While there are still many, many classic films awaiting to be released on Blu-ray, distributors definitely know what sells: horror. And one distributor knows better than others that genre fans want older classic titles as much as—and maybe more—than anything released in recent years. Let’s face it, they don’t make ’em like they used to, for better and worse. In the case of Kino Lorber, they may keep churning out the hits with their Mario Bava Collection, but also find the time for some rather interesting titles as well, namely the films of Jesús Franco. Just in time for the new year, Kino’s offshoot RaroVideo brings us the fun Umberto Lenzi cheesefest Nightmare City (Incubo sulla città contaminata).
In Nightmare City, we find television journalist Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) on the beat at an airfield where an unmarked military plane is about to touch down. The TV has been talking about a radiation leak where the plane has just come from and inside holds a gang of infested zombie-like creations. Armed with guns, knives, hatches, and bared teeth, the zombies begin to overrun the city. Miller must find his wife, Dr. Anna Miller (Laura Trotter), before she falls prey to the zombie outbreak while General Murchison of Civil Defense (Mel Ferrer) denies any attempt at action to take out the zombies. Everything comes to a head a la Zombieland as the couple head to an abandoned amusement park to make their last stand.
Nightmare City lurches onto Blu-ray with a particularly slick-looking transfer. A lack of HD extras help make the film fit perfectly on a 25GB disc in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors look very strong with detail shedding extra light on the now-cheap looking special effects. Blood is the bright red we expect from a low budget, where it always looks like paint. The image is never super-sharp, but doesn’t appear to have been smothered with any kind of DNR. Kino releases are known for the whiplash quality, and this one falls somewhere in the middle.
Grain is nowhere to be seen, but at least neither is noise, banding, or aliasing. The fact that all of the film takes place during the day also makes sure that crush is completely absent. As for the sound, we surprisingly get treated to a linear PCM stereo 2.0 track. Available in both English and Italian (I opted for English, seeing how it was filmed that way) and aside from some dubbing issues, there’s nothing to complain about. Subtitles come in both Italian and English. Music, dialogue, and scream all come through without the overabundance of hissing or pops. The video and audio here are the best the film probably ever has, and ever will, look. Something to be expected from any form of Kino Blu-ray.
Nightmare City doesn’t include a plethora of extras, but the highlight would definitely have to be a 49-minute interview with Umberto Lenzi filmed in Rome, back in 2000. He admits that his memory of the production is “so-so,” but at least explains that he never wanted his creatures to be either zombies nor vampires. Considering all the talk of radiation throughout the film, and that these are some mighty fast shufflers, they fall into the category of 28 Days/Weeks Later. Trailers are the only other disc feature and are available in both English or Italian. A fully-illustrated booklet on the genesis and production of the film is inside the case, written by Fangoria Magazine writer Chris Alexander, and is extremely informative.
Horror fans can rest easy with the Blu-ray release of Nightmare City and it’s an easy blind-buy for anyone who loves all things zombie-related. Overloaded with cheese—one character replies to another simply by saying, “Words.”—and the ending will make you giggle as the credits begin to roll and you realize the fast one Lenzi pulled on unsuspecting audiences back in 1980. Today it would be considered a cheat—and believe me, plenty of films have tried to pull it off—but in a horror film we can be more forgiving because you’ve already been treated to the expected carnage. Nightmare City is another log on the fire of the ever-increasing supply of horror films seeing the light of day in HD after being buried on bootlegged DVDs and is worth the price if you can find it for less than the $29.99 Amazon is asking.