Nightmare City (1980)

Now, although George Romero’s films pretty much rewrote the zombie rulebook, not all zombie films thereafter necessarily followed the new rules. Hence this little number by Umberto Lenzi, which was obviously designed to cash in on Romero’s success but which largely ignores the new standard procedure. The apparent production of some really fucked-up nuclear experiment, Lenzi’s zombies want your blood rather than your flesh, they’re a damn sight more sprightly than Romero’s shamblers, and they’re also surprisingly capable of intelligent action in the course of hunting you down, you know, cutting off electricity and the like, and using weapons—knives, hatchets, even guns… THEY CAN FLY PLANES, FOR FUCK’S SAKE. It’s this liveliness of Lenzi’s zombies, fuelled by radiation and remarkably hard to stop, that gives interest to the film, which otherwise is a fairly straightforward “zombies appear in big city, kill loads of Expendable Meat” affair, featuring zombies with even dodgier makeup than the blue-faced hordes in Dawn of the Dead; certainly the nuclear warning theme isn’t the drawcard, being about as ham-fistedly and insincerely managed as Hell of the Living Dead‘s tut-tutting about Third World exploitation. It’s still probably better-made on the whole than the Bruno Mattei epic we just witnessed; the dubbing is about as problematic as it always is, but there’s not quite as much grimacing as in Hell. Mind you, even one more facial expression wouldn’t have gone astray, surely, when it comes to star Hugo Stiglitz; Lenzi was unhappy about having Stiglitz imposed on him by his producers, and not without some good reason. Still, things are kept moving at a pretty fair pace from the moment Zombie Airlines touches down, and generally it made for fun viewing for this time of night. Like the Mattei film, I enjoyed it more than I thought I might, and again it was $12 not badly spent…

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