Deep Cuts #1: Zombies with Weapons

One could argue the pros and cons of slow zombies vs. fast zombies. Is it scarier to be attacked by a horde of slow moving, lunging zombies? Or does the opportunity to be killed by just ONE bloodthirsty running zombie float your boat? Return of the Living Dead? Or Dawn of the Dead ‘78? How do you feel about your zombies using tools and weapons?

Nightmare City a.k.a City of the Living Dead, released in 1980, will hopefully shed some light on this topic of able-handed zombies. Then again, with Italian rip-off wizard of what-the-fuckery, Umberto Lenzi at the helm, there may be more questions than answers.

First and foremost, we waste no time with a nuclear incident being reported upon by a news reporter and a plane landing full of zombies. Well, more like some regular looking dudes in the background and a few dudes with oatmeal on their face, and even more with what look like beehives on their head, wielding knives, axes, guns, chains, all things you find in bulk on a military plane, of course. It’s certainly a memorable scene, and for those who have seen the movie, it’s what they remember it for. If it were done properly, with good effects, and perhaps without the weapon wielding zombies, it could be a frightening opening to a big budget zombie flick.

But as soon as you think “Hey, this could be a good movie,” we jump to some 80s babes dancing in leotards to some cheesy disco music with dudes in spandex tops all synchronized together in a wild orgy of Italian sleazeball embarrassingly bad goodness. And even though it gets interrupted with the news of the airplane landing, we cut back to it a few moments later so we can finish the amazingly choreographed dance scene and see them get their tops ripped off by attacking zombies!

Points for the random old dude (Francisco Rabal Valera — 54 at the time of filming), doing the nasty with a hot young Italian girl (Maria Rosaria Omaggio — 26 at the time of filming) in a typically sleazy Italian sex scene, that’s completely unnecessary and yet profoundly titillating.
More bonus points for Italian Daniel Stern backhanding his wife in order for her to snap out of her hysterical breakdown of fear and exhaustion. FYI it worked. I will have to try this.
Much like 28 Days Later, Lenzi claimed these were not zombies. They are infected. Not with a rage virus, but with radiation sickness. And that makes sense why some of them are in various stages of ugliness. I guess it also explains the use of weapons. They’re not dead, just sick and crazed.

Anyhoo, these bad muthers get loose in the city and spread the oatmeal disease all over other people’s faces. They can only be killed by attacking their brain, so of course that’s the last thing anybody aims for. Along the way, there are some tense scenes, random Italian 80s boobies, some great Italian period music, zomb-er-infected people with what looks like mud on their face now cutting phone lines and spying on babes in bathing suits, AND more than a few quality kills. Did I mention they can drive, too? There’s also a 30 second exposition scene where they comment on nuclear irresponsibility and the fact that humans are the REAL monsters here. Their hunt for power over everything and everyone has caused all this to go down. However, it’s never followed up on. And the “twist” ending is, uh, interesting.
But is it enough? Is this one a cut above the rest? Or is it DOA?

If you appreciate Italian 80s films, and are familiar with the filmography of sleaze meister Umberto Lenzi, then yes, this is must see material. Is it scary? Nah. Are the effects good? Uh, no. Do the zomb-er-infected look convincing? Again, no. But I COULD use a nice warm bowl of oatmeal with maybe some fruit cut up with cinnamon and – never mind.

4/10 Stab wounds!

About RetRo(n) 61 Articles
I like the 80s, slasher films, Italian directors, Evil Ed, Trash and Nancy, Ripley and Private First Class Hudson, retro crap but not SyFy crap, old school skin, Freddy and Savini, Spinell and Coscarelli, Andre Toulon, and last, but not least, Linda Blair.