Interview with Nicholas McCarthy – Director of THE PACT

THE PACT is one of those low budget horror success stories that comes along every so often and manages to strike a chord and cross over into the mainstream. Shot on an extremely low budget, director Nicholas MCarthy’s film was given a wide release in the UK when it opened at the beginning of last month.  

Nicholas very kindly agreed for us to interview him and, as you’re about to see, Euro Cult films (and their makers) occupy a very special place in his heart…

I would automatically assume that you’re something of a film buff. Please can you elaborate on the films that formed a significant part of your education as a filmmaker? 

I’ve always liked all kinds of movies.  When I was a little kid ANYTHING was worth seeing, even movies that were way over my head.  But horror got its grips in me early.  I grew up in New Hampshire and we had a black and white TV set that got about 6 channels and used a rotating antennae on top of the house.  Occasionally I could catch Godzilla movies playing and the concept of monster movies began to obsess me.  I used to pour through the TV listings to find evidence of anything horror-related.  There was this mysterious channel that we didn’t receive, out of Boston–Channel 56–they were always airing films on Saturday afternoons with titles like IT!  THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE or DESTROY ALL MONSTERS.  What were these things?  I could only imagine.  Then one day all of a sudden we were able to get Channel 56 over our set — they must’ve boosted their signal.  I waited all week to see the two movies they were showing, which I soon learned was their programming block called “Creature Double Feature.”  That weekend they showed a Toho monster movie I now can’t remember followed by the completely bizarre FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER.  Viewing that second movie was a life-changing experience.  It was “bad,” but at age 8 I had no measurement of bad.  It was shot in Puerto Rico and there was no Frankenstein monster.  Most of it was post-dubbed.  I could hardly make sense of it.  It had a scene where a robot, who was running amuck, threw an axe in someone’s face.  Those 90 minutes changed my life forever.

As I got older I started to watch all kinds of films in the genre and outside of it.  But the dark and strange always stuck with me, and that’s always the stuff I liked best.

I think you’ve just described how many of us became so enamoured with film, Nick! We had only four channels when most of us were growing up here in the UK, so we had far less horror on our screens, with the notable exception of the double bills that were screened over weekends and Alex Cox’s excellent Moviedrome series. The advent of rental VHS opened things up a lot wider and horror became far more accessible (until the introduction of Britain’s draconian Video Recordings Act!). Do you have any fond memories or standout experiences from the time when you were introduced to video?

Video was so important to me growing up.  I saved up my own money to buy a VCR.  It was a used, giant top-loading JVC model.  Like so many other horror fans, an entire world of the genre was opened up to me with that machine  It was all the more exciting back then because there was so much less context for what was out there — the video shelves were like a wild west, “respectable” studio product right alongside the sleaziest no-budget horror movies imaginable.  I started to program all night marathons for my friends and we would watch both the stuff I wanted them to see, along with cult and horror movies I had read about and thought might be great – sometimes they were, sometimes they weren’t.   I also began taping things off late night TV back then, which is how I caught favorites like SHOCK WAVES or ZONTAR: THE THING FROM VENUS.  That old VCR was how I saw so many of the great and awful films that I still love.

I’ll also say this about watching movies on home video — it’s STILL something I’m amazed and grateful for, because I remember when I was first introduced to this concept — that just because you’re thinking of a movie could now mean you could choose to watch it, then and there.  That is an amazing luxury.  The other luxury is the huge mine of cinema history that opened up with the ability to cheaply acquire and watch older movies.  In the Euro Cult world I’m always impressed how we can pour over these films that never really were meant to stand some kind of test of time – but that’s one of the qualities that make them so special.   These films were made with an urgency because there was a market that was just hungry for more and more movies, coming at a time of real inventiveness in cinema.  When I made my own movie, that urgency was something I kept in mind–THE PACT was not made after 10 years of developing it–it was written in six weeks and shot in 18 days!  But with the budget so low the financier was basically like “just go do it” and I had no time to think too much about anything beyond trying to make this weird little movie I had imagined in my head just weeks before.  Some might criticize that approach, but I wouldn’t have traded that freshness for anything.  The whole thing was just full throttle, the same way that guys like Enzo Castellari operated, back in the day.

Did reading about the way in which Italian filmmakers made their films or even watching the special features on the DVDs have any impact on how you’ve honed your skills as a filmmaker? You mention Castellari, but did he or any of the other prolific filmmakers of the period make an impression on the way you made your film on such a tight schedule?

One of the things that I’ve come to really admire about many of the directors from back then was how prolific they were.  I mean, a guy like Castellari had a film coming out every 6 months in the 70s!  And in all different genres — westerns, crime films, comedies…  As I said earlier, I think there’s strength in making things quickly, to attack a script and move on.  It can produce all kinds of films — some terrible, but also some that are masterpieces.  And that’s not limited to exploitation — many of the titans of the “art film” did the same thing — Bunuel, Bergman, Fassbinder… they just made film after film after film.  That’s something I aspire to do.

The circumstances of the Italian film industry in the 70s are exceptional, there’s no going back to that time economically or culturally.  But the more of the films from the period that I watch the more in tune I feel to that urgency that went into making them, and it in turn, that inspires me to create something.  Their energy is contagious.

Are you a big fan of Euro Cult cinema? If so, please can you touch upon the genres, films and filmmakers that have inspired you as an artist? 

The first Euro Cult films I saw were, like a lot of other fans, viewed on cropped VHS tapes. Probably the first Euro genre title I ever saw was Fulci’s GATES OF HELL aka CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD.  I was about 13 and probably read about it in Fangoria, which obsessed over how much blood was in a movie, therefore it paid special attention to this title.  It was a little boring at that age, but strangely fascinating.  It came from another world, outside of American cinema.  It had a whole different cinematic language.  And it was disgusting.  I was interested.

It wasn’t until a few years later, at age 16, that I truly “discovered” Euro Cult, when I went to see a 35mm screening of SUSPIRIA.  I knew next to nothing about this movie going in, maybe just that it was an Italian horror movie.  I was nearly all alone in the theater, by myself, mid-week, during a hot summer.  The sound was LOUD.  When the film finished my mind was shattered.  I had never seen anything so scary, so cinematic, so strange.  I wanted more. Since then I’ve watched Italian, French, and Spanish genre movies non-stop.  My next obsession after Argento, of course, was Mario Bava — his work blew me away, I loved exploring film after film of his, each one so different and amazing.  As I got older I developed a soft spot for gialli and the whole spectrum of crime films.  Probably my favorite giallo is STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH, but I’ve seen dozens and loved many of them, from the beautiful ones like LE ORME to the cruddy insanity of Umerto Lenzi’s EYEBALL.

Crime films it’s the same thing — I’ve been enthusiastic about the classier examples, like MACHINE GUN MCCAIN, but also loved the trashiest of the trash, like the movie I first saw on a double bill with MCCAIN — ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON aka ROME ARMED TO THE TEETH.   That movie is batshit crazy.

SUSPIRIA seems to be an entry level title for many EuroCult fans, it was one of the first Italian horror films I saw too. You mention ROME ARMED TO THE TEETH, again this was one of the first poliziotteschi films I caught and, like my friend who introduced me to them, I stumbled upon the genre because I found myself seeking out the work of the directors of Italian horror movies – was this the case with you? Looking at the work of directors such as Umberto Lenzi and Sergio Martino in particular as both dabbled in many different genres, do you have a preference to a particular type of film that they made?

Yeah, horror was my entry point and I think it’s true for a lot of fans.  What I discovered was that really there are so many more interesting European thrillers and crime films than horror movies.  It’s fun to trace the careers of a lot of these directors because you see their strengths and weaknesses, but I also have learned that the strength of the work often has a lot to do with the circumstances of both when the movies were made and how well they were produced.   When Sergio Martino made STRANGE VICE… it was at the very beginning of the giallo flood and for me it feels like the quintessential movie that defined the cycle after Bava and Argento put the elements together.  For that reason it seems like everything falls into place for Martino on that movie and I’ve watched it many times.   In the same way, with Lenzi’s films, I first heard about him because of the notorious, sloppily made horror movies from the later part of his career, but when I saw his late 60s giallo ORGASMO with him working with a stronger budget and just at a different pop cultural moment I was like “wow!”  That film is one of the all-time classic Euro Cult titles to me.  Then I started seeing his crime movies in between and I was like “holy shit, this guy is crazy!  Who knew he could do that too?”

Have you paid homage to any of your favourite films or directors in THE PACT?  

Well there’s a lot of different genre films that influenced the movie, and there’s a lot of Euro Cult in there.  There’s a shot at the beginning that is a direct reference to SUSPIRIA, where the camera rises up and peers down at the actress through a hanging lamp.  In Argento’s film they’re on some crazy crane, while we just used the boom arm on the dolly, but it was a total homage.  I showed my director of photography Bridger Nielson sequences from SUSPIRIA to give him an idea of how we wanted to establish camera movement.  It was funny, the film is like a sacred text to me, and Bridger thought it was cool, but he kept pointing out how bumpy Argento’s dolly shots were!

The mystery plotting of the movie was inspired completely by the Italian giallo film.  There’s a kind of fetishy attention to detail in those movies that I tried to get in THE PACT, with lots of close ups of clues.  There’s also a murder sequence in the movie where all you see is a hand with a knife and the audience doesn’t see who’s holding the knife.  The concept for the scene came from the classic giallo template, and for reference I actually showed our makeup FX guy and my DoP a murder in Argento’s OPERA. There are tons of dolly shots in the movie following people around.  Part of it was inspired by the classic, poetic horror movies of Val Lewton, but the look and size of the shots came from the park sequence in FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET.

Finally, there’s a long daylight sequence in my movie that is entirely modeled on the look and feel of Antonioni’s BLOW-UP.  I was watching that movie again a few years ago and realized how much Argento took from it for BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE – the movie that kicked off the wonderful wave of all those gialli.  So it’s a kind of Euro Cult reference in a more oblique way.

BLOW-UP is a wonderful film and one that gets better with each subsequent viewing. Were you aware of the importance of creating a work that stands up to the scrutiny of repeated viewings and did you deliberately make choices that would allow for things to go unnoticed when the viewer watches THE PACT for the first time?

I was just concerned with trying to create the movie in my head, which on our budget meant trying to get as many different shots as we could every day.  I really feel like you can’t think about the future when you create something like this, you never know how it will be received or who will like it.  One of the things that’s been cool about getting the film out there is some of the people who I respect, horror fans with blogs, genre savvy writers like Kim Newman in particular, have given the movie props.  But in no way did I ever try to calculate or predict that sort of response.  I was just trying to make my first movie.  I hope that some people will return to it.  Lord knows there are a lot of films that I’ve watched again and again where the creators never imagined people would see it more than once, like so many of the Euro Cult titles we love.

Thank you, Nick, it’s been great chatting with you.

Island of the Fishmen

Island of the Fishmen (Sergio Martino, 1979)


Having been lost at sea for days with a number of convicts from a downed prison vessel, Lieutenant Claude de Ross and company run afoul of strange creatures that attack them amidst a fog enshrouded reef. Awakening the following day on the beach of a beautiful, yet dangerous island, the group find the place is inhabited by the aristocratic Edmond Rackham and his much younger wife, Amanda. Ignoring warnings to leave the isle, strange and mysterious happenings such as voodoo rites and the appearance of humanoid like fish monsters lead to many unanswered questions for the inquisitive Lieutenant. While Claude’s shipwrecked detainees begin disappearing, horrifying as well as fascinating secrets are finally revealed about the atoll and its residents as a disturbed volcano threatens to destroy the island paradise…

Easily the most ambitious of Martino’s unrelated horror/adventure/fantasy trilogy which also includes MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (1978) and THE BIG ALLIGATOR RIVER (1979), Martino crafts an interesting variation on H.G. Wells’s classic story, ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’, a story that has been adapted for the screen on countless occasions since the 1930s. Martino manages to cram in so many elements, including the army of fishmen, the voodoo priestess and her followers, the volcano that threatens to erupt at any minute and the lost city of Atlantis! Martino manages to weave elements of the Wells’ story in addition to the search for a hidden treasure 2,000 feet below the ocean’s depths. With so much potential and variety in the plot, the setting is ripe for a smorgasborge of thrills and excitement. Although Martino gels all his ingredients successfully, the pacing does drag at times, peddling when it should be full steam ahead. The film itself could have done with a bit more editing, cutting away some of the extraneous fat and toning the rhythm to make it move a little more lively. Such a thing was attempted by Roger Corman the following year (more on that later) when he released the film through his New World Pictures outfit.

However, there are more than enough good moments throughout and the final 15 minutes pile on the action and spectacle. Working with what must have been a small budget, Martino does go the extra mile as usual in delivering more than what his financial constraints should allow. The monster suits are fine; nothing overly spectacular but they suffice in their function to add entertainment value or move the plot along when necessary. Some extra touches could have made them more believable but the film would have been a far lesser affair without them. The creatures are often seen accompanying some fine underwater photography and it’s also obvious the performers inside the suits have been outfitted with air tanks under their costumes during some of the wider shots near the end. But compared with Martino’s other two films often linked with this one, ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN (1979) is extremely tame in the violence department. Far more fantasy oriented than a gory exercise in mayhem, this may turn a number of fans off to this picture but it’s definitely got a lot more going for it in the overall plot and its adventure aspects.

The late Claudio Cassinelli is the main star here although Barbara Bach precedes him in the credits. Cassinelli has a commanding presence and I’m curious if he dubbed his own voice here. His character of Lt. Claude de Ross, who is also a medical officer, is constantly at odds with Rackham and finds out late in the film why Rackham has kept him alive for so long. Cassinelli starred in Martino’s two other films in this unofficial trilogy, another of which with Barbara Bach. Cassinelli, as is widely known, was killed in a helicopter accident while filming Martino’s HANDS OF STEEL (1986). The actor left behind a plethora of vibrant roles in many a fan favourite spanning various genres of European cinema, including gialli such as THE SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF A MINOR (1975), crime movies like KILLER COP (1974) and BLOODY PAYROLL 1976) and the giallo/crime hybrid WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? (1974). Cassinelli even found time to appear as the mythological Zeus in two abominably bad movies, HERCULES (1983) and THE ADVENTURES OF HERCULES (1984) from director Luigi Cozzi. With so many intriguing movies on his resume, his star will never fade.

Barbara Bach on the other hand, is beauty personified but she seldom does anything more than waltz around looking like she’s in a state of catatonia or possibly entranced by the voodoo priestess in the film. Most of her other performances follow a similar pattern. However, she was quite lively in CAVEMAN (1981), the film in which she met her husband, former Beatle Ringo Starr. Bach is probably best remembered for her star turn alongside Roger Moore in the James Bond film, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977). In addition to her two Martino horror/fantasy films, she had previously featured in a handful of Italian giallo and crime movies prior to her nabbing the role in the Bond film.

Respected British actor Richard Johnson stars as the villainous Edmond Rackham and he plays the role rather viciously, sometimes bordering on the comical. His near constant butting of heads with Cassinelli grows a bit tiresome here and there but by the end, he proves to be quite the sophisticated and determined bad guy, reaching an almost Bondian level of villainy in his plans. Johnson will forever be remembered by Italian horror fans for his role of Dr. Menard in Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (1979). In ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN (1979), Johnson is dressed more or less identical to his outfit seen in the flashback in Fulci’s movie. Perhaps the two films were shot simultaneously? Johnson also appeared in Martino’s THE BIG ALLIGATOR RIVER the same year and played a hermetic and loony priest.

Joseph Cotten appears briefly here to reveal a good chunk of this films mystery and his scenes amount to around five minutes of screen time. Cotten is no stranger to foreign cinema and it is often stated that when American actors reach the end of their illustrious careers in their homeland, they resign themselves to foreign shores as it’s the last plateau where their careers still hold weight. To me, this notion, whether it be true or not, is a bit insulting to foreign productions. That the star of CITIZEN CANE (1941) did a large number of often critically maligned European productions, those critics should not forget the fact that he also appeared in what is considered to be three of the worst American films of all time–DUEL IN THE SUN (1946), THE OSCAR (1966) and HEAVEN’S GATE (1980), a film that seriously crippled United Artists, though has enjoyed something of a critical reappraisal since its release.

The cinematography by Giancarlo Ferrando is nothing short of stunning. Full advantage is taken of some truly magnificent locations. Locales that, if not for the air of horror and danger present, are almost idyllic. The photography here is a definite highpoint and something that is shared with the other two evidently more violent Martino horror/adventure films. Numerous times the actors are framed amidst awestricken shots of island fauna, beach locales surrounding the isle or massive caverns like the one seen during the film’s last half. Likewise, the soundtrack by Luciano Michelini is ambitious in its scope, going for scene-specific stingers, voodoo enhanced jungle beats, melodic, sometimes romantic passages and even one cue that sounds reminiscent of one heard in the score for Lenzi’s EATEN ALIVE! (1980).

Like many Italian genre films of the time, FISHMEN was released in America and suffered the worst fate of Martino’s three jungle adventure films. ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN (1979) was released in US cinemas sometime during the Summer of 1981 in a seriously bastardized, severely altered and truncated version from United Pictures Organization and Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. Corman apparently was displeased with Martino’s original version and between himself and a director named Miller Drake, commissioned an entirely new opening sequence to accentuate the horror aspects of the film. This new opening segment featured Cameron Mitchell, Mel Ferrer and a group of unknowns as 19th century pirates searching for gold and being attacked by the fishmen (these new effects shots were created by a young special FX maestro and future film director Chris Walas) and showcased some decapitations and throat ripping. The fishmen seen in Martino’s original movie are not seen in this new opening sequence.

In addition to this gory opening, some 15 minutes were removed, new music was added and the title was changed to SOMETHING WAITS IN THE DARK. The film died quickly but Corman wasn’t finished yet. A new trailer for the film was created but under the newly christened title, SCREAMERS. This new version utilized the tagline, “See a man turned inside out!” and featured footage of “this guy running around covered in slime…all his veins hanging out, chasing a girl in a bikini”. This new snippet was shot by trash peddler Jim Wynorski. The “new film” opened in Atlanta, Georgia and stories of incensed patrons destroying the drive-in due to not seeing a man being turned inside out resulted in the shot from the trailer being inserted into the film at some point or other. The added scene was not in any video version I saw as it never existed in the original film nor, presumably, the initial amalgamation from New World Pictures. Reportedly, the SCREAMERS version made some money. To make matters worse, the SCREAMERS version lists a Dan T. Miller as director which is apparently a pseudonym of Joe Dante although Dante had no known involvement in the creation of any version of this film other than that of being an employee of New World prior to Corman’s tinkering and subsequent release of the Martino movie.

In 1995, Martino would direct a made for Italian TV movie sequel entitled THE FISHMEN & THEIR QUEEN. This oddity was included as an extra on the out of print Marketing Films DVD from Germany. This NoShame Italy DVD is lovingly restored save for a brief bit during the opening moments. The sound is robust and clear on the English track included (for a change) here. There are also 5.1 and mono Italian audio options. The biggest surprise and also the most disappointing, is the inclusion of an hour long doc on the making of the film as well as some of his other movies as told by Sergio and Luciano Martino and Massimo Antonello Geleng. What’s disappointing about it is that there are no English options for this feature. A trailer and photo gallery round out an excellent package.

A fine fantasy adventure film from one of Italy’s best and most versatile fantastic film directors, Sergio Martino. ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN (1979) has much to appreciate in the concept-driven script and the cinematography and due to the lack of any gore or nudity the film is relatively safe enough for younger viewers, though they may be distracted when the creatures are not on screen. Regardless, any Serious Martino fan should have this in their collection. Those expecting something along the lines of his cannibal opus or post apocalyptic landscape might do better to look elsewhere.

(Brian Bankston)


Cine-Excess VI – Full Schedule

Cine-Excess VI  – Transglobal Excess: The Art and Atrocity of Cult Adaptation

24 to 26 May 2012 – Odeon Covent Garden & The Italian Cultural Institute, London


Final Programme

Thursday 24th May 2012 (ODEON COVENT GARDEN)

Conference Registration 11.30 -1pm
1pm-1.15pm Conference Welcome/Conference Opening
1.15pm-2.45pm Panel 1 The American Nightmare: Visions of Adaptation and Excess
Chair: Kate Eagan
1. Laura Mee, (De Montfort University) “Think you can bring the dead back to life?”: Platinum Dunes and the Horror Franchise Reboot.
2. Wickham Clayton (Roehampton University) “Unnatural, unnatural, unnatural, unnatural, unnatural!”… but real?: The Toolbox Murders as a True Story Adaptation, or Not
3. Aaron McMullan (King’s College, London) “Blowback Horror: Adaptation, Interrogation and Revelation in Post-9/11 American Horror Cinema.
3pm-3.30pm Coffee
3.30pm-5pm Panel 2 Transnational Excess: Cross-Cultural Studies in Adaptation
Chair: Leon Hunt
1. Ben Halligan (Salford University) Factory as Laboratory: Vinyl – Andy Warhol’s A Clockwork Orange.
2. Alex Marlow-Mann (St Andrews University) Feeling across Borders: Transcultural Appropriation and Sensorial Embodiment in Cattet and Forzani’s Amer (2009).
3. Adrian Horrocks (Anglia Ruskin University) Modern French Horror: Foreign Genre Cinema as Site of Adaptation and Allegory.
6.30pm-7.30pm Script to Scream: The Time Out Magazine and Cine-Excess Discussion – The Art of Cult Adaptation
8pm-9.30pm Cine-Excess UK Theatrical Premiere 1: Closed Circuit Extreme (Giorgio Amato, 2011)
10pm -11.30pm Cine-Excess UK Theatrical Premiere 2: Shiver (Julian Richards, 2011)


Friday 25th May 2012 (ODEON COVENT GARDEN)

Registration/Coffee 9.30am-10am
10am-11.45am Panel 3 Literature, Lust and Laughs: Cult Adaptations of the Erotic
Chair: Mark Goodall
1. Clarissa Smith (Sunderland University) A Mother’s Love Cannot be Denied: Ma Mere.
2. Sarah Harman (Brunel University) Returning to Roissy: Just Jaeckin and’s adaptations of the Story of O.
3. Tamao Nakahara (Independent Scholar) New Hats and Shoes: Cross-Dressing in 1970s Italian Sex Comedies.
11.45am-12.00pm Coffee
12.00pm-1pm Keynote 1 Professor Steffen Hantke (Sogang University) ‘West German Cult TV: Re-Packaging Subcultural Capital.’
1pm-2pm Lunch
2pm-3.30pm Panel 4 Maniacs, Myths and Monstrous Movies 1: Adapting Themes and Figures of Evil
Chair: Filippo Del Lucchese
1. Daniel O’Brien (Southampton University) Blue Collar Mephistopheles: Videodrome and the Subversive Sidekick.
2. Elisabetta Di Minico (University of Barcelona) Horror and the dystopia.
3. Finn J. Ballard (Warwick University) Uwe Boll’s Auschwitz as Holocaust ‘Torture Porn‘.
3.30pm-4pm Coffee
4.00-5.30 Panel 5 Maniacs, Myths and Monstrous Movies 2: Cult Adaptations of the Manson Family
Chair: Charlie Blake
1. Mark Goodall (Bradford University) Helter Skelter: Charles Manson goes to the Movies.
2. Nicolò Gallio (University of Bologna) Surfing with Charlie.
3. Ian Cooper (Independent Scholar) Family Values and Creepy Crawlies: Manson and the Horror Film.
7.30pm-9pm: The Year’s With(out) Lead: Bodies, Bullets, and the 1970s Italian Extreme: A Special Panel Discussion between Enzo G. Castellari, Sergio Martino and Professor Mary P. Wood (Birkbeck College, London).

9pm- 10.30pm The Italian Cultural Institute- Cine-Excess Screening 3: Keoma (Enzo G. Castellari, 1976)
10.30 pm-12.00am The Italian Cultural Institute Cine-Excess Screening 4: Your Vice is a Locked Door and Only I have the Key (Sergio Martino, 1972)
12.00am The Italian Cultural Institute Cine-Excess Midnight Movie Excess (Screening TBA)


Saturday 26th May, 2012 (ODEON COVENT GARDEN)

Registration/Coffee 9.30am-9.45am
9.45am-11am Panel 7 Comics, Posters and Pop: Adaptations of Cult Iconography Across Mixed Media
Chair: Julian Savage
1. Neil Jackson (Lincoln University) Stained with the Blood of the Marketing Department: Discourses of Violence in 1970s Film Posters.
2. Leon Hunt Brunel (University) Danger: Diabolik – The Italian Comic-book Anti-Hero as Superhero.
3. Rachel Mizsei Ward (University of East Anglia) Criminal Lifestyles, Sexuality and the Martial Arts: Appropriating Blaxploitation in Hip-Hop Music Videos.
11am-11.30am Coffee
11.30pm-1.30pm Panel 8 Europa Excess: The Italian Trans-Cult(ural) Image
Chair: Xavier Mendik
1. Stefano Ciammaroni (Manchester Metropolitan University) In Too Deep (Red): The Politics and Historiography of Violence and Death in Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione and Dario Argento’s Profondo rosso.
2. Anthony Page (Hertfordshire University) ‘High” and ‘Low’ Art Nazis: Cavani’s The Night Porter and Canevari’s The Gestapo’s Last Orgy.
3. Karen Oughton (Regent’s College) “Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Fulci? The Role of Metanarrative in Cat in the Brain”.
4. Kate Egan (Aberystwyth University)The Women in White: Aesthetic and Thematic Uses of Costume in Argento’s Films.
1.30pm-2.30pm Lunch
2.30pm -4pm Panel 9 Agonised Bodies, Adaptive Performance: Sexuality, Ethnicity and Excess
Chair: Leon Hunt
1. Darren Elliot-Smith (University of Hertfordshire) ‘Queer Poe-nography’: Gay Shame and Gothic Layering in David DeCoteau’s Edgar Allen Poe Cycle.
2. Adam Locks (University of Chichester) Chicks with guns: The cult of female bodybuilding.
3. Grisel Y. Acosta (Queensborough Community College, NY) “‘Spork’ Mixer: Tough, Twisted Girls in Borderless, Multicultural Oz”.
4. Iain Robert Smith (Roehampton University) It’s a Bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Shaktimaan! : The Bollywood Superhero from Mr India (1987) to Krrish (2006).

4pm-6pm Inglorious Icon: Enzo G. Castellari On-Stage includes Cine-Excess Screening 6: (To Be Announced)
6pm Odeon Close
8pm-9pm The Italian Cultural Institute: Sergio Martino Onstage at Cine-Excess VI
9.30pm-10.30pm Cine-Excess Screening 7: All the Colours of the Dark (Sergio Martino, 1972)
10.30pm -12.00 Cine-Excess Screening 8: Fair Game (Mario Andreacchio, 1986)


For booking and ticket prices head on over to the Cine Excess site for full details…

Cine-Excess Final Schedule released this week…

Keep an eye on the Cine-Excess facebook page this week as the final schedule is due anytime…

Dear Cult Film Fans,

Very excited to be releasing the final Cine-Excess screening schedule later this week.

Expect UK theatrical premieres of fantastic new American serial killer movies, gritty, unsceen Australian ‘Last House on the Outback’ riffs, and one of the most terrifying new ‘realist’ horror film I have seen in years! Add to this some classic cult retro screenings from the Enzo Castellari and Sergio Martino archives (hand picked by the fab people at Dania Films), and I hope there will be an eye popping selection of screenings to please the Cine-Excess crowd.

We are also proud to be hosting a special Time Out ‘Script to Scream’ panel on how to write the perfect terror film. More details on all of the above from Simona and myself during the week….

Ernesto Gastaldi Talks to lovelockandload

Ernesto Gastaldi is a name intrinsically linked to the genesis of Italian cinema during the sixties and seventies. A screenwriter and occasional filmmaker with well over a hundred credits to his name, and a frequent collaborator with stalwarts of cinema such as Sergio Leone, Umberto Lenzi and Sergio Martino, Ernesto’s contribution to the world of Eurocult is extremely significant. In an exclusive lovelockandload interview, Kim August asked Ernesto to shed some light on his involvement in the making of some of Italy’s most exciting genre films.

It’s rumoured the shooting of THE HORRIBLE SECRET OF DR HICHCOCK was running over schedule. So director Riccardo Freda literally tore out pages of the screenplay to get the film back on track. What was eliminated from the script? And do you feel this act compromised your original concept?

As I’ve told many times, Freda was a genius. He tore out 8 or 9 pages of the script, but not only for schedule problem, but he wanted to cancel a dialogue where there was the explanation of the mystery.

He asked my permission and I laughed “This way all becomes incomprehensible!” Freda smirked, saying “That is exactly what I want!”

In another interview you touched on your involvement in the writing of Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. From what I understand, it was a film that was long in gestation. Can you elaborate on what you brought to the project?

Not so much because Sergio and the last writers changed a lot. I wrote a big treatment following the novel a little more. Sergio kept my scenes about the adolescence of the little gangsters.

I protested with Sergio when I saw the boy eating the candy because he was FAT! That was wrong! The boy had to be very hungry and slim.

You also collaborated on two of the Italian westerns Leone produced – MY NAME IS NOBODY and A GENIUS TWO PARTNERS AND A DUPE – what was your working relationship with Leone like? Did it differ from those that you had with other filmmakers of the time?

Completely different. I wrote these two scripts at home by night, but every days for months I have to go to Sergio’s home to read the new scenes and discuss them. Frequently Sergio invited directors, journalists, friends and he played in detail the scenes, always beginning from the first one: ” A red sunset. Three men on horses are drawing near and nearer… clop, clop, clop…” to spy the faces of the people: interested? bored? I was probably the less bored, since Sergio was a great storyteller.

During the seventies you were involved in the writing of many of the police thrillers that were popular of the time. Did any of these projects require you to be on set and if so, what are your memories of stars such as Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Maurizio Merli and Luc Merenda?

Sorry. I was not on set, in those days I had always too much to write. I met these actors, sometime at home, or in the Carlo Ponti’s office , or chez Martino. I have a great memory of Giancarlo Giannini because he made his debut as movie actor in LIBIDO, that was also my debut as director!

In your gialli, Less is more. Less violence, more sex.  Were  you writing for your own tastes, the censors, the audience?

When the first character was Edwige Fenech I have to put on my script almost 3 scenes of shower… Joking aside, I like thrillers with a big emotional involvement and sex is a strong one.

You had a wonderful run with Sergio Martino, gialli, crime, science fiction. What was your working relationship like?

A good friendship lasting even now. Sergio Martino is a very good director, greater than the movies he, too often, had to direct.

What is your favorite screenplay and/or film with Sergio Martino?


Some of my favorite elements in your thrillers revolve around the stalking of the protagonist by the villain(s) (TORSO, THE LONELY, VIOLENT BEACH, ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK) –  you’ve mentioned writing 20 gialli in three years you had to constantly push yourself to do something more than the previous film? How difficult was this?

Just a little. I amused myself writing this kind of plot! I also wrote some thriller novels, before becoming a screenwriter.

I won an award in 1957 with a comedy called A COME ASSASSINO (many years after someone made a movie from it). In 1955 I managed to be selected at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia di Roma because I wrote an amateur movie, a thriller named LA STRADA CHE PORTA LONTANO, very appreciated by the great director Alessandro Blasetti.

Torso foreshadowed many of the slasher films in the late 70s/early 80s. What are your feelings on this?

I didn’t realise it. (That the film had been so influential – Ed)

Which actors do you feel performed your works the best?

Mara Maryl, Giancarlo Giannini, Marcello Mastroianni, Sofia Loren, Alan Collins, Barbara Steele, Giuliano Gemma, Terence Hill, Henry Fonda, Jack Palance, Anthony Quinn and others.

I thought Robert Hoffmann was an excellent choice for the lead biker in your film THE LONELY, VIOLENT BEACH. Your thoughts on Hoffmann and the film?

Oh yes! he was a great choice. That was a very low budget movie, but I like it.

During the course of your career you have been involved with the writing films covering all the staples of popular Italian cinema: peplums, gialli, crime films, science fiction, westerns, etc? Of these, was there a particular genre you were happiest working in?

I’d like to write, and even, direct science fiction, but it was really impossible for decades. I wrote a plot very similar to BACK TO THE FUTURE 20 years before , located in Italy. The protagonist traveled to the past and, during the second world war, when Mussolini was the chief of Italy, met two very poor girls in Naples, two sisters, one of those named Sofia… He told to a friend: “Look at them: one will married the Mussolini’s son! But the real incredibly thing is that that marriage will be very popular because of the other sister, who will become the most great movie star of the world!”

I named the script THE END OF ETERNITY. Nobody gave it the green light!

SECRETS OF A CALL GIRL stands out amongst your work as it transcends genre: while essentially a crime film, it has elements of the sentimental dramas and the erotic movies popular in Italy at the time. What were your motivations when you were writing?

I think… the money! Luciano Martino suggested the story to me. He was the producer.

‘Hands Of Steel’ is considered to be the Italian reaction to James Cameron’s ‘Terminator’. How was the original concept developed, and what are your thoughts on the film’s stars, David Greene and Janet Agren?

I think I never saw this movie. I only wrote a part of the script.

Same question but about 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK, and star Michael Sopkiw.

I like this movie, even if it was a kind of SF not particularly loved by me. The movie had been made because of the big success of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. I think Sopkiw was quite good.

Tell us about one of your first films as a director, CIN… CIN… CIANURO!. Why was it that the film received scant distribution to the point that very few people have seen it?

My debut was LIBIDO (1965) starring Mara Maryl, Giancarlo Giannini, Alan Collins and Dominique Boschero. Now this very little movie is a cult movie among fans. I was also co-producer of LIBIDO and this movie has been also the argument of my thesis of my baccalaureat in Economy!

CIN… CIN… CIANURO! was a very brilliant comedy, played very well by Mara Maryl and Brad Harris. Unfortunately the distributor, LUX FILM, went bankrupt.

The making of popular films in Italy was at its most prolific during the sixties and seventies before going into decline in the eighties. What are your thoughts on why this came to be?

TV broadcasting. Mr. Berlusconi had all free public TV frequencies stolen paying a bribe to the former premier Bettino Craxi and started broadcasting three movies a day on “his” three new networks! Not only the movie industry declined , the democracy too…

Do you feel the lack of stories are the undoing of today’s films?

I don’t like very much the new Italian cinema, with rare exception like IL DIVO.  Now the current fashion is to put a boring speaker who tell you a big part of the story and to cut the plot muddling up the scenes. Maybe PULP FICTION has been the first offender.

Given that you have been involved in the writing of well over a hundred different films, which are those that you consider to be seminal or you are the most proud to have been a part of making?

I’m very proud that I has been able to write two hundred scripts (117 of them made into feature films!) having three children playing around and the TV set always on! Joking aside, I like very much LIBIDO starring Mara Maryl and Giancarlo Giannini, LA PUPA DEL GANGSTER starring Sofia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, I GIORNI DELL’IRA starring Giuliano Gemma and  Lee Van Cleef, IL MIO NOME E’ NESSUNO starring Henry Fonda and Terence Hill, MILANO TREMA starring Luc Merenda and Richard Conte, LA FRUSTA E IL CORPO starring Daliah Lavi and Cristopher Lee, LA BATTAGLIA DI  EL ALAMEIN starring George Hilton, Fredrick Stafford, Robert Hossein, NOTTURNO CON GRIDA, starring Mara Maryl, Gerardo Amato, L’UOVO DEL CUCULO starring Malisa Longo, Vassili Karamesinis, CRIMINE CONTRO CRIMINE starring Marina Giulia Cavalli, Adalberto Maria Merli, Giorgio Albertazzi, Francesco Benigno.

Interview conducted via email February 2009 by Kim August.