Saturday, October 3, 2020


SCARE-A-THON Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 2
Total First Time Views: 1
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $90.02

City of the Living Dead (aka The Gates of Hell) (1980) d. Lucio Fulci (Italy) (93 min) (5th viewing)

In the village of Dunwich, Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine) mopes around a graveyard, looking suitably bummed out by his existence. He decides to shuffle himself off this mortal coil courtesy of a length of rope and a nearby tree branch, and manages the job quite handily. Unfortunately for the rest of us, his act of self-slaughter has opened one of the fabled Gates of Hell and if the darn thing doesn’t get closed by All Saint’s Day, humanity is D-O-O-M-E-D. In addition to that happy bit of news, the priest’s death also sends NYC psychic medium Mary (Catriona MacColl) into a cataleptic stupor during a séance, with the poor gal getting buried alive. After being saved by intrepid investigative journalist Peter Bell (Christopher George), she dusts herself off and entreats Peter to help her find the resting place of Father Thomas so that they can close the gate in time….

Oh, sure, reading the above paragraph, you might suspect you have an idea of what you’re in for. Trust me – you don’t. Welcome to Fulci in Full Flower. Emboldened by the success of Zombie, the erstwhile director set out to deliver an example of “pure cinema,” eschewing narrative logic, character development, or any semblance of conventional horror storytelling in favor of a nonstop parade of straight-up insanity interspersed with insane gore moments (courtesy of Gino De Rossi and Franco Rufini).

“But, wait,” you say, “I’ve seen plenty of splatter flicks in my time. What makes this one so darn special?”

To that, my fellow fiend, I present Exhibit A: The Storm of Maggots.

"Did he say... 'The Storm of Maggots'?"

Once Mary and Peter show up in Dunwich (which was apparently built on top of what was formerly Salem, Massachusetts, which of course begs the question as to what the story is with the current Salem, Massachusetts. Did they move it…?), they fall in with psychiatrist Gerry (Carlo de Mejo) and his patient/pal Sandra (Janet Agren) who are also witnessing strange goings-on in their local burg, such as corpses disappearing from funeral homes and camping out in the kitchen.

During a brief pause in searching for Father Thomas’ grave, the windows fly open and the quartet are showered with a prolonged barrage of honest-to-Groot maggots spraying from offscreen. This goes on for a (very) long time, with the little squirmy bastards clinging to the actors’ faces and hands and literally covering the floor and furniture. Then it stops. The phone rings. Without batting an eye, Gerry wipes off the receiver, answers, and the race against time continues.


Answer: It’s Lucio Fulci, baby.

While City of the Living Dead (or The Gates of Hell as it was known for its American release and for decades on video shelves) may not be the director’s most accomplished work, it’s easily one of the more unconventional early ’80s horror efforts you’ll come across. At a time when Tom Savini and his ilk were making outrageous effects their own raison de etre, Fulci’s film landed like a crimson pie in the face for hungry gorehounds.

Audiences had never encountered such (literally) visceral visuals, where bleeding eyes trade beats with brains ripped out the backs of heads, people throw up their own intestines, victims are smothered with worm-packed mud pies, and village idiots (Giovanni Lombardo Radice aka John Morghen) have their craniums randomly ventilated via enormous table drills by the enraged patriarch next door.

“But why is this all happening,” your poor brain cries. “How does one explain these bizarre events?”

Answer: It’s Lucio Fulci, baby.

Concerned only with creating emotionally disturbing cinematic moments, Fulci (who cameos briefly in as the medical examiner) dismisses such trivialities as “cause” and “effect.” Yes, these reanimated corpses can teleport, blipping willy nilly on and off the screen and all around the set. No, they’re not really flesh-eating zombies, but they’re fine with taking a nibble from time to time. Yes, the spectre of Father Thomas keeps zipping around town, but he doesn’t really do anything other than engage in staring contests that leave the other side disemboweled or forcibly donating gray matter to the cause.

While his 1981 one-two punch of The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery are arguably more accomplished efforts, I will always have a soft spot for Gates of Hell. While never really scary, it’s also never boring, right up until the screen-shattering final frame, perfectly exemplifying the unabashed outrageousness that is Italian Horror Cinema.


New restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative by Arrow Films
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed 1.0 mono, 2.0 stereo and optional 5.1 DTS-HD MA Master Audio
Original English and Italian soundtracks
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
Audio commentary with star Catriona MacColl and journalist Jay Slater
Audio commentary with star Giovanni Lombardo Radice and writer Callum Waddell
We Are the Apocalypse, new interview with writer Dardano Sacchetti
Through Your Eyes, new interview with Catriona MacColl
Dust in the Wind, new interview with cameraman Roberto Foges Davanzati
The Art of Dreaming, new interview with production designer Massimo Antonello Geleng
Tales of Friendship, new interview with cinematographer Sergio Salvati
I Walked with a Zombie, new interview with actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice
They Call Him "Bombardone", new interview with special effects artist Gino De Rossi
The Horror Family, new interview with father and son actors Venantino and Luca Venantini
Songs from Beyond, a previously unseen interview with composer Fabio Frizzi
Carlo of the Living Dead, an archival interview with actor Carlo De Mejo
Building Fulci's City, a new video appreciation by Stephen Thrower, author of the definitive tome, Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
Reflections on Fulci, a new appraisal of Fulci's Gothic period by actor, writer and director Andy Nyman (Ghost Stories)
The Dead Are Alive!, a new video essay by Kat Hellinger on Lucio Fulci and the Italian zombie cycle
Behind the Fear, behind the scenes 8mm footage with Roberto Forges Davanzati audio commentary
The Gates of Hell, alternative US theatrical release opening titles
Original trailers and radio spots
Extensive image gallery featuring over 150 stills, poster and other ephemera from the FAB press and Mike Siegel archives
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter

City of the Living Dead is available now on R2 Blu-ray from Arrow Video and can be purchased HERE:

SPECIAL BONUS: Watch the Kicking the Seat round table, recorded October 2, 2020 and featuring Ian Simmons, Jon Kitley, Bryan Martinez, and Aaron “Dr. AC” Christensen HERE:

No comments:

Post a Comment