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Label:
Number: VCI9036-BR

CITY OF THE DEAD (REMASTERED) (BLU-RAY)

A college student Nan is researching the history of witchcraft. Taunted by her brother and fiancé, who have voiced their concerns, Nan arms herself with resolve and drives to the small New England village of Whitewood. She is glad she was able to count on the support of her professor. A bit anxious but consumed with curiosity, she will soon embark herself on the journey of her life! Introducing.

Genre: Horror
Run Time: 78 mins
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: STEREO
Year of Production: 1960
Director: John Moxley
Producers: Milton Subotsky
Actors: Christopher Lee, Dennis Lotis, Betta St John, Patricia Jessel, Venetia Stevenson
Language: English

Bonus Materials

45-minute interview with Christopher Lee
Theatrical Trailer
Feature length Commentary with actor Christopher Lee

  
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Reviews and Comments: (1)
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Posted by Mark Turner on April 13, 2018 3:28 PM
VCI released the ultimate version of CITY OF THE DEAD back in April of 2016. But at the time there were some issues with the quality of the film shown itself, a few flutters on screen and such. They have since gone back and cleared those issues up resulting in perhaps the cleanest and best looking print of the film ever offered. In new packaging using the old ads from the films initial release the movie looks even better than their previous effort. In addition to cleaning up those issues they’ve transferred some of the extras that were included in that pervious effort: a 45 minute interview with Christopher Lee and the theatrical trailer. It should be noted that VCI is issuing this new version as a limited edition.
So the question becomes which of these versions of the film is the best to have on hand? If money and space is no object then by all means both! But if you have to choose it boils down to the quality of the film or the inclusion of extras. If you want the best looking version of the film buy this one. If you want the extras buy the previous version. Both are a welcome addition to the collection of any horror film fan. In the meantime I’ve pulled up my previous review of the film as a reminder to those who read it and for others who didn’t to let you know just how good a movie it is.

I remember the first time I ever saw this film as a child on a late night horror hosted program. Called HORROR HOTEL (the name given the film for its American release) it was one that stuck with me years after I had seen it. Whenever I saw it was on TV I made a choice to watch it again if possible. I’d seen it released on DVD in various packages and from different companies but knew that most of them were low quality releases for the film so I never bothered. I am pleased to now say that a definitive version of the film is available and includes some fantastic extras with it.
If you’ve never seen the movie it starts off with a young female college student named Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) looking into witch trials in American history. Willing to do extra credit she takes the advice of her professor Driscoll (Christopher Lee) to visit a small village called Whitewood where he came from. 300 years ago Elizabeth Selwyn was burned at the stake there for witchcraft and he tells her she could find plenty of information on the topic there, suggesting that she stay at The Raven’s Inn run by a Mrs. Newless (Patricia Jessell). As viewers we immediately recognize Mrs. Newless as Selwyn, the witch burned at the stake years ago and seen in a short prologue at the beginning of the film.

Strange things begin to happen immediately and it isn’t long before Nan is soon marked to be a sacrifice to a coven of witches that still remain in Whitewood. Before that can happen Nan’s brother Richard (Dennis Lotis) shows up in town as well in search of his sister. He is befriended by a blind priest and his granddaughter Patricia (Betta St. John) who runs a local store. Richard and Patricia soon become enamored with one another as she helps him try to find out what happened to Nan. Having befriended Nan when she arrived even Patricia is wondering what’s going on. Before the film ends witches will rise, a coven will threaten non-members and a twist will reveal itself.

What makes this film work on all levels is the atmosphere it creates from the start of the film. The town of Whitewood is creepy as all get out, with a low lying mist forever working its way across the ground. It seems as if daylight has never reached this village and the odds of it ever doing so again are slim. Add to that the eerie factor on display from events that happen throughout, from dancing guests that disappear to strange individuals who can be found in the town to the fact that the priest has a church with no one in attendance and you get the impression early on that this is not a town to remain in for long.

The appearance of Lee in the role of the professor, a man who takes the subject he teaches seriously, lends a certain amount of horror credibility to the entire film as he had played Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy in the previous 3 years. His time on screen is short but valuable in establishing many moments of the film. Jessell does an amazing job of moving from mad to subtly threatening in her role and adds to the overall creepiness onscreen.

Although over 56 years ago (!) the film holds up amazingly well. Made at a time just before people began to honestly fear a resurgence in devil worship and cults between the Manson family and the release of THE EXORCIST, the movie uses both themes to instill fear in the viewer. I’m sure there was some fear of both prior to the film’s release but at the time movies had no problem using those themes to create a horror tale. While that continues today most are wary of using either for entertainment purposes and more people are fearful of watching films like this than at that time. That this film can still make you feel dread and concern over the topic is a testament to the power it has.

If you loved this film as a child or having discovered it on TV years after it was released then by all means you’ll want to check out this edition of the film. As I said it retains the creepy factor after all these years, might still inspire a nightmare or two and is the best version of this movie that can be found right now. The folks at VCI have outdone themselves with this release. All that’s missing is a horror host to introduce the film to take me back to my youth.

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