NIGHTMARE CITY (1980) – On Arrow Video Dual Format

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Directed by Umberto Lenzi

After an accident at a nuclear powerplant, news reporter Dean is scheduled to interview a science professor about the incident. Waiting at the airport for his arrival, Dean is shocked to the core when the professor arrives on an unmarked military plane and emerges from the aircraft with a horde of crazed humans, stabbing, biting and attacking the armed soldiers waiting on the airfield. Rushing back to the television studio, Dean tries to warn the public about what he’s just witnessed but the military stop him dead in his tracks, wishing to keep the incident under wraps. It seems their plan to control the situation is nothing more than an ideology when the rampaging infected reach the city, attacking anyone who they can get their hands on. With super-human strength and an insatiable thirst for blood, the only way to survive the infected is to destroy their brains but with each victim who’s attacked contaminated, the odds are greatly stacked against the surviving human race.

Horror thriller NIGHTMARE CITY is a non-stop slice of Italian action. As soon as the words ”nuclear incident’ are mentioned by the news reporter, you just know trouble lies ahead. After the crazed horde exit the military aircraft, it’s only a matter of time before they spread and begin to descend upon the hospitals, towns and homes. Some of the infected look normal which easily tricks the survivors. Only their long gaze into the distance and then their frenzied spring into life is the tell-tale sign, at which point it’s often too late. Others though, who seem to be the ones originally involved in the incident, are horribly disfigured. They look as though their face has been melted, burned over charcoal or that they’ve fell face first into a puddle of mud. These individuals seem to be more powerful than the others and they’ll stop at nothing to stab and rip flesh from their victims, although not without ripping open a blouse first if it’s a female victim.

Mexican actor Hugo Stiglitz stars as protagonist Dean, the news reporter who’s keen to grab his wife Anna (Laura Trotter), who works at the hospital, and escape this madness as quickly as possible. On the other side of town, military man Holmes (Francisco Rabal) is keeping the army updated of the status of the infection as he’s flown around by helicopter. There’s a magnificent shot from the helicopter of the infected horde moving across a field which gives some scope to how this incident has evolved into chaos as it spreads around town. Holmes too fears for his loved with one, Sheila (Maria Rosaria Omaggio). An artist, Sheila spends morst of her time at her home working on her projects but will she be safe as the unfected spread?

NIGHTMARE CITY is pure entertainment from start to finish. There’s never a dull moment as the pace of the film quickly keeps things moving. The infected are keen on ripping and slicing flesh and whilst there’s not too much gore in terms of the red stuff actually being shown, there are plenty of attacks that will satisfy most horror hounds. The film is drenched in Italian style, right down to the dubbing, and even though the film’s ending is a little bit of a cop out, it’s still a solid piece of genre cinema.

Arrow Video have released NIGHTMARE CITY with two versions of the film. The first is a 2K restoration high definition transfer from the original camera negative however it’s degraded a little over time and due to chemicals used to clean them way back when, some of the frames are discoloured and jittery. The other high definition version is from a 35mm reversal dupe negative however the transfer isn’t as sharp as the original with the visual offering a softer edge though, unlike the original negative transfer, there is no colour damage at all. Having watched thee original negative transfer with colour damage, it’s not as bad as I thought it’d be. There’s yellow streaks in the film, particularly during the airport scenes at beginning, but it’s not bad enough to disrupt my enjoyment of the movie. As for the jitters, I don’t believe I spotted them. It’s nice though to have both versions on the disc even if neither of them are perfect although if you don’t mind a few blemishes, the first will do nicely. The release also has two audio tracks for the film: one with Italian dubbing and English subtitles and one with English dubbing and English subtitles. I began watching in Italian though some of the characters were speaking in English, so halfway through I began watching with the English audio track. The English track was fine although curiously the English subtitles did not match the English dubbing and often names, numbers and huge sections of dialogue differed to that spoken on the English audio track. So if you’re listening and reading at the same time, it can be a bit disorientating so I chose to ignore the subtitles and just listen instead.

The Arrow Video Blu-Ray contains some great features especially the interview with director Umberto Lenzi, a 7 minute interview with Maria Rosaria Omaggio, who played Sheila, and a 10 minute interview with Eli Roth on the film and others made by Lenzi. Other special features include alternate opening titles, original trailer, audio commentary by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander and a featurette comparing the differences between the two transfers of the film on the disc, the latter of which is rather handy when deciding which version to watch.

Like most of Arrow’s releases, Nightmare City comes complete with a Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Martin, author of Seduction of the Gullible: The Truth Behind the Video Nasty Scandal, illustrated with original archive stills and posters, and a reversible case sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys.

If you love zombies that run and the non-stop madness of zombie carnage, then Nightmare City will be right up your street.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Bat 7854 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Yakuza Zero and Webbed.

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