Blu-Ray Review: Cult Hits ‘City of the Living Dead,’ ‘Django’

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CHICAGO – The great cult movie studio Blue Underground continues their pattern of excellent Blu-ray releases for unheralded horror gems with the recent releases of the Lucio Fulci zombie film “City of the Living Dead” and one of the most underrated westerns ever made in “Django”. While they don’t have much in common outside of studio and cult status, both are worth a look.

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0

“City of the Living Dead”

Even though I admire some of his technique and willingness to do whatever inspired him, I was never a huge Lucio Fulci fan. The man has often been called the Italian Herschell Gordon Lewis and is probably most well-known for “Zombi II” and “The Beyond,” two films from the late-’70s and ’80s that earned Fulci a reputation for extreme gore. A large number of his films have been banned around the world and his “The New York Ripper” is infamous for not only being refused a certificate in England but having all copies ordered destroyed after viewing by the British Board of Film Classification. Other legendary gore-fests include “The House of the Cemetery” and “The Black Cat”.

Fulci’s work is an acquired taste for sure. An example: In “City of the Living Dead,” a couple is making out in a car as the zombie-pocalypse happens around them. The seven gates of Hell (and the film was called “Gates of Hell” on some releases) have opened after a Priest killed himself in a cemetery and bad things are happening. How bad? The female half of the aforementioned couple looks out the window to see a zombie. As the undead stares at her, she begins to bleed from her eyes, then vomit blood, and finally upchuck the entirety of her insides (intestines and other uglies) very, very, very slowly. Just in case your stomach hasn’t turned yet, Fulci puts the cherry on the sundae by having her boyfriend’s brains ripped out through the back of his skull.

City of the Living Dead was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 25th, 2010
City of the Living Dead was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 25th, 2010
Photo credit: Blue Underground

Clearly, the plot of “City of the Living Dead” isn’t that important. Neither is the dialogue nor the characters and I think Fulci’s films are bit more “gore porn” than the auteurs to which he’s often compared. Give me Dario Argento or Mario Bava any day of the week. They were a bit more thematically interesting and the dialogue scenes weren’t as torturous or poorly written.

Having said that, the Blu-ray for “City of the Living Dead” is pretty great with a nearly perfect transfer and more special features than usually provided for minor, foreign, cult, horror films. (The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is notable as well even if the dubbing is still pretty awful.)

Special Features:
o “The Making of City of the Living Dead” — Interviews with Star Catriona MacColl, Co-Star Michele Soavi, Production Designer Massimo Antonello Geleng, Assistant Makeup Effects Artist Rosario Prestopino, Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi, Cinematographer Sergio Salvati, and Camera Operator Roberto Forges Davanzati
o “Acting Among the Living Dead” — Interview with Star Catriona MacColl
o “Entering the Gates of Hell” — Interview with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice
o “Memories of the Maestro” — The cast and crew reminisce about working with Lucio Fulci
o “Marketing of the Living Dead” — Poster & Still Gallery
o Theatrical Trailers
o Radio Spots/Still Gallery

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0

“Django”

Just as fans of Lucio Fulci will tell you that he’s the unheralded equal of acknowledged masters like Argento and George A. Romero, those who bow at the altar of the spaghetti western “Django” will tell you that Sergio Corbucci deserves mention in the same breath as Sergio Leone, someone he often worked with in the ’60s. I don’t quite agree when examining their entire careers or the influence of each filmmaker but “Django” is definitely the work of a fantastic director and might just be the best western you’ve never seen.

The great Franco Nero (recently seen in “Letters to Juliet”) stars in the 1966 film as the title character, a stranger who roams the countryside dragging a coffin begind him and happens upon a woman (Loredana Nusciak) being brutally beaten. Django saves the woman, who it turns out was being beaten by bandits led by Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo), a man who shares a past with the nearly-silent hero.

Shockingly violent for its day, “Django” would go on to become a wildly influential western, most notably on Quentin Tarantino, a man who seems to have copied bits and pieces of the film several times including in “Reservoir Dogs” and “Inglourious Basterds.” The film spawned numerous unofficial sequels and influenced countless films (including “Sukiyaki Western Django,” which actually featured Tarantino in a cameo). It’s a must-see for western fans.

Django was released on Blu-ray on May 25th, 2010
Django was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 25th, 2010
Photo credit: Blue Underground

Sadly, “Django” wasn’t very well-maintained and the HD picture has some noticeable flaws, so much so that there’s a warning before the film about the scenes that couldn’t be quite restored to pristine quality. A lot of “Django” looks great but it’s too bad that the original master wasn’t taken care of like the film deserved.

Special Features:
o “Django: The One and Only” — Interview with Star Franco Nero and Assistant Director Ruggero Deodato
o “The Last Pistolero” — Starring Franco Nero
o “Western, Italian Style” — A 1968 documentary about the Spaghetti Western phenomenon containing interviews with Directors Enzo G. Castellari, Sergio Sollima and Sergio Corbucci
o International Trailer
o Italian Trailer
o Franco Nero Intro

‘City of the Living Dead’ is released by Blue Underground and stars Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Daniela Doria, Fabrizio Jovine, and Janet Agren. It was written by Lucio Fulci & Dardano Sacchetti and directed by Fulci. It was released on May 25th, 2010 and is not rated.

‘Django’ is released by Blue Underground and stars Franco Nero, Loredana Nusciak, Jose Bodalo, Angel Alvaraz, and Eduardo Fajardo. It was written by Sergio Corbucci, Piero Vivarelli, Bruno Corbucci, Jose Gutierrez Maesso, & Franco Rossetti and directed by Sergio Corbucci. It was released on May 25th, 2010 and is not rated.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Dave's picture

Spaghetti Western Concept Rap Album

Fantastic movie! Corbucci didn’t have the cinematic chops of Leone, but he made up for it with raw grit! This movie really packs a punch! If you’re into Spaghetti Westerns, you should check out my Spaghetti Western Concept Rap album, called “Showdown at the BK Corral.” It’s basically an epic Spaghetti Western over 9 tracks - very influenced by Morricone. I’d love to hear what you think of it! You can download it for free at sunsetparkriders.com

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