The City of the Dead aka Horror Hotel

In the 17th century, the local puritans of the town of Whitewood in Massachusetts burned a witch at the stake.  As the flames engulfed her she swore vengeance and we cut to the modern day.  Professor Alan Driscoll is an expert on the occult and encourages one of his students Nan Barlow to go to Whitewood for research on her college paper.

Nan checks into the town inn (hence the US title Horror Hotel) and is greeted by the strange owner Mrs. Newless and her mute daughter Lottie.  Troubled by strange noises which seem to be coming from under her room, Nan is assured by Mrs. Newless it’s nothing.  Next thing you know Nan is being abducted by hooded weirdos and sacrificed to the devil.

After a couple of weeks her brother and boyfriend become concerned, they contact the police who travel to Whitewood to investigate.  They are assured by Mrs. Newless Nan just left and didn’t her bill.

City of the Dead is an atmospheric well made chiller from the guys who would later form Amicus (Takes from the Crypt, The Beast Must Die).  Christopher Lee is suitably sinister and considering the film is supposed to be set in America, the Shepperton Siudios sets in England are excellent.  The fog machines get a serious work out and the whole film is clouded in mist.

The restoration on the film is first class and Arrow (and VCI in the US) have put together lots of decent extras for a £45,000 horror film from 1960.  This includes a great interview with the late Christopher Lee, a talk with the director and one of the film’s stars Venetia Stevenson amongst other goodies.  For completists ‘Horror Hotel’ the slightly shorter version is on the disc as well and that’s also been restored.

I’ve always liked the film and like I said above it literally drips with atmosphere and dread.  With this beautiful release we can cherish The City of the Dead even more.  Cracking stuff.

  • Starring Christoper Lee  Dennis Lotis  Valentine Dyall  Patricia Jessel
  • Director John Moxey
  • Distributor Arrow Video