Review Date: October 7, 2002
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 8/6/2002
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
Italian horror films, in the 1970's and early 1980's were a dime a dozen; produced on meager budgets and stock full of gore and blood. The most famous, or at least notorious Italian films of the time are those from the zombie sub-genre, headed by the films of Lucio Fulci. Umberto Lenzi, like so many other Italian B-Movie directors, also tried his hand at the zombie film with the 1980 film, Nightmare City
. Although Lenzi is most remembered for his cannibal films like Cannibal Ferox
, Nightmare City
is held in high regard by both Lenzi and zombie fans all over the world. Anchor Bay has released a new DVD with a fresh anamorphic transfer, but is the film a nightmare like the title implies?
A radioactive spill has occurred at the state nuclear plant. Not much more information is given by the TV reporter, other than the forthcoming arrival of a nuclear specialist, Otto Hagenbach. Hagenbach's arrival is a major event, and thus journalist Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz
) is assigned by his superior to conduct a lengthy exposé on him when he arrives. He and his cameraman head out to the airport, and discover that Hagenbach's plane is nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile in the control tower, the air traffic controllers discover a mysterious plane approaching from the northeast. There are no specific markings on the plane, but it appears to be a military transport. An emergency is called, and the runways cleared, for the landing of the plane. The plane lands, and is surrounded by armed police, but their fears are lessened when they discover it was Dr. Hagenbach aboard the plane. Unfortunately though, he was not the only one on, and an onslaught of radioactive zombies exit the plane and attack. These zombies are not traditional however, their faces are covered with welts and they move with a speed and aggression greater even than humans. Since their red blood cells have been destroyed by radiation, they seek the blood of the living, and their numbers keep growing.
General Murchison (Mel Ferrer
) realizes the danger of these mutants, and he appoints a team to lessen their attack. Dean tries to alert the public of this disaster, but his attempts are trumped by his superiors as they cut out his announcement. With the public in the dark, the radioactive zombies continue to murder and devour the city dwellers until only few people remain. Dean and his wife, Anna (Laura Trotter
), attempt to flee the horror, but there is no escape. Dean's worst nightmares have come true, and it is only time until he too becomes a victim of the Nightmare City
This is a real fun film to watch. Despite Lenzi's denials, the clichés are all here: the stubborn and sluggish military, the lengthy scientific explanations, the deaths of the fragile female leads, the apocalyptic ending, the traditional media conspiracy and, of course, the truckloads of gore. Granted, the zombies look different and run around like they've had one too many coffees, but the basic premise is still the same, and the movie is all the better for it. Audiences expect a film with zombies taking over, and that is exactly what they get.
All the actors play out the film as if they were in Schindler's List
, delivering their lines and expressions with an utmost seriousness, despite the trite story. That, coupled with the many clichés makes this an undeniably entertaining guilty pleasure. Nothing about it is really all that good, but the pacing is fast and the gore constant, that it is tough to get bored with the proceedings. Nightmare City
plays out like a checkerboard; on the black spaces is a dramatic scene emphasizing the apocalypse, and on the white squares a gruesome zombie attack. There is really no story here, just the setup and execution of zombie raids, and if that is your cup of tea then you will be right at home with this film.
The many zombie attacks contain several shots of blood and gore, and some of the effects actually look quite gruesome. Like in Fulci's The Beyond
, eyes are skewered and the backs of heads blown off, and some of it really looks rather nasty. However, there are several scenes with badly done effects as well, as many people are stabbed and have their throats slit, but with no blood or gore to show for it. The zombies look as if they've had a bad encounter with an oatmeal plant rather than being exposed to radiation, and look for the most part unconvincing. Gore hounds will be happy, and fans of bad effects will also get their giggles, so the inconsistent mix of effects actually serves the film nicely.
What elevates this film above merely just a guilty pleasure and into a camp classic is the illogical and improbable ending. It is so far fetched, and such a blatant reach by Lenzi to distance himself from the films of Fulci and Romero, that it cannot be taken seriously, and it will surely evoke laughter from anyone. It is like a conclusion to a short story that a teenager might have written when they were pressed for ideas. It is a cop-out, and it contains that trademark Italian pessimism, and really makes the film a must see, in a ridiculous sort of way.
(known also as City of the Walking Dead
, which is how I first saw the film on VHS) is by no means a great film. The gore is inconsistent, the performances wooden, the dubbing weak, the story poor and the ending laughable, but all these faults make this truly a great party movie. Sit back with some friends, giggle at the films seriousness and low-budget nature, enjoy the spotty sequences of gruesome gore, and then digest the cheese in the film's ending. If you love those Italian B-Movies of times past, then you will undoubtedly love Nightmare City
Anchor Bay has pulled off all the stops on this transfer, finally giving it the anamorphic enhancement missing from previous other region DVDs. Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, the print here looks amazing, considering the film's age. Other than a slightly muted color pallet, no doubt due to the age and budget of the film, this is a flawless transfer. Colors are consistent, blemishes and grain nonexistent and the transfer unbelievably sharp. Considering how horrible the film has looked on VHS and on DVD in the past, this is a true eye opener. This is the best the film has ever looked, make no mistake about it.
The only track included here is a Dolby mono track, but it serves the film nicely. It is clear and without hiss, and Stelvio Cipriani's enjoyable score sounds great. Some scenes do sound flat, but in reality, this track could not sound much better, and is overall just fine.
Although not nearly as loaded as the Japan Shock DVD, there are still a few worthwhile extras to be seen on this disc. The major supplement is a 13 minute interview with Director Umberto Lenzi entitled "Tales of the Contaminated City". Produced by Blue Underground, this is a well edited and informative look into Nightmare City
and hearing Lenzi cuss some of the actors and the story is good fun. Lenzi also talks in all seriousness about how good the film is; even going as far as saying that aside from the shooting of zombies in the head that this is a very realistic movie. He also reveals some interesting tidbits like the fact that Martin Scorsese's great Raging Bull
was filmed at the same time, and in the same location, as Nightmare City
(what a contrast!).
Also included is a very revealing anamorphic trailer and a lengthy Lenzi bio. It should as well be noted that this is the uncut 92 minute Italian version of the film, not the 88 minute version featured on some previous releases of the film on video. The isolated score track from the Japan Shock disc would have been great, but Anchor Bay has still done a fine job with this release.
is an Italian B-Movie classic that has its fair share of fans (even if many don't really want to admit it), and its ending is one of the greatest "bad" endings of all time. The video transfer on this disc is amazing, and the mono track well produced, making this the best presentation of Nightmare City
available. The included interview with Umberto Lenzi is entertaining, and bottoms out this disc nicely. If you are a fan of the film you can't go without this disc, and if you are looking for a fun 90 minutes then make sure you have this Nightmare.
Movie - B+
Image Quality - A
Sound - C+
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 32 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Mono
- Interview with Director Umberto Lenzi
- Theatrical Trailer
- Umberto Lenzi bio