Thursday, October 19, 2017

RIP Umberto Lenzi

La Republica
By Alessandra Vitali
October 19, 2017

Umberto Lenzi, Dad of Monnezza and the most beloved films by Tarantino died

He was 86, he was the inventor of the "policeworthy" genre and directed some of the most successful films of the 1970s and 1980s, including 'armed Rome' and 'violent Naples'

The director and screenwriter Umberto Lenzi died at age 86.  He had been one of the main authors of genre cinema and had directed films considered cult of enthusiasts, as Milan hates: police can not shoot , armed Rome and violent Naples .  Lenzi was born in Massa Marittima, in the province of Grosseto, in 1931, graduating at the Cinema Experimental Center in Rome, and made her directorial debut in 1961 with the cover of Mary Read 's hood and sword.  A passionate one, that of cinema, born when he was very young.  "In the province life there were not many opportunities: there were those who went to the sea and those who lazily spent their days at the bar. I preferred the cinema," he told in an interview with Republic .

That the genre film was his way, Lenzi understood it soon.  He said he was "a snout", seized what was happening on the national and international scene and adapted it to Italian taste.  As in the case of adventure films he faces by re-reading some of Salgari's classics, Sandokan the Mompracem tiger who headed in 1963, starring Steve Reeves, the pirates of Malaysia in '64.  It is inspired by the James Bond saga, or rather the movie's success on Agent 007, and spells on espionage, Superseven calls Cairo or A008 - Operation Extermination , both in 1965, nor dislikes war movies: Navarone's cannons decide to give confidence to the screenplay of a young Dario Argento and in 1968 he signs the Legion of the Damned .  The war genre continues to thrill him in the following years, in 1978 he flees to the United States and directs the Great Attacks , in the cast Henry Fonda, John Huston, Helmut Berger.

But what Lenzi conquers popularity is the yellow one, in which it fits by giving birth to a sub-genre, erotic yellow to Italian.  The trilogy begins in '69 with Orgasm , continues with So sweet, so perverse and closes in '70 with Paranoia .  The protagonist - in all three - the former Hollywood diva Carroll Baker, stories that mix eroticism, psychology and intrigues and secrets of the aristocracy world, Lenzi calls them "thrillers of the high quarters."  But 1970 is also the year when he goes out to cinema The bird from the crystal feathers , Dario Argento sucks and goes proselytizing and Lenzi can not go back: he makes five films in just under five years starting from 1971 with Un Ideal Place to Kill , Seven Spotted Red Orchids , The Ice Knife , Spasm and Red Cats in a Glass Maze .

The "sniff" of which it boasts continues to work.  In 1972 he went to the movie The police thank Steno and Lenzi understands immediately where the public's taste turns.  It is the birth of the policewoman, a genre in which he will claim more than in others by making some of the most successful films of those years, little appreciated by critics but rewarded by the public.  As Milan hates: the police can not shoot in 1974, leading Tomas Milian in the role of Giulio Sacchi, a viscidone, sadistic and cowardly criminal who wants to make career in the world of mala.  Bandit, kidnapping, pursuit, shootout and especially violence are the foundations of subsequent works such as Armed Forces Rome (1976), in which the director invokes Tomas Milian, alongside Maurizio Merli who instead returns on stage in violent Naples this same year film earned 60 million lire only in the first programming weekend, a record).  With Milian Lenzi, he creates a partnership that is the success of many other films.  And it will be with Milian who will "invent" Er Monnezza, the protagonist of cult-titles such as The Truffle and the Blob and The Hunchback Band .  A friendship and a professional bond but they will see the end when the Cuban actor will accept to interpret the character of the township ladder in the band of the cheating but directed by Stelvio Massi: a betrayal that Lenzi could not accept and which caused the break between the two.

 The war movie, the "thriller of the high quarters", the policewoman: between the late 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s Lenzi changed genre again.  It is the time of horror (in those years Dario Silver continues to give the line with titles like Suspiria , Inferno , Darkness ), Lucio Fulci keeps fuss with Fear in the City of Living Dead , Black Cat ,    And you will live in terror - The beyond , That villa next to the cemetery .  Lenzi launches with Nightmare on the contaminated city , it's the 1980s, men contaminated by radiation turn into almost invincible cannibals.  "They're not zombies" will keep telling the director when they will point out the too many analogies with Zombi of George A. Romero released two years earlier.  But there will be no criticism of the passion of Quentin Tarantino, who in those years also feeds on Umberto Lenzi's films, and his Nightmare on the Contaminated City will often mention one of his favorites.

 After many films and some successful boxing titles, Lenzi's career begins to slow down.  It is dedicated to a genre, the "cannibalistic" (partly already experienced in 1972 with the Wild Sex Country ) that earns some success abroad but which in Italy is hardly able to pass through the censorship jumps.  Eat alive!  is the first film, good for American box offices, the following year is Cannibal Ferox, who, unlike the former, gets modest cash (in the first week of programming in New York, incurs $ 400,000), it also becomes one of the most censored movies in history due to some sequences of true animal violence.  "I always despised - Lenzi will say in an interview later years - but I did it for survival, I was a year old, unemployed, never in my career."  In those years some titles that were not really unforgivable, among which Cicciabomba with Donatella Rector or Pierino was plagued .

 Back to thriller-horror genres at the end of the Eighties: Nightmare Beach is a small American production, "sister" of another film written and directed along with Vittorio Rambaldi, Rage, primitive fury .  The House 3 - Ghosthouse ('88) will be released, an American production, apocryphal sequel to Sam Raimi's House;  Fear in the dark and low budget The gates of hell ;  The House of Sorcerer and, in 1989, The House of the Anonymous Winds , the latter for TV, commissioned by RetiItalia, unique occasions where Lenzi worked on the small screen.  In the last part of her career Lenzi is dedicated to export movies for smaller markets.  The last one is Hornsby and Rodriguez - Criminal Challenge of 1992, while Sarajevo, hell of fire comes out in 1996 directly for home video.

 Lenzi withdraws from the scenes (with his wife Olga Pehar, formerly actress of some of his films, later disappeared at the end of 2015) and dedicates himself to writing successful yellow novels ( Cinecittà Delicts , Terror at Harlem , Rome assassin , The clan of the miserable , Criminal heart ).  It is in 2016 the biography written by Silvia Trovato and Tiziano Arrigoni, in which the director's life, from Maremma's youth to the Experimental Center of Rome, to gender genres has led him to experience languages, ideas and stories about his libertarian passion for the Spanish Civil War, which called "the only social revolution of the twentieth century".  And portraits of characters like Carroll Baker, Tomás Milian and the many he met on the set and out.  In short, as the title says, A Life for Cinema.  The adventurous story of Umberto Lenzi director.

LENZI, Umberto
Born: 8/6/1931, Massa Marittima, Grosseto, Tuscany, Italy
Died: 10/19/2017, Rome, Lazio, Italy

Umberto Lenzi’s westerns – director, actor
Samson and the Slave Queen – 1963 [director]
Go For Broke – 1968 [director, actor]
A Pistol for 100 Coffins – 1968 [director]

1 comment:

  1. I know a few of these movies but never knew the director. Thanks for educating me. Another great, although French, is Danielle Darrieux who died a couple of days ago and was 100