't really merit much of a summary, especially since this film has never been legitimately available with any kind of English translation, but the set up is familiar enough. We spend about an hour following the denizens of a sunny Santo Domingo island where scientist George Eastman (a.k.a. Anthropophagus) recruits perpetually horny captain Mark Shannon to explore a nearby island showing signs of strange radiation. After a series of random sex scenes, they head out along with a handful of insatiable female companions and spend most of their time walking up and down the beach. While Shannon continues to explore the native girls in graphic detail, a shuffling zombie with a mutated endowment attacks the infidels one by one.
And that's about it. Amazingly, it takes D'Amato almost two hours to cover territory that would normally be stretched to the breaking point at more than 75 minutes. However, the catchy score by Nico Fidenco (best known for his amazing Black Emanuelle soundtracks) makes things engaging when the actors aren't going through the frequently weird and hilarious hardcore motions. Not surprisingly, it's also chock full of bizarre moments like a hilarious random slap fight or a visit to a house where women pay to be serviced by two studs who hang around naked in a gardening room. By the time the zombie gets in on the action too near the end, most viewers will be rubbing their eyes in disbelief. At least Eastman emerges with his dignity relatively intact; as with Erotic Nights, he refrains from the sex scenes and was apparently brought in for whatever marquee value he could muster.
Porno Holocaust made its DVD bow in 2002 from German label Astro, at the time a welcome reprieve from very blurry bootleg copies floating around the fan circuit. The disc offers Italian or German soundtracks (both dubbed, obviously) along with a D'Amato retrospective featurette (without subtitles as well) that was also included on their Emanuelle in America disc. In 2005, Media Blasters gave the film its first American release in any format courtesy of a DVD under its short-lived Exploitation Digital brand, featuring a reasonably good transfer and optional English subtitles.
In 2018, Code Red brought the film to Blu-ray (hot on the heels of its Erotic Nights disc) touting an HD scan of "original film elements with additional color correction." While the exact source isn't specified, the end results look vastly superior to any previous edition with natural tropical colors and very fine detail (maybe too fine in some shots!). Some white specks pop up here and there, indicating there hasn't been ton of clean up but also confirming the original grain structure has been left intact here. Compared to the older DVD some drastic framing differences are obvious throughout, opened up to 1.66:1 here versus the earlier 1.78:1 and featuring major additional info on the top and left while losing some from the bottom and right. The opening titles are completely different as well, shown in white text here versus the orange seen on the DVD and with different timing as well. (See below for comparisons.) The DTS-HD MA Italian 2.0 mono audio is clear and quite punchy whenever the music kicks in. As for extras, "The Real Italian Stallion Part 1" (25m20s) with Shannon is basically a companion piece to his interview on the Erotic Nights disc, complete with a hilariously tacky opening title card. It's a fascinating look at the life of one of the most familiar names from the golden age of Italian adult films as he goes into his surprisingly prestigious family background, his other job pursuits before he went into movies, and his cycle of seven Santo Domingo movies made with D'Amato including this one, during with Funari's sudden refusal to do some scenes caused substantial production issues. Again the subtitles are incredibly bulky with a ton of text crammed on the screen, so prepare to do a lot of reading. Ported over from the Media Blasters DVD (the only significant extra from that earlier disc) is an unusually sedate Eastman interview (11m30s) covering his D'Amato collaborations including Absurd and their Caribbean detour around the turn of the '80s, with additional thoughts about other directors like Mario Bava, Pupi Avati, and Michele Soavi. Two theatrical trailers are also included along with a bonus one for Erotic Nights.
Code Red (Blu-ray)
Media Blasters (DVD)
Updated review on November 11, 2018