Italian zombie flicks have always been a love of mine and for the longest time, back in the early days of VHS rental, this movie always seemed to elude me. Only one video store had this title on their shelves but it was ALWAYS out and then finally was transferred to one of the other sister stores in the next city over. Well at the time gas money was scarce, I was all of 17 making minimum wage in 1989, so driving over to the next city to rent a movie was not in the cards. Then one day I saw that a new video store was opening up in one of the local strip malls. Being the horror junkie that I was, and still am, I was pretty excited to see another store pop up. On the day it opened I stopped by and went straight to their horror section. Low and behold there in all its oversized bloody box glory was City of the Walking Dead! I was finally going to see this one! This one title alone warranted signing up for a free membership. As a new customer I also got a card with two free movie rentals on it. Of course I used my first free rental right then and there! I left the store with my free movie rental of what I believed was going to be a really cool zombie flick! The front of the box promised some gore and the back featured oatmeal faced undead that rivaled the absurdity of Andrea Bianchi’s clay faced flesh eaters of Burial Ground (aka The Nights of Terror 1981).
|One of the walking dea....er...zombie.....er......yeah oatmeal face mutant!|
City of the Walking Dead begins as Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz), a journalist, is heading to the airport to interview a well known scientist who is expected to be arriving soon. Miller and his cameraman are intrigued as reports come in of an unidentified military cargo plane is about to make an emergency landing. The two investigate and find the plane surrounded my military police. No one seems to be on board and then the door slowly opens. Everything is quiet and suddenly a horde of zombies leap from the plane and start attacking the military with knives, axes and machine guns and……wait, what!? Hit the pause button! You’re telling me that zombies have now learned to use complicated weaponry and are now running around like spiders hopped up on Mountain Dew? This goes against everything I had I known about zombies! They are supposed to be shambling corpses not flesh hungry Olympians! Ok press play and let’s get back to the action at hand.
The marauding horde of the living dead make their way across the Italian countryside slashing, hacking and drinking the blood of their victims. One sequence is pretty bloody where the zombies attack the television studio that Miller works for. As he is reporting the airport episode to the thousands of viewers watching the executives pull the plug on his airtime. It appears the military are trying to gain control of the situation and shutting up Miller. Meanwhile in Studio B, during the broadcast of what looks to be a dance show, the zombies burst in to attack the dancers. Lucky for them most are women and lucky for the viewer many breasts are exposed! One dancer is unlucky enough to have her nipple sliced off and eaten by one of the zombies (she can be scene on the front cover of the box).
Ok so far we have a horde of murderous zombies, who can wield weapons and sprint after their victims. And while they are killing and drinking blood we really don’t see any gut munching, which is something usually pretty prevalent in Italian zombie flicks. Enter in Mel Ferrer (of T.V.’s Falcon Crest) as General Murchison. Apparently Murchison kind of knows what is going on. It turns out these “zombies” aren’t zombies at all! They are humans infected by radiation! The radiation has polluted their blood cells and they need to replenish their blood count with fresh human blood! OOOOOOOH that’s why they can run around and shoot guns! Gotcha! But….wait…..why call the movie City of the “Walking Dead”? Meh….par for the course for Italian horror film titles that come over to the U.S. in some type of truncated form.
Well after all this excitement the movie slows down while Miller collects his wife Anna (Laura Trotter) , a doctor at the local hospital and they spend much of the movie running around trying to escape the radioactive ghouls. We are also treated to more shots of Ferrer commanding the military forces safe from his command center. The movie kind of drags along but there are some action scenes thrown in for good measure. It’s almost like Poseidon Adventure in a way where there are supporting characters here and there and they interact with some of the major players but are basically written in so we can see them meet their bloody demise.
|Hello Mel? Help me outta here!|
The Millers do finally try to take refuge in a church, because after all these ghouls are like vampires. They need blood to survive so that also qualifies them to be afraid of places of worship. Not really a good train of thought being that you have been chased all over the countryside in the DAYLIGHT and they haven’t burst into flames or weakened in any sense. But this does let us encounter a radiation poisoned priest who attacks them. Hooray another arbitrary action scene! Finally the Millers make their way to an amusement park where they are finding dead ghouls, apparently dying of a lack of blood. They are chased up a roller coaster track by a pack of blood thirsty ghouls but are able to signal a passing military helicopter to rescue them. They both climb up the rescue rope (they were fresh out of ladder rope) but Anna loses her grip and plummets to her death, hitting several steel beams on the way down. An unintentionally funny scene since they use a dummy that looks like a dummy as its arms flail wildly and folds itself over one of the steel beams. Dean screams in agony seeing his wife fall to her death and wakes himself up from a …..NIGHTMARE!! Oh you gotta be kidding me!? It was all a dream? Man what a let down! It almost makes you want to punch Lenzi in the face for this type of “twist ending” but the movie really was going nowhere so thank you Umberto for ending the pain. As Miller collects himself he realizes he is late for his interview. An interview that is being conducted at the airport……with a prominent scientist……Uh oh. Yep you guess it! The ole circular ending trick! We are treated to a rehash of basically the first 10 minutes of the film but when the door opens to the airplane containing the ghouls, the frame freezes and the credits roll……….ohhhh thank heaven it’s over!
|Sorry Hugo, you're screwed...me? I have Falcon Crest.|
Now you might think I don’t like this movie. Well I didn’t at first but after about the third time seeing it, this one has grown on me and I like it for all the wrong reasons. I would still like to lay my hands on the Continental Video big box release that is pictured at the top of this entry but for right now I am content with the Blue Underground DVD release under the title Nightmare City, which is uncut by the way. If you like action, bloodletting, bouncing boobies and general silliness then I highly recommend this one!