City of the Living Dead appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Though fine, this Dolby Vision image couldn’t do a lot with the limitations of the source.
For the most part, sharpness worked fine. A bit of softness crept into the occasional shot and I couldn’t claim the movie came with stellar definition, but it seemed more than adequate in this regard.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Grain was heavy but natural, and print flaws failed to become a concern.
Don’t expect a vivid palette from City. Indeed, the final product tended to feel nearly monochromatic.
We got a movie with a heavy brown-gray vibe, and only a handful of shots featured brighter hues. The 4K replicated these as intended, even if it meant the disc’s 4K failed to add much to the presentation.
Blacks were reasonably dark, while shadows displayed adequate clarity. Again, the murky visual design meant HDR failed to bring a lot to the table, so don’t expect dynamic whites or contrast. While I’m not sure it needed a 4K representation, the movie still looked pretty good given its constraints.
Given that City exists as an Italian production, one would view its Italian soundtrack as the way to go. However, I don’t feel that way in this case. Though the film used actors of varying nationalities, it seemed to ask them to speak English dialogue.
Despite that, the Italian track counts as the “original” because the movie’s initial release occurred in Italy and used that audio. The 4K UHD includes both Italian and English mixes, and normally I go with “original”, but in this case I favored the English track.
I did so simply because it matched the dialogue. Since the actors spoke the lines in English, this made it the logical choice, especially because speech lined up with lip movements better.
Though not flawlessly, given that City - like virtually all Italian projects of this era – looped all its lines. That meant the dialogue didn’t always fit the visuals terribly well.
In any case, I found the DTS-HD MA monaural mix to work surprisingly well. Despite its age and origins, it proved pretty robust.
Speech became the weakest link, though I felt so mainly due to the awkwardness of the looping. While speech always seemed clear and without much edginess, the lines simply lacked a natural feel – and the iffy performances didn’t help, especially since it appeared most of the actors failed to redo their own lines.
At least music offered pretty good range and punch, while effects showed nice clarity and impact. Nothing here dazzled, but the track fared better than expected.
On the 4K UHD disc, we get four separate audio commentaries. The first comes from film historian Samm Deighan that provides a running, screen-specific look at the career and work of filmmaker Lucio Fulci, genre domains, story and characters, themes and interpretation, cast/crew and a few production notes.
Some of the time, this feels more like an appreciation than an attempt to look at the film in a more all-encompassing manner. Deighan clearly loves Fulci’s movies and expresses that admiration.
While that vibe gets a bit old, Deighan still delivers enough useful info to make the commentary worth a listen. I’d like a stronger emphasis on film facts, but this nonetheless turns into a generally good piece.
Footnote: Deighan goes to pains to claim City doesn’t offer a true zombie movie, though she never comes up with a better way to describe it. She also refers to the undead roles as zombies eventually!
For the second track, we get a chat with film historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Hawthorn. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific chat about the career and work of filmmaker Lucio Fulci, genre domains, story and characters, themes and interpretation, cast/crew and a few production notes.
Yes, I cut and pasted the same summary I wrote for Deighan’s commentary. Howarth and Hawthorn examine similar domains, so why reinvent the wheel?
This doesn’t mean the Howarth/Hawthorn track feels redundant, though. While they occasionally repeat info from Deighan’s piece, we get enough unique material to allow their track to stand on its own.
Bonus: Howarth and Hawthorn also feel perplexed that Fulci cast two elderly actors as the parents of a little kid.
Next we get a commentary from actor Catriona MacColl and moderator Jay Slater. The pair sit together for a running, screen-specific take on her career, what brought her to City, genre thoughts, memories of cast/crew and aspects of her experiences during the shoot.
Don’t expect a whole lot of “screen-specific” here. MacColl and Slater do occasionally touch on what we see, but most of the commentary progresses more as a free-flowing chat.
And it works fine in that regard, though one also shouldn’t anticipate a ton of details about City itself, as the piece usually touches on other topics. Nonetheless, the commentary moves at a good pace and becomes fairly enjoyable.
Finally, we get a commentary with actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice and moderator Calum Waddell. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion of Radice’s career and experiences during the City shoot.
Expect a pretty loose chat here, one that doesn’t dig into City with a lot of depth. Still, it comes with some interesting moments and merits a listen.
This package also includes two Blu-ray discs as well. The first provides the feature film as well as the four commentaries.
On BD2, we find a bunch of featurettes, and these open with Zombie Kings. In this 45-minute, 46-second program, we hear from production designer Massimo Antonello Geleng.
During this piece, we learn about aspects of his career as a whole along with his work in City. He gives us an appealing array of memories and notes.
Requiem for Bob lasts 28 minutes. It provides a chat with actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice.
Here we cover his thoughts on horror movies, his impressions of City, and his experiences. We get another good view of the appropriate domains.
Next comes The Meat Munching Movies of Gino De Rossi. It spans 26 minutes, 34 seconds and gives us info from special effects creator De Rossi.
De Rossi discusses his work on City and other films as well as related aspects of his career. De Rossi provides good insights, especially because he shows us many of the actual effects used.
Carlo of the Living Dead provides an archival chat with actor Carlo De Mejo. It goes for 18 minutes, 13 seconds.
De Mejo gets into working with Fulci and aspects of the City shoot. He brings some decent notes but the reel feels a bit flat overall.
After this comes On Stage, a 46-minute, three-second panel. It involves actor Venantino Venantini and filmmaker Ruggero Deodato.
While present, Deodato barely utters a word, as this piece revolves almost entirely around Venantini. The chat has little to do with City, but he offers enough anecdotes about his life and career to make this an entertaining piece.
Another live session arrives via a Catriona MacColl Q&A. Shot in August 2012 at the Glasgow Theater, it spans 20 minutes, eight seconds and pairs McColl with moderator Waddell.
McColl tells us about her working relationship with Fulci and other memories of the City experience. Some of this repeats from her commentary, but we nonetheless get a good collection of thoughts.
Music for a Flesh Feast runs 20 minutes, 25 seconds and comes from that August 2012 Glasgow festival. Hosted by Waddell and Nick Frame, here we find composer Fabio Frizzi.
As expected, he touches on his career and work. Like some of the other programs, this doesn’t stick with City too often, but it still comes with useful information.
More from the actor appears in a Catriona MacColl Archival Video Intro. It goes for five minutes, 14 seconds as MacColl tells us about her experiences. This feels redundant after MacColl’s other remarks, but it seems painless.
A Trip Through Bonaventure Cemetery fills four minutes, 49 seconds with a return to a movie location. It lacks narration and just shows what the Georgia site looks like now. It seems forgettable.
A collection of Archival Interviews occupies 42 minutes, 42 seconds. Shot for a 2008 DVD in remembrance of Lucio Fulci, it includes appearances from MacColl, De Mejo, Venantini, Geleng, De Rossi, Frizzi, actors Antonella Interlenghi, Luca Venantini, Fabrizio Jovine, an Michele Soavi, screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, assistant makeup artist Rosario Prestopino, and cinematographer Sergio Salvati.
Across the program, we hear about memories of Fulci. Some decent stories emerge but they tend to feel a little banal.
In addition to three trailers, the disc wraps with an Image Gallery. It brings 103 stills that mix ads, publicity materials, movie shots and behind the scenes photos. It becomes a good compilation.
By the way, note that although the Blu-ray included in this 4K set offers a circa 2023 release, it does not seem to be available on its own. The 2023 BD appears to exist only as a partner to the 4K right now.
Yet another take on the zombie genre, City of the Living Dead lacks thrills or scares. Instead, it delivers an oddly sluggish and dull piece without the urgency it needs to succeed. The 4K UHD brings generally positive picture and audio along with a slew of bonus materials. The movie itself does little for me, but this becomes an impressive release.