Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
City of the Living Dead aka Gates of Hell (1980)
Blue Underground | Review by Dan Taylor

Lucio Fulci's City of the Living DeadItalian gore-meister Lucio Fulci was easily one of the biggest influences during my development as a horror and exploitation lover. His flicks – in variously cut and renamed forms – often popped up at the drive-in and Philly junk cinemas. Fact is, I still get misty-eyed when I reflect on Wednesday afternoons spent watching HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, ZOMBIE and THE BEYOND (then called SEVEN DOORS OF DEATH) with a collection of winos and junkies.

CITY doesn't waste any time getting started as the ponderous Fabio Frizzi score lets us know that bad shit is gonna happen. True enough, especially when a priest decides that the best place to string himself up is in a graveyard in Dunwich!

Cue to a séance which leads to the death of a spiritualist who kicks after seeing a "City of the dead!" Which leads to an investigation by everybody's favorite 80s horror icon Christopher George, here playing grizzled journalist Peter Bell. And we know he's grizzled 'cause he chomps on a cigar.

From here on out the flick runs over with some of the most memorable moments in Fulci's power-packed filmography: in a scene that never fails to spook me George rescues a woman who's been buried alive; a woman's eyes bleed just before she vomits her entire intestinal tract; maggots storm; rats munch on skulls; and, in a sequence that's drawn out in excruciating fashion, a pissed off dad drills through the skull of a kid he suspects of molesting local chicks.

Do our heroes destroy the sinister priest before All Saint's Day, saving mankind from all hell breaking loose... literally? Heck, I've seen it about a dozen times and I'd be happy if somebody would just tell me what happens at the end of the damn thing!

While THE BEYOND remains my fave of Fulci's head-scratching horrors, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD runs a close second thanks to its almost non-stop onslaught of "Best Of" moments.


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