Lucio Fulci

Lucio Fulci
Born (1927-06-17)17 June 1927
Rome, Italy
Died 13 March 1996(1996-03-13) (aged 68)
Rome, Italy
Occupation Film director, film producer, screenwriter, actor
Spouse(s) Maria Fulci (1958-1969; her death)
Children 2 daughters, Camilla Fulci and Antonella Fulci

Lucio Fulci (Italian: [ˈlutʃo ˈfultʃi]; 17 June 1927 – 13 March 1996) was an Italian film director, screenwriter and actor. He is perhaps best known for his gore films, including Zombi 2 (1979) and The Beyond (1981), although he made films in genres as diverse as giallo, western and comedy. Fulci is known as the "Godfather of Gore",[1] a title also given to Herschell Gordon Lewis.

Life and career

Fulci was born in Rome, Italy on 17 June 1927. After studying medicine in college and being employed for a time as an art critic,[2] Fulci opted for a film career first as a screenwriter, then later as a director, working initially in the comedy field. In the early 1960s, Fulci wrote or directed around 18 Italian comedies, many of them starring the famous Italian comedian team of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia. Most of these early films did not enjoy wider distribution in English-speaking countries, and are generally not available in English. Fulci's first film distributed theatrically in the USA was Oh! Those Most Secret Agents! in 1965. Only three of his other 1960s films followed suit: Massacre Time (as The Brute and the Beast in 1968), Una sull'altra (as One on Top of the Other in 1973) and Beatrice Cenci (as Conspiracy of Torture, in 1976).

In 1969, he moved into directing gialli thrillers such as A Lizard in a Woman's Skin and Sette note in nero and spaghetti westerns such as Silver Saddle and Four of the Apocalypse, all of which were commercially successful and controversial in their depictions of violence and religion. Some of the special effects in A Lizard in a Woman's Skin involving mutilated dogs in a vivisection room were so realistic, Fulci was dragged into court and charged with animal cruelty, until he showed the artificial canine puppets (created by special effects maestro Carlo Rambaldi).

His first film to gain significant notoriety in his native country, Don't Torture a Duckling, combined scathing social commentary with the director's trademark graphic violence. Fulci had a Catholic upbringing and referred to himself as a Catholic.[3] Despite this, some of his movies (such as Beatrice Cenci and Don't Torture a Duckling) have been viewed as having anti-Catholic sentiment.[4] In one of his films, a priest is depicted as a homicidal child killer, while in another film, a priest commits suicide by hanging himself in a cemetery and is reincarnated as a murderous demon.

In 1979, he achieved his international breakthrough with Zombi 2, a violent zombie film that was marketed in European territories as a sequel to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978).[5] He followed it up with several other tales of horror films, also featuring zombies, which were popular horror film trope of the time. His features released from 1979 through 1983 (most of them scripted by famed Italian screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti) were described by some critics as being among the most violent and gory films ever made. City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981), The House by the Cemetery (1981), The Black Cat (1981), The New York Ripper (1982) and Manhattan Baby (1982) were among his biggest hits, all of which were noted for their extreme content and amount of gore.

Several of Fulci's movies released in America were edited by the film distributor to ensure an R rating, such as The Beyond, which was originally released on video in edited form as Seven Doors of Death). Others were released Unrated in order to avoid an X-rating (as with Zombi 2 and House by the Cemetery) which would have restricted the films' target audiences to adults. The unrated films often played worldwide in drive-ins and grindhouses where they developed a cult following. Many of Fulci's horror films tend to contain "injury to the eye" sequences, in which a character's eyeball is either pierced or pulled out of its socket, usually in lingering, close-up detail.

Several of Fulci's movies were prohibited in Europe or were released in heavily cut versions. Of the original 72 films on the infamous video nasty list in the United Kingdom, three belonged to Fulci: Zombi 2 (1979), The Beyond (1981), and House by the Cemetery (1981). After viewing Fulci's The New York Ripper, not only did the British Board of Film Classification refuse the film a certificate, but every single print in the country was taken to an airport and returned to Italy by order of James Ferman; it was not until later that VIPCO allowed the release of the film, initially outsourcing production to a foreign source under police supervision before releasing a VHS in 2002 and a DVD in 2007.[6]

German gore director Andreas Schnaas (left) and the late Lucio Fulci (right) at the 1994 Eurofest, London, England

After collaborating with screenwriter Sacchetti for six years, Fulci went off on his own in 1983 to direct the movie Conquest (a Conan-like barbarian fantasy) in Mexico, failing to involve Sacchetti in the deal. The film did poorly upon its release, and afterwards, Fulci had trouble jump-starting his working relationship with Sacchetti, who by this time had gone his own way.

Fulci became deathly ill from hepatitis in 1984, right after he finished directing Murder Rock in New York City, and had to be hospitalized in Italy for many months. Fulci spent most of 1984 hospitalized with cirrhosis, and much of 1985 recuperating at home. After 1986, with his diabetes plaguing him and the departure of screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti from Fulci's circle of friends, Fulci's endeavors as a director suffered.

In 1988, he had directed about two-thirds of Zombi 3 in the Philippines before having to return abruptly to Italy due to a second bout of hepatitis. The film was finished by an un-credited Bruno Mattei. Fulci later said that he hated the finished product and tried unsuccessfully to get his name removed from the credits. Mattei has said in interviews that the film was Fulci's, and that he (Mattei) just added a few extra scenes to pad out the running time.

In 1989, Fulci was hired to direct a pair of made-for-TV horror movies for the Italian market, neither of which aired in Italy due to the high amount of gore and violence. They were released later on DVD, however, outside of Italy. Fulci's intended comeback films Demonia and A Cat in the Brain were produced in 1990. Both films struggled to see release and were considered critical disappointments. His final project, the 1991 psychological thriller, based on one of his short stories, The Door to Silence, also received poor reviews. The release of this film is seen by some as the critical lowest point of his career.[7]

In the last decade of his life, Fulci suffered from emotional and physical health problems, reflected by a marked decline in the quality of his work. His wife's suicide in 1969 and a daughter's fatal car accident a few years later always weighed heavily on him (his wife Maria Fulci had killed herself with a gas oven after learning she had inoperable cancer). The violence portrayed in films such as The New York Ripper caused him to be branded a misogynist by some critics, although he always claimed that he loved women. Fulci suffered from severe problems with his feet during the late 1980s, which were caused by diabetes. It is believe that he hid the severity of his illness from his friends and associates, so that he would not be deemed unemployable.

Between 1987 and 1989, Fulci began lending his name to the credits of low-budget horror films, that he had not directed, simply to make the films more marketable to distributors outside of Italy. Although he supervised the gore effects in both The Curse and The Murder Secret, he was hardly involved with some of the other projects that which bore the "Lucio Fulci Presents" label on their advertising material. Fulci tried unsuccessfully to have his name removed from the credits of one film in particular, Gianni Martucci's The Red Monks, since he swore he had no involvement with its production. The following year, in reciprocation for the use of his name, Fulci was permitted to use gore footage culled from these films to make Cat in the Brain.

Some of Fulci's fans have retroactively argued that at his peak, Fulci's fame and popularity were on a par with that of Dario Argento, another famous Italian horror film director with whom Fulci had avoided working with as a result of Fulci publicly criticizing Argento from time to time. Fulci was most likely resentful of Argento since Dario had always received critical acclaim and recognition in Italy and abroad, whereas Fulci had been regarded there as something of a "horror film hack". Reportedly, Fulci told friends that when he died, he predicted that the Italian newspapers would all misspell his name, if they even mentioned him at all.

Fulci and Argento met in 1995 and agreed to collaborate on a horror film called The Wax Mask, a remake of the 1953 Vincent Price horror classic House of Wax, based on a story by Gaston Leroux. Argento claimed he had heard about Fulci's miserable circumstances at the time and wanted to offer him a chance at a comeback. It is said that Argento was shocked at how thin and sickly Fulci appeared at their meeting. . Fulci wrote a plot synopsis and a screenplay for Argento and thought that he was slated to direct the film as well. Fulci, however, died before filming could begin due to a series of delays caused by Argento's involvement with his own project, The Stendhal Syndrome, at the time. Wax Mask was eventually directed by former special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti. Reportedly the screenplay was entirely reworked by screenwriter Daniele Stroppa after Fulci's death, so the finished film contains significant differences to Fulci's original screenplay, though Stroppa had co-written two of Fulci's earlier films, The House of Clocks and Voices from Beyond.

Lucio Fulci died alone, in his sleep, at his apartment in Rome on the afternoon of March 13, 1996, from diabetes related complications at the age of 68. Toward the end of his life, Fulci had lost his house and was forced to move into a small apartment. Since Fulci had been so despondent in his later years, some believed that he had intentionally allowed himself to die by not taking his medications, but this is controversial.

Fulci's films had remained generally ignored or dismissed by the mainstream critics for many years, who regarded his work as exploitation. However, genre fans appreciated his films as being stylish exercises in extreme gore. At least one of his films, The Beyond, has "amassed a large and dedicated following".[8] In 1998, The Beyond was re-released to theaters by Quentin Tarantino,[9] who has often cited the film, and Fulci himself, as a major source of inspiration. Fulci's earlier, lesser-known giallo Don't Torture a Duckling (1972) received some critical acclaim as well. Fulci regarded two of his films, Don't Torture a Duckling and Beatrice Cenci, as his best work (the latter which he said his wife had liked the best of all his films), and considered both Zombi 2 and The Beyond as the two films that forever catapulted him to cult film stardom.

Fulci made an appearance the January 1996 Fangoria Horror Convention in New York City, just two months before his death. He told attendees that he had had no idea his films were so popular outside of his native Italy, as literally thousands of starstruck fans braved blizzard conditions all that weekend to meet him.

Fulci vs. Sacchetti

Fulci and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti share many screen credits from 1977 to 1983. Indeed, most of Fulci's most celebrated horror films were written by Sacchetti. After collaborating with Sacchetti for six years, Fulci went off on his own in 1983 to direct Conquest in Mexico, failing to involve Sacchetti in the deal. The film was supposed to be a high budget production, and Sacchetti allegedly resented the fact that Fulci had not thought to involve him in the project. The film actually wound up doing quite poorly upon its release, and afterwards, Fulci had trouble jump-starting his working relationship with Sacchetti, who by this time had gone his own way.

In 1987, Fulci accused Sacchetti of stealing a story idea of his, a project which they were planning to do together in 1983 after Fulci returned from Mexico. He claimed that Sacchetti later allowed director Lamberto Bava to direct the project (under the title Per Sempre / Until Death) in 1987 without Fulci's knowledge that the film was even being made. Luca M. Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta's book Spaghetti Nightmares, publishes two full interviews, one with Fulci and one with Sacchetti, explaining the reasons for the fallout.

Fulci's version is as follows: "One day I told Dardano the plot of my Evil Comes Back (later retitled Per Sempre/Until Death), a sequel on a fantastic note to The Postman Always Rings Twice, and he proposed it to several producers with my name on it as the director. Then, one day, he registered the screenplay with his name on it! (laughs) I later found out that he'd sold the story idea to a producer named Sergio Martino, but, in view of our past friendship, I decided not to sue him. I just broke off all relations with him. He is indeed a very good scriptwriter though."

Sacchetti's version differs: "When I proposed to Lucio my original treatment for Per Sempre, which was nothing more than a sequel to The Postman Always Rings Twice in which a dead man returns to life, he became really enthusiastic and had my story read by a producer friend of his who then commissioned me to write a finished script. At that time, Fulci assumed that he would direct it. Later, for various reasons, problems arose and the film was never made. Four years later, Bava used my script to make Per Sempre and Fulci, who was not working much at the time, got angry with me and started hurling these accusations. It's one thing for him to say that we were originally supposed to make the film together, but to claim that he originated the story and that I stole it from him is pure science fiction".


Year Film Worked as Notes
Director Writer Producer
1953 Un giorno in pretura Yes English: A Day in Court.
1953 L'uomo, la bestia e la virtù Yes English: Man, Beast and Virtue
1953 Ci troviamo in galleria Yes English: Let's Meet in the Gallery; aka Une fille formidable
1954 Un americano a Roma Yes English: An American in Rome
1955 Piccola posta Yes English: The Letters Page
1955 La ragazza di via Veneto Yes English: The Girl from Veneto Street
1955 Io sono la primula rossa Yes English: I Am The Most Wanted
1955 Totò all'inferno Yes English: Toto in Hell
1955 Le avventure di Giacomo Casanova Yes English: The Adventures of Giacomo Casanova; aka The Sins of Casanova
1958 Guardia, ladro e cameriera Yes English: Cop, Thief and Maid
1958 Totò nella luna Yes English: Toto On The Moon
1959 I ladri Yes Yes English: The Thieves
1959 Ragazzi del Juke-Box Yes Yes English: Jukebox Kids; aka Jukebox Boys
1959 The Last Days of Pompeii Yes Italian: Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei
1960 Urlatori alla sbarra Yes English: Howlers in the Dock
1961 Totò, Peppino e... la dolce vita Yes English: Totò, Peppino and the Sweet Life
1961 Letto a tre piazze Yes English: The King-Sized Bed
1962 Colpo gobbo all'italiana Yes English: Getting Away With It...Italian Style
1962 I due della legione Yes Yes English: Those Two in the Foreign Legion
1962 Le massaggiatrici Yes English: The Masseuses
1963 Uno strano tipo Yes Yes English: A Strange Type
1963 Gli imbroglioni Yes Yes English: The Swindlers
1964 I maniaci Yes English: The Maniacs
1964 I due evasi di Sing Sing Yes Yes English: Two Escapees from Sing Sing
1964 I due pericoli pubblici Yes Yes English: The Two Public Enemies; aka Two Dangerous Agents
1964 002 agenti segretissimi Yes Yes aka Oh! Those Most Secret Agents (USA); (Fulci's first film to be dubbed & theatrically distributed in the USA)
1965 Come inguaiammo l'esercito Yes English: How We Got In Trouble with the Army
1965 002 operazione Luna Yes English: 002 Operation Moon; aka Dos cosmonautas a la fuerza (Two Unwilling Cosmonauts). (story)
1965 I due parà Yes Yes English: The Two Parachutists
1966 Come svaligiammo la banca d'Italia Yes Yes English: How We Robbed the Bank of Italy
1966 Massacre Time Yes Italian: Le colt cantarono la morte e fu...tempo di massacro; aka Colt Concert, aka The Brute and the Beast (USA); (dubbed & distributed theatrically in the USA in 1968)
1967 Come rubammo la bomba atomica Yes English: How We Stole the Atomic Bomb
1967 Il lungo, il corto, il gatto Yes English: The Long, The Short, The Cat
1967 El hombre que mató a Billy el Niño Yes English: The Man Who Killed Billy the Kid; aka I'll Kill Him and Return Alone
1967 Operazione San Pietro Yes Yes English: Operation Saint Peter's
1968 I due crociati Yes English: The Two Crusaders
1969 Double Face Yes Italian: A doppia faccia; aka Liz and Helen; aka Chaleur et jouissance / Heat and Pleasure (a more adult re-edit); directed by Riccardo Freda (Fulci only supplied the plot)
1969 Una sull'altra Yes Yes Translation: One on Top of the Other; aka Perversion Story; (released theatrically in USA in 1973)
1969 Beatrice Cenci Yes Yes aka The Conspiracy of Torture (USA); (released theatrically in USA in 1976)
1971 A Lizard in a Woman's Skin Yes Yes Italian: Una lucertola con la pelle di donna; aka Schizoid, aka Carole
1972 Ettore lo fusto Yes English: Hector the Mighty
1972 The Eroticist Yes Yes Italian: All'onorevole piacciono le donne (Nonostante le apparenze... e purché la nazione non lo sappia) (Translation: The Senator Likes Women...Despite Appearances and Provided the Nation Doesn't Know)
1972 Don't Torture a Duckling Yes Yes Italian: Non si sevizia un paperino; aka The Long Night of Exorcism
1973 White Fang Yes Italian: Zanna Bianca
1974 Challenge to White Fang Yes Yes Italian: Il ritorno di Zanna Bianca / The Return of White Fang
1975 Dracula in the Provinces Yes Italian: Il cavaliere Costante Nicosia demoniaco, ovvero: Dracula in Brianza, aka Young Dracula
1975 Four of the Apocalypse Yes Italian: I quattro dell'apocalisse
1976 La Pretora Yes Translation: The Magistrate; aka My Sister in Law
1977 Sette note in nero Yes Yes Translation: Seven Black Notes; aka Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes, aka The Psychic
1978 Silver Saddle Yes Italian: Sella d'argento; aka They Died With Their Boots On
1979 Zombi 2 Yes aka Zombie, aka Zombie Flesh Eaters, aka Island of the Living Dead
1980 Un uomo da ridere Yes Yes English: A Man To Laugh At (Italian TV mini-series/ never dubbed in English)
1980 Contraband Yes Yes Italian: Luca il contrabbandiere / Luca the Smuggler; aka The Naples Connection
1980 City of the Living Dead Yes Yes Yes Italian: Paura nella città dei morti viventi; aka The Gates of Hell, aka Frayeurs
1981 The Black Cat Yes Yes Italian: Black Cat (Gatto Nero)
1981 The Beyond Yes Yes Italian: ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà; aka Seven Doors of Death (edited video release)
1981 The House by the Cemetery Yes Yes Italian: Quella villa accanto al cimitero; aka Zombie Hell House, aka Freudstein
1982 The New York Ripper Yes Yes Italian: Lo squartatore di New York
1982 Manhattan Baby Yes Italian: L'occhio del male (The Evil Eye); aka Eye of the Evil Dead, aka Possessed
1983 Conquest Yes Spanish: Conquista de la Tierra Perdida / Conquest of the Lost Land (filmed in Mexico)
1983 The New Gladiators Yes Yes Italian: I guerrieri dell'anno 2072 / Warriors of the Year 2072; aka Rome 2072: The Fighter Centurions
1983 Murder Rock Yes Yes Italian: Murderock - Uccide a passo di danza; aka Murder Rock Dancing Death, aka The Demon is Loose! (filmed in NY City)
1985 La gabbia Yes English: The Trap; aka The Cage, aka Collector's Item, aka Dead Fright (Fulci wrote this film, but did not direct it)
1986 The Devil's Honey Yes Yes Italian: Il miele del diavolo; aka Dangerous Obsession (Fulci's comeback film after his illness)
1987 Aenigma Yes Yes No Italian title (filmed entirely in Yugoslavia)
1987 The Curse Yes aka The Farm (directed by David Keith; Fulci only worked on the special effects & co-produced the film)
1988 Zombi 3 Yes Completed by Bruno Mattei after Fulci became ill (filmed entirely in the Philippines)
1988 Touch of Death Yes Yes Italian: Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio / When Alice Broke the Mirror, aka When Alice Broke the Looking Glass
1988 Sodoma's Ghost Yes Yes Italian: Il fantasma di Sodoma; aka The Ghosts of Sodom
1989 The Sweet House of Horrors Yes Yes Italian: La dolce casa degli orrori; made for Italian TV
1989 The House of Clocks Yes Yes Italian: La casa nel tempo / The House of Time; made for Italian TV
1990 Demonia Yes Yes aka Liza
1990 A Cat in the Brain Yes Yes Italian: Un gatto nel cervello; aka Nightmare Concert
1991 Voices from Beyond Yes Yes Italian: Voci dal profondo / Voices From The Deep
1991 Door to Silence Yes Yes Italian: Le porte del silenzio; produced by Joe D'Amato
1997 The Wax Mask Yes aka MDC: Maschera di cera, aka Wax Mask (film was released posthumously; Fulci's screenplay was almost entirely rewritten)

Films "presented" by Lucio Fulci



  1. "Lucio Fulci: Godfather of Gore". Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  2. MacCormack, Patricia (22 April 2004). "Lucio Fulci". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  3. "[Lucio Fulci interview]". Starburst (48). August 1982. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  4. "Atmosfear – 20 Must-see Italian Horror films (1957-1987) PART III". Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  5. Maçek III, J. C. (15 June 2012). "The Zombification Family Tree: Legacy of the Living Dead". PopMatters. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  6. "The New York Ripper (1982) - Trivia". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  7. Gore, Lucius. "Horror Movie Review of Zombi 3 (Lucio Fulci)". ESplatter. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  8. Kay, Glenn (2008). Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide. Chicago Review Press. p. 113. ISBN 1-55652-770-5.
  9. "Grindhouse Releasing Presents '80s Horror Classics Pieces and The Beyond". DVD Drive-In. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
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