Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy 80th Birthday Umberto Lenzi

Umberto Lenzi was born in Massa Marittima, Grosseto, Italy on August 6, 1931. Considered one of the masters of the Italian crime film. Lenzi graduated from the Experimental Centre of Cinematography in 1956. Lenzi began working for the film magazine Black and White before debuting as an assistant director on the film "Il terrore dei mari" (1961). He then directed a film called "Le avventure di Mary Read" in 1961 but the producers could not find a distributor. He directed Steve Reeves in "Sandokan: The Tiger of Mompracem" (1963) and "The Pirates of Malaysia" (1964). When the James Bond spy films became big business he directed four similar films including "008, Operation Extermination" (1965), "Superseven Call Cairo" (1965) written by Dario Argento. Lenzi then drifted into giallos with such films as "Orgasmo" and "So Sweet.... Perverse" (both 1969) and "Paranoia" (1970). A number of poliziottesco (crime/police) films followed, such as "La polizia ringrazia" (1972), "Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare" (1974) with Tomas Milian, "Roma a mano armata" (1976) with Milian and Maurizio Merli. "Napoli violenta" (1976) again with Merli. He went on to direct a series of crime films starring Tomas Milian as ‘Er Monnezza’ which have become Italian cult classics: "Il giustiziere sfida la citta", "Il trucido e lo sbirro" and "La banda del gobbo". Their partnership developed problems and the duo split. His direction contributed to the success of Maurizio Merli as the troubled police commissioner in such films as the previously mentioned "Napoli violena" (1976) and "Il cinico l’infame, il violento" (1978). After directing Henry Fonda, Helmut Berger and John Huston in "Il grande attacco" (1978) he drifted into Horror films. "Incubo sulla città contaminata" (1980), "Mangiati vivi!" and "Cannibal Ferox" (both 1981), "Nightmare Beach" and "Rage, furia primitiva" (both 1988) and "Le porte dell’inferno" (1990) which was Giacomo Rossi Stuart’s last film. Retiring from filmmaking in the mid-1990s and with his wife screenwrier Olga Pehar they began working with the Italian film magazine Nocturno. He has also wrote a series of detective novels based on the adventures of fictional Bruno Astolfi an anti-fascist private eye. Today we celebrate the 80th birthday of one of Italy’s greatest directors Umberto Lenzi.

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