Blu-ray Review: Nightmare City (1980)

Nightmare City Blu-ray CoverDistributor: Arrow Video

BBFC Classification: 18

Director: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Francisco Rabal, Ugo Bologna, Mel Ferrer

You know the saying ‘It’s so bad, it’s good’? Well, Cannibal Ferox director Umberto Lenzi’s 1980 movie Nightmare City is exactly that, being a film that is so totally ridiculous and terribly put together that anybody not versed in Italian exploitation cinema will probably be laughing too hard at it for all the wrong reasons, and you couldn’t fault them for doing so. However, it is also a joy to watch because it is so typical of the Italian way of making horror movies that it is pretty much a textbook example of how to make a fun and stupid horror film that covers all the bases and, if nothing else, will entertain you for the 91 minutes it is on.

TV journalist Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) arrives at an airport to interview a respected and well-known nuclear scientist but a mysterious military plane lands on the runway, seemingly with no pilot. As the police intervene the door of the plane bursts open and a mob of mutated freaks, led by the scientist, attack all of the waiting crowd. Miller discovers that the zombie-like creatures suck out the blood of their victims and create more like themselves, and soon the reporter finds himself in a battle for survival as the number of radiated creatures increases.

Like most Italian horror/exploitation movies there’s not a lot of originality in Nightmare City, but that’s not really a problem if all you want from a horror movie is blood, gore, violence and nudity. What is more likely to be problematic is the atrocious acting and dumb script which, even by Italian cinema standards, is some of the most laughably bad you’ll ever see and hear. But when the violence is so frenetic and graphic it really doesn’t matter about the talky bits in between, and the zombies – or infected, if you want to be picky – are very engaging when they’re on the screen, as the actors run about with green and red puss-filled latex on their faces. Yes, it may look cheap and cheesy but Dawn of the Dead had zombies with blue faces and which looks better in the heat of an attack?

Make no mistake, Nightmare City is a bad film. But it’s also great fun and tremendously entertaining in a way that most modern multiplex cinema audiences wouldn’t appreciate. This release from Arrow Films features two versions of the film, one a 2K restoration taken from the original camera negative, complete with chemical deterioration spots. The other is taken from 35mm reveral dupe negative and is a lot cleaner, although the resolution is lower so it’s up to you which you prefer. There are also some fantastic extras to delve into, including new interviews with director Umberto Lenzi and actress Maria Rosaria Omaggio plus a featurette on the difficult restoration process. On the surface Nightmare City may not appear to be a film worth spending so much time and effort piecing back together in such a fashion but once you see how much love there is for this film – and filmmaker Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) will tell you as much in his featured interview – and experience the absurdity of it for yourself then you may come around to its gritty and gory, but ultimately forgettable, low-budget charms.

Nightmare City

Special Features: Brand new audio commentary by filmmaker Chris Alexander, Radiation Sickness – a brand new interview with director Umberto Lenzi, Sheila of the Dead – a brand new interview with star Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Zombies Gone Wild! – director, producer and actor Eli Roth on Nightmare City and the wild cinema of Umberto Lenzi, Nightmare City and The Limits of Restoration – featurette looking at the differences between the two transfers included on this release, alternate opening titles, original trailer, reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys, collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author John Martin and illustrated with original archive stills and posters.

UK Release Date: 24th August 2015

Arrow Films – Website

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