City of the Living Dead (1980)
(Aka the Gates of Hell/
Twilight of the Dead/The Fear)
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Cast: Katriona MacColl, Janet Agren
Giovanni Lombardo Radice.

During a seance Mary (Katriona MacColl)  sees a priest from a small town called Dunwich, hang himself from a graveyard tree, which opens up the gates of hell for the world to be taken over by zombies.  This also results in Mary’s death and prompt burial.  But all is not as it seems, and after a tense rescue scene where she is exhumed from her grave, she and Peter (Christopher George) a reporter zoom on down to Dunwich to try and stop the final rising of the dead which shall happen on “All Saints day”.

After they arrive in Dunwich, all hell has pretty much broken loose, literally!  They come across Sandra (Janet Agren) and her shrink (Carlo de Mejo), another couple trying to escape the Dunwich zombie buffet.  Together they all search out the grave of the dead priest to try  dispatch him to hell and stop the rising of the dead.

GORE SCORE: –  A drill through the bonce, skulls being torn open, intestines being vomited up and pulled out, blood running from eyes, tons of gooey faced zombies, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, and a priest!  STONKING!

This is the second movie in Fulci’s outstanding zombie quartet, Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) being first.  And what a brilliant  set of zombie movies they are!    I  prefer these Fulci zombie movies to the George Romero trilogy, although I do like his trilogy and I know that he started it all off with Night Of The Living Dead 1968, I think the Fulci ones  have something else to them.

Maybe it’s their apocalyptic style!  Whereas in Romero’s movies there is almost always someone that escapes, or the zombies are killed off.  But in Fulci’s ones that’s not always guaranteed. And the endings of these four movies have to be seen to be believed! Every time (and I’ve seen these movies like 10 times each!) and I mean every time, each time I get to the ending of a Fulci zombie movie, I am totally covered in goose bumps, and goose bumps after all is what horror was originally about.  Before the gore, before the killers jumping into frame suddenly and causing you to jump (which is way too predictable nowadays, especially since all the Scream shit, I mean C’mon can’t you just see what side of the screen the masked freak is gonna jump in from, every time?)  Goose bumps came first.   So though there is a hell of an amount of gore in the Fulci zombie movies, they are some of the goriest zombie movies around, they also have their unpredictable endings, and that old goose bump factor, which makes them stand out above the Romero zombie movies, I believe.

Another thing I noticed recently while watching the Fulci zombie movies recently, his soundtracks on his zombie films kick some ass!   The scores by Fabio Frizzi from Zombie Flesh Eaters (Zombie 2, 1979), The Beyond (1981)  and this one are absolutely brilliant; they have a kind of similar rhythm to them.   Sometimes it even sounds like he used bits of the same score on more than one movie; I would have to watch them all in one go to see if this actually happened.   Either way they are there menacing in the background waiting for the first of many face ache zombies to appear, pumping away while you come across a man eating shark, or while you wait for all the dead to join you in a catacomb or a painting, OUTSTANDING!

A horror film soundtrack has to be really good to make me want to buy it, like Dario  Argento’s Deep Red (1975), or Suspiria (1977),  Jess Franco’s excellent jazz soundtracks from Vaympros Lesbos (1970) and She Killed in Ecstasy (1970), and this one.  If I see a Fulci soundtrack box set of these 4 zombie movies I’ll be buying them, but well, when you catch yourself watching these movies in the wee small hours and hear yourself saying out loud “FUCK I LOVE ZOMBIE MOVIES!” I guess you can’t be helped!

And the cast!!  Katriona MacColl (sometimes Katherine or Catriona) is the ultimate scream queen in three out of four of this zombie quartet. Giovanni Lombardo Radice (the infamous John Morghen) as Bob the weirdo, famous cock snack from Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox (1981) to Lamberto Bava’s Body Puzzle (1991) and dozens of spaghetti gore flicks in between. The delectable Janet Agren on the menu again as she was in Eaten Alive (1980) again by Umberto Lenzi.

Miss them at your peril!  No self-respecting horror fan should be without these  Fulci gorefests in his collection!

Review by Giovanni Pistachio, Giovanni can be contacted at: –

© Owned Giovanni Pistachio.


2 thoughts on “City of the Living Dead (1980)

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