Director: Umberto Lenzi
Release date: 1980
On the surface Nightmare City, or Incubo Sulla Città Contaminata, is a zombie movie rather than a vampire movie. However, it is a thin piece of paper, sometimes, that goes between the two genres because, as we know, the Romero based zombie flick was actually inspired by a vampire story. In this case we have the contaminated, but they wield weapons, drive vehicles and can – it would appear – communicate, if only at a rudimentary level. They also need blood rather than flesh.
The film starts with a news report about a radiation spill. The report says that one Professor Hagenbecks is flying into the city the next day. Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) is sent to interview him. He attends the airport with his cameraman but the Professor hasn’t arrived. In the control tower they have noticed an unauthorised blip on the radar that turns out to be a Hercules Transport that makes an emergency landing.
The plane lands and the police and emergency crews head to it – Miller follows. They cannot see the pilot – though he did communicate with the tower – and demand the door is opened. Eventually it does open and Hagenbeck is there; he stabs the first man in the way and then a horde of people spill out of the plane and attack. Gunshots do not seem to bother them and many have a funky face thing going on. One loses an arm and still goes on. We see one slit a throat of a victim and drink the blood. Miller and his cameraman leg it in a stolen vehicle.
They get back to the station and Miller interrupts a dance show to put out a newsflash. He hasn’t really started when Mr Desmond (Ugo Bologna), the studio boss, pulls it off air. He is summoned and he is told by a General Murchinson (Mel Ferrer, who was in the marvellous Blood and Roses) that they cannot report on the happenings yet. Miller is incensed, Desmond suspends him and he quits. The whole keeping the event secret aspect is under-explored from this point.
Miller tries to phone his wife Anna (Laura Trotter), who is a doctor at the hospital and has already left for work. We see a man, Major Holmes (Francisco Rabal), with his partner. He gets a phone call calling him in to the army base. His partner is a sculptor and has made a bust – it is eerily like the creatures he will face. In the meantime the contaminated have invaded the TV studio – the fact that they attack a live broadcast is never explored, especially frustrating in light of the keep it secret aspect. Miller just manages to get out; during his escape he slams a door on one contanimated’s finger and it screams in pain, he also sets fire to one which seems like a way of dealing with them.
In the base they have autopsied one of the contaminated who fell at the airport – due to a random bullet to the head. The autopsy reveals that they have more radiation in their systems than one would think possible, that they are super strong and fast healing and that they can spread their infection to those they attack – though one assumes that it is to those who survive the attack as we do see bodies in the street later. The radiation is destroying their red blood cells, thus they need to replenish them and the way to stop them is starve them or paralyse them by shutting the brain function down (bullet to the brain). Here we see the thin line being tread between zombie and vampire lore.
However they are organised, they take down power stations, cut telephone wires and work together. They even share the blood they get. The remaining film follows the survivors but it is rather scattered in its focus – as such we develop very little sympathy for them and the impact of the film is lessened. One such couple (actually the General’s daughter and her husband) go off on their weekend camping trip – here we see the intelligent aspect of the contaminated when their friends drive up, at the time they were meant to meet them, but are contaminated and have gone there to feed. There are some odd bits around the sculptor, having been told to lock all her doors she finds her bust on the floor, stabbed with a bloody knife and yet nothing seems to come of that.
Vampires are mentioned. Miller and his wife get to a church and she suggests that the medieval vampire could not enter holy ground and they should go in. When it turns out that the priest is contaminated it kind of blows the vampire theory apart, to Miller anyway. There is some preachiness when the film suggests that striving for power and being unnatural in our lifestyles brings the catastrophe upon humanity. Towards the end a solution is actually found but the means to deliver said solution seems to have been lost. The film twists around in a bizarre fashion at the end, but the twist is actually nothing new, just strange.
The effects sometimes work – the gory ones seem to have an edge over the oatmeal infection look. All in all this works, but not brilliantly and compared to others of its ilk it is too unfocused to score highly. It is interesting in that zombie/vampire cross over way, however. 4.5 out of 10 due to the unusual nature.
The imdb page is here.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Director: Umberto Lenzi