Today marks the 90th anniversary of defunct Lucio Fulci’s birthday. If you are accustomed to the Italian horror movies from the late 70s/early 80s you may heard his name. If not, then you are missing big time on horror movies. I consider Fulci being a important piece in the “golden era” of the European horror movies, a period that spanned from the early 60s until the late 80s. Some even nicknamed him “The Godfather of Gore” and in my opinion rightly deserves this title.
Lucio was born on June 17, 1927 in Roma (Italy) and died on March 13, 1996 in Roma (Italy). Interestingly enough, Lucio early career was predestined him to follow a medical career path. He decided to drop from medical school to focus on a filming career by being a writer for several movies that never stemmed out much outside the Italian movie marketplace. His early years as movie writer, producer was not really making him standout from the heard (you know some comedy movies, some espionage and action movies…..) until his 1969 movie called “Beatrice Cenci” (aka The Conspiracy of Torture) that will mark his entrance into the thriller genre, in particular into the giallo sub-genre. It was also the movie that costed Lucio some serious frictions with the Catholic Church. Lucio was known for being an atheist, with a virulent anti-clerical opinion. A sizable plot of the movie is a diatribe directly aimed to the Vatican and that was enough for Lucio to have some trouble.
Following “Beatrice Cenci”, Lucio pursued a very prolific career with several giallos under his wing and a filmography good enough to get referenced by Quentin Tarantino in “Kill Bill: Volume 1”, with the soundtrack of “Sette Note in Nero” during the scene when Beatrix try to escape from Buck.
The entrance of Fulci into the horror movie genre is certainly through “Zombi 2” aka “Zombies flesh eaters” in 1979.
Initially built on the phenomenal success of George A. Romero’s “Dawn of The Dead” (aka “Zombi” in Europe) as a unofficial knock-off, “Zombi 2” indeed set the whole zombie sub-genre with “Lucio’s Zombies”. Unlike Romero’s one, these ones are putrid, rotten, full of maggots and with a dereliction for some of the gruesome fatalities.
What in my opinion made the Fulci movies so captivating was the winning formula between Fulci filming coupled with Fabio Frizzi’s soundtrack giving this surrealistic atmosphere in Zombi 2. I will not spill the beans much but the plot sets place in Manhattan with a drifting boat coming into the Hudson bay. Harbor police board the ship only to get attacked by a zombi, such zombi get shot by a police officer, fell overboard to (apparently) become bait for fish. NYPD identifies the boat, leading the investigation to identify the owner, a physician-scientist located in a field study in some Caribbean island, and his daughter. One of the movies inclusive of underwater zombies with the memorable fight between a zombie and a shark (I will let you find out who won that fight).
Follows on a series of cult horror movies from him including:
* “City of Living Dead” (aka “Frayeurs” in French, the VHS cover haunt me years before I was able to see that movie), with the famous scene of the inside-out evisceration, the coffin scene (that will be another reference used by Tarantino in “Kill Bill: Volume 2”) and the drill murder. It is also showing by its very dark and unhappy ending Fulci’s idea of absence of afterlife.
* “The Black Cat” (aka “Gatto Nero”) inspired by Edgar Allan Poe novel, in which a black cat serves as a vehicle for a murderer (Patrick Magee, the victim of Malcom MacDowell’s droogs in “A Clockwork Orange”) to seek revenge (kitty! kitty! kitty!).
* “The Beyond” (aka “l’Aldila”) forming an unformal trilogy of “Gates of Hell”. Taking place in Louisiana, it follows the demise of a warlock named “Shriek” being chased, tortured and buried alive by an angry mob in a hotel believing that the killing of the warlock would solve their problem. Instead of resolving it, it just opened the door to the Gate of Hell.
* “The House by The Cemetery” is the conclusion of the “Gates of Hell” trilogy. This was one of his movie that does not follow a collaboration with Frizzi. Follows a family move from New York into a old victorian house investigating the work of Dr. Freudenstein.
The rest of his filmography rapidly declined as his health and proven to be unequal. Noteworthy the incursion of Fulci into the “Mad Max” fad that inspired a lot of Italian knockoff movies. Thats another favorite genre of me, in which you get boasted by people wearing leather jackets on motorbike, wandering in abandoned quarries with the sound of Bontempi tunes.
As a French, it was a blessing to have access to all of these movies produced by our Trans-Alpine neighbor, providing us with cheap but so much enjoying knock-off movies, looting from Hollywood movies such as Mad Max, Predator, The Terminator, Star Wars…..
But the best was the horror movies. Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento being my two favorites. If you have not checked them out, you are missing big time.