Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Few Words For Lucio Fulci

Italian director Lucio Fulci passed away eleven years ago today. The excellent Cinebeats blog is currently running a well written tribute to the man and I thought would post a few thoughts on one of the men that got me into Italian Horror cinema.
My first exposure to Fulci was, like a lot of others, through those old cut and horribly cropped videos of films like Zombie and The Gates Of Hell. The excitement of finding those old tapes and realizing that I was watching, even in sometimes gutted form, something completely different to the horror cinema I had been raised on was entrancing.
If discovering Argento was my entrance into the world of Italian Horror then my friend letting me borrow an uncut widescreen copy of Fulci's The Beyond marked my point of no return. The Beyond remains, if not Fulci's best film, at least the ideal introduction to his world. One of my most memorable filmgoing experiences remains seeing this film at a midnight showing in Lexington's Kentucky Theater. Regardless of the fact that the audience didn't get it seeing Fulci's surreal and sometimes over the top images on the big screen left an indelible impression.
Fulci's late work damaged his career. It is unfortunate that he couldn't have made The Wax mask with Argento, it would have been nice to have sent the man out on a strong note. The best of Fulci remains the three giallo's he made starting in 1969, Perversion Story, Lizard In Woman's Skin and Don't Torture A Duckling. All are thankfully on DVD and his work with Florinda Bolkan in those last two films is particularly notable. He made two fine, if undervalued, European westerns with A Bullet For Sandoval and Four Gunmen of The Apocalypse.
Fulci would return, in 1972, to his early comedies with the trippy Laura Antonelli vehicle, The Eroticist but starting with 1977's Murder To The Tune Of The Seven Black Notes through to the stylish and disturbing New York Ripper in 1982 Fulci would link his name forever to a particularly extreme brand of horror filmmaking.
Zombie 2, City Of The Living Dead, The Beyond and House By The Cemetary remain his most famous and popular films. Rightfully so I think, there is a distinctive feel to these films that can finally only be described as Fulciesque. He would work with many of the same people through these films and the performances of David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale and especially Catriona MacColl would give these films an added element of greatness.
Something snapped after New York Ripper though and Fulci would never again get the type of financing or understanding that he needed. Manhattan Baby, Murder Rock and Devil's Honey are all frustratingly almost there but the brutal Ripper remains his last fully realized film.
It is often said that Fulci doesn't occupy the same place as Bava and Argento in the Italian cinema and this might be true but he does occupy his own very unique and at times shockingly sublime place. He is remembered and he will continue to be.

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