15 July 2024

Oh, Fulci, with your skewered eyeballs, ripped and bloody entrails, and your brain-scrunching zombies, just what are we going to do with you?

The undisputed Godfather of Italian Gore, director Lucio Fulci was born in Rome on June 17, 1927. He initially worked as an art critic while studying medicine, but became involved with movies after responding to an ad for admittance to an experimental film school.

His early jobs included assisting on and co-scripting documentaries in the late 1940s and comedies in the 1950s. It wasn't until 1959 that Fulci made his directorial debut with a movie entitled I ladri.

Not one to be pigeonholed, the director worked on all types of genres until concentrating on horror films by the early 70s almost exclusively.

His first notable genre film was Una lucertola con la pelle di donna (A Lizard in a Woman's Skin) in 1971. A psychedelic horror story, it follows a young woman (Florinda Bolkan) who experiences a bizarre nightmare in which she commits a brutal murder. She wakes to discover her next door neighbor has been killed...could she be the maniac?

Fulci's next memorable terror outing was the excellent Non si sevizia un paperino (Don't Torture a Duckling) in 1972. One of his first films to use graphic gore effects, Duckling also happens to contain one of his most compelling storylines.

A series of child killings plague a small Italian village. The police are baffled as to the identity of the psycho at large, so a reporter (Tomas Milan) begins an investigation. But the truth he may uncover might be more startling than the town can handle...

In 1977, Fulci directed the adequate supernatural thriller Sette note in nero (The Psychic) starring beautiful Jennifer O'Neill. A clairvoyant discovers a skeleton buried inside the wall of her home. Bewildered, she vows to uncover the identity of the dead person...even if it means endangering her own life.

The Psychic isn't one of Fulci's stronger horror pictures, but it's an entertaining watch nonetheless bolstered by a good performance from O'Neill and a peppy score from regular Fulci composer Fabio Frizzi.

A huge international hit, Zombie (1979) is most likely Fulci's best known film. An audience pleaser, it clearly inspired such similar undead fare as Hell of the Living Dead (1980) from director Bruno Mattei. For many, Zombie represents the epitome of Fulci's work: exotic locales, gruesome over-the-top gore, a synth score from Frizzi - and a pervasively dank atmosphere.

It would seem that Fulci and zombies were truly simpatico, for his next several horrors were all about the walking dead, including Paura nella cittą dei morti viventi (City of the Living Dead) in 1980, E tu vivrai nel terrore - L'aldilą (The Beyond) in '81, as well as Quella villa accanto al cimitero (House by the Cemetery) also in 1981. In fact, the three comprise what is commonly regarded as the director's Gates of Hell trilogy.

1982 saw Fulci move on from the living dead, returning to the slasher form with Lo squartatore di New York (New York Ripper). A bleak and uncompromising splatter flick, this one tells the story of a serial killer loose in the Big Apple...who seems to enjoy slashing low rent hooker and call girls.

The same year, Fulci also directed the supernatural horror yarn L' Occhio del male (Manhattan Baby).

He continued to work in the genre for the next decade, helming a variety of horror films with variable results, including the aerobics slasher Murder Rock in 1984 and A Cat in the Brain in 1990. His last feature was the psychological thriller The Door to Silence in 1991. He died five years later, in 1996, of complications from diabetes.

Bless Fulci. He never did care much for his critics. And fans of his wouldn't have it any other way. Rest in (un)peace, our beloved Lucio!

The Beyond 1981
The Black Cat 1981
City of the Living Dead 1980
Don't Torture a Duckling 1972
The House by the Cemetery 1981
A Lizard in a Woman's Skin 1971
Manhattan Baby 1982
New York Ripper 1982
The Psychic 1977
Zombie 1979
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