Nightmare City (Italy-Spain, 1980):
(Incubo Sulla CittÓ Contaminata; City of the Walking Dead)

A gray city, the color of cement, chemical plants belching smoke caught in helicopter shots -- already intimations of internal horror, promptly confirmed by a pilotless cargo plane gliding in, brimming with contamination, the syphilic Nosferatu vessel, or at least Fulci's update at the end of Zombie. The hatch opens and out pours a battalion of rabid, hamburger-faced fellas, the result of a nuclear spill, hungry for blood; no walking dead, for the ghouls can run, drive, shoot, and fastidiously rip the clothes off buxom starlets before going for the jugular. Mel-Ferrer-as-Henry-Fonda, the general, advises the forces to "aim for the brain," though as breakdown increases and emergency state is declared, the narrative latches onto TV reporter Hugo Stiglitz and wife Laura Trotter, who flee into the body-strewn countryside, pondering the evils of contemporary society when not dodging bites. "Monsters created by monsters" is the sanguine-hands verdict, and director Umberto Lenzi hammers his eco-j'accuse home in between cut-rate cranial detonations, martial-law hysteria and assorted wacky tumult -- leotard-disco choreography segueing into neck-slurping and tit-dicing once the fallout boys crash the studio, hospital blood depository raided by an infected granny, a charred hand removing the foliage out of the camera's view to focus on a bikinied victim-to-be, the sudden POV followed by a zoom straight into the peeping eye. A ghoul-priest gets bludgeoned with a communion chalice, yet the closest the film comes to Bu˝uel is Francisco Rabal, a military major whose sculptor girlfriend's (Sheila Rosaria Omaggio) macabre works give him "a chill of death." Itself hardly a redoubtable tableaux-mort, Enzi's apocalypse pales next to the freak-outs of Romero, Cronenberg, Fulci, Margheriti, et al, although give it props for explicitly filing Coca-Cola alongside radioactive leakage under Things We Can Do Without. With Sonia Viviani.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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