Darkening the Italian Screen
Published by McFarland, 2019. 334 pages
By Eugenio Ercolani
As fans of Italian genre films, we all know the names of Argento, Bava, Soavi, and (hopefully) Freda. But there were so many that worked in the industry in the ’60s through the ’80s, that so many get lost in the shuffle. Maybe we’ve heard of them, or maybe we know a movie or two they did, but that’s it. That is what I love about this book, that it brings light to more than a few people that had connections to some of the films we love, but maybe didn’t know as much about them.
Going through the list of names interviewed in this book, there were a few that I was familiar with, such as Umberto Lenzi, Ruggero Deodato, Enzo G. Castellari, and Sergio Martino. But even with these guys, there were plenty of interesting and sometimes downright amazing stories to be learned within these pages, especially when we learn about their beginnings in the industry. Other names like Alberto De Martino or Mario Caiano, I was somewhat familiar with, but not a lot. Then there were names that I wasn’t as familiar with at all, such as Giulio Petroni or Franco Rossetti. But the great thing about if you’ve been a fan of the Italian film genre for any length of time, you will have at least heard of the films they are talking about, if you haven’t seen them already. Continue reading
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.
Giallo Cinema and Its Folktale Roots: A Critical Study of 10 Films, 1962-1987
By Michael Sevastakis
Published by McFarland, 2016. 240 pages. $39.95.