Monday, December 18, 2017

Gates of Hell (aka City of the living dead)

THE GATES OF HELL (aka City of the Living Dead) Directed by Lucio Fulci (1980).

I’ve been slacking lately on writing, but decided after slugging it out in the doldrums of Japanese torture comedy porn aka The Guinea Pig series to revisit an old favorite. I’ve always had an affinity for Fulci over Argento, probably because I saw his film at an early age and it’s nauseating tone resonates with me.

The first moment I saw that crooked, sleepy eyed corpse hovering over NYC was in the newspaper when it debuted in the U.S. in 1983. I have a vivid memory of seeing it in the second or third grade and wondering if my mom could take me to watch this one in the theater, she didn’t obviously. I know now that I would’ve been traumatized for life, considering I was scared out of my skin during METALSTORM. In the theater when I took off my 3D glasses because the action was too over the top and I saw nothing but blurry double visions. Later on, I discovered that the primitive effects of multiple cameras created the optical illusion. Speaking of that early Charles Band Mad Max rip off check out William Wilson's first book on the subject of Empire, buy here.

Inbred-itor, one of those knock off Chinese He-Man villians

This was somewhere down the pecking order of Fulci flicks that I’d watched first, starting off with ZOMBIE. I remember constantly seeing this one on the video store shelves along with the Continental VHS version of NIGHTMARE CITY (with its alternate title that I always think of when I hear the re-vamped title of COTLD verses Gates of Hell). By the way, that Umberto Lenzi aforementioned flick poster art has always struck me as clunky. It has a topless, blood speckled female with her eye socket torn open and mouth agape. What kind of sickos do they want to attract with that cover, it basically looks like the aftermath of a savage gang rape. I should mention just for some context that this was written a week after Umberto died, rest in peace paisano.

Mike Pence's fav masturbatory/ flagellant cassette.

That brownish mustard colored zombie from the cover of GOH, seemed to get around in the 80’s, donning the cover of Hell of the Living Dead (aka Night of the Zombies) and inspiring a similar floating disembodied noggin on BURIAL GROUND VHS cover. The first time I recall watching this Fulci movie was on a dingy, eternally dark and almost unwatchable video tape. I think I borrowed a copy from Skunkape and still had a hard time diving into the murkiness. In middle school, I had the Bloody Best issue of Fangoria and remember seeing all the wacky captions on GATES like “kids are not exempt from undead grips from the grave.” Fango is an obvious influence on TOG, definitely the Bob Martin time period.

At least I died knowing my fans find me less irritating than Giovanni Frezza

The gaunt figure and sunken in eyes of John Morghen also impressed me and I wondered if they just found some authentic derelict on the streets to play Bob the blow-up doll carrying pervert who ends up skull-drilled to death.

The most infamous scene that highlights the spectacle is of course the one involving poor Daniela Dora puking up genuine sheep entrails and crying blood. I couldn't figure where that ghostly torment stems from but it seems like Japanese folklore to me. It's pretty obvious when she is spitting her guts out that they replaced her with a fake head and yank the offal through the open mouth. Michele Soavi, star of the DEMONS series is in the car next to her and I remember when Skunkape and I were in TV production school together, he put together a wacky comedy video that had a laugh track and Brak commenting on the carnage of that very scene. The primary source he used to put together the mini episode about Soavi for our vocational school was Deep Red Alert #2. This was years before CEMETERY MAN became a zombie classic.

The Fabio Frizzi score is my favorite, it descends into cryptic eerie tones just after the blood curdling scream. There are a lot of soundtracks that sound as if they’re based on "Heart of the Sunrise" by YES (1971). The segment in the tune with the foot pedals, then ominous keyboard sounds seems to me to have influenced this score plus Contamination-Goblin and Possession by Andrzej Korzynski. It’s all speculation on my part but I figured I would mention it, since I’ve never heard anyone else bring it up. I hate to admit it but the Yes song is used to brilliantly montage Buffalo 66.

I can only watch the last 30 mins of Brown Bunny.

Fabrizio Jovine, the actor who plays the priest looks slightly Argento-esque, which always cracked me up considering the 80’s rivalry the two film makers had. It’s pretty fascinating to me that the ghoulish priest showed up in a TV movie about Christ, which starred Chris Sarandon as the Messiah.   
Me and Glenn Benton got a bromance brewing with our matching forehead cross scars.

Mary Woodhouse (Catriona McColl) looks very greased out, as if she hasn’t slept for a few weeks. During the séance, she froths at the mouth and as the dead erupt from the ground and it triggers an instant heart attack. Enoch, a magical book is yet another Lovecraft influenced text like the Eibon from THE BEYOND. This is pure coincidence but Mary Whitehouse, the ultra -conservative dingbat who spearheaded the Video Nasty witchhunt and Woodhouse are very similar sounding surnames.

I'm glad nobodies gonna watch these furshlugginer' shit flicks, oh wait!

There are demonic flames that belch up from the floor, every time I see this part, it makes me think of Skunkape’s wacky trailer for GOH. That crazy monkey had the flame ring float up and down incessantly until it looked comical, adding moans and wails while it looped.

The infamous John Morghen shows up in one of his first roles as Bob the pervert. The Blue Underground DVD really enhanced the entire viewing experience, it’s just so much more satisfying than getting an instant migraine trying to pick through the visual refuse. Here, you get to see every slithering worm feasting on a disgustingly bloated body (make sure not to eat anything during this flick or you might blow chunks so hard they will get caught in your remote buttons). When Bob’s blowup doll springs to life on its own, it reminds me of Otto, the autopilot from AIRPLANE.
Dunwich is the spookiest town ever, it’s pretty lame how “Junies” the only place to drown your sorrows in this sad sack dump is infested with zombies, ghosts and demons.
Nobody's drunk enough to tolerate an interdimensional pathway to hell splitting open and letting in the unholiest of ghouls.

stripper cake mishap!

Janet Agren (DOOMED TO DIE), who needs all the psychological help she can get is being treated by the afro-ed dude you’ve seen in other Italian horror classics like MANHATTAN BABY and TERROR EXPRESS.
Chris George (THE EXTERMINATOR, ENTER THE NINJA) bumps into two grave diggers, one Deodato aficionados will know as Perry Pirkanen or the guy with a giant blonde mustache making scary faces by a mutilated turtle foot. Both actors chomp their sandwiches and forget to swallow as they talk.
I felt so guilty about killing that giant turtle, I decided to move in with this tortoise douche.

Pirkanen is a guy who according to IMDB was uncredited in practically all of his films (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, this and CRUEL JAWS). There’s gotta be an easier way to collect a paycheck!

Catriona gasps and claws her fingernails till the velvet is drenched in her blood. I’ve always been disturbed by the way she ferociously tries to break out of the coffin. The Fulci motifs are all present, like narrowly missing a fatal blow from a weapon or the extreme eyeball close-ups.

I like how right after Mary erupts from a coffin, instead of going to a hospital to see if there was any damage from being asphyxiated, they all stare into the camera and chat over tea and coffee about “Dunwich” and how the Gates are gonna bust open. Talk about pushing the panic button! You can just feel the grottiness as the haunted priest shoves a fistful of slithering worms into Bob's unusually attractive gal pal's mouth. Why do these babes hang out with him anyway, is he their only weed connection in this fucked up corn pone town?

just mash the keypad to dial Papa Johns

Next is the most iconic money shot, if you’ll excuse that term, but it’s a scene that basically framed Fulci’s entire legacy and especially his vile treatment of women, you know where I’m going with this—Daniela Dora mouth pooping out her entire intestinal tract! This is just beyond repulsive and brilliantly creative as a ghost power. Who comes up with this shit, well I can answer that it was one of the greatest Italian horror screenwriters Dardano Sachetti, who we've mentioned a lot in previous years. He's scripted everything from Macaroni combat flicks to Amityville 2, Iron Master and has worked for almost every giant in the Pastaland exploitation scene.

Larry the Cable Guy is a dick, this Prilosec removed my entrails instead of fixed them!

The bartender at Junies resembles Sachetti. John-John the whiny moptopped kid almost shits his feety pajamas as Emily (Antonella Interlenghi), his sister returns from the grave. She wasn’t even that long gone on the slab but her face managed to get completely shredded and maggot eaten.

GAWD somebody drive me to the mall to get some moisturizer!

Everyone is in a panicky frenzy in this town, especially the extremely sharp cheek boned Janet Agren. I like how her paintings have odd looking rhinos and waves.

Now most kiddies today can dial the drill brain scene on Youtube, but It always resonated with me as iconic and connected to Chas Balun/ Deep Red Magazine because his artwork captured that moment when a long assed drill enters John Morghen’s brain bucket and erupts from the other side of his temple. It’s just as shocking today as in 1980 and given the fact that he receives this punishment for getting high with a cute girl and being blamed for her death. It’s just a crime that it happened at all!
Oh yeah and she comes back as well as one of the undead, I mean someone should’ve strapped her down ROTLD wagging spinal cord lady and sequestered her at least.

Julie Hagerty's finest role.

Like the Gwar song goes- “Maggots are falling like rain” and strategically attaching themselves to people’s cheek bones. The scene where each actor you know and love gets blasted with real mealworms and wrigglers is pretty fucking nasty and also they used real vermin.

Once they are all down in the blueish rocky caverns, Morlock style zombies show up to wobble around in place. Up until this moment, these bug-eyed beasties are super easy to destroy, I mean they might as well be made of tissue paper! You don’t even have to shoot them in the head either, just pick up a random 2X4 and clumsily push it forward--problem solved.

My favorite mistake toward the end, shows a guy in a full fire retardant suit and gas mask under the flames. It’s nice that they didn’t actually burn anyone alive, right? There’s also that crackly cartoon ending that caps off into an ambiguous and confusing way. We'll return with more Fulci shenanigans pretty soon, until next time watch more coherent films if you can.

The Don't Go in the House guy literally was struck by boogie lightning!

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