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February 5, 2014

Movie Review: Nightmare City (Blu-ray)

As a youth one of the most enjoyable things I did was simply walk to the local Mom 'n Pop video stores and gaze at the covers of the many of the highly exploitative horror movie covers many companies used to get folks to plop down $2.50 for a three night rental. The big box (or "porn box") releases had the biggest allure for this budding genre fanatic. Umberto Lenzi's City of the Walking Dead ( AKA Nightmare City) and its release from Continental Video had my paws on it plenty of times until I was finally able to rent it -- thanks to an older sibling. Since then this bizarre zombie flick has seen a few DVD releases but now thanks to the folks at Raro Video fans get to see it on the high-def. All I can say is that we have come a long way in 25 years and this movie still manages to entertain. 

A giant cargo plane is floating close to an airport, not answering anything from air traffic control, just getting uncomfortably close a highly populated area ripe for a disaster. These aren't the smartest air traffic controllers so naturally they allow this beast of in airplane to land on one of their runways. Intrepid reporter,  Dean Miller (perpetually stiff Mexican actor, Hugo Stiglitz, Tintorera, Cyclone) is on the scene with his crew and numerous authorities to find out what exactly is in this plane. This proves to be a big mistake as this particular plane is loaded with bloodthirsty,radioactive oatmeal-faced zombies.

(Mild spoilers)

The zombies multiply quickly thanks to some radioactive mess that caused by the new visitors. There’s plenty of carnage here as these bloodsuckers cause all sorts of chaos slicing innocent folks with their machetes and axes. The FX are awful at times – the blood looks like it’s merely some ketchup dripping from the victims and the zombie make-up for the majority of the ghouls appears to just be some oatmeal and food coloring. 

Lenzi does deliver some shocking deaths though that look familiar. If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing his cannibal movies you’ll know fully well about his fondness for genital mutilation and eye-gouging (Both of which on display here in loving close-up!). In one ridiculously nasty scene, a group of these pizza-faced undead invade a live dance show and in graphic detail chop off a woman’s nipple (it actually looks like a pepperoni). Did I mention the great Mel Ferrer adds some class to this otherwise sleazy piece of gore-drenched schlock? Yes, he does pick up a paycheck here as he did for other similar Italian horror films.  

If you're on the fence at all about upgrading Nightmare City due to whether the picture and sound quality is an upgrade over the Blue Underground and old region 2 release on DVD, no need to worry as the restoration is top-notch and well worth grabbing. The colors are brighter than ever and there really are minimal to no flaws in the film element. Both the Italian and English dubbed tracks are included and sound pretty good also. I prefer the Italian track but for a good chuckle the English dub that we know so well from past releases is here.

Raro has put together some attractive extra features on this release -- the main being a 49 minute interview with director Umberto Lenzi. Much like his Lucio Fulci, Lenzi is pleasantly candid with his answers talks about working with Mel Ferrer and what a professional he was and his experience with Hugo Stiglitz. Apparently Lenzi was not fond at all of Stiglitz. Directing balsa wood has to be a chore so you can't really blame him. His other films are covered is well to fill out the interview to bring some variety. The sound isn't great but it’s; still easy enough to follow.

In addition to the interview we also get liners from Fangoria's Chris Alexander, who is an obvious fan of Nightmare City. It's nice to read his contribution in to the supplements as he does cover some nice ground on Lenzi and the "fast zombies" in Nightmare City that came long before 28 Days Later and other speedy sprinting zombie flicks. An Italian and English trailer is also included to round out a nice set of extras from Raro.

Nightmare City is not going to float with everybody because, well... it's a mess, but I'll be damned if it's not one of the most enjoyable zombie films I've ever seen. Seeing it look amazing on Blu-ray with this new restoration from Raro Video is a wonderful thing. Definitely one of the must-own horror releases of the year. Highly Recommended

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