Friday, August 13, 2010

NIGHTMARE CITY aka City Of The Walking Dead

(Umberto Lenzi, 1980)

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again; 1980 was a milestone for Italian Horror, as some of the wonkiest examples of the genre were released that year, and Nightmare City is no exception. It features some of the WORST writing, dialogue, acting, and special effects you will ever see in a feature film, yet it is endlessly entertaining and choc-full of unintentional humor. It was also one of the inspirations for Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror.

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Reporter Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) has been sent to cover a story on one professor Hagenbach's return. The professor's plane lands, but it's immediately clear that something is wrong with the man as he starts hacking up military personnel upon arrival. Out of his plane spill a rowdy, crusty-faced mob that proceed to dispatch the remaining military in no time at all. Dean races back to the TV station, and so begins our adventure!

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He gets back to the studio and interrupts a dismally painful European Dance TV program with news of the mutant invasion, but his broadcast is terminated by General Murchison (Mel Ferrer), who feels it would be best to NOT tell the public that they are all soon going to die. We then cut to a rather tender scene between Major Warren Holmes and his much better-looking wife Sheila, a woman possessed of dubious artistic ability. It seems her latest sculpture is an omen of sorts, as it gives them both the shivers...a premonition of crappy art to come?

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Back in the studio the sh*t hits he fan as it is overrun with mutants, none of whom seem impressed with the dancers' blue spandex or the kitschy Stelvio Cipriani disco music. Dean narrowly escapes by throwing an explosive TV set, and sets off for the hospital to find his wife, Dr Anna Miller. Meanwhile, the military have run some tests on some corpses and deduced that atomic radiation has given the mutants rapid regenerative powers and their taste for blood. We are then needlessly introduced to Gen Murchison's daughter and her dippy husband, who believe the whole "State of Emergency" thing is a joke and decide to take off in their camper to meet some friends.

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Dean gets to the hospital, but only moments before the mob of mutants does. He and Anna escape, and the remaining 30 minutes of the film follow the couple as they stop for gas, sit for a cup of coffee (!), visit a church, and visit an abandoned amusement park. Yes, really. I won't give away the ending, as it will either severely piss some viewers off or make them groan in despair. Yes, it IS that bad!

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So why would I recommend this to anyone? Because it's SO MUCH FUN! Any zombie movie where the zombies are smarter than their prey is just bound to be a riot, and Nightmare city doesn't disappoint in that respect. The zombies here run and jump, use guns and other weapons, keep appointments, and manage to destroy the city's power station. They even look like they're having a blast while they're at it, all smiles and grins and wide eyes! The special effects in Nightmare City are just that...special. The zombie makeup seems to consist of porridge and wilted lettuce pasted to the actors' faces with varying degrees of skill. I was also amazed at the lack of gore in many of the kills, as throats are slashed bloodlessly and heads bashed without consequence. That's not to say there isn't ANY grue, as there are a number of scenes that will have gorehounds howling. Eyes are pulled out, heads are axed and blown off, breasts are mutilated, and one poor surgery patient is eaten while he's still open! If you're looking for classy entertainment, look elsewhere. If you want cheap laughs and nonstop action, pick up a copy of Nightmare City, and let the Nightmare begin! Buy it here.

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1 comment:

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