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City of the Living Dead(1980)
The Seven Gates of Hell have been torn open, and in three days the dead shall rise and walk the earth. As a reporter and a psychic race to close the portals of the damned, they encounter a seething nightmare of unspeakable evil. The city is alive - with the horrors of the living dead!
For more about City of the Living Dead and the City of the Living Dead Blu-ray release, see City of the Living Dead Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 11, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writers: Lucio Fulci, Dardano Sacchetti
Starring: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo de Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Daniela Doria
» See full cast & crew
City of the Living Dead Blu-ray Review
Good God, it's blood. BLOOD!
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 11, 2010
At this very precise moment, in some other distant town, horrendously awful things are happening, things that would shatter your imagination.
No, that's not a rejected tagline for "The Twilight Zone;" it's instead the basic premise for -- and one of the many cheesy lines from -- Italian Horror Maestro Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead, also known as Paura nella città dei morti viventi. A smorgasbord of deliciously over-the-top 80's-style gross-out visuals, City of the Living Dead lumbers along like one of its decaying dead-ites, eschewing character development and a more coherent story in favor of cramming as many worms and brains and intestines and as many gallons of blood as humanly possible into the movie, and to excellent effect. Fulci proves himself with City of the Living Dead to be one of Italy's -- and Horror's -- finest master craftsmen of gross-out filmmaking, his picture a perfect example of both ooey-gooey style over get-in-the-way-of-the-nastiness substance, and of the fringe of the Horror genre. Indeed, City of the Living Dead proves far more capable, interesting, and better made than some of the brutally over-the-top spectacles that pass for mainstream Horror in today's cinema while encompassing all that made the splatter-ific pictures of the 1970s and 1980s such a delight.
In the town of Dunwich, a local Priest, Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine), commits suicide by hanging, and the dead begin to rise from their graves. In New York, a young woman named Mary (Catriona MacColl) sees visions of Thomas' death during a seance, the images quickly -- and literally -- frightening her to death. Mary is laid to rest, but a reporter, Peter Bell (Christopher George), happens upon her burial site and realizes that she's not dead. It is revealed that the hanging has opened the gates of hell, and Mary and Peter are tasked with closing them before the arrival of All Saints Day; should they fail, the dead will never rest in peace but instead rise from their graves and take over the Earth. Meanwhile, the town of Dunwich soon finds itself in lockdown as a series of mysterious events -- a shattered mirror, a pub wall suddenly splitting in two, the discovery of a small decaying corpse, and people losing their minds -- reveal that a hellish force has been unleashed on the town, and the innocent citizenry is paying the price with their very lives. As the clock ticks towards All Saints Day, a band of heroes must eliminate the source of hell-on-Earth before it's too late.
Kudos to the City of the Living Dead prop and makeup departments for helping to make this a classic barf-a-licious good time. This is no-holds-barred Horror, and unlike those newer gross-out movies (Saw ad infinitum) that take things just as far, if not further, and frame them in an ultraviolet, all-too-realistic perspective, City of the Living Dead has an aura of fun about it. The rubber skin and piles upon piles of goo prove effectively disgusting but also obviously fake, taking some of the bite out of the experience but not at the expense of the stomach-churning grotesqueness of it all. Indeed, Fulci isn't shy about populating his film with enough nastiness to make all but the staunchest of viewers queasy. The camera lingers as an apartment becomes infested with millions of worms, as characters vomit out their own insides, as heads are ripped open and brains come oozing out, or as an electric drill plows through one unlucky teenager's skull, in one ear and out the other. It's a cavalcade of gore, and Fulci makes it fun by sacrificing any semblance of reality and amping everything up several degrees for an over-the-top but (appropriate) audience-friendly experience.
For sure, gore takes center stage in City of the Living Dead, the picture using its plot as little more than a means of getting from one brain-squishing, drill-spinning, eyes-bleeding, intestines-barfing, worm-covered scene to the next. The picture even plays as a bit haphazard, jumping around with little attention paid to linearity or structure, with several scenes adding virtually nothing of substance to the movie other than to set up some more money shots. City of the Living Dead is further populated by several Horror clichés across the board, including a passionate couple that becomes trapped in a car that won't start and characters that become paralyzed by fear, only to become a zombie Happy Meal. The script is also home to some dialogue that's better suited to a cheap novella from the five-and-dime, and the acting is genre-standard, meaning actors lumber around; over-exaggerate their facial expressions; and for the ladies, scream real good. Fulci himself populates the movie with basic late 70s, early 80s camerawork, zipping around the action; utilizing rapid zooms; and lingering on the gore, milking it for all it's worth and then some. Even the music fits right in with the period, the synthetic beats reminiscent of the score from Dawn of the Dead with a little John Carpenter thrown in for good measure. It all adds up to a movie that's really not all that good in the traditional sense, but it's a wonderful example of the excess of 1970s/early 1980s Horror and the style of Italian genre filmmakers of the same era. City of the Living Dead isn't for everybody, but this is good stuff within its own little corner of the Horror movie universe.
City of the Living Dead Blu-ray, Video Quality
City of the Living Dead rises onto Blu-ray with a 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer that's among the best, albeit as-of-now limited, offerings from Blue Underground. Though the image sports some excess noise in several dark scenes and features slight black crush, City of the Living Dead otherwise impresses from start to finish. Blacks are generally excellent; one or two aberrations as noted above aside, this disc sports generally strong detailing in the darker scenes, and the film retains a slight layer of grain -- not to be mistaken for the noise -- throughout. There are also quite a few soft-looking shots, sometimes sandwiched around others that sport razor-sharp detailing, hinting to the fact that the presentation is more limited to the source than it is hindered by any faults in the transfer-to-Blu-ray process. Fine object detail is often above-average to excellent; whether scratches and dirt on a wooden floor, the texture of a corduroy jacket, or the stitching evident on a throw rug, Blue Underground's transfer handles many of the film's more complex elements very well. Though there are many dark scenes and a general lack of a more vibrant color palette, City of the Living Dead does feature several bright and well-rendered hues, for instance the wonderfully-realized grasses at a cemetery as seen in chapter five. The print is also in fine shape; a large hair-like object hovers atop the screen for a few seconds near the end of the film, but there are no other signs of excess dirt, debris, scratches, or similar anomalies. The transfer's minuses definitely take a backseat to its many plusses; fans should be delighted with this effort.
City of the Living Dead Blu-ray, Audio Quality
City of the Living Dead sports a DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack in addition to the picture's native mono presentation. The 7.1 mix doesn't amp up the soundtrack to any great degree; it's more spacious, obviously, and enjoys superior clarity, but the sound engineers have resisted making this into a head-turning extravaganza of sound. The limited surround elements are usually subtle in nature, though the film's third act enjoys several more potent and aggressive back-channel elements, including a distinct 360-degree scene that features several jungle-like atmospherics that spill out of every speaker, and more subtly, a gusting wind that seems to blow all through the listening area. Otherwise, this one plays as fairly front-heavy. Dialogue is crisp and discernible, even if there's some obviously-dubbed elements at play. Music is satisfactorily crisp but understandably lacks a more potent, clear, and natural presentation, and there's hardly a trace of a palpable low end, either in conjunction with the music or various sound effects. Though not a track that's going to push sound systems to their limits, there's no reason to dislike this lossless presentation. Another job well done by Blue Underground.
City of the Living Dead Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Blue Underground scares up a handful of solid extras for its Blu-ray release of City of the Living Dead. First up is The Making of the City of the Living Dead -- Interviews With Star Catriona MacColl, Co-Star Michele Soavi, Production Designer Massimo Antonello Geleng, Assistant Makeup Artist Rosario Prestopino, Special Effects Artist Gino de Rossi, Cinematographer Sergio Salvati, and Camera Operator Roberto Forges Davanzati (1080p, 32:10). Whew. A self-explanatory supplemental title if there ever was one, this piece features all of the listed individuals speaking on their experiences in creating City of the Living Dead. Discussions include the style of the film, the works of Director Lucio Fulci, shooting locations, tales from the shoot, the quality of the cast, the picture's cinematography and visual style, the construction and implementation of the special effects, and creating the look of the zombies. Both Acting Among the Living Dead -- Interview With Star Catriona MacColl (1080p, 10:34) and Entering the Gates of Hell -- Interview with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice (480p, 9:49) feature the actors who portrayed "Mary" and "Bob" respectively sharing their thoughts on their City of the Living Dead experiences. Memories of the Maestro -- The Cast and Crew Reminisce About Working With Lucio Fulci (480p, 21:09) is exactly as advertised, the piece featuring a collection of talent from both sides of the camera sharing their memories of the famed director. Also included is Marketing of the Living Dead -- Poster & Still Gallery (1080i, 13:14), The film's English (1080p, 3:01) and Italian (1080p, 3:03) trailers, and two radio spots with an accompanying still gallery (480p, 1:16).
City of the Living Dead Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Who's the king of the Zombie world? The easy answer -- and the correct one -- is George A. Romero, though Lucio Fulci fans might very well disagree, a disagreement not without merit. While Romero has pretty much made his career out his Dead series, Fulci branched out and crafted some real classics of the exploitation genre that didn't revolve around the undead, including The New York Ripper, but he's probably best known for Zombie II and City of the Living Dead. Where Romero's film are often packed with substance underneath the gore, Fulci instead goes for the jugular; City of the Living Dead is pure visual mayhem. It's gross, slimy, and uncomfortable, but it's also a lot of fun -- if the viewer can handle all the blood and guts and brains and worms and drill bits it has to offer. There's no real social message here and not even much of a story. The plot is there as little more than a device through which to show more gore, and the movie never tries to be much more than that. A fine example of splatter filmmaking from a bygone era, City of the Living Dead is a film that should be a member of every serious Horror movie collection. Blue Underground has done the film justice; the 1080p transfer represents one of the finest yet from the studio, and the 7.1 DTS lossless soundtrack gets the job done. A solid collection of extras round out another must-own disc from the fan-favorite cult studio. Recommended.
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Blue Underground has announced two movies for release on Blu-ray on May 25: the horror cult movie 'City of the Living Dead', directed by Lucio Fulci, and the spaghetti western 'Django', directed by Sergio Corbucci. Both of them have received new video transfers ...
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