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City of the Living Dead (Blu-ray)

City of the Living Dead on Blu-ray (click for larger image)Reviewed by Uncle Creepy

Starring Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Fabrizio Jovine

Directed by Lucio Fulci

Distributed by Blue Underground


“The city of the dead. The living dead. A cursed city where the gates of hell have been opened.”

In all its simplicity that’s probably my favorite bit of dialogue from Lucio Fulci’s zombie apocalypse masterpiece City of the Living Dead. Like many flicks of its ilk, the film has had many names over the years including The Gates of Hell, Fear in the City of the Living Dead, and even Twilight of the Dead. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you call it as long as you see it and drink in every ounce of its splattery goodness.

The storyline is pretty convoluted, as most were from Italian zombie imports back in the day, although to refer to City of the Living Dead as simply a zombie film is really shortchanging it because it truly is so much more.

While taking part in a séance in New York City, a young psychic named Mary Woodhouse (MacColl) dies (well, sort of) after receiving the ghastly vision of a priest, Father William Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine), hanging himself in the small New England town of Dunwich. However, this is no mere act of suicide. By taking his life, Father Thomas has unlocked the gates of hell, and it’s up to a newly resurrected (but not zombified) Mary and ace reporter Peter Bell (George) to head there and close the gates before midnight on All Saints Day when the dead will rise and take over the Earth!

City of the Living Dead on Blu-ray (click for larger image)Does it make much sense? Of course not. Does it need to? Hell no! What we have here is probably the spookiest of all of Fulci’s horror films. One that’s riddled with phantoms, an extreme amount of insects, gallons of grue (both regurgitated and otherwise), and atmosphere so thick you can cut it with a knife. Fans who aren’t acquainted with the movie (and shame on you if you’re not already) may be disappointed to learn that the film’s zombies don’t get much action until the last third of the flick, but rest assured there’s enough shit going on in the first two acts to keep you more than busy until then.

The only disappointment to be found here lies in the fact that most of City of the Living Dead‘s phantom zombies are of the pizza-faced variety and therefore lack that classic look we’ve come to love. Still, I guess that just boils down to personal preference regarding how dead you like your dead to look. We can chalk that up to the absent argument of running vs. shambling zombies. In this flick they teleport, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

The good folks over at Blue Underground have done an outstanding job bringing this classic to Blu-ray. Presented here in 1.85:1 1080p high definition mastered from its original, unedited camera negative, City of the Living Dead looks nothing short of stunning. Even the best of DVD remasterings have never even come close to looking this damned good. To go along with the eye candy, you can either watch the flick with its original mono track or dig on some new mixes in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX and 7.1 DTS-HD. Fans are going to be blown away. I know I was.

In terms of supplemental material, in true Blue Underground fashion we get a fine haul. Things kick off with the over thirty-minute The Making-of City of the Living Dead featurette, which is home to many cast and crew interviews, including the legendary international F/X artist Gino De Rossi, that is pretty much what you would expect. From there we have three more featurettes that generally are extended interview bits with Catriona MacColl coupled with a look at the director himself. Sprinkle on your usual collection of trailers and radio spots, and we are finished!

City of the Living Dead is a film that deserves its place within your horror library, and if you’re a fan and possess the tech to watch it, this Blu-ray is a must own! Bless your black horror loving hearts, Blue Underground! Now bring on The Beyond and Zombie please! Thanks, we’ll be waiting!

Special Features

  • The Making-of City of the Living Dead featurette
  • Acting Among the Living Dead featurette
  • Entering the Gates of Hell featurette
  • Memories of the Maestro: Lucio Fulci featurette
  • Marketing of the Living Dead featurette
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Radio spots
  • Still gallery

    Film:

    4 out of 5

    Special Features:

    4 out of 5

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    • Blockbuster

      I wanna see the drill gag in high def…THAT would be cool. Heh.

    • Vanvance1

      I’ll definitely be picking this up… I haven’t watched it in years. I hope all of Fulci’s flicks end up on blue.

    • doubleh55

      I really question the point of Blu Ray for movies like this. I guess being somebody who grew up on VHS horror movies it’s a shame to see technology make them look 1000% better.

      • Uncle Creepy

        I used to think and feel the same way, and to a certain degree degraded film stock can add to a flick’s charm, but then I watched TCM on Blu-ray and noticed so many different and cool things that I never have seen before despite watching it dozens of times prior. That really changed my tune.

    • Cinemascribe

      A lot of people claim Fulci’s “Zombie” is his best work. Now, I love that flick and it ranks as one of my all time gore hound favorites.

      That said, “City of the Living Dead” is Fulci’s masterwork in my estimation. I own the Blue Underground DVD from a few years ago and I revisit it at least once a year. The scene where the girl loses a little bit more than just her lunch is indelibly etched into my brain as probably the sickest image I’ve ever seen on film. The score is something else as well..the musical representation of imminent death. A genuine classic that every horror fan must view at least one time.

      Side note: I caught the last ten minutes of this film as a kid without realizing what it was. I was watching a movie at one of our local cinemas and they had the movie for a limited run under the title “The Gates of Hell”. I had no idea what it was about ..all I knew was that the ushers had told my friends and I that we were absolutely not allowed to go into the theater for that particular movie, which of course came with the warning: “This film contains scenes of graphic violence. Due to the nature of these scenes, no one under 17 will be admitted”. Naturally, that warning meant the film was “forbidden” and I had to at least try to watch it. So on my way back from a restroom break, I looked around,saw that no staff members were in sight and slipped inside the theater,watching the remainder of the film until the credits rolled.

      —————-
      “I’m saying that I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man…and loved it. But now the dream is over..and the insect is awake.” – Seth Brundle

      • Avid Fan

        I wholly agree with your sentiment on this film, the cinematography, the sound effects, the practical effects, the music, everything was in perfect harmony for this film. So many memorable scenes and some shocking scenes when seen as a kid still feel effective now. I too give this a spin with The Beyond (had the honor of seeing The Beyond 16mm print at the Weekend of Horrors a few weeks ago, never looked better) about once a year as well. I think my old VHS copy is still viewable as well, but just barely.

    Steve Barton

    You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.