“Nightmare City” aka “City Of The Walking Dead” (1980)

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A lot of times, horror films reflect the world we currently live in.This was certainly the case with a lot of films released in the 1980’s.The American public tuned in every week to talk shows discussing the possibility of Satanic cults preying upon helpless youth.More importantly the world was on the edge of it’s seat as the cold war raged on between superpowers.The onlooking threat of world destruction at the hands of the nuclear arms race and weapons build up.One of the best examples that comes to mind is Day Of The Dead.Romero’s left wing commentary on the ever growing grip of the military.Another example of this motif is present in another, somewhat lesser known zombie flick, Umberto Lenzi’s NightMare City, released in 1980.

One could argue however, that this isn’t technically a zombie film.The zombies themselves aren’t reanimated creatures, but victims of exposure to radiation.In a sense, this could be considered one of the worlds first horror films to use the “contamination” plot device.Something that would repeated by lackluster franchises such as 28 Days Later and Resident Evil.And yes, I’m well aware that evil was a video game first, but it doesn’t take an elderly scholar to see where the inspiration was drawn from.Lenzi, although not proud of his horror films, certainly knows how to make an entertaining product.Mainly capitalizing on popular trends.Trying his own hand at the cannibal craze of the late 70’s and early 80’s with films such as Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive!, as well as an unofficial sequel to Evil Dead II(Ghost House aka La Casa III) it only makes sense that he would try his hand at the zombie craze as well.

As far as the plot goes, it’s not that difficult to explain.A military aircraft makes an emergency landing at an airport.An American film crew arrives to interview a famous scientist regarding a recent nuclear accident that has taken place.As the cameras roll the plane opens its doors, and an army of quick moving ghouls are set loose to prey upon the Italian countryside.Unlike the previous hordes depicted in earlier (and better) films, They move at lightning speed, are very adept at using weapons and drink blood the blood of their victims instead of devouring their flesh.

I’m not sure who had the idea for the effects and make up for this one.They certainly didn’t learn anything from Tom Savini. Who is in the process of releasing a re-make of this very film later this year.The make up looks very similar to someone wiping potting soil and loose vegetation all over ones face.That’s one of things that makes this film enjoyable though.Just how low-budget some of the effects are.Another fine example of “so bad its good.”

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The horde continue their viscous onslaught of soldiers, naive teenagers, a hospital and even the performers of a dance variety show.The military refuses to acknowledge that something has gone wrong.And don’t intervene until it is to late.Beneath the exterior of a camp zombie flick, There is an underlying message of the dangers of the nuclear age and the complete collapse of order during chaos.It even concludes with a fake-out ending that one wouldn’t expect to see during their first viewing.Not to mention further evidence that Mel Ferrer’s career really went downhill after he was divorced by Audrey Hepburn.

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