Here at Blood Sucking Geeks, we have been watching horror flicks for an inappropriately long time. While I didn’t become a dedicated horror nerd until I watched Night of the Living Dead for the first time around the age of 12 or 13, I had a steady diet of Cannon movies from as early as I can remember. Invasion U.S.A., King Solomon’s Mines, Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold, The Delta Force, Cobra, Over the Top, American Ninja II, Masters of the Universe, Bloodsport, Kickboxer – all Cannon movies from the ’80s.
Holy fuck, until writing this right now, I never realized how much of my childhood and what formed my tastes in movies was due to two Israeli cousins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the owners of Cannon Films. Throw in some Clash of the Titans and some Schwarzenegger flicks and that sums it up for my formative movie-watching years.
So growing up on what are commonly known as B-movies, but more appropriately – exploitation movies, I have, to the detriment of all of my adult relationships, become somewhat obsessed with discovering and tracking down some of the most obscure, sleazy, disgusting, vile pieces of cinema that quite often have no redeeming social or artistic value…just the way I like ‘em! And what I aim to do here is to give you good folks a glimpse at some of the best and worst exploitation flicks I watch on a near nightly basis.
Long lead-in, but just wanted to let you get acquainted with what this series of articles will be all about. So first up it is the 1980 flick that could quite possibly be the film that first introduced the world to “fast zombies”. The reviews I read were near unanimous in their distaste for Umberto Lenzi’s classic – Nightmare City. My favorite review stated that it “makes little sense and is poorly executed on every single level.” Well, hot dog! Sounds like something that would be to my liking. And I tell you, it was everything I had hoped for.
Now whether these are irradiated psycho killers, atomic zombies, zombie vampires, fungus-faced ghouls, or whatever label you want to place on these folks, one thing is for sure – these are the most resourceful zombies that I may have ever seen. They sabotage a power station, fly large military airplanes, spring complex ambushes, engage in sophisticated hand-to-hand combat, demonstrate a decent level of mechanical knowledge in the manual operation of an elevator, and even like to toss back some 40s after a long day of blood drinking and flesh chomping. As you can surmise, these are not the slow, plodding, I’ll even call them lazy (hot take) Romero zombies. These are some motivated motherfuckers.
What we have here is the old-fashioned story of ghouls rampaging through a city and the countryside shooting, slashing, hacking, and gnawing anything that gets in their way. A news reporter played by Mexican exploitation star Hugo Stiglitz and his doctor wife must escape this surging menace while the military struggles to contain the outbreak. And that ending… I won’t spoil it, even though I doubt many of you will bother tracking this gem down. Just know that one of the greatest stunt falls ever captured in cinematic history is involved. The ball is in your court if you want to expose yourself to such awesomeness.
Umberto Lenzi, the man responsible for this gory mess, is probably best known for his Italian cannibal flicks, Man from Deep River (the first Italian cannibal movie), Cannibal Ferox, and Eaten Alive! He also did some steamy giallo flicks, most notably his collaboration with actress Carroll Baker in Orgasmo and So Sweet… So Perverse that I have obviously added to my watch list. In interviews Lenzi tried to get all Godzilla about the “deeper meaning” of this flick, trying to describe it as an anti-nuclear/anti-military flick, rather than a gut chomping zombie circus.
The star of Nightmare City, Hugo Stiglitz, oozes a weird form of rugged machismo with his bushy beard and curly locks. My wife even referred to him as the 1970s off-brand Daniel Stern, which is spot-on. Stiglitz is a prolific Mexican actor (over 250 credits to his name) that the producers of Nightmare City wanted in order to give the film a more international appeal – you know, so the movie could be shit on in all sorts of different languages. If the name sounds familiar, Quentin Tarantino named one of the Inglorious Basterds after the actor. Stiglitz was mostly known for his work with director Rene Cardona Jr. in such genre classics as Tintorera, a killer shark flick, Night of a Thousand Cats, a killer kitty flick, The Bermuda Triangle, a killer geometric shape flick, and Guyana: Crime of the Century, a killer cult flick. And you better believe all of those will be playing here sometime in the near future.
My favorite kill was when the neighbor of a general’s wife gets her eyeball gouged out something that clearly was not meant to go into a person’s eye hole. But this zombie is innovative and makes himself a good ol’ eye-k-bob – pretty rad! I think I had three audible reactions that brought the wife in from the back porch. And I suppose that’s as good of a way as any to rate a flick like this.
So that about does it for Nightmare City. I enjoyed the hell out of this one, sketchy dubbing and all. I mean you have TVs that explode on impact when hurled at a zombie, a surgeon flinging a scalpel at a zombie with scary good accuracy, the classic ’70s display of a stiff backhand to a distressed woman immediately followed by swappin’ slobber with the no longer in distress damsel, and a zombie priest getting his noggin smashed.