City of the Living Dead 4K UHD/Blu-ray Review (Cauldron Films)

This priest just keeps hanging around

Reader Rating0 Votes

Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead (also known as Gates of Hell) is a film that often defies explanation. It is perhaps a bit less intentionally deceptive than Fulci’s later film The Beyond, but the two share similar qualities in that the storylines present disparate elements that border on absurdity, shedding the realism of Romero’s Living Dead zombie films for something much more supernatural and Lovecraftian in its eldritch moods. Here, Fulci’s script cowritten with Dardano Sacchetti envisions a particular city cursed with a supernatural hex that causes the dead to rise, which should be a fairly conventional plot except for all of the tangents the film takes in its portrayal of events.

Part of the charm of City of the Living Dead, though, is that its surreal moments also garner the eeriest effects. Right from the start, the audience finds that we’re operating on a different plane of reality; Catriona MacColl’s character Mary has a premonition of a hanged priest, then dies, then later awakes in a coffin for no particular reason other than supernatural power. Fulci never feels the need to explain, but the viewer is sucked into the setup regardless, and City of the Living Dead is best experienced rather than analyzed.

While the requisite pieces amount to a very fractured plot, the individual elements all work so well that it’s hard to deny the impact of Fulci’s direction. The director has always had a good sense for lurid style, but here he works in a number of set pieces that deliver visceral carnage while defying conventional expectations. The splatter is strong, with City‘s visual effects providing gross-out gags galore; a disturbing maggot sequence, an unparalleled moment where a woman vomits up all of her organs, and a drill to the head are just part of the blood-soaked buffet on display. Even more interesting is the fact that some of these deaths aren’t even related to the “living dead” at all.

It would be easy to write off City of the Living Dead because it has so many holes in its plot, but the resulting film is actually made better because of it. The spooky, moody New England setting and fog-drenched landscape present the perfect haunted film, one that defies expectation and manages to conjure some of the best ideas of Lovecraft’s writing: particularly that there are things better left unexplored and untouched by science, things that just can’t be understood. City of the Living Dead emulates that in its abstractions, a gory wonder that invites repeat viewings.


City of the Living Dead has had a lot of prior releases, most notably a Scorpion/Ronin Flix release just a couple of years ago on Blu-ray. Cauldron Films has gone the extra mile with a new UHD release of the film in a three-disc collection with an updated 4K restoration of the film. This release is visually gorgeous, offering up extremely detailed image quality that is simply impressive. Facial features are a common theme in Fulci’s cinematography, and here every pockmark and beard stubble is on display. Clothing is well-defined and background lettering is pronounced. The film features a medium grain scale, but in brighter lighting – such as sky textures and the film’s concluding fire scenes – the grain does get a bit more textured without detracting from the overall filmic appeal. The film also features Dolby Vision HDR or HDR 10 for those without the tech, which does a great job of showcasing the deep black levels throughout the movie. While City of the Living Dead does not have the most colorful palette, the color grading is significantly different here than in past releases; Ronin’s color is closer to this than Arrow Video’s previous 2018/2019 Blu-ray, but viewers will notice that Cauldron’s transfer has much less of a blue push and adheres more to a darker, yellow-green hue. This is most notable in the tomb scenes with Janet Agren’s character Sandra, who almost looked like she blued herself in previous releases. These changes should be appreciable to fans of the film, and the overall result is a fantastic transfer that highlights the best visual elements of Fulci’s vision while maintaining the eerie fog-addled atmospheres. Also see our comparisons between this release and Arrow’s 2019 Blu-ray (we don’t have the Ronin Flix version).

Cauldron also provides branching on both the UHD and Blu-ray feature film discs to allow the user to navigate between the English language version – standardly presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono English track – and the Italian language version – swapping out the title card and credits and featuring the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono Italian track. Both options are great and the visual quality does not change, but I preferred the English language version which sounded robust. English subtitles are also included for both language options.

Extra Features

This release features a number of extras, including four different audio commentaries on the UHD and Blu-rays; the new commentary offering is from Samm Deighan, who provides a great overview of Lucio Fulci’s filmography and analyzes the surreal and at times Lovecraftian themes at play in the movie. The other extras appear on the third disc in this release, and are as follows.

Disc 14K UHD

  • UHD (feature film) 4K (2160p) presentation with Dolby Vision™ HDR (HDR 10 compatible)Seamless branching – watch in English Language w/ English credit sequences and watch Italian language w/ Italian credit sequences.
  • NEW audio commentary with film historian Samm Deighan
  • Archival audio commentary with film historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Archival audio commentary with actress Catriona MacColl moderated by Jay Slater
  • Archival audio commentary with actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice moderated by Calum Waddell
  • All Region

Disc 2Blu-ray

  • Blu-ray (feature film) 1080p presentation
  • Seamless branching – watch in English Language w/ English credit sequences and watch Italian language w/ Italian credit sequences
  • NEW audio commentary with film historian Samm Deighan
  • Archival audio commentary with film historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Archival audio commentary with actress Catriona MacColl moderated by Jay Slater
  • Archival audio commentary with actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice moderated by Calum Waddell
  • Region A

Disc 3: Blu-ray

  • NEW Zombie Kings: Interview with Massimo Antonello Geleng (1080p; 45:46) – Production Designer Geleng is interviewed in the wilderness with his axe as well as playing pool, and he discusses his love-hate relationship with Fulci, working on costume design, and how his own self-portrait made it into the film.
  • NEW Requiem for Bob: Interview with Giovanni Lombardo Radice (1080p; 28:00) – The actor discusses his small role as Bob, his theater background, and how they accomplished the famous drill sequence.
  • On Stage: Q&A with Venantino Venantini & Ruggero Deodato (1080p; 46:03) – A lengthy interview with Venantini and Deodato filmed in Rome in 2017.
  • Catriona MacColl Q&A (1080p; 20:08) – A Q&A session with Catriona MacColl from the Glasgow Film Theatre filmed in 2010, moderated by Calum Waddell.
  • Fabio Frizzi Q&A (1080p; 29:25) – a Q&A from Glasgow Film Theatre, again moderated by Calum Waddell along with Nick Frame, from 2012. 
  • The Meat Munching Movies of Gino De Rossi (1080p; 26:34) – An interview with special effects creator Gino De Rossi from 2012 included on a previous release.
  • Carlo of the Living Dead, an archival interview with actor Carlo De Mejo (1080p; 18:13) – An interview with Carlo De Mejo in English from a previous release.
  • NEW A Trip Through Bonaventure Cemetery (1080i; 4:49) – a newly-filmed drone exploration of Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia taking the viewer through the various sights from the film.
  • Catriona Maccoll video intro from 2001 (1080p; 5:14) – a short intro from MacColl that dives into her memories of the film and her experiences filming it.
  • Image Gallery (no chapter breaks; 8:41) 
  • Archival interviews with cast and crew from “Paura, Lucio Fulci Remembered Vol. 1” (1080p; 42:42) – a number of interviews from much of the cast reminiscing about the filming of City of the Living Dead as well as experiences with working with Fulci.
  • Trailers (1080p; 6:35)
  • All Region
  • NEW Double sided Blu-ray wrap with artwork by Matthew Therrien – reversible artwork.


City of the Living Dead has had a lot of releases, but none have looked quite so good as Cauldron Films’ newest transfer. While the color grading does differ, the overall quality is superior. There are also a number of new extra features here, also collecting some previously released items while also missing some archival interviews. This is worth a double-dip for the visual upgrade.

Hosting screenshots is expensive. If you want to see more galleries, consider donating!
Become a patron at Patreon!
City of the Living Dead 4K extras menu
cover scan
cover scan
cover scan
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x