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City Of The Living Dead (Cauldron Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • City Of The Living Dead (Cauldron Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Cauldron Films
    Released on: August 29th, 2023.
    Director: Lucio Fulci
    Cast: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Daniela Doria, Fabrizio Jovine
    Year: 1980
    Purchase From Amazon

    City Of The Living Dead – Movie Review:

    One of Lucio Fulci's more perplexing films, City Of The Living Dead (or The Gates Of Hell, if you prefer) is also regarded by some as one of his best. While it isn't always the most logical of pictures, there's no denying the film is ripe with atmosphere, that it features some excellent cinematography, and that many of its grisly gore effects still hold up well to this day.

    The movie is set in the small town of Dunwich where bad things are afoot starting with the suicide of a local Catholic priest named Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine). His hanging himself seems to have set into motion a series of bizarre and unholy events that result in the dead being resurrected from their graves and walking the earth in search of prey. While all of this is going on, a woman named Mary (Catriona MacColl), who lives in New York City, is plagued by visions of Thomas' suicide. She's frightened to death by what she sees and is buried shortly after but a sneaking reporter named Peter Bell (Christopher George) soon figures out that she's not dead after all and quite literally saves her from being buried alive.

    Soon enough, Mary and Peter team up to figure out just what on Earth is happening and they soon come to the realization that Thomas' suicide somehow opened up one of the seven gates of Hell (those same pesky gates were also opened up in The Beyond and The House By The Cemetery, making these films sort of an unofficial trilogy). They learn that if they don't succeed in closing the gate before the fast encroaching All Saints Day arrives, it's game over and the zombies will never rest again. There's more going on in Dunwich than just shambling corpses, however - mirrors and walls are cracking open, citizens are snacking on one another and acting in increasingly bizarre ways, and the forecast calls for light rain and heavy… maggots?

    Packed with memorable and particularly well executed gore set pieces, City Of The Living Dead is a nasty film even by Fulci's admittedly over the top standards. A woman cries blood, another woman pukes up her own guts and, in the film's most memorable moment, a simpleton (played by Giovanni Lombardo Radice) has his head drilled straight through. The zombie make up is uniformly excellent (something that you can really appreciate more than ever thanks to the high definition transfer on this release) in that it's gooey enough to look sickly but never so over the top that it doesn't look like rotting flesh - just the way it should be!

    Fulci's got more going on in this picture than just copious amounts of splatter, however. Acting wise, Christopher George is a bit hokey but Catriona MacColl delivers a fairly believable performance and Radice is his usual creepy self in his supporting role. What really keeps the film alive, however, is the atmosphere and dread that is at times so thick you can almost taste it. Dunwich is portrayed, and very effectively, as a town in which horrors lie around every corner and the cinematography reflects this well. Shadowy streets and decrepit locations add to the air of decay already fostered by the zombies while an unearthly score courtesy of Fabio Frizzi wraps it all up with a suitably weird vibe.

    City Of The Living Dead – UHD/Blu-ray Review:

    City Of The Living Dead arrives on UHD from Cauldron Films in an HEVC encoded 2160p transfer taken with HDR10 and Dolby Vision enhancement framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Picture quality on the UHD is really strong. Colors fluctuate a bit here and there but less so than other high definition offerings and they are generally very stable and reproduced really nicely here. Black levels and skin tones look great and we get a nice bump in detail, depth and texture, especially during the movie’s many foggy, smoky scenes. This looks substantially better than the Blu-ray releases have over the years and it’s a very nice upgrade in the visuals department.

    DTS-HD 2.0 Mono options are provided in English and Italian languages with subtitles provided for each track. Both tracks sound quite solid. Dialogue is clean, clear and nicely balanced and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. The score has good power behind it as do the different sound effects used throughout the movie.

    Extras on the UHD and the first of the two Blu-ray discs in the set mirror each other. These discs both allow you to watch the movie via seamless branching and watch it in English with English credit sequences or watch it in Italian language with Italian credit sequences.

    Cauldron has also conjured up a new audio commentary with film historian Samm Deighan. She talks about why this is one of her favorite films and breaks down the different iconic scenes that are included in the movie, how the movie sets you on edge, details on the different cast and crew members with plenty of info on Fulci's life and times, how Fulic's career evolved into mostly horror pictures after playing in other genres early on, some of the strange scenes in the movie that make Dunwich feel even weirder than it is, thoughts on the performances and characters in the movie, the unique way in which the movie builds, the apocalyptic themes that it explores and plenty of other details.

    Up next is an archival commentary with Nathanial Thompson and Troy Howarth that originated on the Scorpion Releasing Blu-ray from 2020. This energetic talk covers the different titles that the film has been known under, the Georgia locations used in the picture, the film's strong opening and atmospherics, why MacColl's name was changed for her Italian film work, the presence of Radice in the film and what he's able to bring to the roll, some of the bit part players that were recruited for the picture both in front of and behind the camera, how a pair of New York City porn stars wound up with cameos in the picture, the inimitable presence of Christopher George in the picture, Fulci's infamous temperament on this and other shoots, speculation on where some of the interior shots were captured, the score and effects work featured in the picture (of course, the drill scene being a key focal point), some of the humor that is present in the film and quite a bit more.

    An archival audio commentary with actress Catriona MacColl moderated by Jay Slater. MacColl is quite affable and Slater generally keeps her talking and on topic as she talks about working with Fulci on this film and on others. Both tracks serve to provide a pretty extensive look at the making of the picture from the performers' point of view. This commentary originated on the Arrow Blu-ray release from 2010, as does the archival audio commentary with actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice moderated by Calum Waddell. Radice is an interesting character and he shares some interesting stories about his relationship with some of his co-stars as well as with the film's director. Both of these are well worth listening to if you haven’t heard them before.

    The second Blu-ray disc is comprised of a bunch of other extra features, starting with Zombie Kings: An Interview With Massimo Antonello Geleng that runs for forty-five minutes. He talks about his experiences working with Fellini as a painter before then going on toe share stories of how his career started to take off, wantnig to be able to stay creative, working on a Visconti movie and how he wound up making the move to B-movies because they'd allow him to do his work without boundaries or obligations. As the talk continues, he discusses how he came to know of Fulci after seeing some of his movies, meeting the director for the first time, coming to work with him, what he was like as a director and as a person, some of the set design work that he was responsible for, specific memories of working on City Of The Living Dead and some of the other projects that they collaborated on and plenty more.

    Requiem for Bob is a twenty-eight minute interview with Giovanni Lombardo Radice. This piece sees the late actor talk about how he doesn't personally like experiencing fear, his love of Hitchcock movies and older black and white movies, his dislike of splatter and gore, how he came to start acting in movies, meeting Fulci and working with him for the first time, what Fulci was like compared to some of the other directors that he worked with, having to wear a prosthetic hunch, how in his later years he's started going to therapy to overcome different challenges in his life, how his bisexuality occasionally led to awkward situations, memories from making this film and some of his other movies and plenty of other details - this interview is great, he's very open and honest about his career and quite entertaining as well.

    The disc also includes On Stage: A Q&A With Venantino Venantini & Ruggero Deodato that runs forty-six minutes. Recorded in August of 2017 in Rome, they cover how bigger studios like MGM and Fox produced period films like Ben Hur which lead to a boost in film production in Italy. From here, they go on to discuss their respective involvements in the Italian film industry and tell stories from their years working on films. The three of them are clearly having a great time basically strolling down memory lane together, laughing and joking with one another as they do and engaging with the audience.

    Carried over from the DVD release of Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered Vol. 1 are archival interviews with MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi, Luca Venantini, Fabrizio Jovine, Venantino Venantini, Michele Soavi, Dardano Sacchetti, Massimo Antonello Geleng, Gino De Rossi, Rosario Prestopino, Sergio Salvati and Fabio Frizzi. There's forty-two minutes' worth of material here and, again, if you haven't see this content before it's worth checking out as we get a lot of interesting and sometimes very personal stories about the different interviewees' experiences working with the late director.

    A twenty-minute Q&A with Catriona MacColl sees the actress talk about how her relationship with Fulci was based on trust and respect, what he was like to work with as an actor, her thoughts on some of the scripts they worked off of, how she feels about these horror movies she made years later, the fact that these films have lasted and how that was not a concern when they made them and how she feels that you can make a good movie out of a bad script with the right team.

    Music From A Flesh Feast is a half-hour Q&A with Fabio Frizzi that covers how he came to score films for Fulci, what his process is like, creating music to match what's happening in the film, memories of different people that he's worked over the years including Fulci and his experiences in the Italian film industry's boom years.

    The Meat Munching Movies Of Gino De Rossi is a twenty-seven minute piece that sees him go over his career, talking about how much he loved his work and special effects in general. He then goes on to talk about the different films that he worked on for Lucio Fulci, how Fulci had great technical skills, what he was like to collaborate with, details on some of the specific set pieces that he conjured up for the director, how some of the effects were created, some of the actors that they worked with and some of the non-Fulci movies he had a hand in (Cannibal Ferox being an example).

    Carlo Of The Living Dead is an eighteen minute interview with Carlo De Mejo in which he gets his shot in the spotlight to talk about his work. He goes over how he came to work on the movie, memories of some of the people that he collaborated with and working with Fulci.

    We also get a 2001 archival introduction Catriona Maccoll that runs five minutes, a five minute Trip Through Bonaventure piece that explores the cemetery location used in the movie, three trailers and an image gallery

    Easter Egg hunters will poke around a bit and find a 1:32:10 presentation of the movie under The Gates Of Hell alternate title taken from an old VHS tape source, something that is sure to bring back memories for those of us a certain age. There’s also a still gallery that you can find that shows off Christopher George’s Playgirl photoshoot from June, 1974!

    City Of The Living Dead - The Final Word:

    This is Fulci at the top of his game, an atmospheric and effective horror picture with some unforgettable set pieces, fine performances and an excellent score. It doesn't always make a lot of sense, but even when it doesn't the film is engaging and entertaining. Cauldron Films has given City Of The Living Dead an excellent special edition UHD/Blu-ray release, with a fantastic transfer, strong audio and loads of extra features. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized City Of The Living Dead Blu-ray screen caps!

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