Imagine you are the sheriff of a small town which is being plagued by a variety of strange and sinister occurences which include bleeding glass, disappearing bodies, visions of a priest who hanged himself and brain-ripping zombies. You discover your daughter sitting in your car in your garage with Bob, the rather strange, lonely local boy whom a few are blaming for some of the odd goings-ons even though nothing has been proved. Do you;
A] Tell Bob to bugger off and leave your daughter alone?
B] Arrest Bob on suspicion of murder?
C] Give him a good kicking and then send him on his way, saying you will nail his ass?
D] Slam him onto a work bench and force his face into a power drill that you have just accidently turned on?
I doubt anyone would opt for ‘D’, unless you are a character in a Lucio Fulci film. Well, City Of The Living Dead is a film from the cult Italian director who remains best known for his splatter epics like Zombie and The Beyond. The world created by Fulci in these movies is a nightmarish, surreal one of disjointed happenings, odd characters, strange geography, plots which make no sense, bodily disintegration, random acts of violence so savage you cannot believe you eyes, and a kind of dream logic which actually seems to link all these disparate elements together. Therefore option ‘D’ is actually the only way to go.
First of all the Sheriff punches him in the face, causing him to fall back and knock a switch, a switch which turns on a drill. Then, despite his daughter’s protestations, he picks him up and throws him onto the work bench the drill is on. Slowly but surely, he forces his head nearer and nearer to the drill. Fulci draws the sequence out to almost unbearable lengths as he keeps cutting to the front of the drill, getting closer each time. Eventually the Sheriff manages to get Bob’s head close enough so the drill can go into one of the cheeks, spewing out blood and bits of flesh as he does. Now you’d be forgiven for thinking the scene is now over, and indeed many versions of the film released in the 80 ‘s did cut away now. In the full uncut version though, which is the one most widely available these days, the scene continues as Bob’s head is forced further and further into the drill and the blade eventually comes out the other side!
Fulci said that this scene was a comment on Facism. He may well have meant that, but for me it’s just a great example of one of my favourite directors going as far as he can possibly go, toying with the viewer, daring him or her to watch, aided immensely by Gino de Rossi’s superb effects which still hold up today.