The Ninjabot

Trash or Treasure? NIGHTMARE CITY (1980)

Posted on July 10, 2014 at 12:00 pm by Jess Hicks

Don’t get caught “Alive”…you’d be better off dead!

This week I’ll be discussing the Italian/Spanish (that’s dubbed in English) zombie trash flick, Nightmare City. In the late 70s early 80s there was a slew of rip off and cheaply made horror flicks made by the dozen. They were easy, quick, and cheap and made a modest profit for the filmmakers themselves. No matter how terrible or low budget they were people rolled out in masses to catch the late showing of whatever gore spewing sludge they could watch.

With that the world got tons of sleazy European horror and let’s face it, they did it remarkably well. I have a soft spot for Euro-sleaze, as it’s known, so I seek out a lot of it. Last night I curled up on the couch with my boyfriend and we settled in for Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City and got a lot more entertainment than we expected.

Nightmare City is your basic zombie formula but with a few delightfully added twists. Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) is sent to cover an interview with a scientist who is working on a chemical leak that has contaminated some people. At the airport Miller awaits the scientist to get off the plane but when he does they soon realize he has also been contaminated as well as the rest of the people on the plane. They slaughter everyone in sight but Miller escapes while the zombies run amok in the city.
About that city…it’s not named and doesn’t show any particularly revealing landmarks so we don’t really have a good sense of place. Everyone drove VW Bugs or gigantic Cadillacs. It’s all sort of surreal because of the mix between European sensibilities and subtle American spread about. Like the randomly hung Elvis picture hung haphazardly at a gas station. I’ve chosen to refer to it as Euromerica, land of fast food and alligator made shoes.

So in Euromerica, the zombies have taken to the streets to slaughter the Euromericans while they go about unsuspectingly with their daily routines. Now, it’s probably not completely correct to refer to these villains as “Zombies” because, aside from their desire for succulent human flesh and can only be killed by a brain injury, they exhibit no zombie traits at all. They run, can use weapons of any kind, hunt and surprise attack people, and look like The Toxic Avenger meshed with a sludge monster. Also, they have a weird fascination for stabbing women right in the…uh…jumblies. Or in Italian (because I totally had to look it up) a tetta pugnalata. Don’t say I never taught you anything.
nightmare-city eye

Basically, Nightmare City is wildly entertaining and actually applies a lot of well-done practical effects, except the sludge monster masks. Upon some research I discovered quite a few reviews stating that Nioghtmare City is the worst zombie movie ever made, a statement that I find laughably inexplicable. It gets a 5.6 on the IMDB (hey that’s good for a movie like this) and is on a few “Underrated horror movie” lists. The backlash says it’s cheesy and poorly made but I’m not sure what else it should be? It’s got great death scenes, particularly the last, has unintentionally hilarious dialogue and seems to actually try to be entertaining. If you’re looking for an award winner you are barking up the wrong sludge monster but if you want a fun way to kill 90 minutes or something to show at a B-movie party I highly recommend Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City and if you are looking for something a little more extreme check  out some of his other movies like Eaten Alive!  Or Cannibal Ferox.

I proudly dub Nightmare City a treasure among trash! It’s now available for streaming on Netflix Instant Watch.

Nightmare City: B

You can follow Jess on Twitter @DangerJess_ 

    Sharing the Legacy on Flickr

    See all photos