Lucio Fulci b. June 17, 1927 – d. March 13, 1996
Today is the 11th Anniversary of Italian director Lucio Fulci’s death. To celebrate the life of one of my favorite filmmakers I thought I would share a brief overview of Fulci’s early career in cinema, which is often overshadowed by his later years as a popular director of gory horror films and stylish thrillers.
Lucio Fulci was born on June 17, 1927 in Rome, Italy. His first passion was medicine and while he was studying the subject at an Italian medical school, Fulci also spent his time writing art criticism for local papers. One day while sitting on a train he noticed an advertisement on the back of a newspaper being read by a man sitting across from him which announced that the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (Experimental Film Studios) was accepting students. Fulci decided to apply and after a rigorous examination from legendary filmmaker Luchino Visconti (president at the time), Fulci was admitted to the school. Afterward, he developed a friendship with Luchino Visconti along with Visconti’s assistants, which included filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni.
At Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia Fulci studied film theory from such luminaries as Umberto Barbaro, Luigi Chiarini, and Béla Balázs alongside fellow students which included future filmmakers Nanni Loy and Francesco Maselli.
In 1948 Lucio Fulci graduated from the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia and immediately began working as an assistant to the visionary filmmakers Max Ophüls and Marcel L’Herbie. During this early period in Fulci’s career, he began specializing in documentaries and comedies. He also started co-directing and co-writing scripts with filmmakers such as Carletto Romano, Steno (Stefano Vanzina), Mauro Bolognini, Giorgio Simonelli and Marino Girolami.
It seems for a brief time in the late 1950s that Fulci returned to writing criticism as part of the editorial staff for the entertainment publication La Settimana Incom. During this time Lucio Fulci also continued writing scripts and in 1959 he finally made his solo directing debut with a mobster comedy called I Ladri (1959) which starred the legendary Italian actor Totò along with Armando Calvo and Giacomo Furia.
Following I Ladria, Lucio Fulci went on to direct a few Italian musical comedies known as “Musicarello,” which featured many popular musical stars of the period. Fulci had become involved in co-writing songs for the young Italian artist Adriano Celentano with Piero Vivarelli. Together Fulci & Vivarelli composed a few of Adriano Celentano’s most popular songs including the award-winning Il tuo bacio è come un rock and 24 mila baci.
One of Fulci’s early musicals was the interesting Urlatori alla sbarra (aka Metti, Celentano e Mina…, 1960). The movie featured many Italian pop sensations from the 60s such as Mina, Brunetta and Adriano Celentano, along with American jazz musician Chet Baker and the cute actress Elke Sommer. I came across some great old clips from this hard-to-find Lucio Fulci musicarello on Youtube and couldn’t resist sharing them here. The first clip featuring Mina really showcases Fulci’s early directing skills and the second clip manages to perfectly capture the high-energy of the youth movement that was taking shape on the streets of Italy during the 1960s.
Urlatori alla sbarra featuring Mina and directed by Lucio Fulci, 1960
Urlatori alla sbarra featuring Adriano Celentano and directed by Lucio Fulci, 1960
Following Fulci’s all too brief musicarello period, he began focusing on comedy and directed many popular features starring the Italian comedy duo of Franco Franchi & Ciccio Ingrassia. Many of these comedies were crime parodies such as I Due pericoli pubblici (1964) or spy spoofs like 002 agenti segretissimi (1964).
In 1966 Lucio Fulci directed his first spaghetti western called Massacre Time (aka Tempo di massacro, 1966) and this film would take Fulci’s directing in a stylish and violent new direction. The movie starred genre favorites Franco Nero and George Hilton in their first big starring roles as feuding brothers. Both men would go on to gain international fame in surprisingly better-known westerns such as Django and A Bullet for Sandoval (Los Desesperados, 1969) which was co-directed by Fulci.
It’s hard to watch Massacre Time and not be impressed by Fulci’s directing skills. The action and gun play is creatively shot and Fulci’s color palette is extremely eye-catching. The movie has obviously influenced many other filmmakers but unfortunately Fulci’s first western hasn’t gotten the critical attention that it richly deserves. In this brief trailer for Massacre Time you can easily see Fulci’s effective and dynamic filmmaking abilities on display.
Massacre Time directed by Lucio Fulci, 1966
After making Massacre Time Fulci’s career as a filmmaker would take a dramatic turn towards thrillers and horror films as he tapped into his own troubled life, which became haunted by the unexpected and tragic death of his wife. He would also begin to revisit his medical background and use it as the basis for creating many of the most violent and horrifying scenes in cinema history. This penchant towards extreme gore and unexpected shocks in Fulci’s later films would propel him into notoriety.
Four of Lucio Fulci’s best films from the second half – or middle period – of his long career as a filmmaker have recently been released on DVD, so over the next few days I hope to cover these new releases in more detail.
– Spaghetti Nightmares: Italian Fantasy-Horrors As Seen Through The Eyes Of Their Protagonists by Luca Palmerini and Gaetano Mistrett
– Shocking Images – Offical Lucio Fulci Tribute Site
– Lucio Fulci @ IMDb.com