Thursday, October 20, 2022

potato potato.

Rewatching this classic as part of the whole 31 Days of Horror thing tonight so thought I'd reshare this stunning appraisal in the hope of getting a few new readers.


Nightmare City (AKA City of the Walking Dead, La Invasión De Los Zombies Atómicos, 1980).
Dir: Umberto Lenzi.
Cast: Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Francisco Rabal, Mel Ferrer, some bouncy breasts and a few other body parts usually attached to people.

Dr. Anna Miller: Why don't you face it. There's no place for us to go.  I don't want us to die I don't want us to but there's nothing we can do. They're everywhere...
Dean Miller: [Dean slaps his wife and then kisses her] Stop it...

In a nameless city somewhere in 'Europe' (tho' from the state of the haircuts and trousers it looks like the West Midlands circa 1985) a terrible nuclear accident has sent the populace reeling into panic.

Bouffanted and bearded ace reporter Dean Miller (Stiglitz from Alcoholics Anonymous and that film where the boat capsizes and they eat a dog) is assigned to interview eminent scientist Otto Hagenbach (bless you) who just happens to be flying in from the accident site that very morning.

Lucky eh?

But when the plane arrives it contains not only the grey haired boffin but a cargo hold full of scum-faced tramps dressed in their grandad's old suits.

Sorry, I mean bloodthirsty, potato faced 'atomic zombies'.

'Atomic zombies' intent on murder!!

And a fair bit of tittie touching if the rest of the film is anything to go by.

"You chase me now!"

Whilst all this scary shite is going down (as you kids say) Mrs. Miller (Trotter from Only Fools and Horses) is busy making her rounds at the local hospital.

Don't worry, she works there. It's not like she's skulking about chasing ambulances.

But things are a mite strange there too as she realizes when visiting a young patient named Phil.

When our bubble haired heroine, trying to pass the time, innocently asks him "Well, how are you feeling today?"

His frankly worrying reply is "I feel like somebody who's waiting for the hatchet guy to chop off his head, doctor."

Which is nice, if delivered a little stiffly.

Perfect for your mum then.

To make matters spookier, another patient, this time a broken legged football loving wee boy, has been having nightmares about bad men cutting his leg off.

Could this be related?

Mel (not Kim).

Well there's no time to worry about such trivialities as meanwhile at a top secret army base, military top brass Major Holmes (Rabal, all rugged with a silver quiff and a sexy sculptress girlfriend young enough to be his granddaughters fetus) and General Murchinson (Mel "I was married to Audrey Hepburn and the alimony bill is forcing me to appear in utter shite for the remainder of my career" Ferrer) are discussing the breaking emergency.

Please join us for a fantastic piece of choice dialogue as the body of one of the attackers is being examined :

Murchison (obviously reading from cue cards): Your autopsy categorically excludes an extraterrestrial being. It's molecular structure clearly establishes him as a member of the human race. A paradox when you consider what they've been doing....

Donohue (a 'scientist'): The examination of the various tissue samples that we have taken from the body reveal a high level of radioactivity, far superior to the level normally tolerated by the human organism. In addition we have found more or less recent hyper-tissue regeneration.

Murchison (bored now): Can you make that a little simpler Colonel? Some of your colleagues may not have the same technical or theoretical background...

(what? a technical background in talking bollocks? does that exist?)

Donohue (he's making it up now): In other words this individual and others like him have been subjected to strong doses of atomic radiation which increase their physical capacities beyond the norm.

Holmes (in a way only a man of a certain age can): How far beyond the norm?

Donohue (he's on a roll!): It's impossible to say. But it is a fact that these cells, subjected to almost every treatment we know, have proven to be almost indestructible.

Holmes: In short it's a kind of superman…?

Donohue (very excitedly): Much more than that… the victims of these creatures are contaminated even if they only suffer minor injuries.....

Murchison (losing the will to live): Then they can reproduce themselves… say indefinitely?

Donohue (jumping up and down waving his hands like a loon): That more or less… is correct!

I'm not saying the dialogue is bad but my computer kept crashing in an attempt to stop me typing it.

Look at it....really LOOK AT IT, it's so banal that if you concentrate hard enough the words actually appear to melt into mush before seeping into your eyes and attempting to rot your brain.

And the whole fucking film is written in this 'style'.

It's like the celluloid equivalent of a prison buggery.

Minus the biting obviously.

People died for this.


Anyway, still with us?

Good because after this fantastically written exchange Murchison elects to put plan 'H' into effect (no idea what's wrong with A thru' G), giving his men the unforgettable order to "Aim for the brain".

The race is now on to save humanity.

And enough cash to get Stiglitz some cheap wine after shooting finishes.

Mr. Potato Head need love!

Can Dean persuade the station heads (and their bodies too) to cancel the pop hits and bouncy tits TV show 'Dance Party' and broadcast his warning to the city and still have time to rescue his wife?

Will Sheila the sculptor survive in the coal bunker?

Will Mrs. Miller (not the cult recording star, the doctor remember?) ever stop waxing philosophically about the situation or will Dean just slap her (and slap her and slap her) until she starts crying in the horrific realization that she's surround by a cast and crew of highly disturbed sociopaths and alcoholics whose only concerns are keeping their star sober and filling the screen with as many inopportune breast shots as possible?

But most importantly will the once great Mel Ferrer have to spend his twilight years in the hell that is the Italian 'B' movie industry?

No idea why but this artwork terrified me when they published it in Starburst.

Director Umberto Lenzi's warning against the dangers of science gone mad was (according to the great man himself) based on 'true events'.

That's right! Lenzi reckons this really happened and is actually proud of this film, hailing it his 'masterpiece' comparing it's plot to that of Jonathan Demme's Philadelphia for it's portrayal of the effects disease has on the populace.

The joke was on us, we thought we were watching a cheap and cheerful zombie movie, when Lenzi has actually produced an amazingly existential docudrama that could change lives and save our planet.

I mean we're not laughing now are we?

His off screen battles to complete his vision are well documented, from producer Luis Mendez refusing to let him cast a 'name' actor in the lead role of Dean Miller (Lenzi favoured either Franco Nero or Fabio Testi whereas Mendez insisted on a Mexican lead to appeal to the movies co-funders who eventually cast alleged lush and professional hairy woodsman Stiglitz) to what appears to be an imaginary 'female executive' forcing him to tone down the films many gore scenes and berating the director for the finished film not being as good as Dawn of The Dead.

"Oi Umberto! NO!"

Unfortunately (for Lenzi), by his usual cinematic standards the finished film is in fact utter shite.

But for us it's one of the greatest pieces of art ever produced.

Just ask Robert Rodriguez, he allegedly based his Planet Terror on this movie and we know how great that is.

From the moment the film begins echoes of Waiting for Godot reverberate around the whole production as the imagination of the director crashes headlong into the crushing reality of the films budget with Hagenbach's arrival celebrated by covering the screen with a crimson hue only a cheap blood substitute can supply and characters just hang around, unable to do anything but await their final indignant ends.

"Touch my hairy face!"

The rampaging 'atomic zombies' are a triumph of crap over cash, looking for all the world as if their heads have been covered in PVA glue and then dipped in a bowl of potato peelings mixed with a liberal amount of dried shite and burrowing below the surface like some sleeping beast Lenzi's latent misogynism regularly bursts forth onto the screen as female character after female character are forced to trip over, whimper and lose their tops before being killed in a variety of increasingly sexualized scenes.

Fair play to the writers tho' who even when faced with the plot screaming to a halt halfway thru' bravely carry on by having Stiglitz and Trotter run aimlessly around the countryside with no other purpose than to occasionally bump into a group of infected killers then run away again.

But not before Trotter has been given (another) bloody good slap obviously.

It's like a horror version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead but with more arse shots.

Trotter (a doctor don't forget) persuades the hairy one that a church is the best place to hide because the virus/plague/whatever won't enter the house of God.....Much to her (but not the audiences) surprise the church is full of spud-faced loons out for blood.

Mulder and Scully: the pikey years.

Exciting subplots include General Merchinson trying to get his daughter to the (relative) safety of the base whilst she'd rather go camping with her fella and the silver fox that is Major Holmes attempting to save his (almost pre-teen) girlfriend.

If I'm honest then the sight of the mahogany tanned and leathery faced Francisco Rabal running his tongue over the chest of someone young enough to be his (grand) daughter is probably the most unsettling and nightmarish thing in the whole movie meaning this image (and the sight of him in a scoop-necked too tight green 'army' t-shirt proudly displaying his curvy man-breasts) will stay with you long after the film has ended.

A leathery man yesterday.

And oh boy what an ending.

After everyone else seems to have died, the Millers escaped to a seemingly deserted fairground.

Suddenly they are surrounded by the infected....Dean and Anna head for safety atop a roller-coaster (?) the bad men in hot pursuit.

A helicopter appears on the horizon lowering a ladder the pair climb to safety, only for Mrs. Miller to lose her grip (on the ladder, not reality) and plummet to her death in a kind of floppy way only a shoddily made dummy can.

Dean screams and suddenly.....

Like I'd spoil it for you.

You'll just haveta go out and buy it.

And I know you want to even if you don't you filthy animals.

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