Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My 100 Favorite Films of All Time #92: The Gates of Hell

The first Lucio Fulci film I saw was 1980's The Gates of Hell (a.k.a City of the Living Dead).  I had read about it in Fangoria, so I thought I knew what to expect.  I was, as I sometimes am, wrong.

As with any Fulci film, The Gates of Hell’s plot is a bit … abstract.  What you need to know is that a priest in Dunwich (Lovecraft, anyone?) hangs himself and opens up the Gates of Hell with his suicide.  Zombies with some pretty strange powers are then let loose upon the town.  Later, a reporter who is investigating what is happening in Dunwich, finds out that this is all part of a prophecy, and he and a psychic then try to put an end to the horror.

The film was banned in Germany and was cut in England due to scenes such as a head getting drilled and a woman throwing up her intestines.  The intestines, it should be noted, weren’t fake.  They were really sheep intestines that she had in her mouth and had to actually vomit forth, though a fake head was used for close-ups.  And they say DeNiro gets in character.  I don’t think he ever puked up animal guts.  Live maggots were used for a rain scene, as well, but that hardly matters after putting sheep parts in one’s mouth.

The movie is not what I’d call a “great” film, but it is a fun one full of Fulci moments of head scratching madness.   It nearly left me in a state of awe, as it was so obvious this was not the product of an American mind.  It was horror that could only come from some sort of deranged foreign maestro.  Would George Romero think of using teleporting zombies?  No, and that is what makes this film so crazy.  The unthinkable is thought and done. 

The Gates of Hell, as it was released in America and how I fondly remember it as, is a work of flawed genius, but I guarantee you haven’t seen anything quite like it.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this film to review, and clicking on a link may earn me some dough.

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