Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012: Q & A with The Italian Masters, Deodato, Bava, & Stivaletti
If nothing else occurred at this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend except this Q & A, I would’ve been extremely satisfied and fulfilled. I’m talking about the Q & A with three of the Masters of Italian Horror Movies: Ruggero Deodato, Lamberto Bava, and Sergio Stivaletti. The only thing that could’ve made this panel better is if Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci himself were there.
If you’re too young to have experienced it, there’s nothing quite like the old-school Italian horror scene from the 1970’s and 1980’s. I’m talking about Argento, Fulci, Lenzi, and of course the three Master’s on this panel. Film’s like Argento’s giallo trilogy (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, THE CAT O’ NINE TAILS, and FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET) and his early slasher-gore flicks; Fulci’s ZOMBI, THE BEYOND, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, and THE NEW YORK RIPPER; Bruno Mattei’s HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD … I could go on and on. Like I said, there’s nothing like an old-school Italian horror flick!! Marked with excessive gore, interesting dialogue and plots, and enough craziness to fill ten American horror films, the Italians knew how to craft a horror film. And besides the above mentioned directors, no one does it better than Lamberto Bava, Ruggero Deodato, and special f/x wizard and director Sergio Stivatelli. Well not only were they all in attendance at this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend, but they were all up on one stage together for an amazing Q & A session (hosted and translated by Paolo Zelati).
After a long standing ovation as they entered the room, the three Masters took their seats and Zelati began introducing them (as if he needed too!!). One of the first things Deodato talks about is how CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST has been downloaded off the internet millions of times and how he got no money whatsoever for it: “If I could just have a penny … one penny … each time it’s been downloaded …” he lets the thought fade away. But he says this with such a boyish smile that you can tell the man still has a devilish streak a mile wide running throughout him. The first question Zelati asks is for them all to name what films were influential on them when they were young. Stivaletti tells us his dad used to take him to see a lot of Westerns, but one day dad took him to see ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. When he saw Ray Harryhausen’s effects, he was amazed. By the late afternoon the same day, he was making his own ‘giant creature’ effects.
Lamberto Bava had a very different answer. For him, no film had a greater influence on him than BAMBI … yes; BAMBI!! He told us that the mother getting killed haunted him for years and he started making horror as revenge for Bambi’s mother (although he did gave credit to his brilliant father, Mario Bava).
Then the questions were opened up to the audience. This is when the Masters realized they were in a room full of diehard Italian horror fans … and they loved it!! These three Masters were having a great time answering our questions, reliving old memories they hadn’t thought of in a while, and just joking around among themselves and the audience. When asked what movies shock them, we got some really interesting answers. For Bava, he said watching his own masterpiece, DEMONS, really shocked him. He was surprised at how effective it was. That, and of course (he reminded us), BAMBI!! Stivaletti said that many scenes from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST shocked him … and THE EXORCIST. But Deodato’s answer really hit a chord with me. For him, the 2008 film MARTYRS really shocked him. He saw the film with a “non-horror” crowd and watching their reaction to it was amazing. Grown men running out of the theater, women crying. He told us that film really shocked and had an impact on him.
Another question that led to a lot of discussion was which of their films were they most happy with and which they feel was their most difficult to make. For Bava he was most happy with DEMONS. He loved the story, the way the effects turned out, and the performances. Bava’s most difficult project he worked on was a TV series titled THE CAVE OF THE GOLDEN ROSE. What was so difficult about it was that he created an entire fantasy world and rich mythological backstory for the project, and this was a daunting task. He was also disappointed that it was never released in the U.S. For Stivaletti, he said this was an easy answer; THE WAX MASK. This was both the film he’s most happy with and was also the most difficult to make. Why? It was the first film he directed and did the f/x on (he also had help in the writing department from both Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci).
Deodato said his most difficult film to make was LAST CANNIBAL WORLD for one reason alone. They were in the middle of the Malaysian jungle with no back ups of anything and with a crew he never worked with before. He’s most happy with CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. This film, he told us, “was easy to make.” He would send rolls of footage back to the producers in Milan almost every day, and they were loving it. They started pre-selling the film before it was even edited. Their buyers were loving everything about it. The producers would call and tell him to “get that film done!! Do whatever you have to do … kill off everyone in the movie, just get it done!!”
Deodato also gave us some insight into one of the film’s best gore f/x … the native girl impaled on a stake. One day he said to his f/x guy, “Start thinking up a way to impale a woman on a long stake.” Without blinking an eye his guy walked away. The next morning, early in the morning, he knocks on Deodato’s door and he was holding a long wooden stake with a bicycle seat attached to it (so the actress can just sit on the seat). “It was perfect,” Deodato told us. “The girl sits on the seat and we cover everything in blood … perfect!!” Deodato then ends his story with the news that the sequel to CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, titled simply CANNIBALS, is still in the works.
Seeing these three Italian Masters altogether really brought back some great memories of sneaking off to the corner Ma & Pa video store when younger and renting some of these extreme Italian classic films and watching them alone in my basement without my parents knowing about it. Oh those films I watched at a young age … wow!! But Bava, Deodato, and Stivaletti were hilarious, insightful, and really appreciated all of us hanging on their every word. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to recapture the tone, atmosphere, and feel of the old-school Italian horror movies, and that’s okay with me. That’s why I’ve spent a small fortune keeping my DVD library updated with the classics. This is also why the films from this era should never even be attempted to be remade. Ya just can’t do it.
But thank you Bava, Deodato, and Stivaletti … you really brought back some great memories for me, and thank you Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012 for giving them the stage!! I think I’ll be having an Italian Cannibal Horror Marathon this weekend.