Umberto Lenzi

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Umberto Lenzi
Umberto lenzi sitges2008.jpg
Umberto Lenzi at the Festival de Cine de Sitges in October 2008.
Born (1931-08-06) 6 August 1931 (age 86)
Massa Marittima, Italy
Occupation Film director and screenwriter

Umberto Lenzi (born 6 August 1931) is an Italian film director who was very active in Italian international co-production peplums, Eurospy films, spaghetti westerns, Macaroni Combat movies, Poliziotteschi films, cannibal films and giallo murder mysteries (in addition to writing many of the screenplays himself).


Early life[edit]

Umberto Lenzi was born on 6 August 1931 in the Massa Marittima province of Italy.[1][2] Lenzi was a film enthusiast as early as grade school.[2] While studying law, Lenzi also created film fan clubs.[2] Lenzi eventually put off studying law and began pursuing the technical arts of filmmaking.[2]

He enrolled in Rome's Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografica in 1956 and made the short I ragazzi di Trastevere as a final exam, a short film influenced by the writings of Pasolini.[2] Lenzi also worked as a journalist for various newspapers and magazines, including Bianco e Nero.[2]


Prior to his officially first credited film as a director, Queen of the Seas, Lenzi directed a film in Greece in 1958 titled Mia Italida stin Ellada, or Vacanze ad Atene, which was never released.[2]

Lenzi's films of the 1960s revolved around popular genres of their respective time periods.[2] In the early 1960s, Lenzi directed many adventure films including two features about Robin Hood (Il Trionfo di Robin Hood and The Invincible Masked Rider) and two films about Sandokan (Sandokan the Great (1963) and Pirates of Malaysia (1964)).[1]

By 1965, Lenzi began directing European spy films, such as 008: Operation Exterminate, followed by Superseven chiama Cairo and Le spie amano i fiori, and even adapted fumetti neri comics such as Kriminal to the screen.[3][1][4] Lenzi turned to making war films such as Desert Commandos and Legion of the Damned and westerns such as Pistol for a Hundred Coffins and All Out (1968).[3]

Lenzi had box office success in Italy with his erotic thrillers starring Carroll Baker such as Orgasmo, So Sweet... So Perverse and A Quiet Place to Kill which were influenced by French "film noir" movies drawing from the works of Jacques Deray and Rene Clement.[2]


After the commercial success of giallo films by Dario Argento, Lenzi followed the new trend with Seven Bloodstained Orchids, which referenced both Cornell Woolrich and Edgar Wallace novels, while another giallo Knife of Ice was a variation of Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase.[3] Other gialli created by Lenzi in the early 1970s included Spasmo and Eyeball (film).[3]

During the early 1970s, Lenzi also directed the first of the Italian cannibal films, with The Man from Deep River (1972), a genre that he would explore again in the 1980s with Eaten Alive! and Cannibal Ferox.[3] During the late 1970s, Lenzi devoted himself almost exclusively to crime dramas, with the exception of two war films: Battle Force and From Hell to Victory (1979).[3]


The 1980s began the decline of genre cinema in Italy.[3] Despite this, it marked the release of films that Roberto Curti described as some of Lenzi's "most notorious".[3] These included Nightmare City and the previously mentioned Cannibal Ferox.[3] Following these films, Lenzi created some sexy comedies, including Cicciabomba.[5]

Lenzi also worked on horror films towards the late 1980s, such as Ghosthouse (1988) under the name Humphrey Humbert and the slasher film Nightmare Beach which was credited to Harry Kirkpatrick as Lenzi refused to sign his name to the film.[3] Other later 1980s work included horror films made for television, such as The House of Witchraft and The House of Lost Souls.[3]

1990s and later work[edit]

In 1992, Lenzi directed David Warbeck in an adventure film called Hornsby and Rodriguez (aka Mean Tricks).[6] Lenzi ended his career with a few cop films that were similar to the American productions of that period.[3]

Lenzi later embarked on a career as a novelist, writing a series of murder mysteries set in the 1930s and '40s Cinecitta, involving real-life characters of the Italian film industry.[3]


Roberto Curti referred to Lenzi as "one of the undisputed leading figures in Italian genre cinema" and that he was "a sort of institution in Italian genre cinema."[2][3] Louis Paul suggested that Lenzi released some "quite enjoyable action films in the 1960s and some good thrilers in the '70s, he never consistently excelled at any one genre." and that Lenzi would "probably be remembered most for his cannibal-themed horror films."[7]

Select filmography[edit]

Title Year Credited as Notes Ref(s)
Director Writer Other
Queen of the Seas 1961 Yes [8]
The Triumph of Robin Hood 1962 Yes [9]
Catherine of Russia 1963 Yes Yes [10]
The Invincible Masked Rider Yes Yes [11]
Samson and the Slave Queen Yes Yes [12]
Sandokan the Great Yes Yes [13]
Temple of the White Elephant 1964 Yes Yes [14]
Messalina vs. the Son of Hercules Yes [15]
Pirates of Malaysia Yes [16]
Kriminal 1966 Yes Yes [17]
The Spy Who Loved Flowers Yes Yes [18]
Desert Commandos 1967 Yes Yes [19][20]
All Out 1968 Yes [21]
A Pistol for a Hundred Coffins Yes [22]
Battle of the Commandos 1969 Yes [23]
Orgasmo Yes Yes [24]
So Sweet... So Perverse Yes [25][26]
A Quiet Place to Kill 1970 Yes [27][28]
Gang War in Milan 1973 Yes Yes [29][30]
Almost Human 1974 Yes [31]
Spasmo Yes Yes [32][33]
Manhunt in the City 1975 Yes Yes [34]
Syndicate Sadists Yes [35]
Rome Armed to the Teeth 1976 Yes Yes [36][37]
Free Hand for a Tough Cop Yes Yes [38][39]
Violent Naples Yes [40]
Brothers Till We Die 1977 Yes Yes [41]
The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist Yes Yes [42]
From Corleone to Brooklyn 1979 Yes Yes [43]
Eaten Alive! 1980 Yes Yes [44][45][46]
Cannibal Ferox 1981 Yes Yes [47][48]
Ironmaster 1982 Yes Yes [49]
I Tarantiniani 2013 Yes Interviewee [50]
Duel of Fire N/A [citation needed]
Adventures of the Bengal Lancers N/A [citation needed]
Jungle Adventurer N/A [citation needed]
008: Operation Exterminate N/A [citation needed]
Super Seven Calling Cairo N/A [citation needed]
Oasis of Fear N/A [citation needed]
Seven Blood-Stained Orchids N/A [citation needed]
Man from the Deep River N/A [citation needed]
Il coltello di ghiaccio N/A [citation needed]
Eyeball N/A [citation needed]
The Greatest Battle N/A [citation needed]
From Hell to Victory N/A [citation needed]
Nightmare City N/A [citation needed]
Pierino la peste alla riscossa N/A [citation needed]
Cicciabomba N/A [citation needed]
Daughter of the Jungle N/A [citation needed]
A Bridge to Hell N/A [citation needed]
Wartime N/A [citation needed]
Nightmare Beach N/A [citation needed]
Ghosthouse N/A [citation needed]
Hell's Gate N/A [citation needed]
Hitcher in the Dark N/A [citation needed]
The House of Witchcraft N/A [citation needed]
The House of Lost Souls N/A [citation needed]
Dèmoni 3 N/A [citation needed]
Cop Target N/A [citation needed]
Black Cobra 4: Detective Malone N/A [citation needed]
The Hunt for the Golden Scorpion N/A [citation needed]
Mean Tricks N/A [citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Paul 2005, p. 143.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Curti 2013, p. 296.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Curti 2013, p. 297.
  4. ^ Paul 2005, p. 144.
  5. ^ Paul 2005, p. 149.
  6. ^ Curti 2013, p. 151.
  7. ^ Paul 2005, p. 151.
  8. ^ Kinnard & Crnkovich 2017, p. 133.
  9. ^ Kinnard & Crnkovich 2017, p. 178.
  10. ^ Kinnard & Crnkovich 2017, p. 34.
  11. ^ Kinnard & Crnkovich 2017, p. 102.
  12. ^ Kinnard & Crnkovich 2017, p. 145.
  13. ^ "Sandokan the Great". American Film Institute. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  14. ^ Kinnard & Crnkovich 2017, p. 171.
  15. ^ Kinnard & Crnkovich 2017, p. 118.
  16. ^ Kinnard & Crnkovich 2017, p. 147.
  17. ^ Curti 2016, p. 47.
  18. ^ "Le Spie amano i fiori" (in French). Retrieved August 10, 2017. 
  19. ^ "Attentato ai tre grandi". (in Italian). Fondazione Ente dello Spettacolo - Tutti i diritti sono riservati. Retrieved July 30, 2017. 
  20. ^ Cowie & Elley 1977, p. 300.
  21. ^ Cowie & Elley 1977, p. 344.
  22. ^ Cowie & Elley 1977, p. 330.
  23. ^ "Die zum Teufel gehen". Retrieved July 30, 2017. 
  24. ^ Firsching, Robert. "Orgasmo (1968)". AllMovie. Archived from the original on August 4, 2012. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  25. ^ Firsching, Robert. "Kiss Me, Kill Me". AllMovie. Archived from the original on August 4, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  26. ^ "Cosi dolce, cosi perversa (1969) Umberto Lenzi" (in French). Retrieved July 31, 2017. 
  27. ^ Firsching, Robert. "Paranoia (1969)". AllMovie. Archived from the original on August 2, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  28. ^ Combs, Richard (1973). "Paranoia (A Quiet Place to Kill)". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 40 no. 468. British Film Institute. p. 105. 
  29. ^ Curti 2013, p. 82.
  30. ^ Curti 2013, p. 83.
  31. ^ Curti 2013, p. 105.
  32. ^ Cooper, Tracie. "Spasmo". AllMovie. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved August 10, 2017. 
  33. ^ "Spasmo". British Film Institute. Retrieved August 10, 2017. 
  34. ^ Curti 2013, p. 142.
  35. ^ Curti 2013, p. 152.
  36. ^ Curti 2013, p. 162.
  37. ^ Curti 2013, p. 163.
  38. ^ Curti 2013, p. 174.
  39. ^ Curti 2013, p. 175.
  40. ^ Curti 2013, p. 200.
  41. ^ Curti 2013, p. 206.
  42. ^ Curti 2013, p. 211.
  43. ^ Curti 2013, p. 258.
  44. ^ Shipka 2011, p. 136.
  45. ^ Pulleine, Tim (1981). "Mangiati vivi dai cannibali (Eaten Alive)". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 48 no. 564. British Film Institute. p. 251. 
  46. ^ "Eaten Alive!". AllMovie. Archived from the original on May 30, 2014. Retrieved August 10, 2017. 
  47. ^ Firsching, Robert. "Cannibal Ferox". AllMovie. Archived from the original on November 15, 2012. Retrieved August 10, 2017. 
  48. ^ "Cannibal Ferox". AllMovie. Archived from the original on May 30, 2014. Retrieved August 10, 2017. 
  49. ^ Kinnard & Crnkovich 2017, p. 203.
  50. ^ Curti 2016, p. 205.


  • Curti, Roberto (2013). Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980. McFarland. ISBN 0786469765. 
  • Curti, Roberto (2016). Diabolika: Supercriminals, Superheroes and the Comic Book Universe in Italian Cinema. Midnight Marquee Press. ISBN 978-1-936168-60-6. 
  • Curti, Roberto (2016). Tonino Valerii: The Films. McFarland. ISBN 1476664684. 
  • Giusti, Marco (2007). Dizionario del western all'italiana (in Italian). Mondadori. ISBN 8804572779. 
  • Kinnard, Roy; Crnkovich, Tony (2017). Italian Sword and Sandal Films, 1908-1990. McFarland. ISBN 1476662916. 
  • Luther-Smith, Adrian (1999). Blood and Black Lace: The Definitive Guide to Italian Sex and Horror Movies. Stray Cat Publishing Ltd. 
  • Paul, Louis (2005). Italian Horror Film Directors. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-8749-3. 
  • Shipka, Danny (2011). Perverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France, 1960-1980. McFarland. ISBN 0786448881. 

External links[edit]