• Gates Of Hell (Scorpion Releasing) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: June 2nd, 2020.
    Director: Lucio Fulci
    Cast: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Daniela Doria, Fabrizio Jovine
    Year: 1980
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    The Gates Of Hell – Movie Review:

    One of Lucio Fulci’s more perplexing films, City Of The Living Dead (or The Gates Of Hell, if you prefer) is also regarded by some as one of his best. While it isn’t always the most logical of pictures, there’s no denying the film is ripe with atmosphere, that it features some excellent cinematography, and that many of its grisly gore effects still hold up well to this day.

    The movie is set in the small town of Dunwich where bad things are afoot starting with the suicide of a local Catholic priest named Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine). His hanging himself seems to have set into motion a series of bizarre and unholy events that result in the dead being resurrected from their graves and walking the earth in search of prey. While all of this is going on, a woman named Mary (Catriona MacColl), who lives in New York City, is plagued by visions of Thomas’ suicide. She’s frightened to death by what she sees and is buried shortly after but a sneaking reporter named Peter Bell (Christopher George) soon figures out that she’s not dead after all and quite literally saves her from being buried alive.

    Soon enough, Mary and Peter team up to figure out just what on Earth is happening and they soon come to the realization that Thomas’ suicide somehow opened up one of the seven gates of Hell (those same pesky gates were also opened up in The Beyond and The House By The Cemetery, making these films sort of an unofficial trilogy). They learn that if they don’t succeed in closing the gate before the fast encroaching All Saints Day arrives, it’s game over and the zombies will never rest again. There’s more going on in Dunwich than just shambling corpses, however – mirrors and walls are cracking open, citizens are snacking on one another and acting in increasingly bizarre ways, and the forecast calls for light rain and heavy… maggots?

    Packed with memorable and particularly well executed gore set pieces, City Of The Living Dead is a nasty film even by Fulci’s admittedly over the top standards. A woman cries blood, another woman pukes up her own guts and, in the film’s most memorable moment, a simpleton (played by Giovanni Lombardo Radice) has his head drilled straight through. The zombie make up is uniformly excellent (something that you can really appreciate more than ever thanks to the high definition transfer on this release) in that it’s gooey enough to look sickly but never so over the top that it doesn’t look like rotting flesh – just the way it should be!

    Fulci’s got more going on in this picture than just copious amounts of splatter, however. Acting wise, Christopher George is a bit hokey but Catriona MacColl delivers a fairly believable performance and Radice is his usual creepy self in his supporting role. What really keeps the film alive, however, is the atmosphere and dread that is at times so thick you can almost taste it. Dunwich is portrayed, and very effectively, as a town in which horrors lie around every corner and the cinematography reflects this well. Shadowy streets and decrepit locations add to the air of decay already fostered by the zombies while an unearthly score courtesy of Fabio Frizzi wraps it all up with a suitably weird vibe.

    The Gates Of Hell – Blu-ray Review:

    Scorpion Releasing brings The Gates Of Hell to Blu-ray taken from a ‘new 2020 4K color grading and restoration of the film from a 4K scan of the original camera negative.’ Taking up just under 30GBs of space on a 50GB disc and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, this is a very solid presentation of some tricky source material. There are a few spots where you may notice that the image pulses ever so slightly during playback, possibly due to the elements used, but this transfer reveals really strong detail and very good color reproduction. Thankfully the high bit rate keeps compression artifacts at bay and the lack of noticeable DNR results in a very naturally filmic presentation (meaning it’s grainy but in a good way). There isn’t really any print damage to complain about here, skin tones look good – all in all, this looks really strong.

    Audio options are offered in 24-bit DTS-HD audio options are offered up in English 5.1, English 2.0 Mono, English 2.0 Stereo and Italian 2.0 Mono with subtitles provided that properly translate each option. The audio quality here is quite strong. The mono mixes will certainly satisfy the purists, they sound nice and clear, while the stereo and surround sound options mostly open up the score and effects while keeping the dialogue up front in the mix. Levels are balanced well here, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to complain about. Again, Scorpion scores high marks on the technical side of things.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary with film historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson. This energetic talk covers the different titles that the film has been known under, the Georgia locations used in the picture, the film's strong opening and atmospherics, why MacColl's name was changed for her Italian film work, the presence of Radice in the film and what he's able to bring to the roll, some of the bit part players that were recruited for the picture both in front of and behind the camera, how a pair of New York City porn stars wound up with cameos in the picture, the inimitable presence of Christopher George in the picture, Fulci's infamous temperament on this and other shoots, speculation on where some of the interior shots were captured, the score and effects work featured in the picture (of course, the drill scene being a key focal point), some of the humor that is present in the film and quite a bit more. Carried over from the Italian NoShame Films DVD release is an audio commentary with director of photography Sergio Salvati and camera operator Roberto Forges Davanzati, moderated by film professor Paolo Albiero, which is presented in Italian with English Subtitles. It’s really solid track that’s packed with a lot of information about where Fulci’s career was at during this point, where certain scenes were shot, who all was involved with the production, details about the man’s personal life and quite a bit more.

    The rest of the extras art ported over from the last Arrow Video Blu-ray release that came out in the UK, starting with a bunch of interviews. We Are The Apocalypse, which is an interview with writer Dardano Sacchetti that runs a lengthy fifty-three-minutes. He talks about how he got to know Fulci, what it was like to work with him, influences that crept their way into the script for this picture and more. Through Your Eyes interviews actress Catriona MacColl for thirty-seven-minutes about what it was like on set, her relationship with the director, how she got along with her co-stars, some of the effects set pieces and other related topics. In Dust In The Wind camera operator Roberto Forges Davanzati speaks for thirteen-minutes about his work on the production, working with Fulci and his thoughts on the film. The Art Of Dreaming sits down with production designer Massimo Antonello Geleng to spend forty-six-minutes going over his personal relationship with Fulci and his appreciation for the man’s many talents before then talking about some of the issues that arose during the production, having to work on location in Georgia and what went into getting some of the locations just right for the film. Tales Of Friendship gets frequent Fulci collaborator, cinematographer Sergio Salvati, to speak for thirty-one-minutes about what it was like working with Fulci on this picture, how they got along on and off set, some of the tricks that were employed to create the style we see up on the screen and more. I Walked with A Zombie gets the great Giovanni Lombardo Radice to speak for twenty-three-minutes about his own feelings on Fulci as both a person and a director, what it was like working with him on this production, what went into getting the 'drill through the head' scene finished, getting along with the cast and crew, makeup effects work and other bits and pieces from his time spent on the film. They Call Him Bombardone is an interview with special effects artist Gino De Rossi that lets for twenty-seven-minutes and covers how he came up with the effects set pieces featured in the film, some of the details of what all was involved in bringing those ideas to life, work on this picture and other notorious Italian horror films and more. The Horror Family interviews father and son actors Venantino and Luca Venantini for twenty-minutes about how they both wound up acting in the picture, working with Fulci, thoughts on the other cast members and what it was like on set from both of their perspectives.

    A few of the featurettes from the Arrow release are also found here, starting with Building Fulci’s City, which is a video appreciation by Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci that clocks in at just under thirty-eight-minutes. He offers up a thoughtful analysis of the film and explains why, in his opinion, it's one of the director's best efforts. Along the way he provides plenty of insight, trivia and interesting factoisd about the picture. Reflections of Fulci is a twenty-seven-minute ‘appraisal of Fulci’s Gothic period’ by actor, writer, director Andy Nyman (the man behind Ghost Stories) that is an entertaining segment where he really just gushes about how much he loves the film and why. His enthusiasm is infectious. Lastly, The Dead Are Alive! is a video essay by Kat Ellinger on Lucio Fulci and the Italian zombie cycle that runs for twenty-five-minutes and allows Ellinger to to give a rundown on the history of zombie films before then narrowing her focus on the Italian entries, it's influence and influences and the different directions that Italian filmmakers took the zombie movie concept in over the years.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are two trailers, a few TV spots and radio spots, the Italian alternate title sequence, the alternate U.S. title sequence, menus and chapter selection options.

    As to the packaging, this release comes with a limited edition slipcover as well as a reversible cover sleeve.

    The Gates Of Hell – The Final Word Review:

    This is Fulci at the top of his game, an atmospheric and effective horror picture with some unforgettable set pieces, fine performances and an excellent score. It doesn’t always make a lot of sense, but even when it doesn’t the film is engaging and entertaining. Scorpion Releasing has given The Gates Of Hell an excellent special edition Blu-ray release, with a very strong presentation and an impressive slate of extra features. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Gates Of Hell Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. bflocket's Avatar
      bflocket -
      So is "The Gates of Hell" merely on the disc packaging? I assume that the screenshot of the "City of the Living Dead" title is what you'll see if you actually watch the blu-ray. Why even bother calling it "The Gates of Hell" if it doesn't use the old US-release credits?
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Maybe to make it stand out from the previous Blu-ray release from Blue Underground?