Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Arrow Films Review: Nightmare City (1980, Umberto Lenzi)

  Original title “Incubo sulla città contaminata”

“The Nightmare Becomes Reality.”
Whilst waiting at an airport to interview a scientist about a recent nuclear accident, American reporter Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz, 357 magnum) witnesses a military plane making an illegal landing. With police and armed forces on the scene, Dean knows himself and his trusty cameraman (Antonio Mayans, Zombie Lake) are going to potentially get some juicy material. Juicy material it definitely is, bloody too. Very bloody! Inside the plane are dozens of disfigured victims of the nuclear accident. These passengers aren't just casualties of an unfortunate event, they're also blood-thirsty maniacs and almost instantly wipe out the entire military personnel. As if butchering and battering their victims in brutal fashion wasn't enough, they also like to slurp on their blood to keep themselves going. Dean manages to escape and heads back to the studio to show the world what's happening. Unfortunately for him, the suits at work won't allow it because General Murchison (Mel Ferrer, The Longest Day) over at Civil Defence doesn't want the word out. Naturally, the infected are running amuck around the city and after they invade the television studio, Dean escapes once again and heads on over to the hospital where his wife Anna (Laura Trotter, Frivolous Lola) works. As he arrives, the hospital also falls under attack, but luckily, himself and Anna escape. What follows for the pair is a fight for survival. As if you didn't know that already....
  It's actually pretty pointless giving you a synopsis of this movie because I bet you have already seen it, probably multiple times. We all know that Nightmare City is a ridiculous film, but just in case you're one of the few people yet to experience this truly cinematic wonder, I won't go in to too much detail about some of the stand out moments and shortcomings. When I say shortcomings, I mean that in the greatest possible sense. In an (amazingly dark) age where yuppy hipster directors who are borrowing a nostalgia they didn't live and are creating purposefully bad low-budget films, this is a perfect film for the Kung Fury and Birdemic (I think / hope we're collectively over The Room by now.) crowd. The story is simple, but functions in the basic sense. At its heart, it's an anti-war and nuclear film. Does it actually work in that sense? No, not really. Aside from some rather forced sounding pacifist dire tribe, the action and absurdity on screen takes precedent. You're not here for intellectual content, you're here for bad acting, non-stop action and some tasty blood and guts. There's something happening pretty much all of the time. From Hugo Stiglitz giving us an acting masterclass on how to use the same facial expression for every emotion and situation to defaced super-strengthed ghouls slicing off nipples and following dinner table etiquette by wiping their mouths after slurping down a serving of blood. Speaking of bloodshed, there's gore by the bucket loads. Sure, the camera may occasionally linger a bit too long to expose the crudeness of certain gore gags, but it's just going to make you chuckle even more.
  As I briefly touched on it earlier, acting isn't anything to shout about, especially the mighty Hugo Stiglitz. That being said, the likes of Mel Ferrer, Francisco Rabal (Speed Driver) as well as eye candy such as Maria Rosaria Omaggio (The Cop in Blue Jeans) and Sonia Viviani (Women's Camp 119) all add something to the film. Even though this is a wonderfully absurd film, one thing is for certain; Stelvio Cipriani's (A Bay of Blood) score is a genuinely accomplished and effective piece of work and actually one of Cipriani's greatest. Overall, this is another winner from Umberto Lenzi. Say what you will about him in terms of his personally and his artistic vision and capabilities, he knew how to create an entertaining film. What more can I say? I am fan of this film for the right and wrong reasons. At this point, you've probably skimmed over the review looking for the most important information; is this Arrow Films release better or worse than the Raro Video release?
  Guess what? You're pretty much getting both transfers on this release. Out of the two, Arrow's new 2k restoration looks much sharper and vibrant, but suffers from irreversible print damage. The second transfer, the one Raro used for their release, is taken from a 35mm reversal dupe negative and although the print damage isn't there, it's a much softer transfer. Sound is of high quality on both versions and. Those who are privy to pointlessly complain about Arrow releases need not bother because you are warned about the damage before you even decide which version to watch. Arrow could have just lazily used the same Raro print or just use their own, but the fact you get to choose from the two is very commendable. In terms of on-disc extras there's an entertaining commentary track from former Fangoria editor Chris Alexander, interviews with Umberto Lenzi and Maria Rosaria Ommagio, Eli Roth (Hostel) unashamedly fanboying about the film and Umberto Lenzi, original theatrical trailer, alternate opening titles and a featurette about the restoration issues. Unfortunately, the lengthy interview with Lenzi that appeared on the Raro disc is nowhere to be seen, but the long list of extras here more than make up for it. As always there's wonderful newly commissioned artwork, this time from Graham Humphreys and a booklet featuring writing from John Martin (The Seduction of the Gullible: The Truth Behind the Video Nasty Scandal). The Raro booklet has a piece by Chris Alexander that doesn't appear here. All in all, the Arrow release is arguably the most definitive out there. It may be missing one or two extras, but wether this is the first time you're buying the film or the 3746328468th time; this is a release you need to own.

Nightmare City is available as a DVD & Blu-Ray combo pack from Arrow Films.


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