Dardano Sacchetti Tribute!!!

This special edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT is a tribute to the legendary Italian screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti. Hardcore fans of Italian horror flicks should immediately recognize his familiar name from the credits of such clas-sicks as “The Cat O’ Nine Tails, “Twitch Of The “Death Nerve,” “Shock,” “Zombi II,” “The Beyond,” and “The House By The Cemetery.” Dardano is also an uncredited co-creator of “Amityville II: the Possession,” which is one of the rare horror sequels that is far superior to the film that proceeds it!

In honor of his many years of hard work, his incredible contributions to the realms of horror and fantasy, and as a tribute to the man and his legions of fans, I present my reviews of three of my all time favorite horror films that were written by Dardano Sacchetti.

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980)

Vietnam vet Norman Hopper (John Saxon!) returns home from the war scarred both physically and mentally. He tries in vain to settle back into domestic bliss with his wife in their Atlanta home but is tormented by recurring nightmares where he relives the gruesome bloodshed and flesh eating he witnessed in the jungles of ‘nam. He’s also infected with a violent infectious strain of cannibalism (!) thanks to a starving P.O.W. that took a bite out of his arm. Much to his horror and his wife’s disgust he slowly develops a taste for blood, and the tender thigh meat of the flirtatious teenage girl who lives next door.

Things take a turn for the worse after Hopper’s old combat buddy Charlie Bukowski (played by the legendary Giovanni Lombardo Radice) is released from the nut house also nurturing a taste for human flesh. Charlie takes a bite out of a half naked girl inside a grind house theater and winds up on the run from the cops and an idiot gang of bikers attempting to be vigilantes. He holes up inside a large indoor flea market and blows away quite a few cops and bikers as they try to bring him to justice. Norman shows up and convinces the cops to let him go inside to talk to Charlie. Norman regains Charlie’s trust by reminding him that the best way to deal with a can of tear gas is to piss on it, “Just piss on it.”

Norman and Charlie are then both brought back to the local mental institution, where yet another deranged vet – and coincidentally enough the same guy who bit Norman in Vietnam – Tom, is also being treated. The trio of cannibals becomes a quartet when a nurse is also infected with the cannibalism virus. The four lunatics (made up with the exact same race and gender as the four leads in George A. Romero’s “Dawn Of The Dead”) fight their way out the hospital, and then waste a few street punks who get in their way before heading into the Atlanta sewers for a gut-wrenching final showdown with the police.

Antonio Margheriti directed this infamous shocker, and the very prolific Dardano Sacchetti wrote the screenplay. This is a unique “cannibal” flick, as it features cannibalism as a virus that can be spread from person to person. The deranged flesh hunters are somewhat similar to the infected killers in Romero’s “The Crazies” and David Cronenberg’s “Rabid.” They crave flesh and blood and will stop at nothing to get what they want. The violence here is really quite exceptional, with lots of brutal fight scenes, splashy gun battles, and gory flesh ripping. The opening sequence features an especially disgusting moment where the starved P.O.W.’s chomp into the freshly barbecued flesh of a young Vietnamese girl. The highlight of the film has to be the spectacular demise of Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who has a giant see-through hole blown in his abdomen! There’s also a delightful “shock” ending that ends the film on a great note.

Apparently actor John Saxon considers this flick to be a personal low point of his life and career, and in the “Cannibal Apocalypse Redux” documentary admits he that even contemplated suicide at one point after realizing he had appeared in such a vile picture. If that’s true, imagine how John must have felt a few years later when he was starring in crap flicks like “Hands Of Steel” and “Welcome To Spring Break.” This flick features more characterization and emotional depth than the standard cannibal efforts, and is well acted and very nicely shot. It’s also “nasty” enough to have been banned in the UK back in the day, and was heavily edited in the States when released under the name “Invasion Of The Flesh Hunters.” Like any action/horror/exploitation flick, this has to be seen UNCUT to be fully appreciated.

Hats off to Image Entertainment for releasing a beautiful, digitally remastered dvd of CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE that is 100% uncut. It also includes several “sewer dwelling special features” including the aforementioned “Cannibal Apocalypse Redux” documentary, “Apocalypse In The Streets” – a video tour of the filming locations, trailers, still galleries, and more. It’s exactly the type of special edition dvd that a superior genre flick like this deserves.

 

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980)

A gifted psychic named Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) dies from sheer fright during a séance after receiving a morbid vision of a priest named Father Thomas hanging himself in the cemetery of a cursed town called Dunwhich. Dunwhich is built upon “the ruins of the original Salem” which also hide one of the seven gates of Hell. As foretold in the book of Enoch, the suicidal preacher hanging himself causes the unfaithful servant to go straight to Hell and for the next three days the moon will turn red and the cities’ dead will walk the earth. Horrendous, awful things begin happening in Dunwhich that will shatter your imagination.

For starters, Mary isn’t really dead and was buried alive. Luckily for Mary, the pathologist played by none other than Lucio Fulci himself didn’t bother giving her an autopsy! Mary is saved from an agonizing death inside her partially buried coffin after a hard boiled reporter named Peter Bell (Christopher George – RIP) slowly realizes that Mary is screaming at the top of her lungs inside the casket and does the only logical thing – he grabs a fucking pick axe and slams it right into the part of the coffin where Mary’s face would be! After saving Mary’s life Peter hesitatingly agrees to join her on the quest to find the mysterious town of Dunwhich. According to the prophecies of Enoch, if the portals of Hell aren’t closed by All Saints Day no dead body will ever be able to rest in peace again and the dead will rise up all over the earth and take over the world. Peter and Mary have to destroy Father Thomas’ body to close the gates of hell and save humanity.

Meanwhile, the horror in Dunwhich reaches a fevered pitch as the dead priest wanders the town looking for victims. Staring into the eyes of the evil priest is enough to cause one unfortunate girl (Daniela Dora) to cry tears of blood and then puke up her internal organs, much to shock and disgust of her soon to be brain dead boyfriend (future director Michelle Soavi!). The plague of the dead also manifests itself in the form of sudden earthquakes that cause massive property damage to the local watering hole, angry cat scratching that rips the flesh of a neurotic woman named Sandra (Janet Agren) with incest issues, and undead grandmothers that chomp off a mortician’s fingers.

The town’s madness begins to infect its dimwitted citizens as well. A jealous father takes out his rage and confusion on the town pervert – Bob (Giovanni Lombardo Radice!) and puts a power drill through his brain. Once Peter and Mary finally make their way to the cursed city they are welcomed by maggots that fall like rain. Peter and Mary brush off the maggots and then team up with Sandra and her shrink Gerry (Carlo De Mejo) before heading into the decrepit catacombs underneath the priest’s grave site for a fiery final showdown with the possessed priest.

This is my favorite Lucio Fulci film, and one of my all time favorite films too. I’ve been a big fan since witnessing the film’s ability to shock and horrify firsthand. I was introduced to this one via a 1990 rental of the Paragon “Gates Of Hell” vhs that caused several of my friends (and their little sisters) to leave the room disgusted. Since then, I’ve watched this one more times than I can count. I think “City Of The Living Dead” is a perfect film, and Fulci’s true masterpiece. This is also my favorite of the many genius works that Lucio Fulci and writer Dardano Sacchetti worked on together. A lot of people prefer “The Beyond,” but I think “City Of The Living Dead” has a much more blasphemous and hallucinogenic vibe. It’s also a considerably more stylish film than “The Beyond” and possesses a truly morbid atmosphere that few other horror flicks can come close to matching.

The late great Christopher George turns in another one of his trademark winning performances. Chris was on a fucking tear in the early 80′s, appearing in one classic genre flick after another before his untimely death in 1983. He also starred in the classic 1980 vigilante flick “The Exterminator” and the following year appeared in both “Enter The Ninja” and “Graduation Day.” Who knows how many more amazing films Christopher would have starred in if only given the chance? The mind boggles. It’s great that Christopher and Lucio were able to work together, even if they didn’t get along and Christopher supposedly filled Fulci’s pipe full of maggots!

Fulci’s favorite leading lady, Catriona MacColl (“The Beyond,” “House By The Cemetery”) and his favorite female victim – Daniela Dora (“The New York Ripper,” “House By The Cemetery”) both star here and both contribute greatly to the film’s success. Catriona does a remarkable job in the role of Mary. Her scene inside the coffin when she wakes up buried alive is fantastic. Daniela steals the entire movie and instantly ensured a place in the annals of horror history for participating in what has to be one of the most insanely sickening death scenes ever captured on film. Daniela proved her “guts” by having the nerve to swallow actual sheep entrails and regurgitate them on camera at Fulci’s command! This is only one of the memorable moments of “City Of The Living Dead,” but the iconic image of Daniela crying tears of blood and then slowly puking up her innards is what immediately comes to a horror fan’s mind when you hear the title.

The living dead mostly take a back seat to the buckets of blood and maggots, but there should be more than enough gut barfing and brain ripping to keep gorehounds happy. The splatter effects from Gino De Rossi (“Zombi II,” “Cannibal Ferox”) are about as top notch as they come. But for some random and completely hysterical reason, whenever the frequently repeated closeup shot of the brain ripping is shown the hand doing the ripping clearly belongs to a black man with hairy knuckles! This makes the climax to the aforementioned gut barfing scene unintentionally hilarious as clearly it’s not Daniela’s hand ripping out Michelle Soavi’s brain. The zombies we do get to see look fantastic, as they were created by the legendary Rosario Prestopino (“Zombi II,” “Burial Ground)”. “City Of The Living Dead” is a film with GUTS, and a lot of them.

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD should be considered mandatory viewing for all horror fans. Sharp eyed Italian horror buffs will get a kick out of seeing so many familiar faces. (Watch out for Perry Pirkanen of “Cannibal Ferox/Holocaust” legend in a small yet pivotal role as a perverted gravedigger!) I really can’t say enough good things about this one. “City Of The Living Dead” is a horror clas-sick. Anchor Bay and Blue Underground have both released “City Of The Living Dead” on dvd. The dvd features the theatrical trailer and radio spots. BUY IT!!!

 

THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)

The female residents of New York City are being sliced and diced by a rampaging maniac. The press dubs the killer “The New York Ripper” – and he wields the blade with precision, quickly carving his way through the big apple. A hard boiled, whore banging police detective teams up with a closet fag psychoanalyst to hunt for the sadistic slut snuffer with the wacky voice of a duck. Things get personal when the deviant duck slices up the nipples and eyeballs of “Kitty,” who just happens to be the detective’s favorite prostitute! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!

“The New York Ripper” is one of my favorite Lucio Fulci films. It plays out like an ultra sleazy combination of an Italian giallo and an American slasher flick, and reeks of cheesy 70′s police drama. Thanks to the typically atrocious dubbing the characters all sport thick and terrible “Noo Yoik” accents. My favorite character is the tough talking coroner, who delivers the immortal line – “He used a blade. Stuck it up her joytrail, and slit her wide open. He could have done a better job if he had more time. But overall it was good, efficient butchery.” The music throughout also is appropriately funky/sleazy sounding. Clearly not for everyone, but jaded horror fans looking for an unrelentingly grim and sadistic slasher are likely not to be disappointed.

This is quite possibly legendary director Lucio Fulci’s most bloodthirsty effort, which is really saying something. The abundant gore on display here is fantastic. No discreet cutting away from the action. Nothing left to the viewer’s imagination. Fulci delivers the real thing as always. The multiple razor blade slashings are gory as hell. The most disgusting scene has to be the extended razor blade torture that the killer inflicts upon actress Daniela Dora (who had already puked her guts up in Fulci’s clas-sick “City Of The Living Dead”). The best part of that sequence is when the killer slowly drags the razor across her eye. The eyeball even rolls back into her head as it’s being cut, which adds a particularly unnerving and realistic feeling to the scene.

“The New York Ripper” is also one of Fulci’s most controversial films. It is frequently accused of being misogynistic and overly brutal toward women. “The New York Ripper” is unquestionably an extremely violent and unpleasant film. The over the top carnage is almost nonstop, and the motivations and emotions of the mad killer, which were the creation of writer Dardano Sacchetti are equally as perverse and disturbing. There’s also an abundance of SLEAZE on display – with plenty of Times Square sex shows (including a HOT performance from Zora Kerova of “Cannibal Ferox” infamy!), gay porno mags, and a cuckold husband who gets off listening to tape recordings of his wife having sex with other men. Not to mention the infamous “toe rape” scene, which is another incredibly nasty and unusual highlight.

Bill Lustig’s Blue Underground recently released a fantastic special edition dvd of THE NEW YORK RIPPER that was remastered in blood-soaked high-definition from its original camera negative, and presented completely uncut and uncensored. The bonus features exclusive to this new special edition release include “I’m an Actress! – Interview with Zora Kerova” and “NYC Locations: Then & Now.”  Yet another top notch release from Blue Underground, and yet another flick that no respectable horror collection should be missing!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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One Response to “Dardano Sacchetti Tribute!!!”

  1. Dardano Sacchetti Says:

    Thanks Brain
    Dardano Sacchetti

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