January Update / Renato Polselli
As you can probably tell, the Photobucket account that I use for the screenshots has had its bandwidth exceeded. So the images will be down until sometime around February 7th when the bandwidth resets. Until I figure out a better method of hosting images, I'll be using both the Photobucket account and a Flickr account to try to keep the traffic spread out a bit. I don't really like Flickr that well (its interface is annoying to me...), but it'll have to do.
Also, I'd like to start adding some more content to this blog other than just reviews. The entire idea behind this blog, in the first place, was to have a place where I could post film reviews, articles, and the like, in an effort to generate content for a website that I hope to eventually create.
In past efforts of website creation I've often run into a problem where I had the design and layout of a page done without having very much content. It was my hope, in this way, to generate more than enough content before I even think about designing the site, let alone registering the domain, etc.
So in addition to the reviews and articles (of which I have a few already written that I've yet to post), I'd like to post relevant links, as well as information that others have written that may not be immediately accessible to interested individuals.
So to start out with something new, BCult has recently added two very nice in-depth articles about the late Renato Polselli, which are both well worth the read, and include images of rare poster art and images from Cineromanzos:
Renato Polselli: Philosophy of the Sin
Renato Polselli: Dramas & Vampires
In continuing with the theme of Polselli, here's an interview of Polselli conducted by Jay Slater1 that started popping up on message boards in early 2006. Since Polselli has rarely been interviewed, it contains some invaluable information.
RENATO POLSELLI INTERVIEW AND FILMOGRAPHY
by Jay Slater
ULTIMO PERDONO aka THE LAST FORGIVENESS (1951) [director]
DELITTO AL LUNA PARK aka MURDER AT THE AMUSEMENT PARK (1951) [director]
IL GRANDE ADDIO (1953)
SOLO DIO MI FERMERA (1956) [director]
L’ AMANTE DEL VAMPIRO aka THE VAMPIRE’S LOVER aka THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA (1960) [director]
IO SCARRO (1960)
AVVENTURA AL MOTEL aka MOTEL ADVENTURE (1961) [director]
IL MOSTRO DELL’OPERA aka MONSTER OF THE OPERA (1961) [director]
ULTIMATUM ALLA VITA aka ULTIMATUM TO LIFE (1961) [director]
LE SETTE VIPERE aka THE SEVEN VIPERS (1965) [director]
LO SCERIFFO CHE NON SPARA aka THE SHERIFF WHO DOESN’T SHOOT aka THE SHERIFF WON’T SHOOT aka POKER D’AS POUR DJANGO (1966) [co-director to Roberto Montero - Tom Weisser believes Montero directed the film]
MONDO PAZZA, GENTE MATTA (1966) [director]
LA VERITA’ SECONDO SATANA aka THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO SATAN (1972) [director]
DELIRIO CALDO aka DELIRIUM (1973) [director]
RIVELAZIONI DI UNO PSICHIATRA SUL MONDO PERVERSO DEL SESSO aka REVELATIONS OF A PSYCHIATRIST ON THE PERVERSE WORLD OF SEX aka DEEP IN OUR SOUL (1973)
MANIA (1973) [director]
OSCENITA’ aka OBSCENITY aka QUANDO L’AMORE E’ OSCENITA aka WHEN LOVE IS OBSCENITY (1973) [director] note: released in 1979
RITI, MAGIE NERE E SEGRETE ORGE NEL ‘300 aka RITI, MAGIE NERE E SEGRETE ORGE NEL TRECENTO aka THE GHASTLY ORGIES OF COUNT DRACULA aka THE REINCARNATION OF ISABEL aka RITES, BLACK MAGIC, AND SECRET ORGIES IN 1300 aka BLACK MAGIC RITES - REINCARNATIONS (1974) [director]
CASA DELL’ AMORE - LA POLIZIA INTERVIENE aka HOUSE OF LOVE - THE POLICE STRIKES aka HOUSE OF LOVE - THE COPS ARE COMING! (1978) [director]
TORINO CENTRALE DEL VIZIO aka TURIN, HEADQUARTERS OF VICE (1974) [director]
Chances are if you asked most horror fans to name a handful of Renato Polselli films, they would be stumped before the count of their first finger. The minority may remember his delightful Delirio caldo, an erotic and bloodthirsty giallo with psychedelic razzmatazz, but what about Polselli’s other movies? Most of his films are just as warped and are highly entertaining works. However, Polselli himself is something of an enigma who has rarely been interviewed, hence the extreme rarity of his films. Practically unknown outside his native Italy, Polselli’s films focus on human sexual depravity, eroticism, politics, philosophy (the director has earned himself a degree in the subject), and of course, (s)exploitation. Lashings of it. It is hardly surprising to learn that the Italian censor frowned on Polselli’s pictures, and they were often subjected to brutal cutting and distribution restrictions. Polselli is a highly interesting writer, producer and director, whose individual visual flair, erratic editing and colourful camerawork, make his films energetic and sensual experiences. On the fall of December 1997, I was fortunate to interview Polselli in Rome, assisted by Italian horror writer Massimo F. Lavagnini. During our chat, the director revealed his thoughts on his film career and shared annecdotes from behind the camera lens.
Born in Arce, France on 26th February 1922, the young Polselli soon developed a taste for Italian cinema. Polselli’s first film as director was Ultimo perdono, a drama shot in black and white. I asked him about the circumstances behind the film. “At that time, I wanted to write for cinema. An actor who was a good friend of mine, Andrea Petricca, asked me to write a script for him to star in. I wrote the script in less than a day and had absolutely no regards towards the budget” Polselli chuckles. “Anyway, the producer called me and said, ‘Okay, it’s good. Let’s do it!’ Ultimo perdono was followed shortly by Delitto al Luna Park, my first giallo, also shot in black and white.”
In 1960, Polselli made his first true horror film. Inspired by Terence Fisher’s Dracula (1958), producer Umberto Borsato gave Polselli the opportunity to direct L’amante del vampiro. Deciding to warp his film somewhat, and make it as individual as possible, Polselli included sexy footage which was deemed risqué at the time. The cinematography is crisp with some truly atmospheric sequences that remind one of Mario Bava’s visual style. An obscurity, much sought after by movie collectors, L’amante del vampiro is similar to a Hammer horror with a lustful Italian flavour, as well as lengthy scenes of dancing babes. These sequences act as buffers in the film’s creepy narrative, and is a method of film-making that many Indian movies adopt - often with hilarious results.
In 1961, Polselli found critical success with Ultimatum alla vita and Avventura al motel. Ultimatum alla vita is a war drama in which women prisoners of the Germans begin to fight for the partisan cause. The film won a number of awards and was particularly well received in France. Polselli freely admits that World War 2 affected him during the German occupation of Italy. “Minor Italian films such as All the Girls Are Going to Stop Me and From Matter to Life made me stop and think. These films were not only important to me personally, but for all the people of Italy. They conveyed social concerns regarding the war and Italy’s situation after the Allies left. In the 50s, Italian cinema found it difficult to raise these questions and answer our doubts.” Polselli switches his mood to one of deep thought and utter seriousness. “I knew that in the 50s, Italian cinema was restrained in what it could say. So, I decided to make films that could ask questions and try to raise more dangerous topics. One such film I saw at the cinema, now lost, was critical of the American invasion of Italy. The politicians were afraid of movies like this, and tried to ban them.” While on the subject of Ultimatum alla vita, Polselli changes direction and starts talking about mistreating his actors! “I have never really had a problem with actors in my films. The only actor who gave me trouble was Fabrizio Capucci, who plays the role of ‘Hans’ in Ultimatum alla vita. Capucci was always so stupid and full of himself. Eventually, after putting up with his behaviour, I beat him up! After that, Capucci was fine on set and did what I asked of him.”
Avventura al motel was a sexual farce, very much like the teenage American comedies of the early 80s in which the characters were obsessed with losing their virginity. The film is a simple story in which couples attempt to screw in a motel, but are always disturbed before they can get down to the dirty deed. Avventura al motel was very successful at the Italian box-office. At this point, I asked Polselli who were his influences in cinema. “Many Italian directors guided me towards my own career as a film director. However, I never worked with these people as producers paid me to direct my own films. De Sica and Orson Welles were directors who I paid close attention to. They were the masters.” One question I like to throw at directors is if they’ve ever acted in their own films. Polselli immediately dismisses my question with a wave of his hand. “No, not in my films. But I did act in a small role for a little Italian film called An Angel in the Provinces which was made in 1951. And you know, I was happy with my acting!”
After Il mostro dell’opera, a film of considerable technical innovation hampered by terrible distribution, Polselli directed Le sette vipere, a comedy based on the marriage laws of Argentina and Italy. The film was inspired by the producer who suffered a similar fate to the lead character. The title is based on an old Indian legend which states that “every woman hides seven vipers. If you kill one of them, it will multiply giving birth to another 7 vipers.” The producer scarpered from his wife and lawyer, and lived life as an ordinary peasant in an isolated village on the Sardinian mountains…
A year later, Polselli tried his fast hand at the Spaghetti Western. Lo sceriffo che non spara tells of a muscular sheriff (played by Polselli regular Mickey Hargitay) who doesn’t need bullets to rid his town of villains - his brawn will suffice. Polselli is keen to point out that he directed the entire movie, and was not a co-director to Roberto Montero. Apparently, as the film was an Italian and Spanish co-production, the Spaniards asked if they could have one of their directors credited. The Spanish producers felt that it would make financial common sense if it was credited to an Italian and a Spaniard - therefore Montero’s name was plastered on the credits as co-director. Like most Italian directors who worked in the horror and western genres, Polselli discarded his own name and adopted a pseudonym. “I thought ‘Ralph Brown’ sounded better to an American than Renato Polselli. Besides, they dislike Italian names - too much tongue twisting for them! This is why us Italians used pseudonyms for all our Spaghetti Westerns. We did our best to fool them!” Lo sceriffo che non spara was the first film Polselli made with Mickey ‘Mr. Universe’ Hargitay. Polselli is eager to spill the beans on Hargitay. “When I came to direct Delirio caldo, the producer called me to say that an actor was wandering around Rome looking for work. I convinced the producer that Hargitay was my ideal choice and even fooled him into thinking he was an American. I remember one night I introduced Hargitay to the producer. As the producer thought Hargitay was American, he spoke in English and Hargitay had to apologise and say ‘I’m sorry, I don’t speak a word of English!’ He was very strong, but hardly a body builder like you see him in the films. He once boasted he could rip a Yellow Pages book in half - and he did!”
In ’68, Polselli began to take an interest in production and Distribution company Titanus asked Polselli if he could help produce Rita la zanzara/Rita the Mosquito, a vehicle for popular Italian singer Rita Pavone. Polselli believed that the soundtrack would be a variety of new material, but Titanus insisted that Pavone raid her back-catalogue of previous chart singles. Unimpressed, Polselli refused to direct the film, and Lina Wertmuller took over. Wertmuller had worked with Pavone before in the television industry and on a rare musical, Il giornalino di Gianburrasca/The Diary of Hurricane John. Polselli then worked on Antonio Margheriti’s Io ti amo/I Love You (1968), a film that was a box-office disaster.
In 1972, Polselli directed the saucy La verita’ secondo Satana which was produced by his own company, G.R.P. Cinematografica. Originally titled The Gospel by Satan, the film is a psychological giallo in which the beautiful Rita Calderoni (an actress who often starred in Polselli’s movies) believes she has driven her lover to suicide. Because of the word gospel in the title, La verita’ secondo Satana was instantly accused of blasphemy and its distribution was very limited. Once considered a lost title, Polselli’s film was broadcast on the smallest Italian television networks during the early 80s. To bypass censorship and distribution hassles, Polselli shot three different versions, and although the movie was released five times during the 70s, the director added new footage to each print, while deleted certain scenes. The hardest print of La Verita’ secondo Satana features a close-up of the female orgasm. To achieve this, Polselli filmed the actress’s face, body and pubic region in extreme detail as the female orgasm is less evident than the male. Polselli is proud to be one of the first hardcore directors to film such a steamy scene.
One of my all time favourite film titles has to be Rivelazioni di uno psichiatra sul mondo perverso del sesso (1973) which translates into English as Revelations of a Psychiatrist on the Perverse World of Sex. Yes, this raunchy title says it all! Re-released as Deep in our Soul, the film is shot Mondo-style, as a psychiatrist explains to his students about weird cases of sexual deviations. Each tale is presented as a short vignette and includes a graphic yarn of necrophilia and twenty minutes of hardcore shagging that has nothing to do with the actual film. The director claims he made Rivelazioni di uno psichiatra sul mondo perverso del sesso in spite of critics who had dismissed his films saying that they were too graphic and perverse. A box-office smash, especially in Asia, Polselli’s idea for the film came from reading an article stating that the poor are victims of sexual ignorance. Believing that psychiatry is useless, Polselli goes one further by making the good doctor a randy scallywag. A highlight is a scene in where a young, naked woman makes love to a rubber inflatable dog, before tossing-off an Alsatian puppy. Totally incomprehensible, the hardcore sex footage is amateurish, but it is somewhat erotic, graced with a spooky John Carpenter-type score.
In the same year, Polselli directed another psychological movie that features sex, passion, and bloody violence as its main themes. Delirio caldo is his best known film, and is widely available throughout Europe in a watered-down American version titled Delirum. The narrative is a simple one. Hargitay plays the role of Dr. Herbert Lyutak, a well-regarded psychiatrist whose sexual urges become so great that in a fit of frustration, he strangles a young teenage girl. His wife, Marcia (Calderoni) fears that the police will eventually suspect her husband as the murderer. Hoping to divert his guilt, Marcia begins to kill scantily-clad girls in a bid to save Herbert from the hangman’s noose. Unfortunately, the conclusion is an unhappy one for our horny couple as the police arrive for the gruesome finale. Aristide Massaccesi, Italy’s leading hardcore director, copied much of Polselli’s film for his Buio omega (1979) - well, it has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Knowing that several Asian markets preferred graphic material, Polselli shot two versions of Delirio caldo. The weaker print, destined for America was further heavily cut by 11 minutes of sex and torture. Also, Polselli re-wrote the narrative and ending so that the film was not as complex as his European edit. The uncut version (which can be found on video cassette in France) features a different conclusion, long scenes of narrative and of course, lots of naked female flesh and striking violence. The spicy ladies in this film are ravishing, no wonder the Italian title translates as Hot Delirium! The actresses (Tano Cimarosa, Krista Barrymore and Katia Cardinali) are stripped of their clothing by their murderer, beaten, masturbated, and finally killed. In one sequence, Hargitay beats his wife with an iron bar, bruising her back in the process, before buggering her with the blunt instrument, a spectacle cut from the American and Dutch videos. Perhaps the strongest scene is where a blonde woman is beaten and then drowned in a bath. Yet again, Polselli twists this sequence by making her beating more severe, followed by scenes of her sucking a truncheon and then having her twat spanked! Apart from the visual differences, the full version shows the woman enjoying her sexual frenzy, while in the American print, she is in fear of her life. “Yeah, that particular scene was one of the strongest in Delirio caldo” Polselli explains. “I made six films with that particular actress who starred in the very heavy sex scenes. She once asked me to direct her in a hardcore film, but I never got round to making it.”
Even after extensive edits and alterations, the American distributors were unhappy with Delirio caldo. “I found out that I could fool them with the sex scenes by using different camera angles, or editing different footage into the film. I thought my European cut was perfect for the Americans who bought the rights. However, they thought it was way too strong for their audience. Now, this is a funny story,” suddenly, Polselli is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, “I received a phone call from the American buyers who asked me if I could film a Vietnam sequence and edit it into their release. Yeah, like sure! So I bought 16mm war documentary footage and project it onto a wall in my cellar. I then dressed Hargitay as an American soldier and asked him to stand in front of the wall, except this time he was on location in a bogus Vietnam. Afterwards, I spliced in the new war film and the Americans were delighted.” In the uncut version of Delirio caldo, the eagle-eyed may witness a few shots of Italians trying to imitate English policemen. Apparently, Polselli intended to have the film set in England, but the Americans cut out all references to Blighty.
Although a number of gialli lack narrative cohesion, they usually complement their electric camerawork and graphic bloodshed with a heart-pounding score. Dario Argento preferred the fantastic work of The Goblins, while Lamberto Bava opted for Simon Boswell and Guido & Maurizio de Angelis. However, to classify gialli as bare plotted is an inaccurate observation. Delirio caldo benefits from a mesmerising score composed by Gianfranco Reverberi - a psychedelic melody that rips with energy. “I want the very best for my movies,” Polselli says as he sits back in his chair, sipping a generous glass of red wine. “I demand to be at the composer’s side at all times when he writes the music. They must be perfect, and Delirio caldo is no exception.” On the subject of scores, I explain that the main theme for Mondo cane (1961) was a huge success in England, where as a single, it blossomed in the pop charts. Surely, it’s about time that Reverberi’s score was released as a single. Smiling, Polselli rubs his chin, in deep thought…
While on the subject of gialli, Polselli rejects Argento as an effective film director. “Many years ago, Dario Argento was a film critic who wrote for popular Italian newspapers. His father, Salvatore, asked directors to invite Dario into the ‘beautiful world of cinema’. Argento doesn’t make real giallos. He takes five or six horrific elements and sticks them together with a very thin plot. I think his best film is Five Days in Milan (1973). In fact, his father asked me what I thought of the film, and I said that five minutes were o-k-a-y, the rest very average!” Isn’t it unfair to give Argento mass coverage, when it is clear that gifted directors such as Renato Polselli and Sergio Martino are deliberately overlooked by biased reporters? Delirio caldo is one of Italy’s best giallos of the 70s, a refreshing and exhilarating experience with a heady flash of female nudity. If fans of the genre avoid Delirio caldo and Martino’s I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale/Torso (1973) due to Argento favouritism, they are missing out on two of Italy’s greatest and bloodiest thrillers, shot with style and attitude.
Mania (1973) is one of Polselli’s rarest pictures. Released theatrically, it has never appeared on video cassette, making it impossible to find and review. Another giallo, the film concerns love, betrayal and murder (so what’s new?). A married woman is deeply in love with another man, and together, they kill her husband. Unfortunately for them, the husband faked his own death, and drives the new couple to madness.
Filmed in 1973, but released theatrically in ‘79 after censorship wrangling, Oscenita’ is Polselli’s fieriest picture. The director intended the film to be about obscenity and how it has asserted itself in the world, and through religious circles. He submitted the movie as Quando l’amore e’ oscenita’/When Love is Obscenity in 1973, but the Italian censors had finally had enough with the director’s films - the president of film classification remarked: “You have made a film way too tough”.
“Another way of interpreting the film is how it fights against the Italian system, and how obscenity was dealt with throughout history. I was very much against the contemporary ideas of Italian thinking, and how politicians were blinded by the church and its religious thinkers. The censors were shocked by my film, not because of its graphic imagery, but due to its political nature. Because of this, I had to re-edit and re-dub the entire film, and turned it into a feminist picture,” Polselli sighs. Six years later, he re-submitted Oscenita’ as a giallo, another illustration of ultra sexual violence against women. A three minute presentation trailer can be found circulating between collectors of the genre, and Polselli hopes to release the original cut of Oscenita’ on video and DVD in the near future.
In 1974, Polselli tried his hand at the vampire movie with Riti, magie, nere e segrete orge nel ‘300, although its English language title of Rites, Black Magic, and Secret Orgies in 1300 should give a clearer picture. Yep, plenty of violence and lashings of passion to be savoured. Taking his cue from Bram Stoker’s novel, Polselli’s idea was to speak out about vampirism and popular superstitions, which he is skeptical about. The first English language release of the film was The Reincarnation of Isabelle which ran for a complete 95 minutes. Cautious of video censorship, Polselli cut a new print that clocked in at 59 minutes for a hopeful re-release, but his plan failed to materialise. The director planned to produce new material to replace the cut footage, but once again, this never happened. The 59 minute print circulates as a bootleg video, and is an erotic vampire horror with gruesome splatter deaths. Should keep the porno and horror boys content. “Most of my films took three or four weeks to shoot. Riti, magie, nere e segrete orge nel ‘300 was my longest production at eight weeks. The film was a HUGE success all over the world. I remember that the German buyers were very interested, and they asked me if it was a big budget movie. I replied by saying that it was the most expensive film of the year and it was shot in various tropical locations. Of course, I lied! Also, I made a terrible mistake which was left in the finished film. I wanted to shoot a scene where the camera zooms out of a close-up of an actor’s face to a face in a painting. It didn’t work! I couldn’t get the images to fit and it looked awful”.
Based on a satanic sect, Casa dell’amore - la polizia interviene (1978) features the usual exploitation elements of blood and writhing naked women. An extremely rare movie, the film originated in an unreleased picture directed by Bruno Vani, who was Polselli’s secretary. Polselli added additional material and also created a confusing new story. It is unclear if the film was released theatrically, but it has been seen on Italian TV, missing most of its arousing sex scenes. In the same year, Polselli released Torino centrale del vizio, his last directorial effort. Although credited to Bruno Vani, this film was directed by Polselli, and is one of his only movies to be granted an official Italian video certificate.
Polselli has not made a new film for 20 years. At 76 years of age, he has written a screenplay for a kickboxing movie called Kicks of Fire which will be directed by Pasqualino Fanetti. The director does have plans to make a film of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata but is doubtful it will go ahead. “I feel tired of making movies. When you get to my age, it’s very difficult to be in charge of a whole film with its various departments. I would like to make another film, though it all depends how I feel when I wake up in the morning. Some days, I think to myself that it would be fun to make a film, and other days, I stay in bed and forget about it.” Which would be a pity as Italian horror cinema has never seen another Polselli. Gruesome, erotic, and plain offensive to Daily Mail readers - films such as Delirio caldo should be cherished and not forgotten. As we discuss the future of Italian horror (Polselli avoids Argento), the director believes that the 90s will be dark years for Cinecitta’. “I don’t like a lot of these new expensive films, as they rely on computer effects which don’t look realistic. These directors should use their imagination more than these terrible graphics.” And apart from Al Festa’s abysmal Fatal Frames, Sergio Stivaletti’s Wax Mask and Argento’s forthcoming The Phantom of the Opera, it certainly is a lean time for fans of Italian horror movies.
Polselli admits that he has taken the advice of horror film critics and avoided Stivaletti’s film at all costs. “I haven’t seen it as I get the feeling I won’t be too impressed. I think Argento and Stivaletti should have left the first film as it was, because it’s a good horror movie. Also, they cut Fulci’s screenplay which was much better than Stivaletti’s.” And now it is time for us to depart and return to a party, hosted by Antonella Fulci. As we walk back to the crowd, Polselli stops and says that he has something else to say on behalf of his English fans. “Can I ask you a favour?” Polselli pleads. “I just want to say to all the people who have taken an interest in my films, I LOVE all of you!”
Aside from more reviews coming soon, I will probably soon be publishing a sort of "manifesto" that lays down the themes and ideas that hold the films of ESOTIKA EROTICA PSYCHOTICA together.
As a final note, I'd like to point out that feedback on any of the posts is more than welcome and I very much appreciate any comments or critiques that anybody has to offer!
1I tried to find contact info for Jay Slater to ask for permission to post the interview here, but I could find none. If anybody retains rights to the interview and needs me to take it down, I will do so without question.