Luigi Batzella

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Luigi Batzella (San Sperate, May 27, 1924 – San Sperate, November 18, 2008) was an Italian Z-movie director, writer and former actor who used numerous pseudonyms. Some of them were Paolo Solvay, Ivan Kathansky, A.M. Frank, Gigi Batzella, Paul Hamus, Dean Jones, Paul Selway and several others.

Life and career[edit]

Although his films were generally inept, Batzella did get to work with a number of established B-actors of the time like Richard Harrison, Gordon Mitchell, Brad Harris, Rita Calderoni and Mark Damon. There is some conflicting information on whether his real name was Paolo Solvay or Luigi Batzella. According to the IMDb it's Batzella, according to Gordon Mitchell and Richard Harrison, it's Solvay.

Batzella was essentially a hack-of-all-trades, working in a variety of genres, directing spaghetti western (A Pistol for Django, 1971), war films (When the Bell Tolls, 1970), erotic horror (Nude for Satan, 1974), and politically very incorrect Nazi-exploitation (Achtung! The Desert Tigers, 1977, and Beast in the Heat, 1977). He became notorious for working with very low budgets, using stock footage and recycling scenes from one film to another. Both Achtung! The Desert Tigers and Beast in the Heat feature footage from When the Bell Tolls.

Batzella's directing career ranged from the late 60's to the late 70's, after which he seems to have retired from film. Today, he's remembered mostly for the Nazi-exploitation films and being an Italian version of Ed Wood.

His films numbered 15, of which he also edited and wrote himself, all of them were very low budget, his first three films were westerns, shot in the same town, featuring scenes from each other inserted into the narrative and stock footage. He produced three war films, several years later, these all contain footage from each other, SS Hell Camp consisting of much stock footage, and shot in a single lab set. The rest of his films, were either shot on preexisting sets or with even more minimal budgets.

Batzella died on the 18th of November 2008; he will be greatly missed by his many cult film fans.

Partial filmography[edit]

  • When the Bell Tolls, aka Quando Suona la Campana (1970)
A weak WW II film starring Brad Harris and Brigitte Skay, worth noting mainly for supplying footage for Solvay's later films.
An erotic vampire film starring Mark Damon and Rosalba Neri, one of Solvay's better efforts.
  • Nude for Satan, aka Nuda per Satana (1974)
Arguably Solvay's best film, an experimental, erotic horror film starring Rita Calderoni. Although crude, it is strongly atmospheric, a quality lacking from all of his other films.
  • Achtung! The Desert Tigers (1977)
A mixture of a straight war film and sleazy Nazi-exploitation, with recycled scenes from When the Bell Tolls. Starring B-movie veterans Richard Harrison and Gordon Mitchell, featuring Mike Monty in a small role.
A thoroughly depraved Nazi-exploitation vehicle with torture, castration, rape and a simian man-beast (Italian character actor Salvatore Baccaro). An Italian cash-in of Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS taken one step further, Beast in the Heat is now a celebrated cult film in Z-movie fandom and was recently released on a high quality DVD. Featuring scenes from When the Bell Tolls.
  • Black Gold Dossier (1979)
An ultralow-budget, spy-action film set in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, starring Richard Harrison, Gordon Mitchell and Florence Cayrol, who spends most of the film in various stages of undress. Noteworthy for generous use of stock footage.

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