After watching C’era una volta un gangster – an odd 1969 crime film starring Richard Harrison – I decided to do a little desk research into the director, one Marco Masi. I recognised his name from a couple of other films, but in fact he had a very curious, esoteric career which is worth detailing.
A writer and director, he worked on screenplays for several films from the early sixties onwards, including Gianfranco Parolini’s Anno 79 and The Old Testament (Il vecchio testamento, 62), Jaime Jesus Balcalzar’s Fistful of Diamonds (El hombre del puño de oro, 67) and Adriano Bolzoni’s Walls of Sin (Quarta parete, 69). In 1965 he made his directorial debut with Cadavere a spasso, a weird sounding comedy about a misjudged murder attempt starring Pietro De Vico and Heidi Stroh
C’era una volta un gangster, a eurocrime hodgepodge about a feud between two rival hoodlums and starring Richard Harrison and Ingrid Schoeller, followed in 1969. Although obviously made with a tiny budget, it has a strange appeal, resulting in it being somewhere between so-bad-its-good and an ambitious failure. Il seme di Caino sounds as though it was hewn of similar cloth: a melodrama starring Isarco Ravaioli and Salvador Dali’s son Josè Van Roy Dalì, which is variously described as amateurish and absurd.
The 1976 film Il demonio nel cervello sounds like a must see. Set on the Mexico-Texas border, it’s the story of a mad mechanic and his partner / slave, who run a garage which is visited by assorted strange clients. This is a real obscure one – well, most of Masi’s films are staggeringly obscure – and it’s variously described as a horror movie, a comedy and a romance (?!?!).
None of Masi’s films seem to have done all that well, or even received much in the way of distrubution, but he managed to have one final go in 1984, with L’autuomo. This was never released, which is a crying shame, as the plot sounds even more insane than was usual for him: in a future society a make of androids are invented to do all those tedious jobs that nobody really likes doing. One young man rebels agains this, charging that people are also little more than automatons in a society founded on the precepts of consumerism and capitalism, and ends up being committed to a mental hospital.
It’s pretty difficult tracking down any of Masi’s films, and given the general oddness of his filmography it wouldn’t be too difficult to fall into the trap of guessing that someone invented him as a kind of fictional eurotrash film director: a dash of Paolo Solvay, hint of Renato Polselli and taste of Demofilo Fidani. But he also seems to have had a pretty long career as a writer and journalist as well. I, for one, will be doing my best to track down more of his films…