Gory greetings! This is a special tribute to the legendary Lucio Fulci! I proudly present my deranged ramblings about “The Godfather Of Gore” and his unholy trinity of undead horror clas-sicks. “The dead shall rise and walk the Earth!”
CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980)
A gifted psychic named Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) dies from sheer fright during a séance after receiving a morbid vision of a priest named Father Thomas hanging himself in the cemetery of a cursed town called Dunwhich. Dunwhich is built upon “the ruins of the original Salem” which also hide one of the seven gates of Hell. As foretold in the book of Enoch, the suicidal preacher hanging himself causes the unfaithful servant to go straight to Hell and for the next three days the moon will turn red and the cities’ dead will walk the earth. Horrendous, awful things begin happening in Dunwhich that will shatter your imagination.
For starters, Mary isn’t really dead and was buried alive. Luckily for Mary, the pathologist played by none other than Lucio Fulci himself didn’t bother giving her an autopsy! Mary is saved from an agonizing death inside her partially buried coffin after a hard boiled reporter named Peter Bell (Christopher George – RIP) slowly realizes that Mary is screaming at the top of her lungs inside the casket and does the only logical thing – he grabs a fucking pick axe and slams it right into the part of the coffin where Mary’s face would be! After saving Mary’s life Peter hesitatingly agrees to join her on the quest to find the mysterious town of Dunwhich. According to the prophecies of Enoch, if the portals of Hell aren’t closed by All Saints Day no dead body will ever be able to rest in peace again and the dead will rise up all over the earth and take over the world. Peter and Mary have to destroy Father Thomas’ body to close the gates of hell and save humanity.
Meanwhile, the horror in Dunwhich reaches a fevered pitch as the dead priest wanders the town looking for victims. Staring into the eyes of the evil priest is enough to cause one unfortunate girl (Daniela Dora) to cry tears of blood and then puke up her internal organs, much to shock and disgust of her soon to be brain dead boyfriend (future director Michelle Soavi!). The plague of the dead also manifests itself in the form of sudden earthquakes that cause massive property damage to the local watering hole, angry cat scratching that rips the flesh of a neurotic woman named Sandra (Janet Agren) with incest issues, and undead grandmothers that chomp off a mortician’s fingers.
The town’s madness begins to infect its dimwitted citizens as well. A jealous father takes out his rage and confusion on the town pervert – Bob (the one and only Giovanni Lombardo Radice!) and puts a power drill through his brain. Once Peter and Mary finally make their way to the cursed city they are welcomed by maggots that fall like rain. Peter and Mary brush off the maggots and then team up with Sandra and her shrink Gerry (Carlo De Mejo) before heading into the decrepit catacombs underneath the priest’s grave site for a fiery final showdown with the possessed priest.
This is my favorite Lucio Fulci film, and one of my all time favorite films too. I’ve been a big fan since witnessing the film’s ability to shock and horrify firsthand. I was introduced to this one via a 1990 rental of the Paragon “Gates Of Hell” vhs that caused several of my friends (and their little sisters) to leave the room disgusted. Since then, I’ve watched this one more times than I can count. I think “City Of The Living Dead” is a perfect film, and Fulci’s true masterpiece. This is also my favorite of the many genius works that Lucio Fulci and writer Dardano Sacchetti worked on together. A lot of people prefer “The Beyond,” but I think “City Of The Living Dead” has a much more blasphemous and hallucinogenic vibe. It’s also a considerably more stylish film than “The Beyond” and possesses a truly morbid atmosphere that few other horror flicks can come close to matching.
The late great Christopher George turns in another one of his trademark winning performances. Chris was on a fucking tear in the early 80′s, appearing in one classic genre flick after another before his untimely death in 1983. He also starred in the classic 1980 vigilante flick “The Exterminator” and the following year appeared in both “Enter The Ninja”and “Graduation Day.” Who knows how many more amazing films Christopher would have starred in if only given the chance? The mind boggles. It’s great that Christopher and Lucio were able to work together, even if they didn’t get along and Christopher supposedly filled Fulci’s pipe full of maggots!
Fulci’s favorite leading lady, Catriona MacColl (“The Beyond,” “House By The Cemetery”) and his favorite female victim – Daniela Dora (“The New York Ripper,” “House By The Cemetery”) both star here and both contribute greatly to the film’s success. Catriona does a remarkable job in the role of Mary. Her scene inside the coffin when she wakes up buried alive is fantastic. Daniela steals the entire movie and instantly ensured a place in the annals of horror history for participating in what has to be one of the most insanely sickening death scenes ever captured on film. Daniela proved her “guts” by having the nerve to swallow actual sheep entrails and regurgitate them on camera at Fulci’s command! This is only one of the memorable moments of “City Of The Living Dead,” but the iconic image of Daniela crying tears of blood and then slowly puking up her innards is what immediately comes to a horror fan’s mind when you hear the title.
The living dead mostly take a back seat to the buckets of blood and maggots, but there should be more than enough gut barfing and brain ripping to keep gorehounds happy. The splatter effects from Gino De Rossi (“Zombi II,” “Cannibal Ferox”) are about as top notch as they come. But for some random and completely hysterical reason, whenever the frequently repeated closeup shot of the brain ripping is shown the hand doing the ripping clearly belongs to a black man with hairy knuckles! This makes the climax to the aforementioned gut barfing scene unintentionally hilarious as clearly it’s not Daniela’s hand ripping out Michelle Soavi’s brain. The zombies we do get to see look fantastic, as they were created by the legendary Rosario Prestopino (“Zombi II,” “Burial Ground)”. “City Of The Living Dead” is a horror film with GUTS, and a lot of them.
CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD should be considered mandatory viewing for all horror fans. Sharp eyed Italian horror buffs will get a kick out of seeing so many familiar faces. (Watch out for Perry Pirkanen of “Cannibal Ferox/Holocaust” legend in a small yet pivotal role as a perverted gravedigger!) I really can’t say enough good things about this one. “City Of The Living Dead” is an all time horror clas-sick. Anchor Bay and Blue Underground have both released “City Of The Living Dead” on dvd. The dvd features the theatrical trailer and radio spots. BUY IT!!!
THE BEYOND (1981)
The madness begins in Louisiana, 1927 as a young girl named Emily recites passages from the dreaded book of Eibon and is blinded by hellfire for her blasphemy. Meanwhile, an ungodly warlock by the name of Sweik sits alone in his hotel room, conjuring graven images from the beyond and giving them immortality on his canvas. An angry, torch wielding mob descends upon the hotel and make their way to Sweik’s room – number 36. The townspeople blame Sweik for cursing both the hotel, and the town forever. Sweik warns them that the hotel was built over one of the seven doors of evil, and then cautions that only he can save them. Sweik is then violently beaten with chains, crucifed with nails, and his flesh is melted away. “The seven dreaded gateways to Hell are concealed in seven cursed places. Woe be unto him who ventures near without knowledge.”
The story then moves forward to Louisiana, 1981. Liza (Catriona MacColl) was a New York City gal who had done just about everything a girl could do without losing her good English breeding and reputation before a rare turn of luck found her inheriting the old hotel. “But behind this doorway lie the terrifying and unspeakable secrets of hell. No one who sees it lives to describe it.” The first to die is a painter working on the side of the hotel who catches a glimpse at THE EYES of horror and falls to his eventual death off a scaffold. Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck) is then summoned to take the badly injured man to the hospital. The next victim is an old sewer rat named Joe the Plumber who kindly shows up to do some work on the hotel’s flooded basement and has his eyes violently gouged out by undead hands for his efforts!
Liza has an unusual series of encounters with a mysterious blind girl named Emily who claims she had been “looking” for Liza. Emily repeatedly warns Liza to go back where she came from, and to hurry. “We blind see things more clearly.” After fishing Joe the Plumber’s body out of the hotel cellar and performing an autopsy on it, John also tries in vain to convince Liza to give up on her mission to reopen the hotel. Meanwhile, the town continues to be cursed with morbid death as a little girl in a morgue watches her mother’s face be eaten away by acid, and is then stricken blind with fear after stumbling into a room full of cadavers. The evil curse also claims the life of a contractor named Martin who was helping Liza renovate the hotel. Martin stumbles off to the Town Hall looking for the hotel’s building plans, has a brief encounter with director Lucio Fulci (which is never a good thing in one of these flicks!), and then falls off a ladder and has his face devoured by spiders! “Woe be unto him who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell, because through that gateway, evil will invade the world.”
Poor Emily is made once more to suffer for her actions, as Sweik returns from the beyond and brings forth the legions of the undead. “And from the day the gates of hell are opened, the dead will walk the earth.” Emily tries in vain to use her trusty seeing eye dog Dickie as a weapon against Sweik, only to find the animal now under Sweik’s control as the jaws of death violently tear apart her throat. When Liza later tells John about her encounters with Emily, she is shocked to hear that he had never heard of her, and that the little house the blind girl had lived in had in reality been abandoned for over fifty years. Liza & John then have to race to escape the cursed hotel, as the gateway to hell begins to loudly howl. They make their way to the nearby hospital, only to find it completely infested with zombies. The girl who didn’t believe in ghosts and the doctor who wouldn’t accept irrational explanations are then forced to “face the sea of darkness...and all therein that may be explored.”
THE BEYOND was legendary director Lucio Fulci’s follow up effort to his diabolical masterpiece “City Of The Living Dead.” In my opinion, and in the opinion of many other horror fans, this is Fulci’s true horror masterpiece. “The Beyond” is one of the most atmospheric, beautiful, and gruesome horror films of all time. From the ultra creepy sepia-toned opening to the incredible, haunting ending, this film commands the attention of viewer and captures their senses. This is another true example of a horror film with GUTS. It features some of Fulci’s most memorable gore sequences, including graphic face melting, eyeball gouging, throat ripping, flesh eating spider attacks, and one of the all time great zombie “head shots.” The fantastic special effects and makeup were created by Giannetto De Rossi (Zombi II) and Germano Natali (Suspiria), and stand out as some of the finest work in their esteemed careers.
Much credit must also be given to the ever prolific and diabolical Dardano Sacchetti, who wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Fulci and Giorgio Mariuzzo. The concept of the seven gates of hell, sealed in seven cursed places is hands down one of the coolest in horror history. The Satanic storylines that could spring forth from these gates are seemingly endless. I really wish Sacchetti & Fulci had decided to explore more of them together. The other big key to the film’s success is the beautiful original music by Fabio Frizzi. It’s impossible for me to imagine this film working the way it does without that haunting piano theme, or the pulse pounding theatrics that accompany the climax. The combination of the surreal story from Sacchetti and the exceptional score from Frizzi give this film an unmistakable, dream like quality. The stuff nightmares are made of.
Speaking of nightmares, the notorious Aquarius Releasing (the same folks who brought us such clas-sicks as “Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave,” “Faces Of Death,” “Cannibal Ferox,” etc.) were the first to bring Fulci’s film to the States in 1983. The U.S. print was re-titled “7 Doors of Death” and given a different opening credit sequence and musical score. Sadly, most of the graphic gore scenes were removed and Fulci was credited as Louis Fuller! “The Beyond” was never seen in America in its true uncut form until 1998, when Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures, in association with the maniacs at Grindhouse Releasing, tracked down the original master and restored the film, and then began playing it at midnight shows. Anchor Bay then worked with Grindhouse Releasing to finally make the film available uncensored on home video, where it has since gone on to earn a well deserved cult following.
Out of all of the assorted DVD releases of THE BEYOND that are currently available, I’d have to give the Brain Hammer seal of approval to the Grindhouse Releasing disc that was originally unleashed in stores back in 2008. The unrated and uncensored director’s cut of the film was presented in a spectacular hi-definition digital anamorphic widescreen transfer. The bonus features include a brand new 2008 intro by Catriona MacColl, a rare on-set interview with director Lucio Fulci, commentary by stars Catriona MacColl and the late genre superstar David Warbeck, the lost German pre-credit sequence in full color, Necrophagia music video directed by Jim VanBebber (“Gator Green”), theatrical trailers, an extensive gallery of stills and poster art, and liner notes by legendary horror journalist Chas. Balun. I can’t recommend this clas-sick highly enough. Buy or die, you ungodly warlock!
THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981)
Legendary director Lucio Fulci wastes no time getting down to business in this one and quickly dispatches his favorite female victim Daniela Doria before the opening credits roll! Daniela gets a gory gander at her boyfriend’s bloody hacked up corpse and doesn’t even have time to regurgitate her innards before receiving the business end of a butcher’s knife through the back of her skull. Welcome to Doctor Jacob Freudstein’s house by the cemetery. In this house, what you don’t know will hurt you.
The next to wander innocently into the waiting spider web are the Boyle family: Doctor Norman Boyle (Paolo Malco – The New York Ripper), his emotionally unbalanced wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl – The Beyond), and their incredibly shrill, annoying, and apparently clairvoyant young son Bob (Giovanni Frezza – Demons). Norman jumps at the lucrative chance to move to Boston and resume the suicide research project that his former colleague Dr. Peterson had abruptly abandoned after killing his mistress and then himself. Lucio Fulci himself briefly appears as a Professor, and in a recurring gag that also appeared in other Fulci flicks, he sends the innocent off to slaughter – this time by arranging to have Norman finish Peterson’s project and clear up his suicide.
Bob receives mysterious messages from a dead little girl named Mae, who lives inside a photograph of an old house. She warns him to stay far away from the Freudstein house. Mae’s ghost wanders the streets of Boston and receives prophetic morbid visions of mannequins being decapitated. Mae once again tells Bob to stay away, but his mommy wouldn’t listen. Parents only do what they want to do. Lucy changes her mind ten times about the trip, which causes a last minute change in housing. The helpful local real estate agent Laura Gittleson (Dagmar Lassander – Hatchet For The Honeymoon) arranges an extended stay inside Oak Mansion, better known as Freudstein’s House. She also hooks the Boyles up with a creepy, silent & short lived babysitter named Ann (played memorably by the always striking Ania Pieroni – Tenebrae).
Past and present collide in a vortex of fear! The house by the cemetery is haunted with the anguished cries of dead children. Lost souls that were used as gruesome, illegal medical experiments by the mad Doctor Freudstein. The bastard’s unholy grave lies hidden within the hallway of the house, much to the shock and disgust of Lucy. Norman tries to dismiss this as a common burial practice in New England, and then thoughtfully offers to finally unlock the rusty cellar door, if only to prove that nothing scary is lurking down there. Norman is rewarded for his bravery with a vicious attack from a bloodthirsty bat that refuses to remove it’s fangs from his hand! A few well placed pokes from a large pair of scissors finally manages to get the job done, after some bat blood is sprayed into Bob’s face.
The helpful local real estate agent Laura Gittleson shows up later that night to calm things down and winds up breaking her ankle in Freudstein’s tomb. She then receives a house call from the good Doctor that is punctuated with a violent, agonizing death by impalement. Meanwhile, Norman comes to the brilliant conclusion that Peterson’s research into the Freudstein house somehow lead to his suicide and decides to dig a little deeper. Norman travels back to New York and plays a cassette recording from his unhinged former colleague that reveals the terrifying secrets of the house by the cemetery. The house that draws you in like an infernal magnet. The smell of the rooms, the blood, and the children… not the children! Now that Bob is staying with us, be sure to treat him like a Freudstein. For other guests are surely destined to drop in.
THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY marked the memorable conclusion of Lucio Fulci’s beloved “supernatural” trilogy of terror, that began with CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and was rounded out by THE BEYOND. All three films featured actress Catriona MacColl in the center role, surrounded by the surreal and deadly forces of darkness that threaten to overcome humanity. Of the three films in this semi-related series, “House By The Cemetery” is arguably the most beautiful and confusing. The story, which is credited to Elisa Briganti with uncredited “inspiration” from H.P. Lovecraft, borders on incoherent, and the odd, inappropriate dubbing (BOB!) only adds to the comedic confusion. It’s also the most visceral and violent film of the trilogy. “House” might not be quite as pukeworthy as “City” or have the sinister atmosphere that “The Beyond” possesses, but it’s undoubtedly the most mean spirited and morbid entry in the series. Much like Freudstein’s body, the film is crudely stitched together with elements of the supernatural, slasher, and zombie sub-genres.
This flick is sometimes mistaken for a simple zombie film, primarily because of the title and the obvious associations with Fulci’s The Beyond and City Of The Living Dead, but the distinction is the fact that Dr. Freudstein is not an undead ghoul. In an interesting twist, the mad doctor is actually still alive and needs living victims to regenerate his rotting cells. It also appears that Dr. Freudstein transplants limbs whenever necessary. His abdomen is still chock full of maggots though, as Paolo Malco gruesomely discovers towards the film’s climax. The other highlights of the film for gore lovers are the nasty death scenes, in particular the spectacular impalements and juicy throat slitting. Dagmar Lassander’s death scene borders on pornographic, as her gushing arteries drain themselves in clas-sick money shot fashion. But graphic gore aside, this film is also beautifully shot, has a magnificent score, and is one of Fulci’s most atmospheric and mysterious horror films.
Fortunately, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is also one of the easier Lucio Fulci flicks to get a hold of. There are numerous dvd releases to choose from, but I would have to give the Brain Hammer seal of approval to the Blue Underground special edition release. This release was freshly transferred in blood-soaked high definition from its original uncut and uncensored negative and is loaded with exclusive new extras! The brand new bonus features include “Meet the Boyles” - interviews with stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco, “Children of the Night” – interviews with stars Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina, “Tales of Laura Gittleson” - interview with star Dagmar Lassander, and ”My Time With Terror” - interview with star Carlo De Mejo.Deleted scenes, theatrical trailers, TV spots, and still galleries round out the package. This is the type of special edition release Doctor Freudstein would give (or take) an arm or a leg for!
FULCI LIVES!!! KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!