But enough about the plot. Really, it doesn’t matter. Neither do the stars. Like any Fulci horror film, the true stars here are the gross-out special effects courtesy of Franco Rufini and co., who treat us to a variety of dynamically disgusting moments guaranteed to linger in your head long after the movie’s over. The vomiting of one’s own internal organs. Brains being squished out of the back of skulls. And, of course, the ever class-ick moment where one poor, mentally-deficient dolt (played by cult fave Giovanni Lombardo Radice aka John Morghen) gets a ginormous power drill through his head!
Ah, they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore, kids.
Thirty years after its initial release, City of the Living Dead is still a popular film. Many of the movie’s grotesque moments are just as unsettling as they were in 1980 and 1983 (when the movie was released in the States). Thus, City of the Living Dead has proved to be popular with DVD distributors across the world — and the title alone has at least dozen different standard definition releases. But, with 2010, two Blu-ray releases have surfaced for this Fulci favorite: one from U.S. company Blue Underground, and the second from the UK-based Arrow Entertainment. Both releases have been a major subject of comparison since they debuted within a day of each other in May.
The version I’m diving into here is the Region Free Arrow Entertainment UK release. It’s also the version I’m recommending to anyone that gives a damn about special features. Why? Because it has so much more to offer, that’s why. But first, a word about the audio/video aspects of the release. According to the information that’s out there, both Arrow and Blue Underground used the same source material for their HD transfers. Arrow’s release presents the movie in a 1080p/AVC transfer, presenting the movie in a 1.85:1 widescreen ratio. Colors, detail, and contrast have been dramatically improved over any of the other previous SD-DVD releases. Sure, there’s still a lot of grain (this was a low-budget Italian horror film from 1980, you know!) to be found, but, overall, the image rocks.
Onto the audio. Arrow’s City of the Living Dead gives us four audio options to choose from, all of which are in English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 2.0 Stereo, and, for the purist of purists, DD Mono. Once again, the Blu-ray outshines any previous SD-DVD release, creating clear and healthy (despite the onscreen unhealthiness) soundtracks that fit into the film’s creepy atmosphere quite nicely. This release does not contain any subtitles, which is probably its weakest point.