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 The City of the Dead  (1960)
[Model A2Z-DVD-10066] [UPC 882012410066]
Includes Limited Public Performance Rights - Distributed by

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Running Time: 76 Minutes

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A young coed (Nan Barlow) uses her winter vacation to research a paper on witchcraft in New England. Her professor recommends that she spend her time in a small village called Whitewood. He originally cam from that village so he also recommends she stay at the "Raven's Inn," run by a Mrs. Newlis. She gets to the village and notices some weird happenings, but things begin to happen in earnest when she finds herself "marked" for sacrifice by the undead coven of witches. It seems that the innkeeper is actually the undead spirit of Elizabeth Selwyn, and the "guests" at the inn are the other witches who have come to celebrate the sacrifice on Candalmas Eve. As one of them said when Nan (Venetia Stevenson) walked away, "HE will be PLEASED." Written by John A Kostecki {}


Running Time: 76 Minutes

Available in many sub-quality prints for years under its American re-title HORROR HOTEL -- John Moxey’s luscious gothic horror film, CITY OF THE DEAD, has been rescued from dime store, bargain-bin obscurity thanks to the good folks at VCI. This DVD edition will no doubt create an even larger following, for this is easily one of the best British horror films. Beginning with a good ol’ fashioned 1692 Massachusetts witch burning, Elizabeth Sewlyn is taken from her home in the middle of the night and burned at the stake for her unholy pact with Satan. While being scorched for her evil deeds, she puts a hex on the town and all it’s inhabitants. Naturally. The film immediately leaps forward to present time to the always-great Christopher Lee (sporting a passable American accent) chanting to his classroom. “Burn witch, burn witch! Burn, burn, burn!” Lee plays Driscoll, a college professor who specializes in the occult and witchcraft, and the story that he is re-telling of Ms. Sewlyn to his students is of particular interest.

Not long after the class session ends, Driscoll persuades one perky female student, Nan Barlow (the only American cast in the film – Venetia Stevenson), in driving to the very town of Whitewood to visit where Sewlyn was burned at the stake and research the town. Despite talks from her boyfriend and brother not to go, Nan indeed makes the travel and spends the night in the village’s hotel -- The Raven Inn -- owned by Mrs. Newlis who is the reincarnated Elizabeth Sewlyn. While I’m not about to spoil the rest of the movie for you, I can tell you that the plot turns eerily similar to a particular Alfred Hitchcock film where another single, young, blonde woman spends the night in a hotel and results in tragedy. With all due respect, many people have claimed this film rips off Hitchcock’s PYSCHO, as the two were indeed released the same year. However CITY OF THE DEAD went into production at Shepperton studios in October of 1959, while PSYCHO didn’t get started until nearly two months later. Another film that one may begin to compare this to (for it’s opening witch-burning sequence), is Mario Bava’s classic BLACK SUNDAY, as it was also released in 1960 – but the likelihood of anyone in Britain seeing the film is slim to none, as British sensors didn’t release the film until eight years later (under the title REVENGE OF THE VAMPIRE). So, dare I say, CITY OF THE DEAD is nearly the frontrunner to some of the finest of horror cinema for the decade.

Cinematographer Desmond Dickinson’s moody and sublime atmosphere makes for one classy horror movie, enough to rival even the grandest of Universal’s DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN films, and it is represented beautifully on this DVD. As soon as Nan’s descent into Whitewood begins, the film never lets up with its foreboding sense of certain death and fog filled landscapes. Though I must say that the film’s only real shortcomings are many of the outdoor nighttime scenes -- which are clearly constructed on tight sound stages. This constriction never really gives you the impression of a desolate village. In addition, the interior sets of the college and Nan’s home are also quite hokey – but this is a minor complaint for such a wonderful little movie.

CITY OF THE DEAD is one of the few horror films from Lee’s early career, outside of the standard Hammer films of the late fifties, and still stands as one of his most enjoyable. Made the same year as his role in the campy JD classic BEAT GIRL, one look at this film (not to mention his other great performance as Resurrection Joe in CORRIDORS OF BLOOD from a few years prior) and it’s so easy to see where the actor’s popularity began and has managed to endure for over half a century. Lee would re-team with Moxey six years later with the equally entertaining, though somewhat meandering, murder mystery CIRCUS OF FEAR, co starring Klaus Kinksi. Moxey himself has made only a few theatrical films in his career, and this is probably his most famous film. Moxey is perhaps best know for his work in television with such credits as episodes of HAWAII FIVE-O, MIAMI VICE, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, NIGHT STALKER, KUNG FU, and MATLOCK to name a few. Both men are represented thoroughly on this disc and offer insightful thoughts on this film, and others in their career – and Lee’s usual anecdotal ramblings are delightful, albeit a bit much. Though its frustrating that Lee’s interview is nearly completely void of anything regarding the film presented here, and could have stood to be cut-down from its 45 minute running time.

CITY OF THE DEAD is a crucial and essential edition for any serious fans of classic horror films, and will no doubt linger as one of the genre’s greatest diamonds in the rough. This DVD also comes with a reversible cover, giving you the option for an adequate, but not-so-impressive cover art, or a saucier and bit more lurid Euro-style version. I advise you choose the later (pictures here).


This is the story of a college student who goes to do research in a small town and promptly runs into some strange things going on. The events involve witches of the not particularly friendly variety. This movie scared the crap out of me. Even if I hear the music in another room my skin crawls. I don't know what it is but there is something about it that does not sit well with me. Written by Jimbo


John Llewllyn Moxey

Written by
George Baxt (screenplay)
Milton Subotsky (story)

Dennis Lotis
Christopher Lee
Patricia Jessel
Tom Naylor, Betta St. John
Venetia Stevenson
Valentine Dyall
Ann Beach
Norman Macowan
Fred Johnson
James Dyrenforth
Maxine Holden
William Abney

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General Packaging Description:
Our professionally-produced DVDs are shipped in retail Amaray style DVD cases just like you would find in a store. These beautifully packaged DVDs make great gifts and are themselves works of art. While we offer some of the best prices anywhere, we have never sacrificed quality for price>
Product Details
Video Run Time - 76 Minutes
Video Format - NTSC
Aspect Ratio - 4:3 Standard
Region Code - Worldwide
Packaging Type - Amaray
Release Date - 1960
UPC - 882012410066
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The City of the Dead
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The City of the Dead
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This product was added to our catalog on Friday 08 May, 2015.
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