Hold your socks on for this trash classic that’s been released on Blu-ray and DVD by Arrow Films.
Umberto Lenzi’s 1980 shocker ‘Nightmare City’ aka ‘City of the Walking Dead’ aka ‘Incubo sulla città contaminata’ (‘Nightmare in the Contaminated City’) is a very lively Italian-Spanish zombie movie. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a treat. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s the one where a pilotless Hercules transporter plane lands on the runway of a (Spanish-looking) airport and out rushes a bunch of facially-scarred radiation victims, armed to the teeth and able to run like rabbits. These certainly aren’t the familiar shufflers and stumblers we’ve come to expect from Italian zombie movies, but they can still only be killed by being shot in the head – they feast on their victims’ blood, vampire-like, and are only completely inert when their ‘cerebral apparatus has been destroyed’.
The army mobilise – led by nominal guest star Mel Ferrer – and the ensuing rampage is intermittently bloody, sometimes unintentionally funny, always entertaining. In several moments it plays like a spoof and the gore is over-the-top and poorly done, so the true horror of what you’re witnessing is lessened compared to, for example, Lucio Fulci’s bloodier outings, which are altogether more effective in their graphic bloodletting. Even so, Lenzi throws taste and logic to the four winds, so don’t expect strongly-written female characters and long, meaningful discussions as to how to tackle the infected victims and the epidemic. Female nudity seems of paramount concern to the filmmakers to retain audience interest, coupled with non-stop action and some mind-blowing dialogue. The army’s taking no chances and instigate Emergency Plan H so it can: “Keep Plan B in reserve, in case the situation gets out of hand”.
CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz42OkD_R-o
Our heroes are a journalist Dean Miller (played by Hugo Stiglitz) and his surgeon wife Anna (Laura Trotter). Despite his name becoming enshrined forever in cult moviedom, when Tarantino christened Til Schweiger’s champion Nazi killer Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz in ‘The Inglourious Basterds’ (2009), Stiglitz himself is a charisma-free zone as the principal protagonist. The story takes him from the airport (where the zombies arrive by plane and wreak havoc on their military reception committee), a TV studio (where the zombies attack a dance extravaganza), a hospital to save his wife (where the zombies swarm through the building in search of plasma) and eventually into the countryside and to an abandoned funfair (where the zombies…well, you get the idea). Euro-cult movie fanatics will be more pleased to note the presence of Eduardo Fajardo (who appears fleetingly, wearing a surgeons mask and hurling a scalpel like a circus knife-thrower), Francisco Rabal (as Major Holmes, who heads up the Plan H fightback), and Manuel Zarzo and Tom Felleghy (as army officers). Stelvio Cipriani’s superb slow-burning theme music ‘L’atessa’ (‘The Wait’) and most of the score is infinitely superior to the images it accompanies.
CIPRIANI’S SOUNDTRACK CLIP ‘L’ATESSA’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqblaZUS5Ug
So to the zombie-mutants themselves. They’re a pretty horrible-looking bunch, as played by the likes of Italian stuntmen Ottaviano and Roberto Dell’Acqua, Benito Pacifico and Rinaldo Zamperla wearing caked-on make-up. Less pizza-faced, they’re more half-done flame-grilled burger, while some sport a variety of facial conditions that vary from flaky pastry to cowpat. The horde is armed with an assorted arsenal, from knives to sub-machineguns, and are unstoppable – even ‘The End’ doesn’t depict a resolution to the mutant problem. You’ve got to laugh when the impervious mutant zombies, which can only be killed via headshots, scream when their fingers get trapped in a door. The bodycount is high, the Chianti flows and there’s quite enough in here to justify the film’s ‘Nightmare’ title.
Arrow includes two versions of the film – one that’s quite badly damaged in parts, but sharper (with the Italian titles) and another that’s a softer picture but damage-free (with the ‘Nightmare City’ titles sequence). It’s best just to watch the latter version and turn the sharpness on your TV up as high as it will go. Both versions are available in the English dub or the original Italian with English subtitles. The Arrow edition contains two disks – one Blu-ray, one DVD. Among a bunch of extras, there are interviews with Umberto Lenzi, co-star Maria Rosaria Omaggio, and filmmaker Eli Roth, plus an entertaining booklet essay titled ‘Fade Away and Radiate’ by John Martin.
In summary: great score, excellent opening scenes, complete and utter stupidity for the most part. If you like Italian cult sinema, such as ‘Contamination’ or anything featuring the undead Morto Viventi, you’ll love it. But be prepared for your cerebral apparatus to be destroyed.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
- 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
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM ARROW FILMS
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM AMAZON UK