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The City of the Dead (1960) - Blu-ray Review

Movie Review

4 beers“Burn the witch! Burn her! Burn, witch! Burn, witch! Burn! Burn! Burn!” This is the chant that is silenced when the entire fictional town of Whitewood, Massachusetts notices a deep darkening in the sky over Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessell) as the accused witch they hare trying to burn calls out for Lucifer, in honor of her service unto him, to save her from the climbing flames. And then she laughs; the curse is complete.

Have pity on The City of the Dead. Or don’t. Quoted by Rob Zombie, King Diamond uses its images in a video, and worshipped by Iron Maiden, this is arguably the very first Amicus film due to the producers involved and it gets things started with a rather exciting public execution.

It is with that stirring opening at the pyres in which The City of the Dead announces its intentions with handling the occult. Know this, the bizarreness of this British-made festival of horror is immediate and, when it was originally released, American censors were quick to hover over the print and silence its pledge to all things Lucifer.

Forget about the genuine creepiness contained within this thriller. Words matter! Which is why this unedited and uncensored release from VCI Entertainment is so important. Finally. We HEAR every word of the curse and, upon the hour of Thirteen, I invite you to press play on this Limited Edition blu-ray release that has been fully restored and remastered in 2K from the original 35mm source.  

"This movie, filmed by Desmond Dickinson, is a nice reminder of just how effective British horror – especially when it pretends to be oh so very American – can be."

Witchcraft is not nonsense; that is the thesis of The City of the Dead and, as it stars the great Christopher Lee as witchcraft Professor Alan Driscoll, there’s a crisp seriousness to its horror vibes and it shakes us to the core with each slammed book in his classroom. You see, his students aren’t buying it and the professor, who knows a thing or two about casting spells, is getting a bit fed up with their behavior.

If it wasn’t for Venetia Stevenson as Nan Barlow, a student who takes more than a passing interest in witchcraft, Driscoll probably would have jumped ship years ago. Nan is headed to Whitewood and its foggy surroundings are less than inviting. It is, of course, a town that God fearing folk don’t travel to and for damn good reason. People appear out of thin air there.

And they all go to the Raven’s Inn because the devil comes in many disguises.  Just don't go down in the cellar!  

Directed by John Moxey and written by George Baxt, The City of the Dead is a haunting tale as virgins find themselves being sacrificed time and time again. There are several classic scenes; the party scene – heard for a solid five minutes as guests dance and talk – is handled effectively as Nan steps out of her room ready to dance and discovers that there is no one there. Weird. And then strange things begin to happen in front of her and they are all telling her to go on and get the Hell out of this town.

Even the hooded figures marching through the fog aren’t enough to get her going straight out of this hellhole. No! She’s got to go poking around in a basement and that’s NEVER a great and wonderful idea. Not in black-and-white films involving Satanists and witchcraft and a spooky place where the dead come back to life.

With great edits – the knife into the cake being one of them – this movie, filmed by Desmond Dickinson, is a nice reminder of just how effective British horror – especially when it pretends to be oh so very American – can be. This film and its dense fog layers is Heavy Metal manna.

Do you know Whitewood? It’s just like a picture out of a history book….and it is very much haunted by those poor souls unfortunate enough to visit its cursed properties.

The City of the Dead is one hell of a cult classic about a classic cult marching straight out of Hell. This release should be treasured.



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Film Details

The City of the Dead (1960) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Runtime: 78 mins
Director: John Llewellyn Moxey
Writer: George Baxt
Cast: Patricia Jessel, Dennis Lotis, Christopher Lee
Genre: Horror | Mhystery
Tagline: This key will answer your questions to these screaming mysteries.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Dig that crazy beat, man."
Theatrical Distributor: Trans Lux
Official Site: Release Date: September 12, 1962
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 13, 2018
Synopsis: A college student, Nan Barlow is researching the history of witchcraft. Taunted by her brother and fiancé, who have voiced their concern over her silly notions, Nan arms herself with resolve and drives into the small New England village of Whitewood. She is glad that at least 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!



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The City of the Dead (1960) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Limited Edition

Home Video Distributor: VCI
Available on Blu-ray - March 13, 2018
Screen Formats: 1.66:1
Language: English
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

VCI Entertainment provides The City of the Dead in a fine 1080p release with their handling of this restoration. With an aspect ratio of 1.76:1, the new 2K digital restoration simply slays all you think you know or have previously seen from this movie. The crispness makes fresh again all the classic scenes and the depth of the black-and-white picture is breathtaking. The shadows and the shades simply do not end, providing a sense of newness to every single moment. Even the cellar comes alive in the crisp shades. The new restoration of the monaural soundtrack is presented uncompressed on the Blu-ray.



Horror Icon Christopher Lee provides the feature length commentary for this release.

Special Features:

There aren’t a lot of supplemental materials here. We get a video interview with Christopher Lee and a theatrical trailer.

Video Interview with Christopher Lee

Theatrical Trailer



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The City of the Dead (1960) - Blu-ray Review