Nightmare City (Incubo Sulla Citta Contaminata), 1980.
Directed by Umberto Lenzi.
Starring Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Mel Ferrer, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Francisco Rabal, Sonia Viviani, Eduardo Fajardo and Ugo Bologna.
A mysterious radiation exposed airplane lands, unleashing a deadly crew of blood sucking zombies. A reporter and his doctor wife track their progress on their deadly mission across an unnamed European city.
Taking in elements of classic horror gore and crafting a flawed yet exhilarating slice of horror trash, Nightmare City is a bonkers fusion of non-stop jumps and fast-moving zombies.
Following television news reporter Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) as he waits at an airport to interview a scientist and radiation expert , the film sets off at a frenetic pace. Soon enough quick footed zombie types are piling out of the plane, shooting, biting and knifing absolutely everyone in sight.
Miller records and reports on these horrific events, as the hard to kill creatures suck out the blood of any one they come across, creating more of themselves in the process. He also tries to locate exactly where his doctor wife Anna (Laura Trotter) is in the city, eventually meeting up with her. The couple then become locked into a mission of self-survival…
An immediately striking thing when viewing Nightmare City is just how damned fast the creatures (to all intents and purposes, zombies) are. Anyone thinking that zombies only discovered their sprinting boots with 28 Days Later, the Dawn of the Dead remake and the REC series will be able to see an earlier breed of the infected chasing their victims down at high-speed and gorging themselves in vivid detail.
While most zombie fans probably regard this as a pure classic, the hellish choreography and unbridled aggression of much of the action sequences do provide a morbidly balletic grace to the whole. This is most memorable of all in the early attack on Miller’s TV station. It’s there that the filming of a disco pop dance show goes seriously awry, with the radioactive hordes ripping their way through the helpless dance troupe and camera crew.
The number one draw back of the film is the last scene. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s one of those times when the writers clearly couldn’t agree or come up with a suitable ending. As Eli Roth mentions in the extras, if they could have taken this part out and closed on the complete destruction suggested by the preceding scenes it would have been a far more satisfying and shocking conclusion.
Still, it’s a fairly small complaint, and the picture as a whole works reasonably well in the nightmare horror stakes if you don’t over-analyse too much.
Disc and Special Features –
Arrow Films bring a high quality of restorative skill and technique to this Blu-ray release of Nightmare City, with not one but two high-definition transfers. The primary differences between the two versions – original camera negative and 35mm reversal dupe negative – in terms of resolution and picture quality is fully explained in the featurette Nightmare City and The Limits of Restoration.
The release also includes:
- Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio
- Newly translated subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
- Brand new audio commentary by filmmaker, Fangoria editor and Nightmare City fan Chris Alexander
- Radiation Sickness – a brand new interview with director Umberto Lenzi
- Sheila of the Dead – a brand new interview with star Maria Rosaria Omaggio
- Zombies Gone Wild! – director, producer and actor Eli Roth on Nightmare City and the wild cinema of Umberto Lenzi
- Alternate Opening Titles
- Original Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Martin, author of Seduction of the Gullible: The Truth Behind the Video Nasty Scandal, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.