The Film (4.9/5)
Sometimes it feels like certain directors make a film just as a warm-up exercise for another. Some examples of this include Sam Raimi's original Evil Dead as a run-up to Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, David Lynch's Lost Highway to his Mulholland Drive, and Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi to Desperado. I feel like Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead very easily belongs in this category, as it feels like a warm-up to his more well known masterpiece The Beyond.
I am not, I would like to add, calling City of the Living Dead a lesser film. It stands quite well on it's own as a masterpiece of Italian horror. I would go so far as to say that City of the Living Dead is a film that simply defines horror. It features a Lovecraftian atmosphere of otherworldly dread, that so many films could only wish to have. It has a series of great and completely memorable gore sequences ranging from Daniela Doria throwing up her intestines to Giovanni Lombardo Radice taking a table drill to the face. It also features a good deal of suspense, which is something sorely missing from many so-called splatter films. I must have seen this film over a dozen times by now, and the scene with Catriona MacColl in the coffin still keeps me on edge every single time I watch.
City of the Living Dead is a very situational film, what narrative exist in the film is very thin, and allows Fulci to bring a very metaphysical feel to the proceedings. City of the Living Dead tells the story of a small New England town(played convincingly by Savannah, GA) named Dunwich. A priest named Father Thomas has recently hung himself in the local cemetery. This has caused one of the seven gates of Hell to open, and allows the supernatural into the world. A psychic, named Mary Woodhouse, played by Catriona MacColl has a vision of this occurrence, and falls into a deathlike trance. She is saved from a premature burial by journalist Peter Bell(Christopher George), together they seek out the town of Dunwich, in the hope that they will close the gate before it is too late.
I have seen City of the Living Dead on VHS(Gates of Hell), on DVD, and now on Blu-ray. I am happy to report, that not only does City of the Living Dead look better than it ever has before, but it will probably never look better on home video than it does on this Blu-ray. Blue Underground has presented City of the Living Dead in a spectacular 1:85:1 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is a slight trace of healthy film grain throughout, the colors pop off the screen like never before, and the black levels are completely solid. The level of clarity and detail throughout is nothing short of amazing.
Blue Underground has packaged City of the Living Dead with 2 audio options an English 5.1 track, and another English 7.1 track. Since I do not have a 7.1 set up(yet) I went with the 5.1, and was quite happy with the results. The dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, and Fabio Frizzi's music erupts from the speakers.
Blue Underground could have released City of the Living Dead totally barebones, and I still would have been quite happy with the result. They have, however, seen fit to create a package as monumental as the film itself. This truly special edition kicks off with a 36 minutes documentary entitled The Making of City of the Living Dead, which features interviews with the surviving cast and crew from the film. This is followed up with individual interviews with Catriona MacColl and Giovanni Lombardo Radice(who is wearing his signature Rotten Cotton shirt!!), finally there is a short featurette entitled Memories of the Maestro which features the cast and crew of the film reminiscing about working with Fulci. The disc is rounded off with radio spots, trailers, and a gallery of publicity materials and stills from the film.
This disc is amazing. I would recommend this to anyone from the hardcore Fulci fantatic, that has seen City of the Living Dead multiple times, to the Italian horror newcomer. The film is a great piece of dreamlike Italian horror, that simply never gets old. The transfer is absolutely phenomenal. City of the Living Dead has NEVER looked this good, and will probably never look better than this on home video. To add more bloody icing to the cake, the extras are completely extensive, and will please any fan of the film. City of the Living Dead on Blu-ray comes highly recommended.