- Complete Monster: Elizabeth Selwyn is the leader of a witch coven in the ghost town of Whitewood, Massachusetts. She and her followers offer two sacrifices a year in exchange for immortality. Prior to being burned at the stake, she had sacrificed many victims, including children, and cursed the town to degenerate into Unholy Ground. She sacrifices Nan when she finds the underground tunnel, and then goes after Nan's brother, Dick, her boyfriend, Tom, and acquaintance, Patricia, once they arrive in Whitewood. Selwyn orders the mute servant girl she abused, Lottie, murdered for trying to tell Dick the truth about her. At the film's climax, she takes Patricia away with the intention of sacrificing her, and throws a dagger at Tom's back while he's trying to lift the cross in the graveyard, and he dies shortly after. Leaving her own followers to die at the film's climax, Elizabeth Selwyn is a murderous witch obsessed with her own self-preservation and immortality.
- Cult Classic: Not a great hit at the Box Office but it has acquired a modest fan base from those who saw it frequently aired on TV.
- Designated Hero: Dick doesn't have many heroic traits. He shows no concern for his sister's mysterious disappearance, and must be persuaded by Nan's boyfriend to investigate. Maitland would arguably have made for a more likable hero.
- Ear Worm:
- The eerie music that accompanies the opening credits will get stuck in your head and haunt your dreams.
- The witches' ominous chanting is haunting.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: Bill Maitland proves to be Properly Paranoid about Driscoll, tries his best to investigate what happened to Nan and survives a deadly car crash to save the day in the end - which proves to be a Dying Moment of Awesome.
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- It's hard to watch the scenes where Nan, Richard and Maitland are given directions and not think of the Harbinger from The Cabin in the Woods.
- Christopher Lee gets to be on the other side of devil worship in The Devil Rides Out eight years after this one. And he's back on the first side with To The Devil A Daughter.
- The amount of similarities to Psycho - featuring a creepy hotel as the setting, the protagonist being murdered halfway through, her sibling investigating the disappearance and a climax involving the villainess's withered face. Both films came out in the same year, and City of the Dead actually came out first. While the novel Psycho was out before, it wasn't well-known and most of the similarities came from Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation changes.
- The movie shows Elizabeth Selwyn being burned at the stake, which of course didn't happen in America. But it did happen in Britain, which becomes very amusing when you learn that the film was made in Britain and featured a cast using Fake American accents. Irony indeed.
- Just Here for Godzilla: Some watch the movie just for Christopher Lee doing an American accent.
- Narm Charm:
- The intense way Driscoll acts in his lecture seems like an obvious flag that he's going to be an antagonist. But Christopher Lee is still creepy as hell.
- The heavy fog is so obviously dry ice that it's amusing, but it does still help with the atmosphere.
- Nightmare Fuel:
- The burning of Elizabeth Selwyn at the start. Even if she did kind of deserve it, but Jesus!
- Nan's death is so shocking because it's unexpected and it's not clear exactly what's happening in Whitewood.
- Pat finding the dead bird and branch of woodbine on her door - signalling that she's to be the next sacrifice.
- Tear Jerker: Mrs Newlis cruelly strangling Lottie to death after the girl is caught trying to warn Dick.
- Values Dissonance:
- Both Nan and Pat freely pick up a hitchhiker that they've just met, which raises What an Idiot! eyebrows among modern viewers.
- Nan going alone to a creepy town to stay for two weeks also seems like a relic from the days before 'stranger danger'.
- The Woobie: Lottie, the mistreated mute.
YMMV / City of the Dead