Zombie Lake (French: Le lac des morts vivants) is a 1981 Spanish-French horror film directed by Jean Rollin and Julian de Laserna.
The film starred Howard Vernon as the mayor of a small French town that is plagued by Nazi zombies who were killed by the town’s villagers 20 years earlier.
The story opens in a small French village 20 years after World War II. The villagers refer to a small nearby lake known as the “lake of the damned.” A group of young women go skinnydipping in the lake and are attacked by zombie Nazi soldiers who drown them. The zombies later leave the lake and attack women within the town. The mayor of the town (Howard Vernon) refuses to take action against the zombie attacks until reporter Katya Moore (Marcia Sharif) arrives to investigate.
After Moore returns a book to the mayor, they discuss the history of the town during the German occupation. His story is about a young Nazi soldier who protected a local woman from enemy gunfire. He was nursed back to health by the woman, who offered him her pendant and had sex with him. Returning to the woman later, the soldier found her dying after giving birth to their daughter Helena. The soldier and his entire platoon were then murdered by a group of townspeople led by the mayor, and their bodies disposed of in the lake.
The mayor says that he believes the zombies are the soldiers returning from the dead. Later, a female basketball team visiting the town is attacked by the zombies. Given the scale of the tragedy, the mayor calls the police, who send two detectives over to investigate. They too are killed by the zombies. The mayor then devises a plan to use the zombie’s relationship with Helena by having her lure them into a mill. The zombies enter the mill, which is then destroyed by the villagers using flamethrowers.
- Howard Vernon … The Mayor.
- Pierre-Marie Escourrou … German Soldier (as Pierre Escourrou).
- Anouchka … Helena.
- Antonio Mayans … Morane (as Robert Foster).
- Nadine Pascal … Helena’s Mother (as Nadine Pascale).
- Youri Radionow … Chanac (as Youri Rad).
- Bertrand Altmann … (as Burt Altman).
- Gilda Arancio … Blonde Girl Swimmer.
- Marcia Sharif … Katya.
- Yvonne Dany … (as Yvonne Dani).
- Jean Rene Bleu … (as Jean-René Bleu).
- Jean Rollin … Stiltz.
Zombie Lake was initially going to be directed by Jesus Franco. After working on the film’s plot, Franco left the project after arguing with the film’s distributor Eurociné. Eurociné asked Rollin to direct the film, and he entered production with only a few days notice. Julian de Laserna directed parts of the film under the supervision of Rollin. The final film credited them both under the pseudonym “J.A. Lazer”. Rollin appeared in the film as Inspector Spitz.
The film was written by Julián Esteban and Eurociné producer Marius Lesoeur. Lesoeur was credited under the pseudonym of A.L. Mariaux.
The film had two separate editors. Claude Gros was the editor for the French and international versions of the film while Maria Luisa Soriano was the editor for the Spanish version.
The score by Daniel White was described by Tim Lucas in Video Watchdog as “taken from at least four other movies”.
Zombie Lake was released in France on 13 May 1981, at a running time of 90 minutes.
Zombie Lake was released by Wizard Home Video on VHS.
The film was released on DVD first by Image Entertainment, as part of their Euro Shock collection, on 27 March 2001, and then by Arrow Films on 09 February 2004.
The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino on 26 February 2013.
- Zombie Lake has received generally negative reviews from contemporary critics who focused their reviews on the film’s low production quality and similarity to Ken Wiederhorn’s Shock Waves (1977).
Production & Filming Details
- Jean Rollin … (as J.A. Laser).
- Julian de Laserna … (uncredited).
- Daniel Lesoeur … associate producer.
- Marius Lesoeur … producer.
- Sean Warner … co-producer.
- Daniel White … producer.
- Julián Esteban … (story) (as Julius Valery).
- Jesús Franco … (as A.L. Mariaux).
- Daniel White.
- Max Monteillet.
- Claude Gros.
- Maria Luisa Soriano.
- J.E. Films (Julian Esteban Films).
- Modern Films Video (1982) (UK) (VHS).
- Wizard Video (1985) (USA) (VHS).
- Image Entertainment (2001) (USA) (DVD).
- Arrow Films (2004) (UK) (DVD).
- VZ-Handelsgesellschaft (2004) (Germany) (DVD).
- Redemption Films (2013) (USA) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
- Sinister Cinema (2016) (USA) (DVD) (as ‘Lake of the Zombies’).
- Unión Films S.A. (Spain) (theatrical).
- X-Rated Kultvideo (Germany) (VHS).
- Release Date: 13 May 1981 (France).
- Running Time: 83 minutes.
- Rating: 18.
- Country: French.
- Language: French.