Wednesday, June 8, 2011


1980, Lucio Fulci
Starring: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice (as John Morghen), Daniela Doria

More correctly known by its original Italian title of Paura nella citta dei morti viventi, this film is directly responsible for my obsessive love of horror films and, therefore, for the existence of this blog. Though there were others that I watched before it -- Hellraiser, the Evil Dead trilogy, a lot of John Carpenter, and Vincent Price films -- but none had quite the same gut-wrenching, heart-pounding impact. I first saw City of the Living Dead, or Gates of Hell as I knew it them, and fell hard and fast in love. And almost vomited, considering I was eating spaghetti at the time. Since then, I have seen the film at least 30 times: twice in the theater, too many times on VHS, and more on DVD when it was finally released. It used to be one of those films that I use to initiate new friends to make sure they pass The Test. Basically, I love every blood and maggot-soaked minute of this movie and am incapable of thinking or writing anything bad about it.

So what is this incomparable gem about, you ask? A priest hangs himself in an old New England town, while, elsewhere, a psychic named Mary (the beautiful Catriona MacColl) dies during a séance. She is actually buried alive and is later accidentally rescued by an ambitious reporter, Peter (the inimitable Christopher George). The reincarnated Mary has disturbing visions of the gates of Hell, which the dead priest has apparently opened. Together, they journey north to find out how to close the gates and put the priest to rest. In typical horror film fashion, if they don’t get there in time, the world will end and the dead will walk the earth and try to make all sorts of unpleasant things happen. Typical of Fulci, there is a slew of other inexplicable, surreal, horrific phenomena, which I’m not going to completely ruin for you. Needless to say, for those of you who have seen City of the Living Dead, the scene where Fulci-regular Daniela Doria vomits up her intestines ranks in my top five horror film scenes of all time.

There is no reason not to see this film, though I’m assuming most people who read this blog already have. It has some of the goriest scenes of all time, is surreal in all the right places, and has the expected bizarre Fulci ending, as well as beautiful women, ridiculous dialogue, John Morghen, maggots galore, and more. If you don’t already own it or if you own the VHS, which has the worst print imaginable, you're in luck. There is the out of print Anchor Bay DVD, which is the version I’m reviewing, but it is almost the same thing as the available Blue Underground disc. Both are uncut and don’t contain any significant special features, which is a shame. I would love to see a behind-the-scenes, as well as any outtakes on the numerous special effects scenes.

Go see it now, or else the dead shall rise and walk the earth!


  1. This is hands down the best review of City Of The Living Dead that I have ever read. I would have most certainly passed The Test.

  2. As you should! The House By The Cemetery slightly edges it out for me but the margin shrinks with every viewing of City on bluray. Great stuff.