Wednesday 10 June 2015

Alberto De Martino [1929 - 2015]

Back in the pre-internet era one gathered information about films wherever one could get it.  For mainstream films it usually came from Halliwell's Film Guide and Filmgoers Companion.  If like me, and presumably you since you are reading this post, you enjoyed more obscure stuff then you looked to specialist magazines and fanzines and the occasional glossy reference book.  From reading these sources I came up with a list of directors, and a few actors, who I judged to be significant figures in exploitation cinema.  Naturally enough with Italy being the home of exploitation cinema most of these guys were Italian so I kept lists of the work of people like Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Antonio Margheriti, Riccardo Freda and, among many other, Alberto De Martino.

Alberto De Martino

I think I must have included De Martino because he helmed two of the most successful  and widely-distributed Italian exploitation films of the glory days of the 70s in THE ANTICHRIST [1974] and HOLOCAUST 2000 [1977].  Rip-offs of THE EXORCIST [1973] and THE OMEN [1976] respectively they had decent budgets, decent casts and a professional sheen that a lot of Italian genre pictures lacked.  

So much so that in most respects they resembled mainstream Hollywood movies which is no doubt why they performed well at the box office.  HOLOCAUST 2000 even turned up on British TV occasionally in the 80s and 90s which was unthinkable for 99% of Italian exploitation films.

I'll put my hands up and confess that 20 years on from that youthful data-gathering I've yet to see more than a couple of de Martino's films.  HOLOCAUST 2000 is one; the other is THE BLANCHEVILLE MONSTER aka Horror [1963] which is a decent little gothic horror tale.  

He wasn't all about the horror though: he made films in most of the major exploitation genres, i.e. peplums, spaghetti westerns, polizitescchi, giallo and Eurospy.  He directed an entry in the Ringo series one of the big three spaghetti western franchises in $100,000 DOLLARS FOR RINGO [1965] and what be one of the lamest gimmick films of all time in OPERATION KID BROTHER [1967] starring Sean Connery's brother Neil.  

De Martino also supervised the dubbing on Federico Fellini's LA DOLCE VITA [1960] and shot the second unit footage on his good friend Sergio Leone's GIU LA TESTA [1971] aka Duck You Sucker! aka A Fistful of Dynamite.

I'm always sad when one of these directors passes away because it is one less link to what, for me, is a golden age of genre cinema.  Off the top of my head I can only think of Sergio Martino and Ruggero Deodato of those lists of mine who are still with us and neither is what you could call prolific these days.  So if you get a chance to see either of those guys at film festivals grab it with both hands.

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