The City of the Dead
Donald Taylor, Max J. Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky (executive), Seymour S. Dorner (executive) for Vulcan
directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
starring Dennis Lotis, Christopher Lee, Patricia Jessel, Tom Naylor, Betta St. John, Venetia Stevenson, Valentine Dyall, Ann Beach, Norman Macowan, Red Johnson, James Dyrenforth, Maxine Holden, William Abney, Nickolas Grace
story by Milton Subotsky, screenplay by George Baxt, music by Douglas Gamley, Ken Jones
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To do some research on witchcraft in New England, college student Nan
Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) visits a remote and almost forgotten village
that was the scene of a witch's burning about 300 years ago at the express
recommendation of her professor, Driscoll (Christopher Lee) - but somehow
she gets sucked into her research way too much and ultimately is made the
human sacrifice of the local witches coven.
While in the village though,
Nan has borrowed a book from the library and failed to return it (for
apparent reasons of course), and when librarian Pat Russell (Betta St.
John) fetches it from the hotel Nan has been staying at, she finds a
strange note inside that might be a clue to her whereabouts (nobody
knows yet she's dead of course) - so she first visits professor Driscoll, who
is only of little assistance, then Nan's brother Richard (Dennis Lotis)
and boyfriend Bill (Tom Naylor). For some reason, Pat, Richard and Bill
all go to the village independently, and while Bill is met with an
accident while still on the way, Pat is soon made the victim-to-be by Ms
Newless (Patricia Jessel), the head of the witches coven and owner of the
hotel Nan has been staying at. Richard rushes in to save her, but soon has
to realize the bullets from his gun have little effect on the witches and
their master, who to no one's real surprise now turns out to be Driscoll,
and before he knows it, Richard is made a captive of the witches as well
A very atmospheric litle horror film.
Made on the cheap, there's no denying that, and not all the studio sets
are terribly convincing, especially those posing for outdoor locations,
but they also give the film a claustrophobic dimension actual outdoor sets
simply couldn't have accomplished. However, the obviously low budget is
smoothly ironed over by a story that constantly stays this side of being
ridiculous (apart from the finale perhaps), an interesting plot structure
that kills off its main character (Nan) about halfway through the movie
(something that might not have been inspired by Psycho,
which was released only three months before this one - hardly enough time
to conceive a screenplay and make it into a movie), an old-fashioned but
very moody directorial effort, and of course a competent ensemble cast.
that said, The City of the Dead might not be a masterpiece, but
it's an interesting and entertaining genre effort nevertheless that's sure
please fans of vintage horror!