Italian theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Umberto Lenzi|
|Music by||Stelvio Cipriani|
|Cinematography||Hans Burman Sanchez|
|Edited by||Daniele Alabiso|
|Distributed by||New Fida|
Nightmare City (Italian: Incubo sulla città contaminata) is a science-fiction horror film directed by Umberto Lenzi. The film stars Hugo Stiglitz as a television news reporter who witnesses the collapse of order in a city overrun by irradiated blood-drinking ghouls. Victims of the ghouls rise from the dead to join the host, adding to the chaos.
American television news reporter Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) waits at a small European airport to interview a scientist about a recent nuclear accident. An unmarked Lockheed C-130 Hercules military plane makes an emergency landing. The plane doors open and dozens of armed and deformed men burst out and begin stabbing, slashing, hacking, and shooting the military personnel outside; they prove to be resistant to the most grievous bullet wounds and are relentless in their assault, stopping only to consume the blood of their victims. Miller flees from the airport back to the TV station where he works and tries to alert the public, but General Murchison of Civil Defense (Mel Ferrer) will not allow it. Miller tries to find his wife Anna (Laura Trotter), a doctor who works at a hospital, as the crazed assailants overrun the city, their ranks swollen by many of their former victims.
Several zombies attack the TV station, forcing Miller to flee to the hospital where Anna works. That evening, a group of fiends attack the city's power station, destroying it and plunge the city into darkness. Miller arrives at the hospital as it is being attacked and manages to rescue Anna where they both escape from the hospital in a stolen ambulance.
Meanwhile, General Murchison meets with several military officers and scientists at a hidden command bunker where they determine the attackers are contaminated humans whose skin and blood tissues have been mutated by radiation. They speculate that the scientist investigating the leak at the state nuclear power plant was apparently infected with high doses of radiation and that he infected others aboard the military transport plane leading to the outbreak. The infected peoples bodies, while capable of feats of strength, speed and reflexes beyond those of most humans, are unable to regenerate red blood cells, hence their appetite for blood. The only way that the infected can by killed is by destroying their programmed brains by shooting them in their heads.
Murchison's daughter Jessica (Stefania D'Amario) and her husband, Bob, are on a holiday getaway from the city, oblivious to the carnage overtaking the city. Murchison sends a small group to find and take Jessica to safety. Later in the film, when a pair of officials arrive at Jessica and Bob's campsite, they are both revealed to be infected and kill both Jessica and her husband.
Major Warren Holmes (Francisco Rabal), Murchison's official aide, tries to contact his wife Sheila (Maria Rosaria Omaggio), an artist staying at their country house, where he tells her over the phone about the crisis going on and not to leave the house. Sheila is visited at the house by Cindy, a friend of hers, who is oblivious to what is going on. Two infected men break into the house through the basement where they attack and kill Cindy. Sheila manages to kill the murderous zombies that attacks her.
The next day, Miller and Anna get out of the city and stop at a local filling station for fuel only to be attacked by a small group of infected at the area. Miller manages to make a Molotov cocktail and blows up the ambulance along with the infected people that have overrun it. Miller and Anna travel on foot and try to evade hordes of infected zombies now roaming the countryside. They take shelter in a local church, only to find the priest infected which Miller is forced to kill him.
Meanwhile, Major Holmes arrives at a local airbase only to find it overrun and all the pilots dead, leaving the military with no air support. As General Murchison keeps in contact with his military units around the city fighting a losing battle against the growing numbers of infected, Major Holmes flies to his house to rescue his wife, only when he arrives he discovers that Sheila is now infected, forcing him to kill her.
Miller and Anna escape from the church and arrive at an abandoned amusement park that is also overrun with the infected people. Arming themselves with sub-machine guns and grenades from dead soldiers, Miller and Anna kill several attacking zombies, but are forced to flee. Miller and Anna climb to the top of a roller coaster to escape where a military helicopter, with Major Holmes aboard, happens to be passing by on its way back to Murchison's command post. Holmes lowers a rope from the hovering helicopter where Miller and his wife climb onto, but Anna cannot hold onto the rope and falls to her death.
Miller then wakes up, revealing the whole situation to be a dream. Miller then rushes to meet a scientist at the airport. When he arrives, a military plane makes an emergency landing, repeating the events of the beginning of the film.
- Hugo Stiglitz as Dean Miller
- Laura Trotter as Dr. Anna Miller
- Maria Rosaria Omaggio as Sheila Holmes
- Francisco Rabal as Major Warren Holmes
- Mel Ferrer as General Murchison
- Sonia Viviani as Cindy
- Eduardo Fajardo as Dr. Kramer
- Stefania D'Amario as Jessica Murchison
- Ugo Bologna as Mr. Desmond
- Sara Franchetti as Liz
- Manuel Zarzo as Colonel Donahue
- Tom Felleghy as Lieutenant Reedman
- Pierangelo Civera as Bob, Jessica's husband
- Achille Belletti as Jim, hospital patient
From retrospective reviews, Sight & Sound referred to the film as a "spirited, if preposterous, zombie saga" with a "deeply contrived ending". John Kenneth Muir in his review of 1980s horror cinema, referred to Nightmare City referred to the film as a "cobbled together disaster" Muir went on to say it's not the worst zombie film of the 1980s which he felt belonged to Hell of the Living Dead. The assistant professor Danny Shipka of Louisiana State University described the film as "absolutely terrible in every way" as well as referring to poor make-up effects, poor acting and a plot that "makes no sense". In the book Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide, a review opined that the film is "way too silly to be taken seriously for even the briefest moments" and that it is "not a good movie, but it is a ridiculously good guilty pleasure with some genuine surprises". In The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, academic Peter Dendle wrote that the film is "at the best of moments, a forced and pointless test of endurance". Dendle described the zombies as "utterly unconvincing".
- Macnab, Geoffrey (April 2003). "Nightmare City". Sight & Sound. Vol. 13 no. 4. British Film Institute. p. 59.
- "Incubo sulla città contaminata (1980)" (in Italian). Archviodelcinemaitaliano.it. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
- Hunter 2013, p. 118.
- Kay 2008, p. 111.
- Muir, 2007. p.121
- Shipka 2011, p. 128.
- Gingold, Michae (March 3, 2015). "Tom Savini remaking Umberto Lenzi's Zombie Fave "Nightmare City"". Fangoria. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
- Muir, 2007. p.122
- Dendle, Peter (2001). The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. McFarland & Company. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-7864-9288-6.
- Hunter, Russ (2013). "Nightmare Cities : Italian Zombie Cinema and Enviornmental Discourses". In Hunt, Leon; Lockyer, Sharon; Williamson, Milly. Screening the Undead: Vampires and Zombies in Film and Television. I.B. Tauris. ISBN 0857735438.
- Kay, Glenn (2008). Zombie Movies:The Ultimate Guide. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 1556527705.
- Muir, John Kenneth. Horror films of the 1980s. McFarland, 2007. ISBN 078642821X.
- Shipka, Danny (2011). Perverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France, 1960–1980. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-4888-3.