The City of the Dead (1960) (Blu-ray Review)
Directed By: John Llewellyn Moxey
Starring: Christopher Lee, Dennis Lotis, Patricia Jessel
Rated: UR/Region O/1:85/1080p/Number of Discs 1
Available from VCI Entertainment
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!
City of the Dead, which is also known as Horror Hotel in some parts of the world, got the Blu-ray treatment from VCI Entertainment and I have to admit that this is a great release. I will start off by saying I don’t see how anyone could have any issue at all with the look of the movie here, as this classic black and white horror film from 1960 just pops off your scream with great detail and looking very snazzy in its black and white state. If just that alone isn’t good enough for you, we also have a list of extras that I will name at the end of this review. But for now, how is the movie you may ask? Well, if you’ve never seen this one before you may be in for a treat. This is a film that I can see classic horror fans really digging overall. While before the days of having any real gore, here in the film, the movie keeps your attention based off the story and mystery of it all alone. I also was caught off guard a bit by a change in direction with the story that came about half way. It was a bit unexpected and I’d like to go into detail, but we don’t need me to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen this one before. Let’s just say that storytelling is a very strong point for a movie like this and that story is strong enough, I’m sure, to keep most people who have a love for the classics watching from start to finish.
It also doesn’t hurt when you have a great actor like Christopher Lee. Lee is never a bad thing in any movie he has ever been in. Here, I think we see him going above and beyond to give a great performance, one that is not lost on this reviewer at all. Sure, you got others here as well that are solid, but you can’t top Sir Christopher Lee when he is on his A-game and I believe he is on that here. Regardless, the story does have the same flaw that many older age horror films have. It is a slow mover, we have just a little gore (which can be expected given the time), and it relies more on atmosphere than pure horror. Which, that atmosphere is done in a very good way and keeps the creepy factor rolling regardless of the pace. All in all, City of the Dead, does make for an interesting witch story that does have some good mystery behind it and does build up tension, especially in its last moments. Maybe this is a movie that has lost some edge over the years and shows its age just a bit, but you can’t argue with how well-made a movie like this is and this is just the release to show that noted atmospheric side of the whole thing.
– Horror Hotel, the American Version of City of the Dead
– Feature-length Commentary by Bruce Hallenbeck
– 2nd Feature-length Commentary with actor Christopher Lee
– 3rd Commentary by Director John Moxey
– Interview with Christopher Lee
– Interview with Venetia Stevenson
– Interview with Director John Moxey
– Theatrical Trailer
– Photo Gallery
– Liner Notes by Mike Kenny, Film Reviewer
Quality of Transfer: 100%