In all honesty this very late entry in the Fulci filmography is very hard to defend (like many of his later efforts). The script is lamentable, the "acting" ranges from indifferent to laughable, some of the continuity would make Ed Wood blush and the "story" is rather weak to say the least. In fact, the whole thing is really just a way of getting extra mileage out of some of Fulci's low-grade television movies, and also the work of a few other directors, like Andrea Bianchi. But it does have a couple of things going for it. For a start, it must be one of the most violent films I've ever seen (even by Fulci's standards). And if, like me, you enjoy Fulci's frequent cameos in his movies, then at last you get to see him take a lead role ... the old bugger even gets to sail off into the sunset with a bikini-clad euro-babe on his arm at the end!
The daft story has been cobbled together purely as a vehicle for showing lots and lots of clips from other films. It's a bit like those American TV series' that used to save on the budget by including a show with a story that simply served as a pretext for replaying lots of clips from previous episodes. The plus side is that most of the clips on show in "Nightmare Concert", are actually worth seeing; and since most of Fulci's TV movies are rather hard to come by, this is a good way of getting to see all the good bits (i.e. some incredibly nasty killings and some indefensibly sleazy nudity) without having to sit through the rest of what is mostly, rather piss-poor fare.
Basically, old Lucio plays a film director ... by the name of Lucio Fulci! He has made his name making violent horror movies but is going through a bit of a personal crisis -- the movies he makes are starting to play on his mind, and he resents the fact that he can't make any other kind of film but violent splatter-fests since "no-one would buy a ticket" for any other kind. When he starts to suffer from blackouts and hallucinations, Fulci visits a neighbour, Dr Schwarz (David L. Thompson) who is a psychiatrist. The doctor subjects Mr Fulci to some hypnotherapy, but, after the director has left, it turns out that Dr Schwarz is a demented psychopath! During the hypnotherapy session he has used autosuggestion to make Fulci suffer a violent hallucination whenever he hears a certain signal. Most of the remainder of the film consists of Fulci wandering around in a bit of a daze, furtively followed by a goggle-eyed Schwarz, who murders people and then cons poor old Fulci into thinking he himself is the killer.
Can you guess the clever way all those clips get worked into the plot? That's right! Every time Fulci has one of those "violent hallucinations", we get to see a clip of someone (usually a semi-nude woman) getting hacked, beaten, clubbed, knifed, decapitated, garroted or minced, or a combination of the above. Also, Fulci (the character) is working on a film at the beginning, so some clips from "Touch of Death" (a Fulci film starring Bret Halsey) are used to represent it. If the clips were just used in these ways it would have worked quite well, but unfortunately, some of Dr Schwarz's murders are also clips from other movies with added inserts of David L. Thompson dressed in the same way as the killer from the clips. This is where things go a bit "Ed Wood" because the inserts are so painfully obvious it's laughable. They don't match up at all!
I must say, that David L. Thompson's performance in this movie is quite bizarre! He completely hams it up in a most extraordinary fashion, displaying a large repertoire of grins, grimaces and manically crazed expressions. This leads to a rather inconsistent tone: sometimes the film comes over as a rather bleak black comedy (Fulci seems to be playing it straight, with a touch of deadpan humour here and there), but then you have Thompson cackling his way through the film like a hyena on speed, completely ruining any atmosphere that it may have falteringly mustered.
The cheapness of the whole affair also ruins the ending of the film. Quite simply ... there isn't one! We merely hear about it in a piece of dialogue. Obviously the budget didn't stretch as far as filming anything that involved more than Fulci wandering around looking glum and Thompson grinning like an idiot. Presumably, no clips could be found to provide a fitting climax either!
Despite all these drawbacks though, it has to be said that there is something mesmerising about this film. The nastiness of some of the clips on offer, and the sheer quantity of them, does leave one feeling rather shell-shocked, especially since they can pop up at any time. The basic idea is quite a good one, very similar to Wes Craven's New Nightmare in many ways, and it's way more disturbing than that particular film for a start. It's tempting to speculate on how autobiographical the film is in terms of the character Fulci plays. Did he really hate the kind of movies he was making as much as he does in the film? There is some rather cheeky humour from the old maestro though: at one point, after the director has had one of his hallucinations followed by a blackout, he is told that he has just gone nuts and tried to ravage a female studio executive. When a chastened Fulci approaches the woman to apologise for his lewd behaviour, she exclaims: "Oh! Mr Fulci! I've never experienced such pleasure!" The glum director looks at her sourly and simply murmurs, "hmmm".
I think Fulci fans will be fascinated by this film, even if they don't generally enjoy his later, very low budget, efforts. Also, it must be noted that this is one film still yet to find favour with the UK's censorship body, the BBFC. Even films like "Cannibal Holocaust" are getting passed these days (though they are cut to ribbons and not worth bothering with as a result). But "Nightmare Concert" is so choke full of outrageous violence that it is quite impossible to edit down -- there wouldn't be a lot left! Consequently even the BBFC's more liberal regime refused to give the film a certificate.
The DVD is a German PAL, Region 0 edition on the Astro label. It has a very grainy, washed out transfer with a basic mono soundtrack -- serviceable but nothing special. The audio contains English and German dubs, but no Italian soundtrack or subtitles. Image have been threatening to release this as part of their Euro-Shock collection for ages, but so far it has failed to materialise. The film is definitely one of Fulci's more interesting later offerings and deserves a decent release. Hopefully it will get one from someone eventually.