So when George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead was released internationally, the Italians kinda lost their fucking minds. Horror Icon Dario Argento was one of the producers, and was responsible for the release of the trimmed down version known as Zombi in Italy. In the wake of Dawn, it seems like almost every Italian filmmaker dropped what they were doing and said “Fuck it, we’re doing Zombies now!”. As fate would have it, Lucio Fulci would be first out of the gate.
Fulci’s iconic film originally titled Zombie Flesh Eaters was already in post production by the time the Argento re-cut version of Dawn Of The Dead, now know as Zombi was released. In an effort to jump aboard the gravy train, Zombie Flesh Eaters was re-titled Zombi 2, and passed off as a sequel to Dawn Of The Dead. This was just the start of the bizarre Zombie film family tree, but I’ll be saving further details for another post. Fulci followed up Zombie Flesh Eaters with his Gates of Hell Trilogy.
City of the Living Dead is the first film in the Trilogy, and the only film of the three to escape the Video Nasty list (I may have talked about those films before). Followed by The Beyond ( https://doctorhavok.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/lets-get-nasty-the-beyond-and-a-bay-of-blood/) , and concluded by House by the Cemetery, City Of The Living Dead is a glimpse into a hellish nightmare.
The film centers on Mary Woodhouse who, during a seance receives a vision of a priest(Father Thomas), hanging himself which causes the Gates of Hell to open. The final resting place of Father Thomas, the moody town of Dunwich, doubles as a passageway to the Underworld. This passage must be closed before All Saints Day lest the dead rise and claim dominion over the Earth! As creepy as this story is, its the score, cinematography, set decorating…The whole experience the lends a truly nightmarish edge to the film. The specter of HP Lovecraft hovers over the film like a thin layer of fog. Astute readers will remember it was Lovecraft who inaugurated the fictional village into pop culture lore with his 1929 tale, The Dunwich Horror. City adds to the legend, claiming it was built atop the ashes of the original Salem allowing the Nightmare Illogic to amp up the atmosphere and eerie edge of the film to a level of profound unease.
The undead in this film are super strong, can levitate, and even teleport. These are far more than your average shambling Corpse munchers, these are the denizens of Hell itself! Rather than simply devour you, these undead prefer to simply squeeze their victims cranial cavities until the brains ooze out. The gore quotient doesn’t stop there though, as one particularly disgusting scene involved Daniela Doria’s character vomiting up her own intestinal tract!
According the Fulci, the effect was achieved by forcing the actress to swallow the entrails of a freshly killed sheep so she could vomit it up again. Fucking sick! Admittedly, a fake head is clearly employed to finish off the gag, but that is the kind of dedication/insanity that one rarely sees in Horror filmmaking anymore. I still feel the real star of the film is composer Fabio Frizzi’s incredible score. I’ll post a link below so you can appreciate it for yourself as it accentuates the surreal dreamlike horror depicted on screen. Now, I must admit the ending is a bit wonky, and I still don’t fully get it, but I’m willing to look past that and appreciate this film for its many other strengths. I remember being entranced by the VHS cover art as a young child, and being utterly spellbound after finally viewing the film. Thankfully it still holds up to this day and the Gates of Hell remain open.
Pavor na Cidade dos Zumbis (City of the Living De…: http://youtu.be/mzD-Kd9rJgc