If you were a fan of Giallo films, or just Italian horror cinema, especially their cannibal sub-genre, then you definitely knew who Umberto Lenzi was. While he started off studying law, he turned to his real passion…cinema. At first working as a critic and writer, he soon moved into film production. His first film was Queen of the Seas (1958). But starting in the late ’60s, he made several well made giallos, such as So Sweet…So Perverse (1969), Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (1972), Spasmo (1974), and Eyeball (1975).
But in 1972, he made the film Sacrifice (aka Man from Deep River), which was a slight take off on the 1970 film A Man Called Horse, except Lenzi’s was a little darker. With this film, some say that he started the Italian cannibal sub-genre, even before Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980). In fact, a year after that film came out, Lenzi did his best to top even that one, with Cannibal Ferox (aka Make Them Die Slowly) which one might think would be hard to do. Whether he did or not is up to the viewers, but either way, it’s a pretty tough film to watch. He would continue to make films into the ’90s, but never with any real success, usually due to budgetary reasons.
While he is usually remembered because of the later day films he made, his early giallo titles are well worth seeking out. None the less, no matter your tastes in his films, he was one filmmaker that made a permanent impact on the horror genre. And that is something to be said.
Lenzi recently passed away on Oct. 19th, at the age of 86. He will be missed, but his films will help him and his memory live on.