City of the Living Dead

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Craig Zaffaroni

Plot: What’s it about?

” WOE BE UNTO HIM WHO OPENS ONE OF THE SEVEN GATEWAYS TO HELL BECAUSE THROUGH THAT GATEWAY, EVIL WILL INVADE THE WORLD.” This is the premise of “City Of The Living Dead” which was directed by the late Italian goremaster Lucio Fulci. The story involves a priest who hangs himself in a cemetery and thus opens up one of the gateways to hell in which the dead will rise and walk the earth in three days. How the priest is able to do this is a mystery. In New York City a psychic named Mary (Catriona MacColl a Fulci veteran from his films “The Beyond” & “House By The Cemetery”) is involved in a seance with a group and has a vision of the priest hanging himself. She also sees the name of the town which is Dunwich. Mary has something unusual happen to her which leads to her meeting reporter Peter Bell (Christopher George of “The Exterminator,” “Mortuary” & “Graduation Day,”) who is interested in her wild story and wants to see this for himself. However they don’t know where the town is at because its not on a map. How they know which direction to drive in is a mystery to me. It’s one of the few illogical events in the movie. The two eventually find the town and meet up with the town shrink Jerry (Carlo De Mejo) and his patient Sandra (Janet Agren). The four try to stop the dead in the cemetery from rising while having to deal with the now reanimated priest and a few of the victims he has recently murdered.

Anchor Bay is at it again adding another Lucio Fuci title to the mix after releasing his other films “Zombie,” “New York Ripper” and “Don’t Torture A Duckling.” It’s good to see this and his other titles on DVD in their uncut widescreen versions. While I haven’t seen “Torture A Duckling” yet, I own “Zombie” & “New York Ripper” and enjoy those two. I also feel the same about this movie despite the fact that the plot is a little thin when it concerns the background of the priest and how he is able to open up one of the gates of hell through his suicide. The film makes up for this and other little problems with gore, atmosphere & suspense. There are some pretty graphic deaths in this movie such a head drilling, brain pulling & intestine barfing. What is also a new twist to the Zombie story is that these Zombies can teleport themselves from one place to another which adds suspense to the movie. Also, the way that they kill their victims is different from the flesh eating that you see in Fulci’s previous film “Zombie.”

This film is definitely at least worth a rental first for horror fans if you haven’t seen this yet. As for others the gore might not be your cup of tea. Then again, if you weren’t interested, you probably wouldn’t have read the review up to this point. If you can’t find this on DVD or VHS for rental, then you might find it for rental under it’s American title “The Gates Of Hell” which was released by Paragon Home Video and a couple other companies. However, it’s not in widescreen and doesn’t even come close in picture and sound quality to the Anchor Bay DVD. (More on this in a second) I compared my “Gates Of Hell” tape from Paragon with the Anchor Bay DVD and both were about the same running time. The amount of gore was about the same in both versions with the exception of about two extra seconds added on to the tail end of the infamous head drilling scene on the Anchor Bay DVD.

Video: How does it look?

Anchor Bay presents “City Of The Living Dead” in a 16×9 enhanced widescreen version (1.85:1) that far surpasses the video quality of the crappy Paragon version. The widecreen DVD has more picture information on the left side of the screen and a little on the right side. Surprisingly, there is also more picture information on the top and bottom of the screen which you would thing would be in the full screen version. The colors and detail are much better on this DVD. For example, some of the opening shots in the cemetery are much more visible than the Paragon version where you can hardly see the tombstones. The DVD is a very good presentation and probably the best the movie will look. There is some grain during some of the cemetery scenes which I believe probably has to do with the film stock used. There is also some noticeable artifacting in several night scenes, but nothing too distracting. Overall the picture is sharp.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack which is very good considering that this was mixed from a mono soundtrack. The balance of the dialogue and music/sound effects is good. The sub-woofer gets some use as well as the rear speakers during some murders, when the wind is blowing & others scenes. There were two scenes in the movie where the audio came out of the rear speakers unexpectedly and made me jump. This definitely made the viewing experience more exciting. There is also a Dolby Surround 2.0 audio track as well.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There are a few pleasant extras on this disk. First, there is a theatrical trailer under the “City Of The Living Dead” title. Second, there are two radio spots with picture stills from the movie that are shown while you listen to them. Finally, there is well descriptive talent bio for director Lucio Fulci. It would have been nice to have an audio commentary or some other features, but this is still a nice little package of extras. “City Of The Living Dead” is an enjoyable film even though the pace can get slow at times. Give it at least a rent first, but if you can’t find it then I recommend ordering it for $20.99 at DVD outlets like Ken Cranes or DVD Express on the Internet. While this movie is not as enjoyable as Fulci’s previous “Zombie,” it’s still worth a work. This DVD is a fine presentation by Anchor Bay and I hope to see more Italian horror films from them.

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