John Benedy, aka Gianni De Benedettis

John Benedy

John Benedy

Just watched a curious little poliziesco from 1968 called Un corpo caldo per l’inferno.  It’s not great, but not bad, and has an interesting cast, including a distinctive looking chap who I’ve seen in numerous films over the years, John Benedy.  Normally, he sports a resplendant seventies moustache and, although he’s missing his ‘tache in this role, he’s still effective as a villain (he always played vilains, just about).  After a bit of searching, it seems that Mr Benedy is something of a cult figure, a low key Luciano Rossi or Federico Boido.  There’s a lot of info about him on the Thrilling Forum, from which I’ve gathered most of the info below.

John Benedy, aka Gianni De Benedettis
Born 1938 in Mesagne, near Brindisi.

Benedy was a regular performer in fumetti and fotoromanzi, including recurring roles in Killing and Sadistik (he was interviewed in Il Diabolikal Super-Kriminal, the documentary about Sadistik made in 2007, which I unfortunately haven’t seen).  He moved into films in the early sixties, and his filmography according to IMDB is this:

- Carcerato (1981)
- Patrick vive ancora (1980)
- La tua vita per mio figlio (1980)
- Strategia per una missione di morte (1979)
- Provincia violenta (1978)
- L’amante del demonio (1972)
- Uccidi Django … uccidi per primo (1971)
- I racconti di Padre Brown
- Il re dei ladri (1971) episodio TV
- Un corpo caldo per l’inferno (1968)
- Sette donne d’oro contro due 07 (1966)

There’s an actor profile for him in Killing N. 25 Actor, which reads as follows:

Gianni De Benedettis, aka John Benedy, figures today among the cinematic artists with a bright future.  His first great success was with an excellent performance in the film Rocco and his Brothers.  After which directors and producers from around the world competed with each other with ever more attractive contacts. Gianni De Benedettis isn’t even thirty, and already is busier and more qualified than many actors of his generation. In a few years he has appeared in about twenty productions, most of which have been notable successes with the critics and the public.  John Benedy doesn’t show a predilection for any particular type of films, and there isn’t any genre he won’t work in.  Westerns, spy films, war films, love stories, as long as they have a good script he’ll take them on in order to hone his artistic skills.  He has appeared in Il mercenario (possibly La congiura dei dieci), Agente speciale Berlino, Covo di spie a Casablanca (possibly aka Spionaggio a Casablanca) and Fuoco su Berlino

If this is true, then his filmography is missing numerous entries (including all the films mentioned in the article), although he shouldn’t be mistaken for the much older Gianni Di Benedetto.  Could be time to play a little bit of spot the Benedy!

 

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Latest news on the fumetti book

Just thought I’d give you a quick heads up about what’s happening with the fumetti book, Fantastikal Diabolikal Supermen, as I said originally it would be coming out something like a year ago!

Anyway, the situation is this:  we’re very close to finishing it.  A friend of mine who is a proper (as opposed to a self-taught!) graphic designer is checking over my designs to make sure I haven’t made any glaring errors – the last thing I want is for, say, all the images to come out looking rubbish – and do a bit of final tidying up, but that side of things is all nearly done.  In the meantime, we’ve been working on the credits as well; intially I was just going to include bog standard information about the films, but now we’ve decided that it would be remiss not to make more of it and include full credit information, which means poring over screengrabs and trying to id those obscure actors who appear in all these films.

So we’re nearly there, but not quite.  I’m hoping to get all of this stuff finished by the end of September and have the final, published book out by October.  Fingers crossed.  I’ll post up some spreads so you get an idea of what it’ll be like in the next week or so.

The good news is that, once we have this first book done and dusted, it should be much, much easier (and quicker) to publish the second one, which will be about the films of Giorgio Ardisson.  More soon…

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R.I.P. Ermanno Curti

Ermanno Curti might not be the best known of figures in the English speaking world, but he was a hugely significant figure in the history of Italian genre cinema.  As well as being a producer – he was the mover and shaker behind most of Fernando Di Leo’s films, including the trilolgia della mala (Calibre 9, The Boss and Manhunt) as well as a handful of other films such as Star Pilot (66) and Liberi, armati, pericolosi (76) – he was also an important distributor.  He founded Milanese production company Daunia 70in the early 70s, which later became Gruppo Minerva International, and later becoming an honourary president of Minerva Pictures / RaroVideo in the 2000s (which explains why most of his films were released by Raro on DVD).  He was married for many years to Eleonora Ruffo, and died on August the 18th.

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Franco Nero interview

Just noticed that there’s an interview with Franco Nero on Box Office Magazine.  Loads of stuff about Cars 2, but also some more interesting questions as well, which I’ve included below (including a bizarre segway into The Visitor, of all things…)

You have always sort of enjoyed this flirtation with Hollywood, but you obviously have a huge career in Italy.

I’ve been doing movies all over the world. I’ve done movies with 30 different countries with directors from 30 different countries. I’ve been very lucky to work with everybody.

Have you ever felt limited at all? Do you feel like Hollywood has been as attentive as they should be to your work? Have they given you the sort of opportunities you feel like you deserved?

I felt that I could have had more chances in America, but that was my choice. When I went to America for the first time I did Camelot, the musical, I had a contract with Jack Warner to do five movies. I said to Jack after Camelot, “I’m homesick. I need to go back to Europe.” He said I was crazy and that I was going to be a big Hollywood star. I said, “No. I want to be in Italy and Europe where I feel more comfortable.” He said, “I think you’re crazy,” but he canceled the contract. And I think that it’s a question of choice. I could have stayed in America and done American movies, but that was my choice. I still managed to work with all the top European directors from all the countries. In Italy I worked with the top Italian directors, in Spain I worked with Luis Bunuel, in Germany with Fassbinder, in Russia with Sergei Bondarchuk, who won the Oscar for War & Peace, in France with Claude Chabrol. I managed to work with all of the best directors in the world. Once in a while I did a few American movies. Recently I did Letters to Juliet and everybody loved it and it was quite successful. And I’m sure that Disney decided to hire me after Letters to Juliet with Vanessa, where we’re playing together. But now I have a few offers and maybe I will do some more American movies.

When Django first came out, did you have a sense at the time that it was going to become a phenomenon?

No. We had no idea. We just did the movie, and then after the movie opened in Italy, it was a huge success. In a few months, all over the world, it was an incredible success. I remember that in many countries, instead of Franco Nero, they put Django in the hotels when you go to check in. I just said, “Okay.” Actually in Germany they went crazy about Django. They started to call all of my movies that were shown in Japan, “Django.” It was like an obsession. People always ask me why I think Django was such a success. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because he was a representation of male, young workers and they wanted to be Django. They wanted to go to their bosses and say, “Hey man! From now on, the situation is different.” Because he was cool and so different from the American westerns. It was like a samurai-Japanese movie.

Quentin Tarantino has his Django movie in the works. Have you already signed up to do that? What can you tell me about it?

It is a very funny story. It’s a very incredible story. Tarantino has always been a great friend of mine. Two years ago, I was doing a movie in Spain for Miramax with Penelope Cruz. She played my daughter in this movie called Talk of Angels and she went one day to San Sebastian to the festival and when she came back the next day, she said, “Franco, there was Quentin Tarantino and when I said to him that I was doing this movie with you he said, ‘Bring him here! I want to meet him!’” So that was the first time I knew he really loved my work and followed my work. So he did a few interviews in the newspaper and television and kept saying, “Franco Nero! Franco Nero! He’s my idol.” Finally, he came to Italy for Kill Bill and Harvey Weinstein went on this speech to present the movie and said [Tarantino] was sick and he couldn’t come, but he said “He begged me to say if Franco Nero was in the audience please say, ‘Hello.’” So finally, about two years ago, he came to Rome and he said to the production, “I need to meet Franco.” Finally they got a hold of me and we had lunch together. He told me the story. He said, “Franco, when I was 14, I started doing movies and videos.” He knew the lines of my movies and also he started to do the music too. So he said, “We’re doing a Western. Would you be so kind to cameo?” and I said, “Oh yeah!” I know about the Western he is trying to do. I was sure, very sure, I would do it. Then I was in Berlin with Vanessa and Harvey Weinstein was there and he said, “Oh, Franco! You’re going to be in Tarantino’s movie?” I didn’t know anything, so I came to America and some newspaper wanted to know. I said I don’t know. So this story said “Franco Nero will be in a Tarantino movie.” I know he [Tarantino] saw Django. I did Django many years ago before I came to America and Django was the most successful movie around the world along with A Fistful of Dollars. So every time Tarantino and I spoke, he wanted to know everything about Corbucci, the director of Django. And then I said to him, ‘Quentin, we are going to do a Western. It would be an homage to Sergio Leone and John Huston, the director that discovered me, and would you be so kind to play a cameo?’ And he said, ‘Oh yeah! What do I have to do?’ I said, actually there are three bandits, and I have to kill them all, and he said, ‘Oh, great, so I can come with Robert Rodriguez and my friends to play them.’ I said, yeah! That would be great! He said, ‘But how are you going to kill me?’ I said, “I’ll tell you: with a shotgun, and inside, instead of having bullets, it will be gold coins. He said, ‘I love it!’”

Do you come to the United States very often?

I was there in February because we do a week of Italian cinema at the Egyptian theater the week before the Oscars. I’m one of the organizers of these festivals. We do it every year and we’ve been doing it for the last five years so that’s the reason why I come during that period. I go to New York quite often because I have grandchildren there and Vanessa’s been doing Broadway. She’s been doing Driving Miss Daisy.

You’ve done so many Italian movies. Is there a movie that you think people should go see which you are the most proud of?

Django was a very commercial movie, but I’ve done fantastic Italian movies with the top directors like Elio Petri, who won an Oscar for Investigation of a Private Citizen. I did all the best movies in the ’70s, ’80s, and late ’60s. Now the Italian cinema is not the same anymore because now there is no industry. In the ’60s we had the best industry in the world, you know? We were producing like 400 movies a year and there was space for everybody. The producers were making a lot of money with commercial movies and had money to do quality movies with the top directors. Now it’s not the same. There’s a lot of TV. They do a lot of these miniseries or series that I don’t like—I like cinema. So in Italy, I try to do good movies with young directors. I directed a movie myself about three years ago called Forever Blues and it showed at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. I was there four days and I went with my band and we did a concert and they showed my movie. They liked the movie very much. They don’t really show movies there so it was very, very interesting. It was very nice. So it was a movie that I directed, I wrote, I produced, and I acted in. But I’m very privileged because in recent years in Italy there are very few movies. I have offers. I do movies in Hungary. I played the hero of Hungary a few years ago. I played the hero of Yugoslavia. Like I said, recently I just finished a movie in Brazil called Lucia Murat, a really great director. I do movies in England, Germany. I’m lucky I have so many offers from different countries, so I’m very privileged.

A weird film of yours I recently saw was La Stridulum, or The Visitor, from 1979. That movie is crazy. You’re playing Jesus, there’s an 8-year-old little girl that gets a handgun for her birthday and Shelley Winters plays a psychic nanny.

Yes. They put my name on that movie. [Laughs] Because I’ll tell you. You know why I did that movie? I wanted to meet the director that discovered me, John Huston. I play this sort of Jesus Christ of the future, you know? I did this cameo just for fun because it was a scene with John Huston, and I owe him everything. He’s the one who suggested me for Camelot and he’s the one who taught me English. John Huston, for me, I really owe him a lot. So I just did it for fun.

Do you remember the making of it at all?

Well, it’s like last year—I’ll tell you this funny story. Last year, they wanted me to play a cameo in The Rite with Anthony Hopkins. They needed an actor who spoke good English and I had to really do like six pages of script. A long monologue teaching at the Vatican. It was a long scene and I accepted and said, “On one condition, that you don’t put my name under any billing.” They accepted, so I did the scene and they loved the scene. But then I was in New York and I said to Vanessa, “Lets go see this movie. I have a cameo.” We went to see the movie with a few friends, and of course, I wasn’t there. The entire scene was cut! But it happens sometimes in movies.

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In the Market by Lorenzo Lombardi

In the Market

In the Market

Out last week in Rome, In the Market, directed by Lorenzo Lombardi.  The Italians seem to be making an attempt to muscle in on the rural massacre move with Zampaglione’s Shadow and this, and while it’s nice to see some kind of genre cinema happening it would be nice if they took something a little more ambitious than torture porn as their inspiration.  But, hey, people would have said the same thing during the heyday of the giallo, so maybe I’m just being cantankerous.

Anyway, this was a totally self funded project, just like Hypnosis, which was made for a similar (low) budget.  The plot follows three youths, David, Sarah and Nicole, who embark on a road trip across the country to go and see their favorite rock band. Unfortunately not everything goes as planned: things start to get complicated when they decide to stop at a service station for fuel and have all their possessions during a robbery. Forced to look for a place to call the police, they continue along the road, until they arrive at a market, where, tired and hungry, they decide to shelter for the night, not knowing that inside it isn’t only animal flesh that’s for sale…

Reviews have been hit and miss.  It’s picked up awards at several festivals, but mainstream critics have been less convinced.  The cast features Ottaviano Blitch (from Shadow) and the special effects are by Sergio Stivaletti.  It’s shown on a couple of dozen screens, but box office records are difficult to come by at this time of year because of the Italian holidays…

Here’s the trailer:

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Directory of World Cinema: Italy

Directory of World Cinema: Italy

Directory of World Cinema: Italy

This looks like an interesting release:

Italian cinema has proved very popular with international audiences, and yet a surprising unfamiliarity remains regarding the rich traditions from which its most fascinating moments arose. Directory of World Cinema: Italy aims to offer a wide film and cultural study in which to situate some of Italian cinema’s key aspects, from political radicalism to opera, and from the arthouse to popular genres. Essays by leading academics about prominent genres, directors and themes provide insight into the cinema of Italy and are bolstered by reviews of significant titles. From silent spectacle to the giallo, the spaghetti western to the neorealist masterworks of Rossellini, this book offers a comprehensive historical sweep of Italian cinema that will appeal to film scholars and cinephiles alike

Part of the Directory of World Cinema series

Features contributions from interesting writers like Austin Fisher, Iain Robert Smith, Christopher Frayling etc etc.  Austin has a lot more info up on his blog, or you can pre-order it here

 

 

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At the End of the Day, by Cosimo Alemà

At the End of the Day

At the End of the Day

Another new Italian horror film, this time directed by Cosimo Alemà, a famous director of music videos and commercials.  There have been trailers for this self-financed effort floating around on the web for a while now, but it finally opened in about 60 cinemas (not a bad showing), coming in a respectable 7th place in the box office and making a decent return.  The plot apparently, revolves around:

… a group of friends spending some time in the woods, playing paintball and engaging in unexpected romances. Little they knew that they were not alone: mysterious killings happens, and a constant menace is upon them. What started out as a innocent war-game ends up turning into a deadly man-hunt.

So, a bit like an Italian version of the Spanish film Paintball (or Severance, or Wilderness, or Southern Comfort if you want to go way back).  The review on ComingSoon describes it more as being like a tense action thriller than a gore filled horror movie and describes the director as being technically capable and with a good eye, but complains that the script is weak and sometimes predictable.

 

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