Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The City Of The Dead

I know it has like 3 other titles but I'm calling it this name.

The City Of The Dead is by no means a horror classic, but should be seen at least once by lovers of atmosphere and moody gothic sets. It follows a young college student who is studying witchcraft (Where was that course in my college years?) and is encouraged by her professor to visit an ancient town known for burning witches in the 17th century. And I think we all know whether or not that trip ends badly or not. It's a basic story, with some even comparing it to Psycho though this film actually was in production first but didn't hit the States until 2 years after Psycho. But where the film's strength lies is clearly in the lighting, cinematography, and sets. The film is shot in black and white at a time when it was just cheaper to not shoot in color, but I honestly would hate this film in color, the black and white only elevates the superb set of the town of Whitewood with great lighting and shadows, wonderfully chilling sets built on a controlled soundstage that only further pushes a surreal and nightmarish quality, and fog that would put even John Carpenter to shame. But the acting isn't half bad either with Venetia Stevenson being a very charming and nice lead for a good duration of the film, and Patricia Jessel who is great as the lead witch and is probably her most well known role and for good reason, but I think the biggest reason this film has not slipped into obscurity is because it has Christopher Lee. I was genuinely surprised hearing his voice in this movie, with a clear american accent which he does well and still commands a presence, but just to have that star power in it with this being only 4 years after he became the next horror icon in Hammer's Dracula series is a big reason why more people are aware of it. I genuinely think it's a well made good film, and while the appeal is more on a visual scale you can still enjoy the story and pacing though I must admit it does feel that the movie is on repeat in the second half but I digress, it's a movie that probably hits the cult status more than an underrated horror classic but regardless, if older horror films specifically in black and white with more emphasis on creepy atmosphere and dark set design is your cup of tea then this is definitely a film for you. 3 stars from me, and a definite recommendation. Yet we have one more film from our renowned horror leading man, and next time we finally talk about The Wicker Man.

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