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Hard Rock Zombies (1984)

Directed by Krishna Shah
Blue Laser Films DVD

“Bomba saves elephants from crooks.”

I’m not a big note taker. Most of the films I review for Bleeding Skull I enjoy and remember. But, every once in a while, I’ll watch a film and retain next to nothing. It’s as if the images of the movie evaporated before my eyes could fully take them in. Please, reader, allow me to introduce you to the horror comedy Hard Rock Zombies.

As a co-worker of mine, Jenean, used to say, “It made my ass itch.” I thought it was unfunny, not scary, and plodding. It went on for about 10 minutes longer than it should have. And, somehow, a hard rock band becoming zombies wasn’t very interesting. The problem I had, Damn me!, was that I hadn’t take any notes. I couldn’t recall enough about the movie for a full review. I remembered one band member’s name: the lead singer, Jessie. I remembered the name of his underage crush: Cassie. I remember the name of the guy who orders the band killed: Hitler. But, I didn’t even remember the name of the band, which seemed unfortunate. Was it The Boners? I wish.

It seems I had no choice. I watched the movie a second time.

The one thing I find difficult about writing movie reviews is having to rewatch something that I didn’t like. The film seems to take twice as long to watch the second time. It can be a painful experience for my mind. Slaughterhouse Rock and The Tower have done me no favors. Hard Rock Zombies joins this group.

The band has two shows in the town of Grand Gugniol. A big record executive is coming to see them. The townspeople hate rock and roll. The band stays outside of town in a lovely house that turns out to be Hitler’s forwarding address after The Bunker. I believe Eva Braun is there. Some other weirdoes are there too. The band is killed. Zombies ensue.

There’s more to it than that. And, some of it is OK. The bit where the woman who I think is Eva Braun becomes a switchblade wielding werewolf is good. A joke involving a fly and a chant to raise the dead is funny, until it’s explained. A bit with cutouts of celebrities heads confusing zombies is a nice idea. And, amongst all the music, the song “Cassie” about loving an underage gal is actually rather good in an Eric Carmen “Hungry Eyes kind of way. It’s a catchy song. That’s why I like it. It’s nothing to do with the subject matter. I’m not a perv.*

About halfway through Viewing Number Two, something cool happened. During a moment when Hitler was ranting, I picked up my 25-year-old copy of Michael Weldon’s The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. I flipped to page 80 and I read “Bomba saves elephants from crooks.” That intriguing sentence is from Weldon’s write-up for the 1951 film Bomba and the Elephant Stampede. As the zombie horde multiplied and things in Grand Guignol got out of hand, I just kept thinking about Bomba and those elephants.

I wondered if the elephants had been out drinking one night and decided, unwisely, to cut down an alley in the bad part of town. Suddenly, there were “crooks” all around them. Then, Bomba the Jungle Boy swings in and saves the day. Or is the sentence simply the description of  a standard jungle film plot, with poachers? The book isn’t specific. I’ve been watching a lot of jungle films lately, especially Jungle Jim. But, why have I never watched the adventures of Bomba the Jungle Boy?

And, the hard rock zombies make it to their show. And, they play for that record executive. And, hey! The record exec turns out to be a sleazy jerk. There’s a surprise. And, Hitler and his cronies become zombies and infect the people in the town. And, I can’t stop thinking about Bomba!

I wondered if Bomba had a theme song? It’s probably less catchy than “Cassie”, which I’ve been humming all week. But, I bet the subject matter of Bomba makes it more conducive to close harmony singing on the subway then “Cassie” does. If there isn’t a Bomba song, I’d like to write one. Mamba, La Bamba and LaFonda are three rhyming words I’ve got so far. I’m well on my way.

I made it through a second viewing of Hard Rock Zombies. It didn’t get better. Maybe it would improve with a third? If so, it won’t be this Dan Budnik who watches it. Maybe we can get the other Dan Budnik, the photographer, to write it. I’m sure he’d be game. And, he wouldn’t get distracted by elephants and jungle boys like I did. And he’d probably catch the name of the damn band because I missed it again.

*Footnote expunged per legal request.