Paura nella cittÓ dei morti viventi (1980)

AKA: Fear in the City of the Living Dead
AKA: City of the Living Dead (Literal Translation)
AKA: Pater Thomas
AKA: Twilight of the Dead
AKA: The Fear
AKA: The Gates of Hell (United States Release Title)
AKA: Ein Zombie hing am Glockenseil ([A Zombie Hung on the Bell Rope] German Release - Banned in 1986)
AKA: Ein Toter hing am Glockenseil ([A Dead Body Hung on the Bell Rope] German Release - Banned in 1988)
AKA: Eine Leiche hing am Glockenseil ([A Corpse Hung on the Bell Rope] German Release - Banned in 2001)
AKA: Ein Kadaver hing am Glockenseil ([A Cadaver Hung on the Bell Rope] German Release - Banning To Be Announced)

(Release Date: August 11, 1980 [Italy])
(USA Release Date: May 1983)


2 Stars... Fulci has yet to rise2 Stars... Fulci has yet to rise

LUCIIIIIIIIOOOOOOO!
You got some 'Splaining to dooooooooooooo!


Twilight of my Sex Life!
J.C. Mašek III
The Hurled's Greatest Critic!



The films of Lucio Fulci are always more fun to review than they are to watch. Fulci really had something here, and he showed it with some challenging camera angles, interesting lighting choices and some fabulous moments of suspense. I often wonder what Fulci might have accomplished with a budget that could bring his unique visions to life.

On the other hand, Fulci couldn't write for shit. NOT FOR SHIT! This is only part of the reason that so many of his films feel exactly the same as the one before (and I'm not just counting the "Zombi Trilogy" either)! In City of the Living Dead (a title as original as the naming of a Batman villain "Catman") we get much the same from Lucio that we've seen before. And it's well done considering all. However, Lucio and his partner in plagiarism Dardano Sacchetti pilfer again from the works of H.P. Lovecraft (and not for the last time), yet they still manage to only have enough story elements to fill up a 22 minute episode of Alf. This leads to film padding the likes of which we haven't seen since Manos The Hands of Fate! I don't wonder why it's so damned easy for Zombies to rampage in Mr. Fulci's films even a little bit. It takes so damned long for a character to do anything remotely decisive, I'm surprised nobody woke up and found themselves to be a battery in The Matrix.
Remember when Syd and Billy got it on in Scream? I'd rather watch Scream!

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
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The plot begins to plod when as-psychic-as-she-wants-to-be Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) has a vision at a sÚance. It's so shocking for a "psychic" to actually have a vision during a psychic phenomenon that she faints out of complete surprise. Who wouldn't? What she sees is an Italian Priest, whose Parish is the Lovecraft-created Dunwich, hanging himself in a silly cemetery (I'm guessing it's The Cemetery by the House, DANT-DANT-D A A A A A A A A A A!). Anyway, for some reason beyond textual logic, this causes one zombie to rise from the damned dead, and, incidentally, one gateway to Hell to open up for us and say A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A H! Of course, our psycho psychic doesn't get to tell anybody this crap because she has such a piss poor HMO that she's immediately interred in a cemetery (a different cemetery). It's cheaper for HMO doctors to declare her deceased than use smelling salts to wake her from fainting.

At this point Fulci's skills at director are seen for what they are. In a moment part Kill Bill and part The Screaming Woman, Fulci alternates between dark and blue-hued coffin and bright, bright, bright, bright sunshiny day. Reporter Peter Bell (Christopher George) might be her savior... if he wasn't directed by Lucio to just stand around for about three hours listening to her scream, then saying "Nah!" then hearing it again, making a funny face, saying "Nah!" again, and so on and so on. He's also about as intelligent as Mr. T's barber! You should see the "Rescue" he performs, kids. With friends like these, who needs Enemas?

Another week of screen time is wasted on a conversation similar to:
"Where we goin'?"
"Dunwich!"
"Where dat?"
"I have no idea."
"Then how do you know it exists?"
"It came to me in a dream!"
"Were you naked?"
"No."

I'm paraphrasing a little. However, about the time that Lucio gets into gear again it's about time for the closing credits. There's a lot of standing around, silly expository dialogue and identical characters coming and going and bumming and slowing. As the finale barrels toward us like Locomotive Breath, Lucio turns on the charm again and gives us a halfway decent send-off. But it's sort of like waiting for pudding after a stringy poultry meal and finding even that warm and runny.

I'm sensitive here, I see his occasional talent, and I appreciate the good parts. The film still sucks like a Hoover, man! Understanding a low budget was at fault doesn't suddenly make the movie good by comparison! The Fulcinator's fan base are RABID in their defense of him, pointing out that he did so much with so little that he needs to be graded on a curve. Fair enough, bud, but let's not make The Exorcist out of Plan 9 here. What are you guys Johnnie Cochrane now? "If he had a low budget you must acquit!" Fuck that noise, man! How far does that logic go? "I'm sorry I don't have a registration for my car, officer, I'm low on funds." or "I'm sorry I'm showing up for work naked, boss, I can't afford clothes right now." or "Hey, Cable Company, you had no right to cancel my service... I'm broke!". Am I wrong to make fun of Mikey Myers' latter day work because he hasn't had a funny idea in ten years? Same logic.

Taken for all with all, and in fairness and deference to the man un-ironically referred to as "The Maestro", City of the Living Dead is a rough with a few diamonds in it, good for fans of the genre and Fulci himself. However, even those Otaku can't fault me for giving this collection of gore (one chick actually regurgitates raw pig intestines, at least two brains are yanked out), bad dubbing (a staple for these imports) and procrastination Two Stars out of Five. In general the writing is scattershot and substandard and every bit as well explained as that Sly Stone tribute at the Grammies. At least that was fun to watch for longer. As for the actually developed parts of City of the Living Dead, they're about as appetizing as a George Wendt erotic revue. At least that would have nudity in it. Okay, now I really am scared! See you in the next reel.

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City of the Living Dead (1980) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for his own views... and for the fact that he's a little more careful about where he lives than apparently Fulci's characters are.
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