Monday, February 24, 2014

Remembering Riccardo Freda

Riccardo Freda was born on February 24, 1909 in Alexandria, Egypt to a Neopolitan family. He left studies in Milan in 1933 and entered the Experimental Center for Cinematography and soon began work as a screenwriter for film directors like Goffredo Alessandrini and Raffaello Matarazzo.
Freda never finished either of the two horror films he was assigned in the 1950s ("I Vampiri" and "Caltiki"), but rather allowed his cinematographer Mario Bava to complete them. Bava's great effects work on Caltiki in particular launched him on a directing career of his own in 1960. Thus many fans regard Freda as Mario Bava's mentor in the film industry. Riccardo rather favored the epic sword and sandal pictures being inspired by the literary classics of Hugo and Pushkin. Unlike other directors of the period like Mario Bava and Antonio Margheriti, Freda had worked with high budgets and obtained egregious results. Freda's “Sins of Rome” (1953) was one of the first Italian peplums, predating Steve Reeves's "Hercules" by four years, and his classic “Giants of Thessaly” (1961) was theatrically released one year before Ray Harryhausen's famous “Jason and the Argonauts”. He directed Kirk Morris and Gordon Scott in two classic Maciste films in the sixties, in addition to directing several spy films, spaghetti westerns, historical dramas and World War II actioners. Freda often used the aliases Robert Davidson, Robert Hampton, George Lincoln, Willy Parato, Willy Pareta, Riccardo Santelmi
Freda's greatest horror films were his two 1960's titles, “The Horrible Dr. Hichcock” (1962) and “The Ghost” (1963), both of which starred Barbara Steele, but he really enjoyed doing the adventure films a lot more. He directed Anton Diffring and the legendary Klaus Kinski in giallos later in the decade, and then pretty much retired from filmmaking in 1972, inexplicably emerging from his retirement in 1981 to direct one last slasher film, “Murder Obsession” (aka “Fear”).
He was married to actress Gianna Maria Canale [1927-2009] (1948-1999) and died in Rome of natural causes at 90 on December 20, 1999.
Today we remember Riccardo Freda on what would have been his 105th birthday.

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