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Release Date(s)1980 (December 31, 2013)
Studio(s)Raro Video USA
Nightmare City is another in a long list of splatter zombie movies made during the 70’s and 80’s by Italian filmmakers. Umberto Lenzi, who was also known from making spaghetti westerns and later on in his career horror movies (including one of my favorites Eyeball), directed this wonky schlock-fest about a group of mutated men and women who are out for blood, basically beating people up and hacking them to pieces.
So technically, they’re not really zombies, but yet they are. Apples and oranges, I guess. At one point they refer to them as vampires in the English dub, so go figure. The movie itself isn’t one of the best that the genre has to offer, but it has some fun make-up effects and some good unintentional humor (the dummy falling and bouncing off of the amusement park ride at the end is a particular laugh-out-loud moment for me). The main problem with it, I suppose, is that there isn’t really much of a payoff for the overall story, and even though this is presented uncut on this release, there’s not much for gorehounds either. Aside from the mutilation of a woman’s breast and the removal of an eyeball, it’s pretty tame (at least, in my opinion). I’ve seen much worse.
The film also has a bit of an unusual cast, as well. Hugo Stiglitz, Mel Ferrer and Laura Trotter are at the head of the film, and they do their best, I suppose. It’s not really a film for actors to have moments anyways, but it’s a strange rag-tag group of people. It’s also not too badly shot. Mostly low budget, but they definitely got some camera movement in there and they film within the action rather than outside of it a lot of the time. The violence, as I said, is pretty mild, especially when you can clearly see how fake everything is. But, suspension of disbelief is the whole ballgame here, and if you can sit back and watch Nightmare City without picking it apart, then all the power to you. It’s not one of the strongest films in the genre, that’s for sure, but there are some moments to enjoy if you’re a horror fan.
However, Raro Video’s treatment of Nightmare City on Blu-ray is, in a word, disappointing. To be fair, Nightmare City is a bit of a sleazy, grindhouse type of movie, and picture quality shouldn’t be an issue. But for what’s advertised as a “New HD Transfer”, this release of the film is pretty poor with its supposed high definition picture quality. Right off the bat, there’s a ton of compression artifacts found throughout the entire duration of the film, including a lot of macroblocking, so you won’t see many solid colors, including blacks. The colors themselves are ok, certainly not bad, but not that impressive. As for film grain, it’s hidden behind a smeared and soft-looking picture. It truly looks like a DVD transfer more than Blu-ray. Brightness and contrast are merely ok also, as both could have been dialed back a bit. All of that having been said, it’s still a step up in quality, but not a very big step at all. This is a shockingly bad transfer of a release that I was looking forward to. As bad as the video is, the audio is much, much better by comparison. You have two options: the original Italian and English soundtracks, both in uncompressed linear PCM 2.0. No matter which soundtrack you decide to watch the film with, the dialogue is always very clear and audible. Sound effects sound real good, if not a bit too harsh sometimes. Music sounds the most dated audibly, but is pretty good overall. It’s not a soundtrack that has much dynamic range or amazing sound quality to it, but even with the overdubbing, it’s still very good. There are also subtitles in English, regardless of which soundtrack you choose to view the film with.
Extras for this release are pretty sparse. There’s an interview with Umberto Lenzi that lasts nearly an hour, as well as the Italian and English trailers for the film. Included in the package itself is a 10-page booklet with an essay by Chris Alexander, as well as both a biography and the filmography of Umberto Lenzi. Not a lot here, but the interview is worth a watch.
So overall, the Blu-ray release of Nightmare City is a big disappointment. The film’s soundtrack and the interview with Lenzi are the real draws for this release, so I’d recommend a rental more than a purchase. It’s not a terrible film, and it definitely deserves better treatment than this.
- Tim Salmons