Posts Tagged ‘Nightmare City’

Movie Reviews 326 – Nightmare City (1980)

December 29, 2017

Released in North America as City of the Walking Dead, Nightmare City or Incubo Sulla Città Contaminata if you prefer the original Italian title, is the zombie movie that isn’t a zombie movie. Directed by Umberto Lenzi who just passed away in October of this year, it was one of many films, many from Italy, that rode the zombie wave after the success of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and it’s sequels. But unlike the Italian triumvirate of horror directors (Dario Argento, Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci) Lenzi was not yet an established creator, just coming into his peak period here as a matter of fact, and as such he had a much smaller budget was forced make concessions to producers that would hurt this film in particular.

This film is about some mysterious accident at a nuclear lab and TV reporter Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) decides to pop by the airport to try to get an interview with a scientist scheduled to arrive to help with the situation. As he waits for the scientist at the airport a plane comes zooming in without responding to air traffic controllers. Once landed and at a stop on the airstrip and with a small army ready and waiting, the communications silence continues until the door bursts open and a horde of zombie like people, including the scientist, burst out and attack everyone in sight.

Dean barely makes a getaway but the contagion quickly spreads as those bitten come back alive to join the throng and his only concern at that point is getting to his wife Anna (Laura Trotter) a surgeon at the local hospital. Once reunited the couple make their way across the countryside while the requisite bumbling military led by General (Mel Ferrer) consistently underestimate the situation.

The trial and tribulations of both Dean and his wife along with the military attempts to quell the outbreak are punctuated by some marvelous and blood and gore which is the only thing that eases the pain of the acting throughout. Well that and cutbacks to the TV station which seems to broadcast nothing but an around the clock Disco Dancing show until the leotard and legging clad bosomed dancers get mauled when the demon swarms arrive.

The extras on my DVD included a marvelous short documentary in which Lenzi explains how producers saddled him with Stiglitz when he wanted Franco Nero or John Saxon among other more talented actors. He also explains how he did not want this to be yet another zombie flick per se and considered the infected ones as radiated victims, a notion which is sometimes supported by the burnt and exposed flesh makeup. But even back then it was impossible to avoid the zombie classification and the deal is sealed when even the script points out the fact you’ve got to “aim for the head”.

Often maligned in the pantheon of zombie flicks of the era, one does have to endure a lot of silliness to get through this one. But I felt the spectacle was worth it given the few scenes and shots that do work. It’s more that a fair splatterfest with sliced, diced and exploding heads. Mind you, with movies like this my barometer of excellence isn’t much higher than the IQ of those Walking Dea… I mean nuclear victim. Whatever.

A shout out to Jeff and Chris, the boys at the “Really Awful Movies” podcast for using the opening newscast dialog in the intro of their own show. “Top of the news this evening is speculation concerning the real facts behind the department of health announcement about a radioactive spill supposed to have occurred yesterday at the state nuclear plant.” You can’t make this stuff up.

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