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VCI releases a film more than 50 years old. The City of the Dead is still scary

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The City of the Dead (VCI)


For years, VCI and head honcho Don Blair has made the DVD company a blessing. Located in Oklahoma, smaller than the Brothers Warner, it's still universal when it comes to films that must be released or re-released, some of them we nvver heard of. Why? VCI is always outdoing itself with great cover art and as pristine a print we are ever likely to get.
We got Great Britain’s The City of the Dead (1961) also known (for the dumber American audiences) as Horror Hotel. Made by a rival of Hammer Studios, Vulcan Productions, which later morphed into Amicus Productions, this film in many ways is equal to any Hammer release, and certainly far better than most of the Amicus stuff.
Briefly, it’s the story of Nan Barlowe who strays into a coven of witches while doing research for a term paper. She happens upon a small New England town not dissimilar from Salem, Massachusetts, on the advice of a creepy college instructor, and undergoes all sorts of just terrible experiences as all good heroines must undergo in films like this. Until the the final scene. Directed by John Moxey with style and verve in atmospheric black-and-white so thick you could cut it with a buzz saw, it’s amazingly shocking and alarming for a movie that’s well over 50 years old. and as Barlow, Venetia Stevenson is great to watch.
Christopher Lee, who is credited with nearly 300 roles in his 60+ career, is fairly controlled and subtle for a change in the role of a college thesis adviser for the unfortunate Miss Barlow who is secretly involved with the coven. Betta St. John, who was in the original Broadway cast of both Carousel and South Pacific, as well as the film The Robe, plays a sympathetic non-witch who aids in the final rescue.
This film has quite a cult following and, while not exactly a classic, has more than its share of chills and thrills, and certainly is as good atmospherically as any of the black-and-white British films of the period. If you are a fan of mid-century horror, this DVD certainly belongs on your shelf.
Thanks again to VCI and the revered Mr. Blair.