The Curious Filmography of Gianfranco Parolini

Gianfranco Parolini
Gianfranco Parolini

Considering that he’s responsible for some of the most successful Italian popular films, Gianfranco Parolini’s filmography is full of weird entries and misaccreditations, and making sense of it is enough to give you a headache.

The murkiness begins with his very first film, François il contrabbandiere (54), which seems to have completely disappeared. I’d love to get hold of a copy of this mysterious melodrama. After a period working as writer and assistant director, his career was resurrected with Goliath and the Giants (61), the direction of which he took over when credited director Guido Malatesta was taken ill. A number of successful peplums followed, including Samson (61) and The Ten Gladiators (63).

So why, considering he was already a successful filmmaker, did he decide to act as second unit director on The Pirates of the Mississippi (63), ostensibly directed by Jürgen Roland. Was it just because he happened to be around when the German crew were filming and so his participation was a handy way of accessing Italian tax breaks. If so, why didn’t they just get him to direct it? It would have been a much better film.

OK, brushing past that, we get to… The Tall Women (66), credited to Cehett Grooper, often assumed to be Parolini, who’s credited on some prints. Well, in his autobiography, producer Sidney Pink is pretty specific about having directed this, and Parolini also confirms he had nothing to do with it beyond ‘lending’ his name to the production. Fair enough, it wasn’t unusual at the time. And Parolini was busy kickstarting the hugely popular Kommissar X series with Kiss Kiss Kill Kill (66) and So Darling So Deadly (66).

Which brings us to… Death is Nimble Death is Quick (66). This was the second Kommissar X film, made after the success of Kiss Kiss Kill Kill, and the credited director is sometimes Parolini, sometimes Austrian actor and filmmaker Rudolf Zehetgruber and sometimes, hey ho, Cehett Grooper. What’s certainly true is that Sidney Pink had absolutely nothing to do with this one, but who directed the darned thing? Well, it does seem that it was Parolini (the Gremese dictionaries and Marco Giusti’s spy book both assert this). I can see that; it certainly plays like a Parolini film, although I can’t understand why they’d want to accredit it to a different director, considering the name of Frank Kramer (Parolini’s regular pseudonym) was already associated with the series.

So what on earth about Kill Me Gently? This one is again accredited to either Zehetgruber or that pesky Cehett Grooper, according to whichever print you watch. But Italian sources again list Parolini as director. Some of it plays like a Parolini film, some doesn’t. So who knows?

One problem is that when discussing the Kommissar X series, everyone involved does exactly that: they talk about it as a series, not the individual films that make up the series. So Parolini, for instance, says ‘It was a fun series to make’, or something along those lines.  But most sources do agree that the final two entries in the series – Three Golden Dragons and The Tiger Gang – were directed by Roberto Mauri and Harald Reinl respectively.

Fortunately, Parolini’s career became a little more solidly documented after this period, and he went on of course to make the first Three Fantastic Superman, Sartana and Sabata films. If you bear in mind he also directed the first of the Ten Gladiator movies (there were at least two sequels) and Kiss Kiss Kill Kill, you could definitely consider him to be the king of Italian film serials.  And I won’t mention Caligula’s Slaves, some of which he directed uncredited (but let’s not hold that against him).

Maybe the forthcoming German Kommissar X box-set will proved answers.  Then again, perhaps Cehett Grooper does exist.  it wouldn’t be the first time what was assumed to be an unlikely sounding pseudonym turned out to be a real person; step forward John Shadow, Warren Kiefer etc. etc.


  1. Just a thought on the mystery name …. Rudolf Zehetgruber was Austrian and thus assocated with the German language. The proper pronounciation of his German surname, if spelled out, reads a lot like “Cehett Grooper” spoken quickly. (I have a compliation of trailers which include a ggod number of Euro genre entries, including one of Zehetgruber’s, and that is exactly how the trailer narrator pronounces it.) Maybe someone seeking to market films with Zehetgruber’s involvement but wishing to downplay the German origins chose this bizarre pseudonym as a lazy substitute for the director’s real name? If I’m not mistaken, the Kommissar X films at least were all coproductions between West Germany and other nations such as Italy, so it’s possible that Zehetgruber was involved with at least some of these, maybe handling second unit. (I don’t know anything about the production background of The Tall Women.) He was evidently something of a specialist in action films, including – um – the Dudu or “Superbug” series of the 70’s.

    1. Well spotted with the Cehett Grooper / Zeheybruber connection, it’s so obvious now you’ve mentioned it I’m amazed I didn’t see it!

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