Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bruno Mattei Has Died

Damn it if the film world hasn't lost another director this week. Apparently Italian shock master Bruno Mattei has passed away after being in a coma.
I am not going to pretend that Mattei was a favorite director or that his films are in need of some sort of serious artistic re-evaluation. The thing I liked most about the man was that he always seemed really happy being an exploitation director who made some of the trashiest and at times ridiculous films imaginable. He was also one of the few Italian genre directors that has continued to make these types of films that were so predominate in the seventies and eighties. The trailer for his newest film just recently appeared online.
No genre was safe from Mattei's touch and his kitchen sink, even pillaging, approach has made him a favorite to many. When you see the name Bruno Mattei on a film (or his Romero nodding alias Vincent Dawn) you know you are in for an unforgettably ridiculous and fun ride.
Mattei's career began as an editor when he was in his early thirties in the 1962. He began directing in 1970 and quickly became known for his shoestring budgets and his willingness to shoot any kind of genre, with his mix of sexploitation and violence being chief among his early films.
After Tinto Brass' SALON KITTY, Mattei jumped quickly into a series rip off films starting with 1977's PRIVATE HOUSE OF THE S.S. and the infamous S.S. EXTERMINATION LOVE CAMP from that same year.
He worked with the incredible Laura Gemser a few times on some of her weaker Emanuelle knockoff films like EMANUELLE AND THE EROTIC NIGHTS and the delightfully sleazy 1982 feature VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON.
The occasional flourish of style will pop up but it was Mattei's unrelenting eye for sleaze and over the top situations that would really characterize him. From the nunsploitaion THE OTHER HELL to his taking over direction of Fulci's ZOMBIE 3, Mattei seemed to bring his own particular stamp to every project he worked on.
Two of his most popular works are 1980's VIRUS (aka HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD, ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH, NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES) and 1984's RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR. Words can't do these two films justice, they just have to be seen to be believed.

Stock footage, bits of Goblin's scores from other films, over the top gore and truly head scratching endings characterize Mattei's work on these two films. They are best viewed with friends, slightly drunk, late at night or all of the above. I mean that has a compliment, these films remain lots of fun and I love the interview Mattei gave on Anchor Bay's releases where he endearingly says that his films should be viewed as like cartoons and as pure entertainment.

Mattei kept cranking them out through the years with over fifty in all. He seemed to enjoy the attention and the notoriety he received and was noted as always being friendly to his many fans at conventions and such. His attitude towards his films and his role was always refreshing. I liked the guy and admired that he never gave up the ghost even when many of his peers had. We won't see his like again I am afraid.

Several of Mattei's most notorious films are available on Region one discs, many with Mattei's involvement himself. The best starting point is Anchor Raby's two pack of HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD and RATS, which is easily available online for usually around ten dollars. Two of the Gemser films are also still in print as well as the crazed THE OTHER HELL.



Good grief! when will all the filmmakers stop dropping dead. I offically declair 2007 to be the "year of the dead directors."

I wans't a big fan of Mattei's movies myself, but I could appreciate them and he edited a lot of good movies.

Jeremy Richey said...

I don't know what's happening this year either but it is getting really depressing. He wasn't a favorite of mine either but I know he does have an appreciative following and wanted to post something for him. I did appreciate that he kept working and didn't seem have too many delusions about the films he was making.
Thanks for the comments.

colinr said...

Thank you for bringing this news to my attention. I've never watched one of Mattei's films and I've heard that many are not supposed to be very good, but it is always a shame when you hear of a death.

I actually bought the Media Blasters 'Zombie Pack' of Zombie 3, 4 and 5 last month on a whim, so I should get around to watching the third as a little tribute. Either that or my video of The Other Hell that I've had for a long time and not yet played.

I heard something about Rats: Night of Terror being based on the James Herbert book Domain. Is there any truth to that rumour? I heard that the film was hilariously bad with dogs used as rats but with tails strapped onto them?

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Colin,
Zombie 3 is pretty bad so you might want to start with The Other Hell before that. The two I would recommend the most are "Hell Of The Living Dead" and "Rats", both pretty much delight in being as over the top as possible.
I'm not a huge fan of his work but I am pretty forgiving of it, as his enthusiasm and willingness to throw the craziest stuff in is pretty endearing.
My recommendation is watch them late with some friends and some drinks if you can...
...it really is a shame about "Zombie 3" as I think it could have been something had Fulci been able to do what he had originally wanted to with it and been allowed to complete it....
Oh I can't remember if "Rats" was based on the Herbert book...it might be mentioned in the interview with Bruno but I'd have to watch it again.
thanks for commenting