“CITY OF THE DEAD”— “Human Blood Keeps Them Alive Forever

“City Of The Dead”

“Human Blood Keeps Them Alive Forever

Amos Lassen

College student Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) is studying witchcraft in the history class of Professor Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee) and encouraged by him to go to the isolated village of Whitewood, Massachusetts to do first-hand research for a week or two on a term paper on the legends of witchcraft. Her brother and fiancée tease her about it and have voiced their concerns  but Nan checks into the decaying Raven’s Inn, built on the site where in 1692 where the witch Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel) was burned at the stake. In retaliation, she put a curse on her executioners. The proprietor of the inn is the starchy Ms. Newless (also played by Jessel) and the only inn employee is the frightened mute girl Lottie (Ann Beach). Only zombie-like figures are seen in the village and they are dressed as monks and conduct rituals for devil worship. John Moxey directs this keeping it in black and white and atmospherically foggy and ghost-like. Writers George Baxt and Desmond Dickinson base it on the story by Milton Subotsky. It is more creepy than scary.

On Candelmas Eve, Nan disappears down the trap door in her room after hearing chants. When her science professor brother Dick (Dennis Lotus) and her concerned boyfriend Bill Maitland (Tom Naylor) do not hear from her, they go their separate ways to the village. Dick finds out that she borrowed a valuable book on witchcraft from Pat Russell (Betta St. John), the newly arrived to the village granddaughter of the blind Reverend Russell (Norman Macowan). The rescuers, however, arrive too late and Nan is made a human sacrifice for uncovering the witch’s coven and learning that Ms. Newless is Elizabeth Selwyn. Tom, though critically wounded by a thrown knife from Newless, lifts the cemetery cross and its shadow destroys all the witches and allows Dick and Pat to safely flee. This might sound confusing but it is not and everything is clearly explained.

The setting is a spooky town that becomes even scarier when Nan discovers that the owner of the Raven’s Inn, Mrs. Newlis is, in fact, a 268-year old witch. Jessel sold her soul to the Devil to regain her life after being burned at the stake. The whole town is her coven, including Stevenson’s kindly history professor (Christopher Lee).

This classic of British horror has been painstakingly restored and is now complete and uncut; including more than 2 minutes of additional footage, which had been cut from the U.S. version.

Bonus Materials include:

  • 45-minute interview with Christopher Lee
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Feature length Commentary with actor Christopher Lee

Leave a Reply