Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Review: Nightmare City (1980)

The 1980s gave birth to so many gonzo films, and Nightmare City is among the craziest of them all. Directed by Umberto Lenzi as a sort of pastiche on films like Zombie Flesh Eaters which were themselves drawing on George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, the film is a crazy mish mash of a zombie virus spreading across America while the army and medical staff try to work out what's going on.

It's got all the right ingredients for a great Italian horror film: bad acting, terrible dialogue, zombies that look like they have had their faces covered in honey and then plunged into a box of breakfast cereal ... oh, and it also has some 80s leotard-clad dancing girls, and lots of blood and gore ... what's not to like!

The plot, such as it is, starts when an army plane lands, and disgorges a cargo of flesh eating zombies, who seem impervious to bullets, and who slaughter all the soldiers who come to try and stop them. Filming this are a couple of chaps from a local TV station, who head back there and interrupt some sort of disco dance-off which is being recorded ... before they are all interrupted by another hoard of zombies who kill the girls (one gets one of her breasts sliced off in a moment of true pointless schlock) and anyone else they can find.

And so the film continues in this vein ... hospitals get overrun with zombies, there are zombies at a fairground who chase a couple of our heroes up a helter skelter ride (and the woman falls to her death there), there are zombies in a church, and a zombie priest who attacks our heroes with a large candle ...

In many ways, you can see possible antecedents here to more modern films. It feels a bit like Planet Terror in the schlock horror of the zombies attacking, and there's a flash of Zombieland with the fairground setting ... but really it's nothing like them, just as it's nothing much like the films which inspired it.

It's basically great fun, but you really have to disengage your brain and go with it ...

As usual on the Arrow disks, there's a host of extras. What's especially interesting is the inclusion of two different prints/transfers of the film: one which is clean and sharp but which has some bad damage to the film; and one which is not so damaged, but which is a lot softer by comparison. There's a short featurette which explains the challenges they had in trying to source the best quality print.

I loved an interview with the director in which he seems to speak non-stop for the duration, barely pausing for breath, and talking about the film, the influences, the effects, the films that came later, and the remake of it which is apparently on the cards at the moment ...

All in all, a great addition to your Blu-Ray library of rubbish Italian horror films which are so poor they are great!


  • Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
  • Alternative High Definition transfer from the 35mm reversal dupe negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Newly translated subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • Brand new audio commentary by filmmaker, Fangoria editor and Nightmare City fan Chris Alexander
  • Radiation Sickness – a brand new interview with director Umberto Lenzi
  • Sheila of the Dead – a brand new interview with star Maria Rosaria Omaggio
  • Zombies Gone Wild! – director, producer and actor Eli Roth on Nightmare City and the wild cinema of Umberto Lenzi
  • Nightmare City and The Limits of Restoration – featurette looking at the differences between the two transfers included on this release
  • Alternate Opening Titles
  • Original Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Martin, author of Seduction of the Gullible: The Truth Behind the Video Nasty Scandal, illustrated with original archive stills and posters 

  • And there is indeed a remake on the cards ... checkout the Web pages all about it here: http://nightmarecity.tv/

    And the fundraiser for it is here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/tom-savini-umberto-lenzi-present-nightmare-city#/story

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