Lucio Fulci (Italian: [ˈlutʃo ˈfultʃi]; 17 June 1927 – 13 March 1996) was an Italian film director, screenwriter and actor. He is perhaps best known for his gore films, including Zombi 2 (1979) and The Beyond (1981), although he made films in genres as diverse as giallo, western and comedy. Fulci is known as the "Godfather of Gore", a title also given to him by Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Life And CareerEdit
Fulci was born in Rome, Italy on 17 June 1927. After studying medicine in college and being employed for a time as an art critic, Fulci opted for a film career first as a screenwriter, then later as a director, working initially in the comedy field. In the early to mid-1960s, Fulci directed around 18 Italian comedies, many of them starring the famous Italian comedian duo of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia. Most of these early films did not enjoy wider distribution in English-speaking countries, and are generally not available in English.In 1969, he moved into the thriller arena, directing gialli (such as A Lizard in a Woman's Skin and The Psychic) and spaghetti westerns (such as Massacre Time and Four of the Apocalypse) that were both commercially successful and controversial in their depiction of violence and religion. Some of the special effects in Lizard involving mutilated dogs in a vivisection room were so realistic, Fulci was dragged into court and charged with animal cruelty, until he showed the artificial canine puppets (created by special effects maestro Carlo Rambaldi) to the judge and explained that they weren't real animals.The first film to gain him actual notoriety in his native country, Don't Torture a Duckling, combined scathing social commentary with the director's soon-to-be-trademark graphic violence. Fulci had a Catholic upbringing and referred to himself as a Catholic. Despite this, some of his movies (such as Beatrice Cenci and Don't Torture a Duckling) have been viewed as severely anti-Catholic. In one of his films, a priest is depicted as a homicidal child killer, while in another film, a priest commits suicide by hanging himself in a cemetery and is reincarnated as a murderous demon.In 1979, he achieved his international breakthrough with Zombi 2 (aka Zombie), a violent zombie film that was marketed in European territories as a sequel to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978). He quickly followed it up with several other tales of horror and the supernatural, many also featuring shambling, maggot-infested zombies which were common horror film fodder at the time. His features released from 1979 through 1983 (most of them scripted by famed Italian screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti) were described by some critics as being among the most violent and gory films ever made. City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981), The House by the Cemetery (1981), The Black Cat (1981), The New York Ripper (1982) and Manhattan Baby (1982) were among his biggest hits, all of which featured extreme levels of on-screen blood and cruelty.Several of Fulci's movies released in America were censored by the film distributor to ensure an R rating (such as The Beyond, which was originally released on video in edited form as Seven Doors of Death) or were released Unrated in order to avoid an X-rating (as with Zombie and House by the Cemetery) which would have greatly restricted the films' target audiences to adults. The unrated films often played worldwide in drive-ins and grindhouses to hordes of delighted teenagers and horror fanatics. Many of Fulci's horror films tend to contain "injury to the eye" sequences, in which a character's eyeball is either pierced or pulled out of its socket, usually in lingering, close-up detail.Several of Fulci's movies were prohibited in Europe or were released in heavily cut versions. Of the original 72 films on the infamous video nasty list in the United Kingdom, three belonged to Fulci: Zombie (1979), The Beyond (1981), and House by the Cemetery (1981). After viewing Fulci's The New York Ripper, not only did the British Board of Film Classification refuse the film a certificate, but every single print in the country was taken to an airport and returned to Italy by order of James Ferman; it wasn't until later that VIPCO had the courage to release the film, initially outsourcing production to a foreign source under police supervision before releasing a home-grown VHS in 2002 and a DVD in 2007. German gore director Andreas Schnaas (left) and the late Lucio Fulci (right) at the 1994 Eurofest, London, EnglandAfter collaborating with screenwriter Sacchetti for six years, Fulci went off on his own in 1983 to direct the movie Conquest (a Conan-like barbarian fantasy) in Mexico, failing to involve Sacchetti in the deal. The film actually wound up doing quite poorly upon its release, and afterwards, Fulci had trouble jump-starting his working relationship with Sacchetti, who by this time had gone his own way.Fulci became deathly ill from hepatitis in 1984 (right after he finished directing Murder Rock in New York City) and had to be hospitalized in Italy for many months, eventually getting well enough to be released. (It is possible he contracted his health problems while he was in Mexico.) Fulci spent most of 1984 hospitalized with cirrhosis, and much of 1985 recuperating at home. After 1986, with his diabetes plaguing him and the departure of screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti from Fulci's circle of friends (see "Fulci vs Sacchetti" below), Fulci was far less successful in his endeavors. Most of Fulci's films after 1984 were poorly written and cheaply produced.In 1988, he directed about two-thirds of Zombi 3 in the Philippines before having to return abruptly to Italy due to a second bout of hepatitis, and the film was finished by an uncredited Bruno Mattei. Fulci hated the finished product and tried unsuccessfully to get his name removed from the credits. Mattei has said in interviews that the film was Fulci's, and that he (Mattei) just added a few extra scenes to pad out the running time.In 1989, Fulci was hired to direct a pair of made-for-Italian-TV horror movies, neither of which aired in Italy due to the high amount of gore and violence (they were however later released on DVD outside of Italy). Fulci's intended comeback films Demonia and A Cat in the Brain (both produced in 1990) were disappointments to his fans in terms of overall quality, and almost didn't get released. His final project, the 1991 psychological thriller The Door to Silence (based on a short story written by Fulci) received terrible reviews and pretty much terminated his career.For the last decade of his life, Fulci suffered from emotional and health problems, reflected by a marked decline in the quality of his work. His wife's suicide in 1969 and a daughter's fatal car accident a few years later always weighed heavily on him (his wife Maria Fulci had killed herself with gas after learning she had inoperable cancer). His hyper-violent films such as The New York Ripper caused him to be branded a misogynist by the critics, although he always claimed that he loved women. Fulci suffered from severe problems with his feet during the late 1980s which was caused by diabetes, but tried to hide the severity of his illness from his friends and associates so that he wouldn't be deemed unemployable.During 1987 to 1989, Fulci began lending his name to the credits of some very low-budget horror films that he hadn't directed, simply to make the films more distributable outside of Italy. Although he did appear to have supervised the gore effects in both The Curse and The Murder Secret, he was hardly involved with some of the other projects that nonetheless bore the "Lucio Fulci Presents" banner on their advertising material (see section "Films Presented by Lucio Fulci" below). Fulci tried unsuccessfully to have his name removed from the credits of one film in particular (Gianni Martucci's The Red Monks), since he swore he had no involvement with making that film. The following year, in reciprocation for the use of his name, Fulci was permitted to use gore footage culled from these films to make his notorious Cat in the Brain, in which he played himself.Some of Fulci's fans have retroactively argued that at his peak, Fulci's fame and popularity were on a par with that of Dario Argento, another famous Italian horror film director with whom Fulci had avoided working and whom Fulci had even publicly badmouthed from time to time. Fulci was most likely resentful of Argento since Dario had always received critical acclaim and recognition in (and outside of) Italy, and Fulci had been regarded there as something of a "horror film hack" (Fulci told friends that when he died, he predicted that the Italian newspapers would all misspell his name, if they even mentioned him at all).Fulci and Argento met in 1995 and agreed to collaborate on a horror film called Wax Mask (a remake of the 1953 Vincent Price horror classic House of Wax, based on a story by Gaston Leroux). Argento claimed he had heard about Fulci's miserable circumstances at the time (he said he was shocked at how thin and sickly Fulci appeared at their meeting) and wanted to offer him a chance for a comeback. Fulci wrote a plot synopsis and a screenplay for Argento and thought that he was slated to direct the film as well, but he died before filming could begin (due to a series of delays caused by Argento's involvement with his own film, The Stendhal Syndrome, at the time). Being in poor health, Fulci was furious that the filming was delayed so many times (although one delay was caused by his own illness unfortunately), as he knew he was running out of time and wanted desperately to make one last, big-budget film before he died. Wax Mask was eventually directed by former special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti. Reportedly the screenplay was entirely reworked by screenwriter Daniele Stroppa after Fulci's death, so the finished film sadly bears little resemblance to Fulci's original screenplay (Stroppa had co-written two of Fulci's earlier films, The House of Clocks and Voices from Beyond).Fulci died alone in his sleep at his home in Rome on the afternoon of 13 March 1996 of complications from diabetes at age 68. There was some controversy regarding his death. Toward the end of his life, Fulci had lost his house and was forced to move into a small apartment. Since Fulci had been so despondent in his later years, it was thought perhaps that he had intentionally allowed himself to die by not taking his medications, but no one really knows since he was alone at the time of his death.Fulci's films remained generally ignored or dismissed by the mainstream critical establishment for many years, who regarded his work as pure exploitation. However, genre fans appreciated his films as being stylish exercises in extreme gore, and at least one of his films, namely The Beyond, has "amassed a large and dedicated following".In 1998, The Beyond was re-released to theaters by Quentin Tarantino, who has often cited the film, and Fulci himself, as a major source of inspiration. Fulci's earlier, lesser-known giallo Don't Torture a Duckling (1972) received some critical acclaim. Fulci regarded two of his films, Don't Torture a Duckling and Beatrice Cenci, as his best work (the latter which he said his wife had liked the best of all his films), and considered both Zombi 2 and The Beyond as the two films that forever catapulted him to cult film stardom.Fulci was feted like royalty at the January 1996 Fangoria Horror Convention in New York City, just two months before his death. He told attendees that he had had no idea his films were so popular outside of his native Italy, as literally thousands of starstruck fans braved blizzard conditions all that weekend to meet him.