42nd Street Cinema

Nightmare City (1980)

Umberto Lenzi's stab at the ecological awareness theme with Nightmare City.
Starring: Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Mel Ferrer, Maria Rosaria Omaggio.

Also known as; Incubo sulla città contaminata and City of the Walking Dead. Made prior to Eaten Alive/Mangiati vivi! (1980), and the film Lenzi is probably most renowned for; Cannibal Ferox (1981). Nightmare City is essentially a 'zompire' movie - crossbreed of zombie and vampire films, as the attacking fiends require fresh human blood in order to replace their own red blood cells that have become supposedly destroyed by radiation. They also use guns, knives and other various instruments of destruction to slit, gash and tear victims open, before feasting upon the flowing red. To further differentiate itself from the likes of Fulci's shuffling flower pots and Bianchi's tortoise paced ghouls, Lenzi's zompires are lighting fast. A possible precursor for the 28 Days Later (2002) 'rage virus' infected villains.

The premise of Nightmare City is that the passengers of a Hercules transportation aircraft have become infected by radiation and thus, need to feast on uncontaminated human blood as a means to survive. Soon enough the entire city is teeming with atomic zombies, the film is purportedly set in the USA though, given it's an Italian-Spanish co-production it was probably shot somewhere in Spain.
In the middle of this is reporter Dean Miller (Stiglitz), his beautiful wife Dr. Anna Miller (Trotter) and trying to contain the outbreak; a bewildered General Murchison (Ferrer). As the zombies begin to multiply quicker than they're being destroyed, Dean and Anna go on the run, in an attempt to leave the city limits and seek salvage. Only to their dismay do they learn that the chaos has spread throughout the state.
Dean and Anna eventually escape to a fairground, where they climb to the top of a roller coaster allowing a helicopter to rescue them from the pursuing horde.

Sadly, Nightmare City suffers from an incredibly uninspiring and unoriginal ending. The ending goes a little something like this...As the couple grab onto the chopper's rope, Anna loses her grip and falls to her death, Dean lets out a horrified scream and that's when he wakes up in bed. Yes, it was all a dream. That is until he goes to an appointment at the airport and a mysterious Hercules plane comes flying in. It is an ending like this that fully demonstrates how not even Lenzi knew how to end this film and instead of giving it a straight linear plot he tacks on a Groundhog Day (1993) circular narrative, complete with an idiotic freeze frame followed by a meaningless quote. See picture below.
Thankfully, the film's quick pacing and gruesome attack sequences make up for the gaping plot holes and standard direction. I don't think I've ever seen someone walk so awkwardly on-screen as Stiglitz in this, it's as if his arms are stitched to his sides. Stelvio Cipriani's score is a plus even if it is somewhat unfitting at times.
Nevertheless, Nightmare City is definitely enjoyable as it is laughable, certainly one to seek out if you're getting into Italian trash.

In closing, I want you to play a little game with the first image above. It's called 'Where's Zompi the zompire dog?'


Matt-suzaka said...

I'm a huge fan of Nightmare City and really love the amusement park ending as well as the sexy dance number at the TV studio before the zombies get their hands on the sassy dancing queens. So good.

Nickolas Cook said...

How can anyone NOT love this movie? It's like a Fulci film with less money (if such a thing is possible) and with a crack addicted bunch of zombie-like killers. That television studio scene alone is worth the price of admission. It's countless, how many times I wished to see the Solid Gold Dancers similarly slaughtered.
The soundtrack is awesome. And, hey, there's even an ecological message, to boot.
Can you tell I love NIGHTMARE CITY?

Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

R. Sterling Gray said...

Watched this last night cause of this review! Enjoyed it alot. The boob eating scene was awesome.

Franco Macabro said...

This movie was huge fun for me, I mean zombies that stab their victims? Exploding television sets? And zombies who love to wear turtle neck sweaters? Awesome in my book! I loved how the film ends with a zombie attack in an amusement park a la Zombieland. A sleazy fast paced fun Italian horror movie.

xl pharmacy said...

Nightmare City, what an old but good movie, when I first watched I was terrified, honestly I was really terrified and I had to watch it with my friends, I could not watch it alone nooo!! :S

Post a Comment

Leave a comment...