Lucio Fulci

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Lucio Fulci
Born (1927-06-17)17 June 1927
Rome, Italy
Died 13 March 1996(1996-03-13) (aged 68)
Rome, Italy
Occupation Film director, film producer, screenwriter, actor
Children 2 daughters, Camilla Fulci and Antonella Fulci

Lucio Fulci (Italian: [ˈlutʃo ˈfultʃi]; 17 June 1927 – 13 March 1996) was an Italian film director, screenwriter and actor. He is perhaps best known for his gore films, including Zombi 2 (1979) and The Beyond (1981), although he made films in genres as diverse as giallo, western and comedy. Fulci is known as the "Godfather of Gore",[1] a title also given to Herschell Gordon Lewis.

Life and career[edit]

Fulci was born in Rome, Italy on 17 June 1927. After studying medicine in college and being employed for a time as an art critic,[2] Fulci opted for a film career first as a screenwriter, then later as a director, working initially in the comedy field. In the early to mid-1960s, Fulci directed around 18 Italian comedies, many of them starring the famous Italian comedian duo of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia. Most of these early films did not enjoy wider distribution in English-speaking countries, and are generally not available in English.

In 1969, he moved into the thriller arena, directing gialli (such as A Lizard in a Woman's Skin and The Psychic) and spaghetti westerns (such as Massacre Time and Four of the Apocalypse) that were both commercially successful and controversial in their depiction of violence and religion. Some of the special effects in Lizard involving mutilated dogs in a vivisection room were so realistic, Fulci was dragged into court and charged with animal cruelty, until he showed the artificial canine puppets (created by special effects maestro Carlo Rambaldi) to the judge and explained that they weren't real animals.

The first film to gain him actual notoriety in his native country, Don't Torture a Duckling, combined scathing social commentary with the director's soon-to-be-trademark graphic violence. Fulci had a Catholic upbringing and referred to himself as a Catholic.[3] Despite this, some of his movies (such as Beatrice Cenci and Don't Torture a Duckling) have been viewed as severely anti-Catholic.[4] In one of his films, a priest is depicted as a homicidal child killer, while in another film, a priest commits suicide by hanging himself in a cemetery and is reincarnated as a murderous demon.

In 1979, he achieved his international breakthrough with Zombi 2 (aka Zombie), a violent zombie film that was marketed in European territories as a sequel to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978).[5] He quickly followed it up with several other tales of horror and the supernatural, many also featuring shambling, maggot-infested zombies which were common horror film fodder at the time. His features released from 1979 through 1983 (most of them scripted by famed Italian screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti) were described by some critics as being among the most violent and gory films ever made. City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981), The House by the Cemetery (1981), The Black Cat (1981), The New York Ripper (1982) and Manhattan Baby (1982) were among his biggest hits, all of which featured extreme levels of on-screen blood and cruelty.

Several of Fulci's movies released in America were censored by the film distributor to ensure an R rating (such as The Beyond, which was originally released on video in edited form as Seven Doors of Death) or were released Unrated in order to avoid an X-rating (as with Zombie and House by the Cemetery) which would have greatly restricted the films' target audiences to adults. The unrated films often played worldwide in drive-ins and grindhouses to hordes of delighted teenagers and horror fanatics. Many of Fulci's horror films tend to contain "injury to the eye" sequences, in which a character's eyeball is either pierced or pulled out of its socket, usually in lingering, close-up detail.[citation needed]

Several of Fulci's movies were prohibited in Europe or were released in heavily cut versions. Of the original 72 films on the infamous video nasty list in the United Kingdom, three belonged to Fulci: Zombie (1979), The Beyond (1981), and House by the Cemetery (1981). After viewing Fulci's The New York Ripper, not only did the British Board of Film Classification refuse the film a certificate, but every single print in the country was taken to an airport and returned to Italy by order of James Ferman; it wasn't until later that VIPCO had the courage to release the film, initially outsourcing production to a foreign source under police supervision before releasing a home-grown VHS in 2002 and a DVD in 2007.[6]

German gore director Andreas Schnaas (left) and the late Lucio Fulci (right) at the 1994 Eurofest, London, England

After collaborating with screenwriter Sacchetti for six years, Fulci went off on his own in 1983 to direct the movie Conquest (a Conan-like barbarian fantasy) in Mexico, failing to involve Sacchetti in the deal. The film actually wound up doing quite poorly upon its release, and afterwards, Fulci had trouble jump-starting his working relationship with Sacchetti, who by this time had gone his own way.

Fulci became deathly ill from hepatitis in 1984 (right after he finished directing Murder Rock in New York City) and had to be hospitalized in Italy for many months, eventually getting well enough to be released. (It is possible he contracted his health problems while he was in Mexico.) Fulci spent most of 1984 hospitalized with cirrhosis, and much of 1985 recuperating at home. After 1986, with his diabetes plaguing him and the departure of screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti from Fulci's circle of friends (see "Fulci vs Sacchetti" below), Fulci was far less successful in his endeavors. Most of Fulci's films after 1984 were poorly written and cheaply produced.

In 1988, he directed about two-thirds of Zombi 3 in the Philippines before having to return abruptly to Italy due to a second bout of hepatitis, and the film was finished by an uncredited Bruno Mattei. Fulci hated the finished product and tried unsuccessfully to get his name removed from the credits. Mattei has said in interviews that the film was Fulci's, and that he (Mattei) just added a few extra scenes to pad out the running time.

In 1989, Fulci was hired to direct a pair of made-for-Italian-TV horror movies, neither of which aired in Italy due to the high amount of gore and violence (they were however later released on DVD outside of Italy). Fulci's intended comeback films Demonia and A Cat in the Brain (both produced in 1990) were disappointments to his fans in terms of overall quality, and almost didn't get released. His final project, the 1991 psychological thriller The Door to Silence (based on a short story written by Fulci) received terrible reviews and pretty much terminated his career.[7]

For the last decade of his life, Fulci suffered from emotional and health problems, reflected by a marked decline in the quality of his work. His wife's suicide in 1969 and a daughter's fatal car accident a few years later always weighed heavily on him (his wife Maria Fulci had killed herself with gas after learning she had inoperable cancer). His hyper-violent films such as The New York Ripper caused him to be branded a misogynist by the critics, although he always claimed that he loved women. Fulci suffered from severe problems with his feet during the late 1980s which was caused by diabetes, but tried to hide the severity of his illness from his friends and associates so that he wouldn't be deemed unemployable.

During 1987 to 1989, Fulci began lending his name to the credits of some very low-budget horror films that he hadn't directed, simply to make the films more distributable outside of Italy. Although he did appear to have supervised the gore effects in both The Curse and The Murder Secret, he was hardly involved with some of the other projects that nonetheless bore the "Lucio Fulci Presents" banner on their advertising material (see section "Films Presented by Lucio Fulci" below). Fulci tried unsuccessfully to have his name removed from the credits of one film in particular (Gianni Martucci's The Red Monks), since he swore he had no involvement with making that film. The following year, in reciprocation for the use of his name, Fulci was permitted to use gore footage culled from these films to make his notorious Cat in the Brain, in which he played himself.

Some of Fulci's fans have retroactively argued that at his peak, Fulci's fame and popularity were on a par with that of Dario Argento, another famous Italian horror film director with whom Fulci had avoided working and whom Fulci had even publicly badmouthed from time to time. Fulci was most likely resentful of Argento since Dario had always received critical acclaim and recognition in (and outside of) Italy, and Fulci had been regarded there as something of a "horror film hack" (Fulci told friends that when he died, he predicted that the Italian newspapers would all misspell his name, if they even mentioned him at all).

Fulci and Argento met in 1995 and agreed to collaborate on a horror film called Wax Mask (a remake of the 1953 Vincent Price horror classic House of Wax, based on a story by Gaston Leroux). Argento claimed he had heard about Fulci's miserable circumstances at the time (he said he was shocked at how thin and sickly Fulci appeared at their meeting) and wanted to offer him a chance for a comeback. Fulci wrote a plot synopsis and a screenplay for Argento and thought that he was slated to direct the film as well, but he died before filming could begin (due to a series of delays caused by Argento's involvement with his own film, The Stendhal Syndrome, at the time). Being in poor health, Fulci was furious that the filming was delayed so many times (although one delay was caused by his own illness unfortunately), as he knew he was running out of time and wanted desperately to make one last, big-budget film before he died. Wax Mask was eventually directed by former special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti. Reportedly the screenplay was entirely reworked by screenwriter Daniele Stroppa after Fulci's death, so the finished film sadly bears little resemblance to Fulci's original screenplay (Stroppa had co-written two of Fulci's earlier films, The House of Clocks and Voices from Beyond).

Fulci died alone in his sleep at his home in Rome on the afternoon of 13 March 1996 of complications from diabetes at age 68. There was some controversy regarding his death. Toward the end of his life, Fulci had lost his house and was forced to move into a small apartment. Since Fulci had been so despondent in his later years, it was thought perhaps that he had intentionally allowed himself to die by not taking his medications, but no one really knows since he was alone at the time of his death.

Fulci's films remained generally ignored or dismissed by the mainstream critical establishment for many years, who regarded his work as pure exploitation. However, genre fans appreciated his films as being stylish exercises in extreme gore, and at least one of his films, namely The Beyond, has "amassed a large and dedicated following".[8] In 1998, The Beyond was re-released to theaters by Quentin Tarantino,[9] who has often cited the film, and Fulci himself, as a major source of inspiration. Fulci's earlier, lesser-known giallo Don't Torture a Duckling (1972) received some critical acclaim. Fulci regarded two of his films, Don't Torture a Duckling and Beatrice Cenci, as his best work (the latter which he said his wife had liked the best of all his films), and considered both Zombi 2 and The Beyond as the two films that forever catapulted him to cult film stardom.

Fulci was feted like royalty at the January 1996 Fangoria Horror Convention in New York City, just two months before his death. He told attendees that he had had no idea his films were so popular outside of his native Italy, as literally thousands of starstruck fans braved blizzard conditions all that weekend to meet him.

Fulci vs. Sacchetti[edit]

Fulci and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti share many screen credits from 1977 to 1983. Indeed, most of Fulci's most celebrated horror films were written by Sacchetti. After collaborating with Sacchetti for six years, Fulci went off on his own in 1983 to direct Conquest in Mexico, failing to involve Sacchetti in the deal. The film was supposed to be a very big budget "A" picture, and Sacchetti allegedly resented the fact that Fulci had not thought to involve him in the project. The film actually wound up doing quite poorly upon its release, and afterwards, Fulci had trouble jump-starting his working relationship with Sacchetti, who by this time had gone his own way. Most Fulci fans agree that the films Fulci made without Sacchetti after 1983 were not nearly as good as their previous collaborative efforts.

In 1987, Fulci accused Sacchetti of stealing a story idea of his (a project which they were planning to do together in 1983 after Fulci returned from Mexico). He claimed that Sacchetti later allowed director Lamberto Bava to direct the project (under the title Per Sempre / Until Death) in 1987 without Fulci's knowledge that the film was even being made. Luca M. Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta's book Spaghetti Nightmares, publishes two full interviews, one with Fulci and one with Sacchetti, explaining the reasons for the fallout.

Fulci's version is as follows: "One day I told Dardano the plot of my Evil Comes Back (later retitled Per Sempre/Until Death), a sequel on a fantastic note to The Postman Always Rings Twice, and he proposed it to several producers with my name on it as the director. Then, one day, he registered the screenplay with his name on it! (laughs) I later found out that he'd sold the story idea to a producer named Sergio Martino, but, in view of our past friendship, I decided not to sue him. I just broke off all relations with him. He is indeed a very good scriptwriter though."

Sacchetti's version differs: "When I proposed to Lucio my original treatment for Per Sempre, which was nothing more than a sequel to The Postman Always Rings Twice in which a dead man returns to life, he became really enthusiastic and had my story read by a producer friend of his who then commissioned me to write a finished script. At that time, Fulci assumed that he would direct it. Later, for various reasons, problems arose and the film was never made. Four years later, Bava used my script to make Per Sempre and Fulci, who wasn't working much at the time, got angry with me and started hurling these accusations. It's one thing for him to say that we were originally supposed to make the film together, but to claim that he originated the story and that I stole it from him is pure science fiction".

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Worked as Notes
Director Writer Producer
1953 Un giorno in pretura Yes English: A Day in Court.
1953 L'uomo, la bestia e la virtù Yes English: Man, Beast and Virtue
1953 Ci troviamo in galleria Yes English: Let's Meet in the Gallery; aka Une fille formidable
1954 Un americano a Roma Yes English: An American in Rome
1955 Piccola posta Yes English: The Letters Page
1955 La ragazza di via Veneto Yes English: The Girl from Veneto Street
1955 Io sono la primula rossa Yes English: I Am The Most Wanted
1955 Totò all'inferno Yes English: Toto in Hell
1955 Le avventure di Giacomo Casanova Yes English: The Adventures of Giacomo Casanova; aka The Sins of Casanova
1958 Guardia, ladro e cameriera Yes English: Cop, Thief and Maid
1958 Totò nella luna Yes English: Toto On The Moon
1959 I ladri Yes Yes English: The Thieves
1959 Ragazzi del Juke-Box Yes Yes English: Jukebox Kids
1959 The Last Days of Pompeii Yes Italian: Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei
1960 Urlatori alla sbarra Yes English: Howlers in the Dock
1961 Totò, Peppino e... la dolce vita Yes English: Totò, Peppino and the Sweet Life
1961 Letto a tre piazze Yes English: The King-sized Bed
1962 Colpo gobbo all'italiana Yes English: Getting Away With It...Italian Style
1962 I due della legione straniera Yes Yes English: Those Two in the Foreign Legion
1962 Le massaggiatrici Yes English: The Masseuses
1963 Uno strano tipo Yes Yes English: A Strange Type
1963 Gli imbroglioni Yes Yes English: The Swindlers
1964 I maniaci Yes English: The Maniacs
1964 I due evasi di Sing Sing Yes Yes English: Two Escapees from Sing Sing
1964 I due pericoli pubblici Yes Yes English: The Two Public Enemies
1964 002 agenti segretissimi Yes Yes English: Oh! Those Most Secret Agents
1965 Come inguaiammo l'esercito Yes English: How We Got the Army in Trouble; aka The Two Rookies
1965 002 operazione Luna Yes English: 002 Operation Moon; aka Dos cosmonautas a la fuerza (Two Unwilling Cosmonauts). (story)
1965 I due parà Yes Yes English: The Two Parachutists
1966 Come svaligiammo la banca d'Italia Yes Yes English: How We Robbed the Bank of Italy
1966 Massacre Time Yes Italian: Le colt cantarono la morte e fu...tempo di massacro; aka The Brute and the Beast, aka Colt Concert
1967 Come rubammo la bomba atomica Yes English: How We Stole the Atomic Bomb
1967 Il lungo, il corto, il gatto Yes English: The Long, The Short, The Cat
1967 El hombre que mató a Billy el Niño Yes English: The Man Who Killed Billy the Kid; aka I'll Kill Him and Return Alone
1967 Operazione San Pietro Yes Yes English: Operation St. Peter's
1968 I due crociati Yes English: The Two Crusaders
1969 Double Face Yes Italian: A doppia faccia; aka Liz and Helen (Fulci wrote the plot only)
1969 One on Top of the Other Yes Yes aka Perversion Story, aka Una sull'altra
1969 Beatrice Cenci Yes Yes aka The Conspiracy of Torture
1971 A Lizard in a Woman's Skin Yes Yes Italian: Una lucertola con la pelle di donna; aka Schizoid
1972 Ettore lo fusto Yes English: Hector the Mighty
1972 The Eroticist Yes Yes Italian: All'onorevole piacciono le donne (Nonostante le apparenze... e purché la nazione non lo sappia) (Translation: The Senator Likes Women...Despite Appearances and Provided the Nation Doesn't Know)
1972 Don't Torture a Duckling Yes Yes Italian: Non si sevizia un paperino; aka The Long Night of Exorcism
1973 White Fang Yes Italian: Zanna Bianca
1974 Challenge to White Fang Yes Yes Italian: Il ritorno di Zanna Bianca / The Return of White Fang
1975 Dracula in the Provinces Yes Italian: Il cavaliere Costante Nicosia demoniaco, ovvero: Dracula in Brianza, aka Young Dracula
1975 Four of the Apocalypse Yes Italian: I quattro dell'apocalisse
1976 La Pretora (The Magistrate) Yes Italian: aka My Sister in Law
1977 Sette note in nero (The Psychic) Yes Yes Italian: Seven Black Notes; aka The Psychic, aka Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes
1978 Silver Saddle Yes Italian: Sella d'argento; aka They Died With Their Boots On
1979 Zombi 2 (Zombie) Yes aka Zombie, aka Zombie Flesh Eaters, aka Island of the Living Dead
1980 Un uomo da ridere Yes Yes English: A Man to Laugh At (Italian TV mini-series/ never dubbed in English)
1980 Contraband Yes Yes Italian: Luca il contrabbandiere / Luca the Smuggler; aka The Naples Connection, aka The Smuggler
1980 City of the Living Dead Yes Yes Yes Italian: Paura nella città dei morti viventi; aka The Gates of Hell
1981 The Black Cat Yes Yes Italian: Black Cat (Gatto Nero)
1981 The Beyond Yes Yes Italian: ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà; aka Seven Doors of Death (edited video release)
1981 The House by the Cemetery Yes Yes Italian: Quella villa accanto al cimitero; aka Zombie Hell House, aka Freudstein
1982 The New York Ripper Yes Yes Italian: Lo squartatore di New York
1982 Manhattan Baby Yes Italian: L'occhio del male (The Evil Eye); aka Eye of the Evil Dead, aka Possessed
1983 Conquest Yes Spanish: Conquista de la Tierra Perdida / Conquest of the Lost Land (filmed in Mexico)
1983 The New Gladiators Yes Yes Italian: I guerrieri dell'anno 2072 / Warriors of the Year 2072; aka Rome 2072: The Fighter Centurions
1983 Murder Rock Yes Yes Italian: Murderock - Uccide a passo di danza; aka Murder Rock Dancing Death, aka The Demon is Loose! (filmed in NY City)
1985 La gabbia (The Cage) Yes aka Dead Fright (drama directed by Giuseppe Griffi, co-starring Florinda Bolkan; Fulci only worked on the screenplay)
1986 The Devil's Honey Yes Yes Italian: Il miele del diavolo; aka Dangerous Obsession (Fulci's comeback film after his illness)
1987 Aenigma Yes Yes No Italian title (filmed entirely in Yugoslavia)
1987 The Curse Yes aka The Farm (directed by David Keith; Fulci only worked on the special effects & co-produced the film)
1988 Zombi 3 Yes Completed by Bruno Mattei after Fulci became ill; filmed entirely in the Philippines
1988 Touch of Death Yes Yes Italian: Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio / When Alice Broke the Looking Glass
1988 Sodoma's Ghost (The Ghosts of Sodom) Yes Yes Italian: Il fantasma di Sodoma; aka The Ghosts of Sodom
1988 The Murder Secret Yes Italian: Non avere paura della zia Marta / Don't Be Afraid of Aunt Martha; aka Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things (directed by Mario Bianchi; Fulci only worked on the special FX & co-produced the film)
1989 Night Club Yes No Italian title; directed by Sergio Corbucci; Fulci only worked on plot)
1989 The Sweet House of Horrors Yes Yes Italian: La dolce casa degli orrori; made for Italian TV.
1989 The House of Clocks Yes Yes Italian: La casa nel tempo / The House of Time; made for Italian TV.
1990 Demonia Yes Yes aka Liza
1990 A Cat in the Brain Yes Yes Italian: Un gatto nel cervello; aka Nightmare Concert
1991 Voices from Beyond Yes Yes Italian release title: Voci dal profondo / Voices From The Deep
1991 Door to Silence Yes Yes Italian: Le porte del silenzio; produced by Joe D'Amato
1997 The Wax Mask Yes aka MDC: Maschera di cera, aka Wax Mask (film was released posthumously; Fulci's screenplay was almost entirely rewritten)

Films "presented" by Lucio Fulci[edit]

  • The Curse (1987) (aka The Farm) – Fulci was credited as co-producer on this H. P. Lovecraft adaptation, based on The Colour Out of Space, which was directed by David Keith. Fulci also supervised the gore effects.
  • The Murder Secret (1988) (aka Non avere paura della zia Marta / Don't Be Afraid of Aunt Martha, aka Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things) – Fulci was credited as co-producer on this film directed by Mario Bianchi and also supervised the gore effects.
  • The Red Monks (1988) (aka I Frati Rossi) – Fulci fought in vain to have his name removed from this film's credits; the film was directed by Gianni Martucci whom Fulci claimed he never even met, and Fulci was credited with handling the film's special effects, which he denied having been involved with.
  • Massacre (1989)(aka The Death of the Medium) – Fulci lent his name as co-producer on this film directed by Andrea Bianchi, although he claimed he was hardly involved at all with making it.
  • Bloody Psycho (1989) (aka The Snake House, aka Lo Specchio / The Mirror, aka Nel Nido del Serpente / In the Nest of the Serpent) – Fulci lent his name as co-producer on this film directed by Leandro Luchetti; Fulci's involvement is dubious.
  • Escape from Death (1989) (aka Luna di Sangue/ Moon of Blood) – Fulci lent his name as co-producer on this film directed by Enzo Milioni; Fulci's involvement is dubious.
  • Hansel and Gretel (1989) (aka Non Si Serviziano i Bambini / Don't Torture the Children) – Fulci was said to have co-directed this film with Giovanni Simonelli; Fulci's involvement is dubious.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Cacciatore, Giacomo (2004). Il terrorista dei generi, tutto il cinema di Lucio Fulci. Rome, Italy: Un mondo a parte. 
  • Thrower, Stephen (1999). Beyond Terror, the films of Lucio Fulci. FAB Press. 
  • Balun, Chas; [special introduction by Antonella Fulci] (1997). Lucio Fulci: Beyond the Gates (2nd ed.). Key West, Florida: Fantasma Books. ISBN 1-888214-07-4. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Lucio Fulci: Godfather of Gore". houseofhorrors.com. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  2. ^ MacCormack, Patricia (22 April 2004). "Lucio Fulci". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "[Lucio Fulci interview]". Starburst (48). August 1982. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Atmosfear – 20 Must-see Italian Horror films (1957-1987) PART III". landmarkafterdark.com. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Maçek III, J. C. (15 June 2012). "The Zombification Family Tree: Legacy of the Living Dead". PopMatters. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "The New York Ripper (1982) - Trivia". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  7. ^ Gore, Lucius. "Horror Movie Review of Zombi 3 (Lucio Fulci)". ESplatter. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Kay, Glenn (2008). Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide. Chicago Review Press. p. 113. ISBN 1-55652-770-5. 
  9. ^ "Grindhouse Releasing Presents '80s Horror Classics Pieces and The Beyond". DVD Drive-In. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 

External links[edit]