Plot: What’s it about?
As he awaits the arrival of a scientist for an interview, reporter Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) has no idea he’s about to witness a much more important turn of events. A military plane makes an unscheduled landing and when the doors open, it isn’t soldiers that emerge, instead it is a wave of horrific creatures. These monsters look like normal people, but they’ve mutated into violent, bloodthirsty animals. As these beings slaughter the military outside the plane, they soon turn their attention toward the onlookers, which is where Miller stands. Of course, he tries to get word of the invasion out to the public, but a ranking official with civil defense refuses to allow it to happen, for some odd reason. Now, Miller simply hopes to return to his wife and engineer a method of escape, even as the creatures overtake the entire landscape. These monsters are able to run, jump, handle weapons, and even drive vehicles, making them a difficult foe indeed. Will a way be found to stop them in time, or will this be mankind’s final stand?
This looks like a zombie movie and at times plays like a zombie movie, but Nightmare City is not a zombie movie in the traditional sense. I think something more like mutated people with vampiric tendencies is more accurate, as these creature are swift, intelligent, and aside from their disfigured exteriors & lack of speech, can do most anything a normal person could. This creates some interesting moments, as they get behind the wheel, make use of some firepower, and do whatever else needed, to feast upon the blood of the mortals. Not that zombie movie fans won’t like Nightmare City, but I wanted to let them know, so they wouldn’t be taken back by Lenzi’s unusual, highly effective monsters. As you’d expect from Lenzi, bloodshed is high and gore is plentiful, but this is not the kind of carnage we’re used to, as special effects fall short and in most cases, will cause widespread laughter with the audience. I found Nightmare City to be a lot of fun, but if you’re after a more serious kind of horror picture, then I doubt this will suffice. Even so, with a solid disc and a terrific price, this release is more than recommended.
You expect splatter when director Umberto Lenzi is involved and as such, it is so surprise that Nightmare City is often soaked in the red stuff. But the gore here remains second fiddle to the breed of menace causing it, as Lenzi’s radioactive vampires (for lack of a better phrase) are a unique, memorable species. I mentioned above how they differ from traditional zombies, but they also have a lot in common with zombies, though I still don’t think anyone should call them that, since they feed upon blood before brains. Lenzi infuses the film with fresh thrills thanks to these atomic creatures, which can cause chaos unlike that of the zombies, though of course, we still love the good old gut munchers. Other films directed by Lenzi include Cannibal Ferox, Fear in the Dark, Ghosthouse, and Eaten Alive. The cast here includes Hugo Stiglitz (Angel of Light, Survive), Laura Trotter (Frivolous Lola, Close Friends), Francisco Rabal (Dagon, The Witching Hour), and Mel Ferrer (Eaten Alive, Scaramouche).
Video: How does it look?
Nightmare City is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I’ve seen two different import editions of this film and without question, this new version offers a vast improvement over both. I was pleased to find a cleaner, sharper, and more consistent presentation here, about as good as can be expected in this case. The main area of note is grain, which troubled the other releases, but proves to be minimal here and of course, that opens up the visuals more than just a little. Yes, the print still has some softness and debris, but given the material involved, I’d say Anchor Bay has done the best work possible at this time.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was pleased with the audio here, though it wasn’t too memorable, instead it was just better than expected. I heard no hiss at all, while harshness and distortion were minimal, all of which were present in the import DVD editions. Although this was a low budget picture, the limited audio roots don’t play much of a role here, though some scenes seem a little off balanced, but never to an extreme level. The dialogue is a bit low in some instances, but usually seems well balanced and easy to understand. A clean, solid overall audio presentation and in truth, that’s all we could ask for from a film of this kind.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a thirteen minute interview with director Umberto Lenzi, a talent file on Lenzi, and the film’s theatrical trailer.