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 (1931-06-08) 8 June 1931 (age 85)
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 June 8, 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 what his officially first credited film as a director, Queen of the Seas (1961), 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 Torionfo di Robin Hood (1962) and L'Invincible Cavaliere Mascherato (1963) and two films about Sandokan Sandokan la Tigre di Mompracem (1963) and I Pirati della Malesia (1964).[1]

By 1965, Lenzi began directed European spy films, such as 008: Operation Exterminate followed by Superseven Chiama Cairo (1965) and Le Spie Amano i Fiori (1966) and even adapted fumetti neri comics such as Kriminal (1966).[3][1][4] Lenzi adapted himself to making war films such as Desert Commandos (1967) and Legion of the Damned (1969) and Westerns such as Pistols for a Hundred Coffins (1968) and All Out (1968).[3]

Lenzi had box office successes 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 films drawing from the works of Jacques Deray and Rene Clement.[2]


fter the commercial success of giallo films by Dario Argento, Lenzi followed the new trend with Seven Bloodstained Orchids (1972) which referenced Cornell Woolrich novels while another gialli Kinfe of Ice was a variation of Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase.[3] Other giallos created by Lenzi of the early 1970s included Spasmo, Wide-Eyed in the Dark (1974).[3]

During the early 1970s, Lenzi also created an early adaptation in what one of Italy's cannibal films, with The Man from Deep River (1972), a genre that he would explore again in in the 1980s with Eaten Alive (1980) and Cannibal Ferox.[3] During the late 1970s, Lenzi devoted himself almost exclusively to crime films with the exceptions of two war films: Battle Force (1978) 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 (1981) and the previously mentioned Cannibal Ferox.[3] Follow these films, Lenzi created some sex comedies including Cicciabomba (1982).[5]

Lenzi also worked on horror films towards the late 1980s with films such as Ghosthouse (1988) under the name Humphrey Humbert and the slahser 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 the horror films that were made for television, including The House of Witchraft and The House of Lost Souls.[3]

1990s and later work[edit]

In 1992, Lenzi directed David Warbeck in the first of a series of adventure films called Hornsby and Rodriguez.[6] Lenzi would end 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 mysterys set in the 1930s and '40s Cinecitta, where 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]

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. ^ Marco Giusti. Dizionario del western all'italiana. Mondadori, 2007. ISBN 8804572779. 


  • Curti, Roberto (2013). Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980. McFarland. ISBN 0786469765. 
  • Paul, Louis (2005). Italian Horror Film Directors. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-8749-3. 

External links[edit]