Lucio Fulci's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD is must watch for any zombie fan. The film doesn't fit into any of the classic zombie templates and stands out in horror movie history as truly being original and kind of weird. COTLD is NOT my favourite of Fulci's unofficial "Gates of Hell" movies, but it certainly is enjoyable.
The movie begins with the suicide of Father William Thomas. This suicide opens one of the 'gates of hell' unleashing the dead to the sleepy town of Dunwich. In New York, a group of psychics have tapped into this suicide during a seance and one of them, Mary (Fulci regular Catriona MacColl) dies of utter fright. The NYPD launch on all out investigation in to what caused Mary's (MacColl) death. Luckily investigative reporter Peter Bell (Christopher George) is on the case and stumbles upon Mary's gravesite. Just as her body is to be buried, she comes back to life and Peter saves her. The two embark on a quest to find out what happened in Dunwich and try to get there in time to close the portal to hell. Unlucky for them, they have to take on a horde of Dunwich zombies to save the day.
Many may know the film from its original US alternate title, THE GATES OF HELL - a title I prefer much more. COTLD is very surreal and contains some amazing gore set-pieces. It also features some really absurd moments, which I'm sure will leave you scratching your head (like the ending)...but it wouldn't be an Italian horror film without them. Other notable aspects of the film are the great cast of Italian movie superstars (MacColl, Christopher George, Michele Soavi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice & even Fulci himself makes an appearance), music by Fabio Frizzi and make-up FX by the brilliant Gino De Rossi.
The film is probably known best for its crazy ass gore scenes as I mentioned above. Some notable scenes include: intestine puking scene, drill bit to the head, brain ripping/scalping (x2 or maybe 3) and stomach/crotch hole punching. These scenes really do make the movie THAT much better. The production designer also has to be commended. The film really has this eerie feel to it, like the town of Dunwich only exists in dreams. It's hard to explain...you should probably just see the movie.
Blue Underground released the movie onto Blu-ray for the first time a month ago on May 25th. It took me a while to find the time to sit down and watch it in one sitting - and I'm glad I did. BU did a fantastic job with this release. The sound and picture quality far exceeded my expectations. Check out all of the screen caps at blu-ray.com or dvdbeaver.com for an idea of how good it looks. The only negative comment I have is that the picture quality is so clear now that some of the gore scenes look more fake then they ever have before. For years I didn't realize it was a dummy's head puking up the intestines. It always looked so real to me that I thought the girl really did throw up as much as what is seen on screen.
Blue Underground really left no stone unturned when it came to this release. For those of you who already own the DVD Anchor Bay released a few years back, this is definitely worth the upgrade for special features alone.
The Making of City of the Living Dead (32 min)
A short and sweet doc that goes over all the important aspects of the film (make-up, design, locations, actors). It even includes interviews with Michele Soavi! Any doc with Soavi in it, is amazing in my books. Gino De Rossi explains how they did a few of the special FX sequences - gut puking scene, maggot scene, blood eyes, etc. My only complaint is that I wish they included some more behind-the-scenes footage...that is if there is any more that exists.
Acting Among the Living Dead - Interview with Star Catriona MacColl (11 min)
Catriona MacColl explains how she got the job working on COTLD, her thoughts on the script and her relationship with Fulci and Christopher George. A good interview for those that are fans of the actress.
Entering the Gates of Hell - Interview with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice (10 min)
Interviews with Radice are always fun to watch. He's not one of the biggest fans of these movies, so its funny to hear his anecdotes about making a film like COTLD. I especially like how he says that the script made absolutely no sense when he read it. Unfortunately, by this point you kind of get bored hearing about Fulci and his crazy antics on set. That leads us to...
Memories of the Maestro - Lucio Fulci (21 min)
Maybe it's because I've seen so many docs about Fulci, including the fantastic PAURA DVD, but I think I've heard enough about his abusiveness on set. He was a cranky old man...move on. The coolest thing about this featurette is they managed to interview most of the cast and crew from COTLD. It's fun to see what the cast looks like today.
Marketing of the Living Dead (13 min)
Probably my favourite special feature on the disc. Blue Underground has compiled all of the promo, poster, DVD, and VHS artwork into one side scrolling video. I haven't seen a compilation like this before on another DVD or Blu-ray. I hope they continue to display the promotional artwork like this on future releases.
Also included are some trailers and radio spots for the film - all in HD.
Arrow Video in the UK also released the film on Blu-ray recently. I haven't seen the Arrow release but it does seem to contain quite a few more extras. The video presentation is slightly different than Blue Underground's even though they both went in on the transfer together. For those of you who are die-hard fans of the film, you'll probably want both releases. If you can only afford one release and you must have all of the extras, I'd go with the Arrow release. But if you're a casual fan like myself, I highly recommend you pick up the Blue Underground release. And for all of you out there who haven't seen this film, I recommend you give it a rent before purchasing. It is definitely for acquired tastes and gore-hounds only.
*All screen grabs "borrowed" from dvdbeaver.com. Check out blu-ray.com and dvdbeaver.com for more details on the video and audio presentation of City of the Living Dead.
ARTWORK FACE OFF
There are 8 different styles of artwork used for City of the Living Dead. All of which would make a great cover...well, maybe minus the Pakistani artwork.
North American Blue Underground Artwork / International Artwork (UK, Italy)
Alternate Italian Artwork
Original North American VHS/Theatrical Artwork
Also used on the Anchor Bay initial DVD release.
NEW Arrow Video Artwork
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the original North American artwork. I think that is the case for most American fans of the film. Hell, they've even made masks of the eyeball-missing zombie. Since the artwork has already been featured on the Anchor Bay DVD, it's good to get something new. However, I think in the end Arrow Video wins because not only do they feature brand new kick ass artwork, they also added 3 other artwork options for you to choose from when displaying on your shelf. On top of that they've included post-card sized poster images for all of the other artwork and a collectible booklet. One question though...what the hell is with the yellow, blue, green, purple & red below each image on all of Arrow Video's releases?