CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD
Dania Film / Medusa Distribuzione / Nationale Cinematographica 1980
Dedicated to Dr Menard and all the others here who helped me understand Lucio Fulci and his films just that little bit more. THE CHARACTERS
Mary Woodhouse: Catriona MacColl
Psychic who stupidly attends and participates in a séance. If she really was a psychic, she would have known all about all the crap about to happen. Instead of calling “Walkies!!” she screams, dies, screams, is resurrected, runs out of air, screams, gasps, screams, has her coffin hacked open, screams, bleeds, screams, bleeds and I don’t know what the hell else happens. Screams at the end and destroys the film's emulsion with the sound waves.
Peter Bell: Christopher George
Tough talking, cigar chewing, lollipop eating, pick-axe wielding journalist who saves Mary from being buried alive and almost kills her in the process when he hacks open her coffin. His facial stubble increases and then decreases as the movie continues. Has his skull clawed open and rats then chow down on his brains, allowing him not to need them while signing the contract for and filming Menahem Golan’s Enter The Ninja.Jerry: Carlo de Mejo
Psychiatrist by trade, also known as ‘Phone’ ~ because he is almost always near one when it rings ~ and famous for being Alida Valli’s son, thereby making him The Third Man
in this film.
Handy with any sharp object except his head which comes to a point. Performs priesticide, patienticide and zombicide here. His income dries up suddenly after he kills his one and only patient.Father William Thomas: Fabrizio Jovine
The priest with the red mascara whose suicide by hanging for unknown reasons starts the events in the town of Dunwich. Loves to purge girls of all their sins. Is left totally gutted by what he puts into motion and is left all burnt up over it. Sandra: Janet Agren
Jerry’s tormented patient: tormented because of her mental state, her not so dead dead relatives, her bad landlord who forgets to tell her about her bleeding walls, the uninvited corpses that occupy her kitchen, the maggot hail that she is exposed to (and swallows some of) and that she has a doctor who cures all her ills by stabbing her in the stomach.Bob The Town Freak: Giovanni Lombardo Radice
Fondler of automatically inflatable blow-up dolls while there is a rotting, worm infested corpse nearby. Killed by bad pasty face makeup and a handy drill press ~ you might say that his bit
part in this film bored
him to death. Emily Robbins: Antonella Interlenghi
John-John's sister who goes missing after interrupting a psychiatrist / patient session and winds up dead, later comes out of the closet and frightens her younger brother John so badly that he stammers his name as John John when his name is actually only John.Rosie Kelvin: Daniela Doria
Another gutsy lady of the town who, while making out in a car, loses her guts through the evil wishes of a maniacal priest and literally loses everything else. John-John Robbins: Luca Paisner
So nice they named him twice. Emily’s younger brother whose appearance at the end of the film causes Mary to scream (Oy, again with the screaming) and the film’s emulsion to crack. Now works with Trevor at the National Film, Video and Sound Archives in Pretoria where he is kept away from all film negatives. Theresa: Adelaide Aste
Psychic, owner of severely drugged eyes and Keeper of The Book of Enoch: her library loan fees are wayyy overdue as she foresaw the rise of the dead and did sweet bugger-all about it.LESSONS LEARNED
The word outspan does not only apply to a South African brand of orange.
Attending seances can be detrimental to your death.
Zombies should stay the hell out of cemeteries in cities where I have good friends.
Blood dripping from ceilings can be a great milk additive.
Family crypts have stained glass ceilings.
Answering a maggot-encrusted phone can be a challenge.
Always stand still when a zombie is staggering nearby you so that he / she / it can claw open your skull.
Red mascara does not suit a priest at all.
The punishment for being the village idiot is death by drill.
Looking at adult magazines, goofing off and eating lunch in an occupied grave counts as “busting your balls enough”.
Cowardly priests ~ those minus guts ~ can self destruct in a spectacular fashion.
Zombies can teleport at will.
It seems that the guy who filmed and orchestrated the horrible scenes in Cannibal Holocaust
wasn’t killed after all.
Having your lunch near a corpse is OK and SOP for a gravedigger. It also makes the gravedigger a SOB which does not lead me to ROFLMAO, rather to ask the gravedigger to GTFO.
Worms maketh not a tasty meal neither do maggots maketh a pleasant breeze.STUFF TO WATCH FOR
1:00: This looks very much like Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.
1:54: Outspan? I thought that was a brand of South African orange?
2:16: Quote from Fabio Frizzi, composer: “Hey-a, Mama! I know-a three-a chords-a!”
4:36: Would someone please stop her screaming and would someone please stop this scene??
5:10: Cop's inner thoughts: “What is this jive-ass, honkey muthf**** sh*t?” He will probably arrest them for possession of the controlled substances called caffeine and nicotine.
7:42: Judging by those flames, someone either just passed some serious gas or there’s trouble with the wiring.
9:30: I don’t know which is more gross: him fondling that blow-up doll over here or that worm infested corpse over there.
15:00: Carlo De Mejo, Alida Valli’s son? So he’s The Third Man
in this film? Oh, never mind.
17:10: Perry Pirkanen! So stories of his death in Cannibal Holocaust
were greatly exaggerated.
20:00: “Busted our balls enough.” Doing what exactly? Looking at porn mags, goofing off and eating lunch in an open occupied grave?
23:42: The look on Christopher George’s face there is almost the same one he uses in his Enter The Ninja
death scene.23:50 RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A COFFIN!
24:00: She’s just died, been resurrected, then buried alive and now you’re trying to kill her again?
25:00: And if you don’t stop over-acting, I’m going to Dunwich to seal those gates myself.
32:26: Yuck: that has put me off mutton and Italian cuisine for life.
59:03: I guess his BIT
part in this movie BORED
him to death, huh?
1:03:13: I think those were real maggots and that was real puke.
1:15:28: When I close my eyes, I can't see...
1:16:19: Nooooooo!!!!!! Bugger off! Beer’s hot, bar’s closed, the food’s bad, the mirror's busted, the wall's cracked and the air-con's off!!
1:21:50 Why are these dumb-asses standing there, waiting for her to approach them? Run, you stupid buggers! Run!
1;21:55 How the hell did she get behind him? Ah, the magic of bad continuity.
1:23;31 If that is an alien coming out of her stomach, this DVD will become a Frisbee.
1:25 00: The Thomas family must have been rolling in money: a stained glass ceiling in a crypt?
1: 27:00 Bless me father for I have just………..poked the hell out of you.
1:29 00 Oops: There goes the film's emulsion.NOTABLE QUOTES
Peter: “Good. There’s a lollipop in the glove box.”
Theresa: "No. The problem is in your own mind. It cannot accept the truth."
John-John: [laughing] “Mary!!! Jerry!!!”
Sgt Clay: "Lady, you're either on grass or you're pulling my leg."
Peter: “Great. Welcome to the city of the dead.”
Theresa: "Mr. Bell, if those gates are left open, it could mean the end of humanity. We've got to get them shut again. At midnight on Monday, we go into All Saint's Day. The night of the dead begins. If the portholes of hell aren't shut before, no dead body will ever rest in peace. The dead will rise up all over the world and take over the Earth! You must get to Dunwich, Mr. Bell. You must re-close those gates!"
Jerry: “He just told me that Emily killed both her parents. Emily died two days ago.”
Sheriff: “Let me hear it from you first, Joe!”
Mary: “The death of Father Thomas gave birth to some……..evil.”
Jerry: “Well, we’ve found his family tomb…. Now what?”
Mary: "Guess what? It's All Saint's Day."
Jerry: “Sandra?”THE PLOT
In the town of Dunwich, supposedly a place where they LOVE to CRAFT things, a red mascara wearing priest, Father William Thomas is pictured, wandering through what looks suspiciously like the famous Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. [Confirmed: thank you, Raffine] After several very pained and moody looks at the gravestones, the mist and the eerie sky ~ all set to several jarring chords ~ the priest hangs himself in the presence of a tombstone which at first glance appears to be advertising a brand of South African orange. All this set to s-s-s-shakycam photography and a score composed and performed by someone who would struggle to pick out Chopsticks
on an upright piano.
At precisely the same time, a seance is being conducted in New York, an event which ends rather abruptly when one of the participants, a psychic named Mary Woodhouse, sees the priest’s suicide, screams “Walkies!!”, froths at the mouth and collapses on the floor, apparently dead, leading to a police investigation by a stereotypical African-American policeman named Sgt Clay who is almost ready to say “WTF is this jive-ass, honkey muthaf***a sh*t going down here?” but never quite makes it, due to someone passing dangerous explosive gas, destroying the building’s wiring. The stunned cop blames it all on drugs taken during the seance: horrible addictive stuff like caffeine and nicotine and arrests all there for possession of same.
Back in Dunwich, a girl named Emily goes missing and the local town freak named Bob gets the blame after his fondling of an automatically inflatable doll is rudely interrupted by his discovery of a worm infested corpse nearby. The action then changes ~ almost without logic, like much of this film ~ to New York where Peter Bell, the hard-bitten-reporter-with-the-dent-in-his-car is investigating the odd death of Mary Woodhouse and winds up talking to two dumb ass gravediggers who count goofing off, eating lunch nearby a grave with a skeleton in it and reading porno mags as “having busted their balls enough”. One of them is the guy who, according to an urban myth, was killed along with several of his friends in a South American jungle by some numb nuts snuff movie director named Ruggero Deodato. Stronzate.
After these guys conveniently leave Mary’s coffin as it is without covering it up, we are then treated to another bout of Mary screaming: realizing that although she died and was buried, she has been buried alive, trapped in a coffin and running out of air. Not only that, but her beautiful face is now tinted an eerie shade of blue. So she starts screaming WALKIES and the gallant Peter, hearing her muffled screams, realizes that she has been buried alive ~ although she did die ~ and nearly kills her with a pickaxe trying to save her. I would just say “Aw f**k it, just kill me with that pickaxe already, I’m running out of oxygen anyway.”
The overacting of Theresa ~ maximum closeups on seemingly drugged eyeballs, the works ~ sends Peter and Mary ~ leaving Paul behind no doubt ~ off to Dunwich, the getting there reminds me that John Carpenter ripped this section of the plot off for In The Mouth Of Madness
~ two people en route to a place which isn’t supposed to exist. The terror in Dunwich ~ aside from the over-acting bar flies, someone having their face wiped and rubbed with wiggly worms and a shock cameo from Lucio Fulci's bald spot ~ continues, with creepy morgue attendants who appear to get their jollies painting lipstick on corpses and later try and steal jewelry off of them, only to be given a right royal chompo by the revived corpse.
The landlords in this weird little town are also not telling their tenants the whole truth: hanging corpses appear out of nowhere, girls on a night out making out with their boyfriends lose their guts to get past first base ~ literally ~ shattered glass causes a wall to bleed and a nervous young boy is haunted by his dead sister who has just come out of the closet. Every so often, the horrified viewer is shown a closeup shot of another skull being clawed open and brains being squeezed out ~ that apart, those recently departed visit the local bar to complain that the food is bad, the beer is hot and that the barflies don’t have anything in their skulls worth squeezing. Never mind the fact that the building codes were not adhered to during construction as walls crack and mirrors shatter.
This town seems to be populated by my-life-is-sh*t-and-so-what morons: people who will stand still and let zombies attack them and will also let themselves be literally bored to death: not by the film per se but by a handy drill press. This fate befalls Bob The Town Freak courtesy of Emily's bereaved father who seems to take a perverse delight in boring Bob out of his skull. The visitors to Dunwich don’t fare any better as they have no idea what they are doing there in the first place, other than to stand around and wait for the undeadies to rip their skulls off. Oh yes, and they have to endure a hail of super juicy maggots too which attempt to prevent them answering a ringing phone.
Great family fun, isn’t it?
The finding of Father Willie’s tomb leads the three ~ now minus Sandra, as her hairstyle has PO’d one of the female zombettes ~ into a hellish underground crypt with a stained glass ceiling and a hanging basket made of cobwebs, holding several zombies who are rather anxious to get out of there, now that the gates of hell have been opened and it is a toll-free day. Sandra appears, all lit blue from below and the others calmly wait instead of running away while Peter gets his scone torn open and some rats have a hot lunch…… or dinner……. I can’t really tell, because it is so dark out there. While Mary’s eyes bleed yet again, Jerry grabs something and stabs Sandra in the guts with it, causing her to collapse to the floor and her guts to bubble…….. bad burrito.
Then, all of a sudden, up pops the friendly Priest and his Willy………..I mean, Father William and his John Thomas……….DAMMIT! Father William Thomas who reanimates the corpses behind the two remaining people and gets the hell poked out of him, quite literally, causing him and the other zombies to go up in smoke. The survivors pull themselves out of the crypt to see John-John with the two cops: John-John-John laughs, shouts “Mary! Jerry!”, runs towards them, Mary starts screaming again and Trevor’s apparent inefficiency at film archiving after 24 years causes the film’s emulsion to crack.
What the hell [pun intended] did I just watch? Yo, Andrew: I’ll trade you My Little Pony
In his book Fantastic Cinema
, (written at the time of the so-called ‘video nasties’ hysteria in the UK) the author Peter Nicholls has this to say about Lucio Fulci: “Lucio Fulci makes the sort of movie that nice people do not go to see. Perhaps mercifully, most people do not even know about them. He is the sick innocent of Italian giallo ~ his childlike wish is to show successive horrors, each one of which is worse than you could ever have imagined.”
While I wouldn’t go as far as to write what was above, I have to say that this was my first Lucio Fulci film and I bought it sight unseen after seeing it for sale, having only ever heard about it due to it and many of Fulci’s other films being banned in my country. I always thought our censorship system was bad under the National Party’s apartheid policies but after doing research into this film, I found out that it is still banned in a few countries, including Germany.
I have never seen any other Fulci films although I did see Et tu vivrai nel terrore… L’Adila
(The Beyond: also banned for many years here) available for sale a few days ago and was tempted to buy it. I didn’t, largely because of the horrible effect this film had on me. Fulci’s Lo Squartatore di New York
(The New York Ripper) and Quella villa accanto il cimitero
(The House By The Cemetery) have also been unbanned and released to DVD. There is almost no humor in Fulci’s films: In fact, the only thing that made me laugh about this film amidst its’ mounting sense of doom and dread was the fact that the people who supplied the furniture were given an onscreen credit, much like the tea lady credited in Tobe Hooper’s South African lensed The Mangler
. That and Signor Fulci’s bald spot’s cameo in this film.
To cut a long story short, I was revolted, enthralled, disturbed, disgusted and entertained by this film, also known as The Gates of Hell, La Paura nella citta dei morti viventi
and in my case WTF Did I Buy This Sh*t For?
Simply put, City of The Living Dead
is one horrible vision after another ~ something resembling my worst nightmares at their worst ~ and, while it is technically brilliant, Lucio Fulci comes across to me as a sadistic director, driving his cast to their limits. I say sadistic carefully as this was my first exposure to Fulci’s work and I was horrified by what his cast appeared to have had to go through in order to get this on film. Fulci may not have been a sadist in his personal life but he seems to have driven his actors far beyond their personal limits and boundaries. The men are not spared anything at all ~ Fulci even denigrates Christopher George to the point of forcing him to drive around in a station wagon with a major dent in the door.
The women ~ especially Catriona MacColl and Janet Agren ~ get the worst of this film’s horrors and in one glorious scene, the cast is subjected to a hail of what looks like real maggots, causing Janet to apparently swallow a few and she appears to vomit for real on camera. Catriona virtually screams her way through the entire film and portrays one of my childhood fears: being trapped, being buried alive, in danger of dying and not being able to escape. Daniela Doria was also put through what looks like hell in the film, having to purge herself of her guts and everything else through the machinations of a red eyed, blue toned, zombie priest. Not nice, not nice at all ~ she apparently vomited sheep entrails and lasagne during this scene, so sheep meat and Italian cuisine are safe from me forever. The horrors that the child actor playing John-John had to face: I trust he was protected from some of it at least. All of this and the horrible mascara that the priest has to wear: sweetie darling: it doesn’t go with your robes.
My good buddy Dr Menard informed me that after losing his wife and daughter, Fulci’s films became darker in tone, having started with comedies as a writer. Losing my father ~ my first film mentor ~ a few years ago was bad enough but if I had to lose all of my close family seemingly at one go, I would also go off the rails in a major way. However I would never turn sadistic and wonder why other people were living while my family had no chance: this is what makes City of The Living Dead
such an uncomfortable viewing experience, especially for a Fulci newbie like myself who doesn’t know what the hell ~ no pun intended ~ to expect.
The make up and technical effects in this are startling ~ witness Giovanni Lombardo Radice in a BIT
part getting literally BORED
to death by the movie, Daniela Doria losing her guts and everything else, plus the scenes that freaked me the most, Catriona MacColl’s beautiful bleeding eyes. The cinematography is jarring (not sparing you anything) as well as the music, which, while it does sound like Fabio Frizzi has just discovered a synthesizer and is proclaiming “Heya, mama! I-a know-a three-a chords-a!” is very effective and makes the sense of genuine unease felt in viewing this very real, almost uncomfortably so. A good friend of mine named Bob would not appreciate having his name used as that of the town freak, played by Giovanni Lombardo Radice ~ they should have named him Sue or something like that.
The film is one horrific, disturbing vision after another: worm-infested corpses, teleporting and bar visiting zombies, bleeding walls, and an underground hell designed by someone who must keep the hell away from my flat in Pretoria next time I need a make-over. Burning priests, cobweb covered zombies, a stained glass ceiling in the family crypt, psychiatric patients, terrified little boys and loving sisters who rip the backs off of their loved ones’ skulls: all wonderful family entertainment at its’ best. The ending still disturbs the hell out of me: why is Mary screaming because John-John is running to her? He’s glad to see her, why isn’t she glad to see him?
What really disturbs me about this film as a film archivist is that Mary's screams are loud and vibrant enough to ruin this film's emulsion.
After viewing this, my first Lucio Fulci film ~ and trying not to throw up in certain scenes ~ my final thoughts are: “Signor Fulci: lei è un talento e malati pezzo di merda.”*
* Mr Fulci: you are a talented piece of sh*t.