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NIGHTMARE CITY

A trashier-than-average Italian zombie mash from the notorious Umberto Lenzi!  The undead in NIGHTMARE CITY (originally released in the U.S., heavily edited, as CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD) are certainly the most sprightly ever put on film, lending a certain uniqueness to what is otherwise pretty standard zombie movie fare.

The Package
    
Zombie movies are one of the staples of modern horror; they're certainly fun, no question about it, but they're also problematical from my point of view.  Even acknowledged classics like George Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD and Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND suffer from the shuffling zombie complex.  In other words, the rotting, maggot ridden (though simply painted green in Romero's films) undead hordes move TOO SLOW to do much damage, meaning their dopey victims have to move even slower.  The living dead also apparently possess superhuman strength, being capable of tearing human flesh apart like paper (a common occurrence in these kinda flicks).
     NIGHTMARE CITY was directed by the prolific Umberto Lenzi (who has, however, made his share of cannibal gut-munchers; his MAN FROM DEEP RIVER is often credited with starting the trend that includes the legendary CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and Lenzi's own CANNIBAL FEROX).  He's fixed many of the above problems by featuring zombies who run, fight, shoot guns and wield machetes (the question of why they do such things is left unanswered).  The film not been particularly well received by genre aficionados (such as Steve Bissette and Chas. Balun), I suppose because it violates so many apparently sacred zombie movie rules-all the better, I say!

The Story
     A cargo plane lands in an unnamed city, disgorging a bevy of flesh munching, radiation contaminated zombies.  These undead freaks embark on an endless stabbing, shooting and ass-kicking spree pretty much the minute they step off the plane, ending up massacring the inhabitants a of a TV studio and hospital (where one of 'em takes a moment to suck the blood out of a patient's IV!).  Meanwhile there's the inevitable straight-laced hero, who together with his sexy scientist GF (who's given lines like "it is not the fault of science and technology, but of man") try and flee the growing legion of undead a-holes, but end up waylaid on a rollercoaster in the midst of a deserted amusement park.  I won't reveal the "twist" ending, except to say that it's probably the worst choice Lenzi and his screenwriters could possibly have made ("It's all a what???").

The Direction
    
Cheap, tawdry and FAST--that's how Umberto Lenzi directs this film (and, for that matter, pretty much everything else he's made), which is a typical Italian eighties exploitation product typified by the movies of guys like Lenzi, Fulci, Ruggero Deodato, Anthony Dawson and many others.  The bloodletting literally never lets up, and is more often than not served up in extreme close-up.  I wish the special effects were a bit more proficient (there always seems to be an intrusive insert between the start and completion of a stabbing/slicing/shooting/etc., and the zombie makeup tends to look like cake mashed on people's faces).  This is clearly one of the lower budgeted entries in the Italian zombie craze, but what it lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for in energy and sheer excess.


Vital Statistics

NIGHTMARE CITY
Dialchi Film/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Director: Umberto Lenzi
Producer: Diego Alchimede, Luis Mendez
Screenplay: Antonio Cesare Corti, Luis Maria Delgado, Piero Regnoli
Cinematography: Hans Burman
Editor: Daniele Alabiso
Cast: Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Francisco Rabal, Sonia Viviani, Eduardo Fajardo, Stefania, D'Amario, Ugo Bologna, Sara Franchetti, Manuel Zarzo
 


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