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Thread: Umberto Lenzi

  1. #1
    Registered User Robert Wilkins's Avatar
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    Umberto Lenzi

    Umberto Lenzi films I remember seeing,

    Cannibal Ferox
    Nightmare City
    Da Corleone a Brooklyn
    Brothers Til We Die
    The Cynic, The Rat, and The Fist
    Violent Naples
    Roma a mano armata
    The Manhunt
    Gang War in Milan
    Kriminal

    Cannibal Ferox: A film I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, I like the film for its pure sleaze and sadism, but on the other am repulsed by the by the film's animal cruelty. Although seeing Giovanni Radice getting wang chopped off by angry cannibals is certainly one of Italian cinema's most striking images.


    Nightmare City: Lenzi really seems to love this one. Personally I thought it was ok, nothing special really.


    From Corelone To Brooklyn: A really underrated film, imo. Merli does his usual stalwart job, but the film, I thought, was sort of stolen by the very good supporting performance of Biagio Pelligra.


    Brothers Til We Die: What's with Milan always playing hunchbacks? Anyways I think this film is worth seeing just for Milan's afro wig.


    The Cynic, The Rat, And The Fist: I guess this is pretty much my favorite Lenzi cop flick. To me it has just about everything you'd want in a film like this, Merli, Milan, and Saxon. Plus it has that inspired golf ball torture scene.


    Violent Naples: Saw that this was up on Youtube, so I watched it the other day. Thought it was quite good, although not the equal The Cynic or Rome Armed To The Teeth. Still the villains were appreciably villainous and Merli was, well Merli. Nice to see Merli doing some his own stunts too.


    Rome Armed To The Teeth: This flick probably represents Merli at his bitch-slapping best. Milan, too, is at the top of his villainous game here as well machinegunning innocent bystanders with abandon.


    The Manhunt: Ah, Henry Silva. Would any talk of Italian crime films be complete without mentioning him? I like what Lenzi did here with Silva though. Instead of making him a revenge driven killing machine, he made him into sort of pawn in a larger political game. While not one of my favorite Lenzi flicks, I certainly think it's one of his better ones.


    Gang War In Milan: Haven't seen this one in a while, but remember getting a kick out of the acid-in-the-face-of-the-hooker gag. Also, I thought Sabato did a good job with the "rise and fall" performance.


    Kriminal: Honestly, I thought this one was kind of dull. Liked the skeleton costume though, but aside from that, can't imagine ever wanting the watch this film again.
    Last edited by Robert Wilkins; 04-10-2012 at 03:09 PM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    My favorite Lenzi flick might be Man From Deep River/ Deep River Savages. I think it's a severely underrated gem.
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  3. #3
    Registered User Robert Wilkins's Avatar
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    I would very much like to see a documentary done someday on Lenzi and his films.

    Also, I was always curious as to why I never hear that much about him, and often thought that may be because of some political agenda or something.

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    Registered User Hannes Schach's Avatar
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    Robert, you should definitly check out ALMOST HUMAN. I think Milian was never better (and crazier) than in this one.

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    doing it to death Randy Thomas G's Avatar
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Wilkins View Post
    Also, I was always curious as to why I never hear that much about him, and often thought that may be because of some political agenda or something.
    I don't know what this could mean as I don't see much of sincere and consistent political viewpoint in his films, more likely it's because he's a second-tier genre director from Italy. Not exactly a rocketship to fame. I find Ferox okay and Nightmare City is enjoyably bad but agree that his crime films are much stronger, particularly Almost Human. Your description of The Cynic, The Rat, And The Fist has certainly got me interested.
    Last edited by Randy Thomas G; 04-11-2012 at 06:53 AM.

  6. #6
    Registered User Robert Wilkins's Avatar
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    Quote Originally Posted by Hannes Schach View Post
    Robert, you should definitly check out ALMOST HUMAN. I think Milian was never better (and crazier) than in this one.
    Actually, I'm just waiting for a cheap used copy to show up.

  7. #7
    Registered User Robert Wilkins's Avatar
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Thomas G View Post
    I don't know what this could mean as I don't see much of sincere and consistent political viewpoint in his films, more likely it's because he's a second-tier genre director from Italy. Not exactly a rocketship to fame. I find Ferox okay and Nightmare City is enjoyably bad but agree that his crime films are much stronger, particularly Almost Human. Your description of The Cynic, The Rat, And The Fist has certainly got me interested.
    I remember Radice making a comment about Lenzi having some rightist views. But the comment was made off hand, so I never knew whether to attach any real importance to it or not.

    As for his films, especially the ones starring Merli, there is, I believe, a very strong "political" element to them.

    As for him being a second tier genre director, the same can be said of Bava, Argento, and Fulci, yet they are almost "household" compared to Lenzi, who, it must be said, has made some genre classics of his own.

  8. #8
    doing it to death Randy Thomas G's Avatar
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    I think Di Leo, Rosi and Sollima's crime films have a strong political intentions, but many of the films in the genre are just importing the basic themes of Deathwish and Dirty Harry wholesale for strictly commercial reasons. Sometimes the theme of the cop who is willing to 'break the rules' to get the crooks in the Italy of the 70s could appear right-wing but I think most of the directors were just cashing in on a commercial theme.

    If anything, Lenzi's willingness to identify, in some of his films, the villains overtly as the mafia is not right-wing at all as in Italy the political right was/is in-bed with the mafia (film-wise the excellent Il Divo covers the real-life story of this).

    The enemies of the mob in Italy were the left-wing/Communists, not the right-wing. Some assume these films are aimed against the morons in the Red Brigades but the biggest terrorist acts in Italy of the period were by right-wing, not left-wing terrorists. Besides which, the bad guys in the films are not political terrorists in the same way as you find even in the Dirty Harry films. Perhaps the 'fascist' accusations come from the fact that Mussolini's fascists were actually the enemy of the mob when they were in power, but I doubt it.

    That's not to say that Lenzi doesn't or does hold right-wing views, but being a thoroughly commercial exploitation director I doubt it has much sway on his films where he first and foremost seems out to deliver the exploitation goods. Certainly it would be extremely difficult to draw out a consistent political view between his zombie, cannibal, giallo, sexploitation and crime films.

    As for Lenzi's standing, I think it would be safe to say that most critics would rate Bava and Argento as first-tier when it comes to genre directors, their influence and reputations are quite secure even with 'mainstream' film critics.

    I think the lack of profile for Lenzi has less to do with his personal politics and more to do with him not being in Bava or Argento's league firstly imo, and secondly his only really distinguished work has been in the obscure Italian crime film subgenre instead of horror and even there I don't think the films I've seen are at the level of Bava/Argento, although I do enjoy them. I would rate the Di Leo, Sollima and Rosi's best crime films above Lenzi's best that I've seen so far, Almost Human. Anyway, this thread has inspired me to check out more of his crime films, Gang War in Milan sounds promising too.
    Last edited by Randy Thomas G; 04-13-2012 at 05:26 AM.

  9. #9
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Wilkins View Post
    I remember Radice making a comment about Lenzi having some rightist views. But the comment was made off hand, so I never knew whether to attach any real importance to it or not.
    I think that maybe more a matter of Radice having very left-wing views--I find Lenzi pretty apolitical really.

    I'd call Lenzi kind of a "journey-man" director as opposed to a visionary/"auteur" type. He made some good gialli when he worked with people like the Martino brothers, Carroll Baker, Jean Trintignant, and Erika Blanc. He made good police thrillers when he worked with someone like Tomas Milian. But when he got stuck with Maurizio Merli, Hugo Stiglitz, or Josie Bissette his films were not so great.

  10. #10
    Registered User Robert Wilkins's Avatar
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Ellis View Post
    I think that maybe more a matter of Radice having very left-wing views--I find Lenzi pretty apolitical really.

    I'd call Lenzi kind of a "journey-man" director as opposed to a visionary/"auteur" type. He made some good gialli when he worked with people like the Martino brothers, Carroll Baker, Jean Trintignant, and Erika Blanc. He made good police thrillers when he worked with someone like Tomas Milian. But when he got stuck with Maurizio Merli, Hugo Stiglitz, or Josie Bissette his films were not so great.
    Ahh,.. Thanks for the clarification on the politics.

    I would disagree with you here about him being "stuck" with Merli. Merli, while not what I'd call the most versatile actor on the planet, nonetheless did the thing he could do, playing heroic cops, very, very well. Personally, I find the films he did with Merli as the hero and Milan as the villain, Rome Armed To The Teeth and The Cynic, The Rat, and The Fist, to be, easily, his most enjoyable work in the police genre. Manhunt is, I think his "best" in genre, but I just don't enjoy it as much as his more intentional crowd pleasers like Roma and Cynic.

    Strangely, I've never seen any of his giallos. Just never got around to them, I guess. How are Spasmo and Eyeball?

  11. #11
    doing it to death Randy Thomas G's Avatar
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    Eyeball is my favourite bad giallo. It makes absolutely no sense and is inadvertently amusing.

  12. #12
    Super Moderator Daniel M's Avatar
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    I've seen it written that politically Lenzi defines himself as an anarchist. I'm not sure any such ideology has consistently cropped up in his films, although his cop flicks certainly don't shy away from gleefully portraying bureaucratic corruption and indifference, a favorite theme of anarchists.

  13. #13
    Registered User Dominic D's Avatar
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    Still waiting for a decent release of Orgasmo. I had a very nice widescreen VHS of this years ago but taped over it with a Tour De France stage safe in the knowledge that given that good source materials were clearly available a pristine DVD would be arriving soon. I kick myself for this about once every 3 weeks or so. Easily Lenzi's best giallo in my book. Apart from Knife Of Ice (deadly dull) all his early gialli are pretty damned watchable though.

  14. #14
    God of Death Al Edwards's Avatar
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    Eyeball-Lesser Lenzi giallo with a couple of very good murder set pieces(I.E, the murder in the horror ride, and the murder near the pig pen). The whole reveation of the killer involving the eyes was strange. One thing I did find interesting about Eyeball is it is the only film I am aware of where the surviving girl is a black woman. Something that was rare for a giallo(or for that matter a slasher) film.
    "Sailing out beside the sea, out beside the sunken dream"

  15. #15
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    Re: Umberto Lenzi

    People mostly mention "Eyeball" and "Spasmo" when they talk about Lenzi's gialli, but those were made really after he'd (seemingly) really lost interest in the genre. His first five--"Paranoia/Orgasmo", "So Sweet, So Dead", "A Quiet Place to Kill", "An Ideal Place to Kill" (one of the first movies of both Ray Lovelock and Ornella Muti), and "Seven Bloodstained Orchids"--are the ones I would consider superior.

    Opinions here differ on Merli obviously, but I forgot about the last movie I saw of Lenzi's (for some reason) called "Daughter of the Jungle" where he was DEFINITELY stuck with Sabrina Siani (from Jess Franco's "Cannibals"). She had one of the best bodies you're likely to see, but was such an inept actress she couldn't even pull off sexy successfully (only Lucio Fulci was able to use her well in "Conquest" by making her topless and masked for the whole movie). American Josie Bissette from "Hitcher in the Dark" was the same way (but even she was Meryl Streep compared to Siani). The fact that Lenzi went from working with leads like Trintignant and Milian to "actors" like that I think has a lot to do with the uneven quality of his work,

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