Nightmare City

MV5BMjE0ODE5MjUwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODcyNDIyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_Nightmare City (1980)
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Year: 1980
AKA: City of the Walking Dead, Incubo sulla città contaminate

For a detailed look at the film read our Forgotten Gems article.

Exploitative and cheesy, this often overlooked gem by respected Italian director Umberto Lenzi  (Cannibal Ferox, Black Demons) is a forerunner of the running infected “zombie” scene, although this is slightly misleading, although not as misleading as the alternative English title City of the Walking Dead which smacks of a cash-in on the growing zombie craze of the time, when one looks at the literal translation of the Italian title, Nightmare City Contaminated, we are given a slightly more accurate title.

Benefitting from a surprisingly decent cast, including Mel Ferrer (War and Peace and more famously Audrey Hepburn’s one time husband), Francisco Rabal and Hugo Stiglitz (Cemetery of Terror, Survive), it is rumoured that a number of the cast were demanded by the financiers, who wanted the cast to improve the sales prospects of the film rather than for any acting or suitability purposes and sadly (or sometimes hilariously) this shows throughout.

In the film, a renegade reporter Dean Miller (Stiglitz) travels to the airport to wait for the famous doctor, Professor Hagen-Dazs or Haggenbach or something, and while searching for which runway the esteemed Professor will arrive on, an unmarked airplane comes in for an emergency landing, causing the emergency services to respond and surround the plane. Not one to miss the action, Stiglitz and his cameraman cover the scene where the plane opens and the Professor slowly steps out, and stabs a police officer before contaminated disfigured individuals charge out of the plane and a massacre begins as the city starts to fall under the sway of the infected.

The film itself is an enjoyable and fun romp that never takes itself too seriously despite the constant pensive (or should it be permanently tired) look of Stiglitz, well from what you can see behind the beard anyway. This is not a film that takes itself too seriously and as a zombie fan (which you are if you are reading this) even the most hard-line Romero-zombie fan such as myself, you forgive the fact that these mutants are car-driving, gun toting super strength Toxic Avenger look-a-likes with a penchant for drinking blood and you go with it, and thankfully due to Lenzi’s competence you are rewarded.

While the pacing drops at points, the film ends on a fantastic final 10/15 minutes as Lenzi ramps things up a notch and goes head shot crazy, as well as treating us to a hilarious scene on top of a rollercoaster which is reminiscent of the end of Fulci’s ‘Don’t torture a duckling’, before what is undoubtedly a marmite ending. Watch it and see.

Riddled with errors, convenient and illogical plot gaps, and not to mention no actual zombies in the way that we love, despite all this the film still works and is a must view for fans of the genre pre-dating the likes of 28 Days Later and other modern sprinter/infected films.



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