35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
This is a slightly different version to Horror Hotel released a few years ago. For one thing, there are no cuts unlike the previous version. Another, picture and sound is far superior as well and also contains extras which I am sure movie fans of Christopher Lee will find very interesting indeed. Plus an interview with Venetia Stevenson, the tragic heroine of the movie. Overall, its a really good buy of a little known Horror Flick first released about 1961 and has stood the test of time. Its spooky, enhanced by its haunting sets in a fog bound village. Much of the movie is dark, but the DVD version looks very sharp and clear. Sound, although mono is adequate. A classy movie which deserves to be seen by a new generation of Horror fans. They knew how to make them in those days.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2007
This is a classic low budget horror B-movie from 1960. The acting performances and set design are highly stylized and although very visual a lot is left to the imagination. It's shot in B&W and the lighting and cinematography are excellent. This film was a low budget production but the overall package exceeds the sum of it's parts - its high quallity and like a fine wine it will get better with age.
You should buy the VCI version which is the widescreen collector's edition. It was painstaking restored with the cooperation of the British Film Institute and is complete and uncut. The digital transfer is excellent and the audio (mono) is crystal clear. The are also numerous special features such as audio commentary from John Moxey and Christopher Lee. The interviews with Moxey, Lee and Stevenson are highly entertaining. This is a superb example of how a classic film should be restored and released on DVD.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 July 2013
I have to agree with all the comments on the technical quality of the VCI release. It is first class and is in all respects far superior to the odd ones that were around under the "Horror Hotel" banner.
The storyline is suitably creepy though not that taxing so the film relies upon the personalities and the excellent atmosphere created by the convincing sets and photography. The acting is far better than might be expected in a low budget film. Lee, of course, is very dependable and Valentine Dyall continued the sinister path upon which he set forth as radio's The Man in Black. The ladies all do well with Patricia Jessel being very evil as Selwyn and her modern version stated as Newless but Newlys seems more appropriate being a simple anagam of Selwyn.
The surprise for me was Dennis Lotis. He was once a singer with the great Ted Heath and his Orchestra, a role he continued in many reunions, tribute shows etc. I saw and met him a few years ago in Benidorm when he was part of a typical nostalgia night at Benidorm Palace. In this film I found his acting quite good and I know that he made a few other films in the '50s and '60s.
The cast is essentially British (Betta St. John is American but was in England for many years) and I usually have a mental block with British actors with false American accents (and vice-versa). The mid-Atlantic accents bothered me not at all here as the opening of the film is set in Puritan times and they would have been speaking English and, as the main "baddies" were immortals, their accents would not have changed.
I consider this something of a classic of the British horror genre and one to enjoy along with "Night of the Deman" and "Night of the Eagle".
It just goes to show what can be done on a small budget and a small cast.
In respect of the extras, I found them all entertaining though Lee's interview was by far the best.
I have mixed feeling about extras. They are generally a one time only event for me, interesting but not essential.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2007
I remember watching this one winters late evening, after the parents had gone to bed. The atmosphere it evoked then can still be found here twenty years later. The film is a chiller in the true sense of the word - it seeps mist, and most of the film is centred around an overgrown graveyard, lending the black and white footage a cold quality. Although Christopher Lee is in this, he's certainly not the star, and the slight hamminess of the young American actors does not detract from the mood of the film either. It comes across as a genuinely dark tale of black magic and witches. (No offence to wiccans)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2008
The quintessential black and white British chiller.
Though a studio bound production, this minor masterpiece has achieved something of a cult-status film.Shrouded in fog, the mysterious Town of Whitewood has a malevolent atmosphere throughout and the occupants are as nefarious as Mrs. Newless, the proprietress of the 'Raven's Inn'.
Patricia Jessel carries the film, perfectly cast as a sinister housekeeper...
The (VCI) edition has been expertly remastered with a reversible DVD artwork cover (best) it is not shown here,the extras contain the original (UK) cinema quad with bold black and red graphics. Exciting.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 11 April 2009
The first chiller produced by future Amicus head-honcho Milton Subotsky, The City of The Dead (1960) remains a firm, somewhat overrated favourite of horror fans, particularly in the US, where it is better known under its alternative title, Horror Hotel. With its Lovecraftian plot, structural similarities to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and Massachusetts setting, it is not difficult to understand why the film is more popular with American audiences than British ones (especially since the nearly all-British cast of this Shepperton-made potboiler are required to put on some rather wobbly accents). An atmospheric but largely illogical story of human sacrifice in a mist-covered hamlet populated almost entirely by re-incarnated witches, The City of The Dead features some gaping plot holes and sub-standard performances from its leads, and gets by largely on its memorably gloomy photography, a shocking plot twist halfway through the film, and a trio of memorably evil villains in Patricia Jessel, Christopher Lee, and the description-defying Valentine Dyall.
This is a good DVD release (perhaps a little too good, considering the middling quality of the movie itself), featuring a BFI-restored print of the film, two separate commentaries, one featuring director John Moxey, the other with Christopher Lee, and two lengthy interviews, one with Lee, the other with female lead Venetia Stevenson. The original trailer is also included. I have remarked on this in other Amazon reviews, but I think the point is a good one and worth repeating here; if Lee can find the time to contribute to prestige releases of minor films like this, then surely he could bring something to new releases of infinitely better movies from his CV, such as Horror of Dracula or The Devil Rides Out?
on 3 July 2012
If you love old horror movies , and I mean pre midsixties when things really got going with more money and such. Then this one is for you, they have restored this movie and it looks pretty darn good for a regular dvd. Before they restored this is was a mess of lines and scratches now it looks sleek with a few specks now and then. They even put back two minutes of footage. This is a spooky and creepy flick by even todays standards except there is not blood or actual showing of sacrifices in this one. It was after all 1960 and british cinema wasn't allowing to vivid violence yet. This was made by the brits that year; with the great Christopher Lee featured in it with his usual menace. However what sets this apart here is that some of the actors are veterans of the stage and cinema. This is s superior b movie in that regard. When you can get experienced people both in front and behind the camera then this is a huge step up compared to the usual first timer b movie type of affair. This is classy and although it's in black and white it doesn't hurt this one at all. And if you didn't know this was shot in England you would have thought that this was a american movie! It's about a coven of satanic witches in New England U.S.A. after all. Certainly there have been real evil covens that are not wiccans throughout history. (Satanists) but few of them actually killed people , still the whole premise is scary here even without the supernatural aspect of this movie. The scene where a young woman looks out of her window to see black hooded satanists chanting through the fog as they head for her doom is really chilling. A modern horror fan might not be as enthusiastic about these earlier movies because they are not as explicit but this one is classy and done by long time screen veterans. Therefore you don't have clunky acting or dialog in this movie. Serious film critics would give this horror gem high marks for it's atmosphere and acting. There are two long interviews with several actors here as well. Patricia Jessel is outstanding as the lead witch in this one. She had a real menace to her acting. She died at only age 47 sadly in 1966. Quite young even for those days. This is a tight little movie that isn't campy and was played straight, horror fans back then must have been delighted with this movie. As it treated them with respect and fine acting. This was also known as "Horror Hotel' but the original title suites it better.
on 23 July 2011
Horror Hotel really surprised me at just how creepy and atmospheric it was. I was expecting some camp fun, but it is actually a very effective and inventive movie for such a cheap effort. The story sucks you in, and the acting for the most part is above average. Christopher Lee is billed as the star, which isn't exactly true, but he is excellent in his scenes as professor Allan Driscoll, and Patricia Jessel is even better in a very enjoyable duel role. I also admire how director John Moxey (his movie debut. He also went on to make 'Circus Of Fear') was able to conjure up a spooky New England town with basically just a few sets and some fog. A great example of imaginative low budget horror movie making at its best! This VCI edition is probably the best copy you should get, the transfer looks fantastic and way better than my older copy which I bought a few years ago (it was a double feature along with Carnival of Souls) which looked absolutely dreadful. The story was about Nan Barlow who is studying history at an American University and takes an interest in witchcraft; her teacher, Professor Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee) recommends she go to the small New England town of Whitewood where actual witch burnings took place, to carry out some research. Despite protests from her boyfriend and brother, Nan heads off to New England and arrives in the town, discovering its very strange atmosphere and making a sole friend in the shape of Patricia Russell (Betta St. John), who had recently moved to the town to look after her grandfather. After hearing mysterious chanting coming from beneath her room at the hotel, Nan decides to investigate, and discovers that witchcraft is not quite extinct in this part of the world... City of the Living Dead does not have the most original storyline, and the notion of remote and lost villages still haunted by the events of their pasts, should be familiar to any fans of classic horror literature. Fortunately the story is very well written enough that it retains some very interesting and creepy moments, and has some rather surprising twists. The film is also noticeably short, running only 80 minutes and the pacing is good throughout and the build up and the climax is very effective. The sequences in the town of Whitewood were all shot on sound stages, and it was heavily reminiscent of the ambiance achieved by Mario Bava in his brilliant horror debut, Black Sunday. This cult classic comes recommended to all horror fans, and highly recommended to fans of classic and British horror films.
on 12 April 2012
What an incredible UFO of a movie! This is a fantastic, genuineley scary B&W 1960 British film - that came and went like a meteor, with no marked origin and no significant legacy. Everything is weird, bizarre and unsettling in this gem: the amazing shadowy light provided by genius cinematographer Desmond Dickinson, the oblique close-ups on people, witches, villagers, hoods....The formidable atmosphere created by the thick mist surrounding the village of Whitewood, the fact that this is a very British movie trying to impersonate events taking place in Massachussets (and this explains a lot of the "weird" tone of the movie), and needless to say one of the most terrifying casts EVER to grace the screen. Christopher Lee, terrific as peaceful (?) history professor Alan Driscoll, but also the wild and beautiful Patricia Jessel, who died too early (aged 47) and the sonorous Valentyne Dyall as Jethro. All of this together gives a really fascinating, heavy, nail-biting movie, directed by the relatively unknown John Moxey, who came from television and would mostly go back to television after this. This movie is one of a kind, unlike anything you have seen.
The VCI edition pulls all the stops: the copy is restored and posts a beautiful B&W, the commentaries by Lee and Moxey are insightful but the gem of all these extras is the career-length interview of Christopher Lee, revealing and very frank indeed! A masterpiece trated in a very masterpiece manner. Bravo!
on 14 December 2012
When I first saw this b-movie on an obscure Satellite TV channel a few years ago I was really impressed by the movie's dark sinister atmosphere and top notch acting (well, apart from the guy who plays 'Maitland. his voice is just totally unconvincing and annoying) Christopher Lee is on top form here as the 'Messenger Boy' sent to acquire victims for his undead colleagues.
Also the movie is worth watching for the quite sexy Patricia Jessel as head witch/landlady Elizabeth Selwyn/Mrs Newless. Sadly Patricia died in 1968, only eight years after this movie was made at the tender age of only 47. The movie makes use of some good effects for its time and the vision of Valentine Dyall (later to play the Black Guardian during the 1980's run of Doctor Who) standing silhouetted in the fog is quite unnerving too with his fantastic deep sinister voice which made him famous in radio circles.
There are some really good extras on this disc too including interviews with Christopher Lee and Venetta Stevenson. An interview with John Moxley is another bonus.
There are also two audio commentaries on this. One featuring Christopher Lee on his own and the second one featuring director John Moxley.
This was one of the reasons I choose the Region 1 version as these extras are not on the UK release.
All in all a great movie. Highly recommended.