Nightmare City Special Edition on Blu-ray – The DVDfever Review


Nightmare City – there are zombie films, and then there are zombies who have knives! And machetes! And axes! And those that just rip your face off.

Although made in 1980, since a lot of the action takes place within the confines of a TV station called Channel 5, this must’ve been set in the late ’90s as their primetime programme features scantily clad women in leotards, doing their best Pan’s People dancing.

And I thought this film was joking when it said the lead actor was Hugo Stiglitz, as that was one of the key characters in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, but it wasn’t. It turned out that Tarantino was honouring the actor.

So, what’s the plot? Their chief news reporter, Dean Miller (Stiglitz), is waiting at an airport to interview reknowned scientist Professor Hagenbach, but an unmarked military plane happens to land, and despite the fact that the ground crew are getting zero response from those inside, they still think it’s appropriate to get up close and personal.Perhaps it might be okay when the first person to step outside is the one and only Hagenbach? Well, no, because the plane was exposed to radiation and that’s why everyone inside are nuclear zombies! And some of them are zombies with what looks like piles over their faces! The army soon realise, however, that if you’ve got the means to blow them away, then aim for the brain!


The REAL Hugo Stiglitz and Tarantino’s creation (played by Til Schweiger)
(Click on the picture for the full-size version)

Some random observations about Nightmare City:

  • I love how zombies, after chomping away at a fresh corpse, suddenly wipe away any trace of blood pouring from their mouth, as if to retain some sort of dignity.

  • OF course, an Italian horror movie means it contains women exposing their breasts.

  • Some of the people really do deserve to die, however, since they just don’t help themselves. For example, one woman just stands there as the zombie slowly points a sharp implement towards her eye and then into it! The fact he previously jammed it into her left breast somehow wasn’t an indicator to escape!

  • And when two characters are trying to escape in their car, but have to take refuge in a petrol station, the zombies suddenly start opening up the boot of their car to have a look-see. Oi, you thieving bastard! Get the fuck away from that! Where do you think you are – Stockport?

  • And, finally, one observation which I’ll wrap a spoiler tag around:
    Spoiler Inside SelectShow


The afflicted go straight for the blood bank…


The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 ratio – something that would not have happened when this film eventually got a censored UK release in 1986, presuming it ever made it to video – butgiven that it’s shot in Techniscope, before watching this film you get a brief crash course in how that format resulted in half the vertical resolution being available than more traditional filming processes, but since you could get twice as many frames on film, this was a boon for low-budget filmmakers.

This led to two versions of this film being available on this release. Why? Well, only two prints were available – an original negative which allows for a detailed 1080p resolution print, but which has occasional scenes where things aren’t so good because the chemicals used to clean the print often caused degredation; and the other – a dupe reverse negative, doesn’t suffer any of those chemical issues, but looks very soft throughout, very much like a DVD generally looks. A demonstration is given before you watch the film, and between the two, and since I prefer the sharpness of a Blu-ray image, I chose the former print. Glad I did, too, as those chemically-affected scenes are something I can live with given the fact that one alternative is that we wouldn’t have had this film at all.

According to IMDB, a variety of languages were used in this film – Italian, English and Spanish. Normally, I’d go with the original language when watching a film, but for this one, I chose the English dialogue which is dubbed, even for those scenes which were clearly originally spoken in English. However, on this disc it’s just that you either get an all-English or all-Italian language track. That may be all that survives of the original elements. I’ve already described the situation regarding the picture, so it’s not like when this film was originally made, someone would’ve had an eye towards potential home market revenue, unlike releases of today, such as the TV series The Saboteurs, which featured dialogue in Danish, German, Norwegian and English, depending on the location, and each of those are in their original language with no dubbed option.


Pan’s People – The outtakes

The extensive extras are as follows:

  • The Limits of Restoration (4:34): The aforementioned featurette about why there are two versions.

  • Umberto Lenzi interview (28:41): Subtitled “Radiation Sickness”, the director talks about changing the premise of the film to make it the way he wanted so it wasn’t just a typical bog-standard zombie flick – well, in essence it kinda is, but to him they’re less zombies and more like vampires who need human blood to survive.

  • Maria Rosaria Omaggio interview (7:41): aka “Sheila of the Dead”, one of the film’s leads, but she humbly considers herself only as one of the extras.

  • Zombies Gone Wild: Eli Roth on Nightmare City (10:33): Director Eli Roth talks about not only this one but all of Umberto Lenzi’s work and his influence on him and others, including the reference to Inglorious Basterds.

  • Original trailer (3:45): Presented in 2.35:1, it looks like this has been cut from the dupe reverse negative print, since it looks quite soft but doesn’t have any of that chemical shenanigans going on.

  • Alternate Opening Titles (2:11): with the title renamed “Attack of the Zombies”.

  • Collectors booklet: with film stills and posters, notes about the restoration, and new writing about the movie from John Martin, author of Seduction of the Gullible: The Truth Behind the Video Nasty Scandal.

  • Reversible sleeve: This shows one of the many alternate titles for this movie – City of the Walking Dead.

  • Audio commentary: Chris Alexander – filmmaker, Fangoria editor and Nightmare City fan.

Subtitles are in English, but there are two subtitle tracks – one of which is closer to the dubbed version – which I selected, and the other being newly translated subtitles for the Italian soundtrack. There are 12 chapters to the film, as usual. As always, I’d prefer more than 12 for the main film, aiming for one every five minutes approximately. The menu features clips from the film set to a short piece of the theme.

Nightmare City Special Edition is out now on Blu-ray/DVD Double Pack Limited Edition and check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot.


“Sorry, I am a bit of a mucky pup. Let me wipe that off.”


Detailed specs:
Running time: 92 minutes
Year: 1980
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: August 24th 2015
Chapters: 12 FCD1112
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: Mono (uncompressed PCM)
Languages: Italian/English/Spanish
Subtitles: English
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Techniscope)
Disc Format: BD50

Director: Umberto Lenzi
Producers: Diego Alchimede and Luis Méndez
Screenplay: Antonio Cesare Corti, Luis María Delgado and Piero Regnoli
Music: Stelvio Cipriani

Dean: Hugo Stiglitz
Anna: Laura Trotter
Sheila: Maria Rosaria Omaggio
Holmes: Francisco Rabal
Cindy: Sonia Viviani
Kramer: Eduardo Fajardo
Jessica: Stefania D’Amario
Desmond: Ugo Bologna
Liz: Sara Franchetti
Donahue: Manuel Zarzo
Reedman: Tom Felleghy
Bob: Pierangelo Civera
Tech: Achille Belletti
Murchison: Mel Ferrer


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