CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) Reviews and overview



‘The dead shall rise and walk the Earth’

City of the Living Dead is a 1980 Italian horror feature film directed by Lucio Fulci (Zombie Flesh Eaters; The Beyond; The New York Ripper) from a screenplay co-written with Dardano Sacchetti. The original Italian title is Paura nella città dei morti viventi “Fear in the City of the Living Dead”. The movie was released in the US as The Gates of Hell. Christopher George, Catriona MacColl and Janet Agren star.

The film is the first part of the unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy that also includes The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery. The haunting score is by Fabio Frizzi.


In New York City, during a séance held in the apartment of medium Theresa, Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) experiences a traumatic vision of a priest, Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine), hanging himself from a tree branch in the cemetery of a remote village called Dunwich.


When the images overwhelm her, Mary goes into convolutions, and falls to the floor as if dead. The police interrogate Theresa, but fail to heed her warnings of an imminent evil. Outside the apartment building, Peter Bell (Christopher George), a journalist, tries to gain entry to the premises but is turned away.


The following day, Mary is buried in a local cemetery on Long Island overlooking Manhattan and Peter visits her grave site. The gravediggers (Perry Pirkanen and Michael Gaunt) leave Mary’s half-covered coffin at the end of their work shift and leave. Soon, Peter hears muffled screams as he reluctantly leaves the graveyard. Using a pickaxe, he frees the screaming woman from her premature burial, but with the axe coming dangerously close to her head as it smashes through the casket lid.


Peter and Mary visit Theresa where she warns them that according to the ancient book of Enoch, the events Mary has witnessed in her visions presage the eruption of the living dead into our world. The death of Father Thomas, a marked priest, has somehow opened a door through which the living dead can enter and the invasion will commence on All Saints Day, just a few days away…

On October 8, 2018, Arrow Video re-released City of the Living Dead in a brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed 1.0 mono and optional 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Original English and Italian soundtracks
Newly translated, optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
Audio commentary with star Catriona MacColl and journalist Jay Slater
Audio commentary with star Giovanni Lombardo Radice and writer Calum Waddell
We Are the Apocalypse, new interview with writer Dardano Sacchetti
Through Your Eyes, new interview with Catriona MacColl
Dust in the Wind, new interview with cameraman Roberto Forges Davanzati
The Art of Dreaming, new interview with production designer Massimo Antonello Geleng
Tales of Friendship, new interview with cinematographer Sergio Salvati
I Walked with a Zombie, new interview with actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice
They Call Him “Bombardone”, new interview with special effects artist Gino De Rossi
The Horror Family, new interview with father and son actors Venantino and Luca Venantini
Previously unseen interview with composer Fabio Frizzi
Archival interview with actor Carlo De Mejo
Building Fulci’s City, a new video interview with Stephen Thrower, author Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
Reflections on Fulci, a new appraisal of Fulci’s Gothic period by actor, writer and director Andy Nyman (Ghost Stories)
The Dead Are Alive!, a new video essay by Kat Ellinger on Lucio Fulci and the Italian zombie cycle
Behind the scenes 8mm footage with Roberto Forges Davanzati audio commentary
Alternative US Gates of Hell opening credits
Original trailers and radio spots
Extensive image gallery featuring over 150 stills, posters and other ephemera
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter
Double-sided fold-out poster
Six lobby card reproductions
Limited 60-page booklet featuring new writing by Travis Crawford and Roberto Curti, an archival interview with Lucio Fulci, and original reviews


” …with its nonsensical ‘plot’ randomly constructed according to the illogic of fear, and its grotesque emphasis on physical mutability, fragmentation and decay, it could just conceivably be the sort of disreputable movie the surrealists would have loved.” Time Out

” …City of the Living Dead’s narrative is bland and workmanlike, but it does at least plod along at a solid and continuous pace like the beating drum in Fabio Frizzi’s effective, minimalistic score. That score and every other aspect of the film really come into their own in the big finale…” The Digital Fix


“While usual undead stylish Giannetto De Rossi isn’t along for the ride, these walking corpses are appropriately ghoulish and maggot infested. Their collective, grand rising occurs in one of Fulci’s best set-pieces: a dank, dark, cobwebbed crypt that exudes death. Whereas the barren wasteland of The Beyond is eerie in its vast emptiness, this is terrifying in its claustrophobia.” Oh, the Horror!

“What Fulci gives us is a collage of images, some of which fit into the film’s story arc, while others simply add to the overall atmosphere of apocalyptic doom. So, a shower of maggots appears out of nowhere, a boy’s head comes into contact with an industrial drill and a woman vomits up her intestines.” Jamie Russell, Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema

Book of the Dead Zombie Cinema Jamie Russell

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“The story does verge on the incoherent at times and certainly isn’t as neatly tied together as The Beyond or The House By the Cemetery, but has a rather more dreamlike quality to it. The build up to the slightly anti-climactic ending is somewhat surreal… Andygeddon

City of the Living Dead Blu-Ray 11


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City of the Living Dead is saturated with technical exaggeration, teeming with oddball performances and high on its own outrageous contrivances. Elegant cross-fades and superimpositions add beauty, as do a handful of judicious, painterly details, like the petal seen dropping silently from the rose held by the catatonic Mary in her coffin. All these factors coalesce, and the film survives its thin story thanks to the eccentricity of its detail.” Stephen Thrower, Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci

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  • Original Theatrical trailer
  • Dame of the Dead
  • Live from the Glasgow Theatre
  • The Many Lives And Deaths of Giovanni Lombardo Radice
  • Penning Some Paura – Dardano Sacchetti Remembers City of the Living Dead
  • The Audio Recollections of Giovanni Lombardo Radice
  • Audio Commentary with Catriona Macoll and Jay Slater
  • Profondo Luigi – A Colleague’s Memories of Lucio Fulci
  • Fulci’s Daughter – Memories of the Italian Gore Maestro
  • Carlo of the Living Dead – Surviving Fulci Fear
  • Fulci in the House: The Italian Master of Splatter
  • Gallery of the Living Dead


Choice dialogue:

Bar owner: “A few beers and you fellows start seeing ghouls and devils all over the place.”


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Cast and characters:

  • Christopher George as Peter Bell
  • Catriona MacColl as Mary Woodhouse (credited as Katriona MacColl)
  • Carlo De Mejo as Gerry
  • Janet Agren as Sandra
  • Antonella Interlenghi as Emily Robbins
  • Giovanni Lombardo Radice as Bob
  • Daniela Doria as Rosie Kelvin
  • Fabrizio Jovine as Father William Thomas
  • Luca Venantini as John-John Robbins [credited as Luca Paisner]
  • Michele Soavi as Tommy Fisher
  • Venantino Venantini as Mr. Ross
  • Enzo D’Ausilio as Sheriff Russell’s deputy
  • Adelaide Aste as Theresa
  • Luciano Rossi as Policeman #1 in Theresa’s apartment
  • Robert Sampson as Sheriff Russell
  • Lucio Fulci as Doctor Joe Thompson
  • Michael Gaunt as the Gravedigger #1
  • Perry Pirkanen as the Blonde Gravedigger
  • James Sampson as James McLuhan; Séance Member
  • Martin Sorrentino as Sgt. Clay
  • Robert E. Warner as the Policeman Outside Theresa’s apartment building



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