×

Buzz is back on Italian B-pix

Tarantino's Venice retro spotlighted classic horror titles

ROME– Italian B-movies — that distinctive genre of gory, garish, and stylish pics that did killer biz for decades, before going dormant in the early 1990s — have been reawakened by Quentin Tarantino.

In 2004, Tarantino’s Italian Kings of the B’s retro at the Venice Film Fest brought these titles back into the spotlight. Now local producers have started to spawn a fresh crop of ultraviolent pics and other gritty goods, including pulpy giallos and spaghetti horrors, sub-genres widely considered dead due to the constraints dictated by the advent of Silvio Berlusconi’s commercial Mediaset web during the ’80s.

The Tarantino-programmed section included 1970’s gangster pics “Wipeout!” and “Mister Scarface” by helmer Fernando Di Leo, titles that Tarantino has often cited as inspiration. Sponsored by the Prada Foundation, the retro has since traveled extensively, including to Tokyo, Melbourne, and London.

Two years later, DVD sales are soaring on restored works by the late Di Leo and other formerly neglected old Italo B-movie masters.

“What we’re doing is trying to capitalize in a positive way on the huge boost that Quentin Tarantino has given Italian genre movies,” says Stefano Della Casa, topper of the Turin Film Commission, which is co-producing a Masters of Italian Horror package with state film entity Istituto Luce, inspired by the Showtime series with which it has no links.

The actual Showtime series, for its part, recruited helmer Dario Argento, the godfather of giallos, to helm one of its recent episodes. Argento continues to release features as well.

Unveiled in June at Rome’s wax museum, the package sees cult vets Umberto Lenzi (“Orgasmo,” aka “Paranoia”), and Sergio Martino (“Blade of the Ripper”), Lamberto Bava (“Demons”) as well as Turinese newcomer Nicola Rondolino doing low-budget digital video pics. Pics will be sold outside Italy, but will likely be too racy for principal financiers Mediaset and pubcaster RAI, the country’s two main broadcasters.

“For once we won’t be slaves to the sugar-coated tastes of TV audiences,” says the 75-year-old Lenzi, who is shooting “Horror Baby,” a slasher about a 15-year-old paraplegic girl who becomes a serial killer after viewing a neighbor having sex from her window.

“It may seem strange that Istituto Luce, generally known for its highbrow auteur bent, is part of this Italian B-movie revival,” says Luce topper Luciano Sovena.

“But if you think about it Italian B-movies inspired Truffaut and Renoir, not just Tarantino. There is an intrinsic value in these types of films. They represent the culture of Italian cinema,” he adds.

Smoking a Tuscan cigar in his dark Rome office with a big “Kings of the B’s” poster behind his desk, producer/distributor Gianluca Curti, whose father produced many of Di Leo’s works, says the Venice retro and Tarantino’s seal of approval have given several of his library titles “a second youth,” and not just those by Di Leo.

Sales of stuff like Lucio Fulci’s splatter horror “A Cat in the Brain” and Umberto Lenzi’s “Deep River Savages” cannibal pic have increased by as much as 40% internationally, he says.

“We are definitely looking for that genre of cinema,” confirms Bruce Venezia, VP of programming at U.S. homevid distrib Image Entertainment. “There is plenty of interest from the cult fans here.”

Smaller DVD companies like No Shame, Blue Underground and Media Blasters are also mining vintage Italian titles for new releases. If commercial TV killed the old Italo B movies, DVD is proving a definite booster for their revival.

Curti’s Minerva shingle co-financed Alex Infascelli’s psychological horror “Hate 2 0,” about five young women in a secluded cottage who go on a purifying water-only diet which goes awry. Pic bypassed the perils of theatrical, going straight to DVD, but with a twist. It sold on newsstands, packaged as an optional extra with daily La Repubblica and weekly l’Espresso, a clever distribution method for a country which often packages lipsticks and other bonuses with magazines.

Roughly 80,000 of the 100,000 printed copies of “Hate 2 0,” which sold for e12.90 ($16.30), were sold. Pic will now also air on MTV Italy.

Curti, who has a slate of local thriller/horror titles, including new works by Infascelli and hip helming duo the Manetti brothers in the pipeline, credits Michele Placido’s violent gangster epic “Crime Novel,” a slick semi-realistic chronicle of ties between mobsters and Italian ’70s politics, with re-planting the flag for Italo genre pics abroad. After faring well in Italy, “Crime” pulled in more than $2.5 million earlier this year in France, released by Warner Bros, which co-produced with Cattleya.

“It had been ages since an Italian movie did that well in France,” he crows.

More Film

  • Aisling Franciosi

    European Film Promotion Unveils 2019 Shooting Stars

    Aisling Franciosi (“The Nightingale”), Ardalan Esmaili (“The Charmer”) and Elliott Crosset Hove (“Winter Brothers”) are among the 10 actors and actresses who have been named as the European Film Promotion’s Shooting Stars. Previous Shooting Stars include Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Pilou Asbæk and Baltasar Kormákur. The new crop of up-and-coming talent for the 22nd edition of [...]

  • Jodie Foster'Money Monster' photocall, Palais, 69th

    Film News Roundup: Jodie Foster to Direct, Star in Remake of Icelandic Thriller

    In today’s film news roundup, Jodie Foster is remaking Iceland’s “Woman at War,” the Art Directors Guild honors production designers Anthony Masters and Ben Carre, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” gets cast and Melissa Takal directs “New Year New You” for Hulu. PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT Jodie Foster will direct, co-produce and star in an English-language remake of [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal to Star in Remake of Denmark's Oscar Entry 'The Guilty' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bold Films, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker’s Nine Stories banner have acquired the rights to remake the Danish thriller “The Guilty,” with Gyllenhaal attached to star. The pic won the world cinema audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was also named one of the top five foreign language films of 2018 by [...]

  • Toxic Avenger

    'Toxic Avenger' Movie in the Works at Legendary

    Legendary Entertainment is developing “The Toxic Avenger” as a movie after acquiring the feature film rights. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers. Alex Garcia and Jay Ashenfelter will oversee for Legendary. Kaufman and Herz produced the original 1984 comedy, set in the fictional town of Tromaville, N.J., and centered [...]

  • Constance Wu

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Star Constance Wu in Negotiations for Romantic Comedy

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu is in talks to join Sony’s Screen Gems’ untitled romantic comedy, with Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman producing. “GLOW” actress Kimmy Gatewood is making her feature directorial debut on the project. She will be directing from a Savion Einstein script about a woman who becomes pregnant with two babies [...]

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal AoA

    Maggie Gyllenhaal on Why a Woman Director Doesn't Automatically Make a Story More Feminine

    Having a female director doesn’t automatically make a story more feminine, says “The Kindergarten Teacher” star Maggie Gyllenhaal, but when it comes to her film with director Sara Colangelo, she says the female narrative is fully encapsulated. “Just because something is written or directed by a woman doesn’t necessarily make it a feminine articulation,” she says [...]

  • Kevin Hart Hurricane Harvey

    Academy Looks Warily at Oscar Host Options as Board Meeting Looms

    Kevin Hart’s abrupt departure as Oscars host has left the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences scrambling to find someone to take the gig. As of now, the situation remains fluid as the group’s leadership explores options, including going host-less, individuals familiar with the situation told Variety. The Academy was blindsided by Hart’s announced departure Thursday [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content