City of the Living Dead (AKA Paura Nella Citta Dei Morti Viventi AKA Fear In The City Of The Living Dead AKA The Gates of Hell AKA That Movie with the Fucked Up Scene with the Drill) is one of Lucio Fulci’s most…let’s say memorable…films.
I mean, we should be honest here, City of the Living Dead is not a great film. Shit, I think it would be a stretch to call it a good film or even a halfway decent film. It’s an incoherent mess of a film, a film full of hilariously bad acting, horrid special effects and plot holes that a army of zombies could march through no problem.
But it’s also an oddly memorizing film filled with evocative and unforgettable imagery, with a dreamlike quality unmatched by many other horror flicks. It may not make a lick of sense and have some rather drastic problems, but that doesn’t make it any less visually stunning and captivating to this day. If a film can be so-bad-it’s-good and a legit classic at the same time, then it’s City of the Living Dead.
While much of the film’s high points can be credited to the amazing direction of Lucio Fulci, the score by Fabio Frizzi definitely deserves second billing in an explanation as to why the film transcends its cheesy nature. Many Italian horror films of the era featured spacey, prog-influenced soundtracks. Most were by Goblin, the prog-rock outfit who frequently worked with legendary film director Dario Argento on many of his greatest films, including Deep Red and Suspiria. Many consider their work on those previously mentioned films to be the best soundtracks to come out the Italian horror scene of the 70s and 80s. However, if you ask me, Fabio Frizzi’s score to City Of The Living Dead actually transcends them in many ways.
It’s the most “proggy” of the bunch, with a great bass and guitar sound that sounds highly reminiscent of Pink Floyd – if they had been big Romero fans. And it has more memorable hooks than most of those other scores. When you remember most Goblin scores you remember one key melody or theme, but the score to City Of The Living Dead has countless motifs that stick with you long after you listen to them. It’s simultaneously creepy and catchy. A rare combination.
So that’s why when I saw that Death Waltz was distributing Private Records’ limited edition re-issue of the original soundtrack on blue vinyl, I jumped at the chance to pick it up. I didn’t even think twice. Although I guess I probably should have, because I didn’t realize that, as a member of Death Waltz’s subscription service, I was already getting their own version of the film’s soundtrack as well.
Oh well, a great excuse to compare them then and help potential buyers out there figure out which one is best for them! So let’s get down to it!