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City of the Living Dead (Italian: Paura nella città dei morti viventi [English translation: Fear in the City of the Living Dead], also known as The Gates of Hell) is a 1980 Italian horror film directed by Lucio Fulci. It is the first installment of the unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy which also includes The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery. Fulci makes an uncredited cameo appearance as Dr. Joe Thompson in the film.
After Father William Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine) hangs himself in a cemetery, the gates of Hell are opened. Zombies with the abilities of super strength, teleportation and levitation appear and start killing off people in a remote town. Psychic Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) appears to die of fright during a seance, and is buried – only to revive, buried alive, in her own coffin. Investigating reporter Peter Bell (Christopher George), who is intrigued by the case, is present at the grave-site and rescues her – only to learn it is all fated as part of a prophecy in the Book of Enoch. The death of the priest is only the beginning, and they both must travel to the rural town of Dunwich, New England and close the portal to Hell before All Saints Day, or the spirits of the dead will overtake the earth.
The exteriors for the film were shot partially in the United States in both New York City, New York and Savannah, Georgia standing in for the town of Dunwich. Bonaventure Cemetery features prominently as the location in which Father Thomas hangs himself and where the protagonists must go to battle his entombed corpse. During filming, actress Daniela Doria actually vomited sheep entrails during the intestine purging scene
In the United States, City of the Living Dead was released to U.S. screens in May of 1983 as The Gates of Hell through Motion Picture Marketing, a now defunct small American independent distributor. After the film was screened in Los Angeles, California with Fulci present for a Q&A, he was met with heaving booing from the very angry remaining audience. On 25 May 2010, Blue Underground released a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the documentary Making of City of the Living Dead. A Special Edition DVD (region 1) was also released the same day, with the making-of documentary on it as well. United KingdomIn the early 1980s, this film was passed by the BBFC for cinema exhibition with only the infamous "head drilling" scene cut. The same X version was released on video around the same time. Post-Video Recordings Act, it was submitted to the BBFC for official video release and received further cuts to the vomiting scene and the brain crushing scenes. In 2001, it was re-submitted and passed uncut. On 24 May 2010, Arrow Video released the definitive one-disc edition on Blu-ray and two-disc DVD. GermanyThe film was initially released uncut in Germany under the title Ein Zombie hing am Glockenseil but was banned shortly afterwards. Since then, the film has been re-released several times under various titles (Ein Toter hing am Glockenseil, Eine Leiche hing am Glockenseil, and various other international titles) in cut and uncut form. All of these releases have subsequently been banned. The only exception is a version named Ein Kadaver hing am Glockenseil which is missing nine minutes of footage and has been rated 16 by the FSK.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, City of the Living Dead currently has an approval rating of 55%, and is certified "rotten". Allmovie wrote that while the film "suffers from the same shortcomings present in much of Fulci's other horror films", "City of the Living Dead benefits from Fulci's ability to create and sustain an intensely creepy atmosphere", though ultimately calling the film "a dry run for the blend of graphic shocks and surrealism atmosphere that Lucio Fulci would perfect with The Beyond." Time Out called the film "laughably awful", though "with its nonsensical 'plot' randomly constructed according to the illogic of fear, and its grotesque emphasis on physical mutability, fragmentation and decay, it could just conceivably be the sort of disreputable movie the surrealists would have loved".