WTFW: Nightmare City (1980)

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WTFW: Nightmare City (1980)

Tonight’s movie suggested by Rob Morganbesser.  Go visit him on Twitter.  I promised myself that I would never talk about zombie movies but the recommendation turned out to be an insanely wonderful and terrible film so here we are.

Nightmare City (1980)

  • Directed: Umberto Lenzi
  • Produced: Diego Alchimede, Luis Méndez
  • Written: Piero Mignoli, Tony Corti, Jose Luis Delgado
  • Starring: Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Maria Rosaria Omaggio
  • Music: Stelvio Cipriani
  • Cinematography: Hans Burman
  • Editing: Daniel Alabiso
  • Studio:
    • Dialchi Film 
    • Lotus Films 
    • Televicine S.A. de C.V.
  • Distributed:
    • 21st Century Distribution 
    • Continental Video 
    • Cinema Group 
    • New Star Video 
    • Anchor Bay Entertainment 
    • EastWest Entertainment 
    • Blue Underground 
    • Raven Releasing Home Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • 11 December 1980 (Italy)
    • 23 February 1981 (Spain)
    • 18 November 1983 (USA)
  • Running Time: 90 minutes
  • Country:
    • Italy
    • Spain
    • Mexico
  • Language:
    • Italian
    • English
    • Spanish

Nightmare City (Italian: Incubo Sulla Cittá Contaminata) is a 1980 Italian-Spanish zombie film directed by Umberto Lenzi.  Nightmare City was also released under the title City of the Walking Dead.  This film should not to be confused with “City of the Living Dead”.

The American television news reporter Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) waits at an unnamed European airport for the arrival of a scientist that he is about to interview regarding a recent nuclear accident.  An unmarked military plane makes an emergency landing.  The plane doors open and dozens of zombies burst out and begin stabbing and shooting the military personnel outside.  Miller tries to let the people know of this event, but General Murchison of Civil Defense (Mel Ferrer) will not allow it.  Miller tries to find his wife Anna who works at a hospital as the zombies begin to overrun the city.

Miller and his wife escape to an abandoned amusement park that is also overrun with zombies.  The two climb to the top of a roller coaster and are about to be rescued by a military helicopter.  Miller then wakes up revealing the whole situation to be a dream.  Miller also learns that today he is about to meet a scientist at the airport.  When he arrives a military plane makes an emergency landing.

Director Umberto Lenzi felt the film was not as much as zombie film but a "radiation sickness movie" with hints of an anti-nuclear and anti-military message.  According to director Umberto Lenzi, both Franco Nero and Fabio Testi were considered for the lead in the film, but the producer insisted on a Mexican leading man to appeal to Mexican audiences.  Hence, the role went to Hugo Stiglitz.

Nightmare City has also been released under the title of City of the Walking Dead.  In his review of 1980s horror cinema, John Kenneth Muir referred to Nightmare City as a "cobbled together disaster" Muir went on to say it's not the worst zombie film of the 1980s which he felt belonged to Hell of the Living Dead.  The assistant professor Danny Shipka of Louisiana State University described the film as "absolutely terrible in every way" as well as referring to poor make-up effects, poor acting and a plot that "makes no sense".  In the book Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide, a review opined that the film is "way too silly to be taken seriously for even the briefest moments" and that it is "not a good movie, but it is a ridiculously good guilty pleasure with some genuine surprises". 

As a sign of the quality put into production: During the initial battle when the zombies are pouring out of the airplane, rain can be seen on the runway in some shots while in others it is completely dry.  During the raid on the TV station, a zombie whacks a cameraman with a stick so hard that it falls out of his hands. In the next shot, it's back in the zombie's hands again.  Lieutenant Reedman is later referred to as "General".  When the woman at the TV station has her face scratched by a zombie, her face visibly has blood and scratch marks on it before the zombie touches her.  When Dean enters his his boss's office, two televisions are on and playing. However, when his boss goes to turn off the television nearest him, the other one is off.

The professor is expected to arrive, and Dean is to interview him upon his arrival, which indicates that the news media know about it and have information regarding it.  Naturally, this would be corroborated by the airport.  However, the professor for some reason arrives on an unmarked, unexpected airplane.  A possible explanation for this could be simply 'dream logic', but at the same time it is a fairly major flaw.  When the helicopter flies over the large crowd of zombies in the park, a dog can be seen playing around with one of the extras.  During the airport attack, a soldier runs up to one of the zombies who hits him in the head and takes his machine gun to use on other soldiers.  Just before the soldier gets hit, you can see the fake blood already applied to his forehead before the blow strikes.

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