Umberto Lenzi  

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Umberto Lenzi (6 August 1931 – 19 October 2017) was an Italian film director who was very active in Italian international co-production peplums, Eurospy films, spaghetti westerns, Macaroni Combat movies, Poliziotteschi films, cannibal films and giallo murder mysteries (in addition to writing many of the screenplays himself).



Early life

Umberto Lenzi was born on 6 August 1931 in the Massa Marittima province of Italy. Lenzi was a film enthusiast as early as grade school. While studying law, Lenzi also created film fan clubs. Lenzi eventually put off studying law and began pursuing the technical arts of filmmaking.

He enrolled in Rome's Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografica in 1956 and made the short I ragazzi di Trastevere as a final exam, a short film influenced by the writings of Pasolini. Lenzi also worked as a journalist for various newspapers and magazines, including Bianco e Nero.


Prior to his officially first credited film as a director, Queen of the Seas, Lenzi directed a film in Greece in 1958 titled Mia Italida stin Ellada, or Vacanze ad Atene, which was never released.

Lenzi's films of the 1960s revolved around popular genres of their respective time periods. In the early 1960s, Lenzi directed many adventure films including two features about Robin Hood (Il Trionfo di Robin Hood and The Invincible Masked Rider) and two films about Sandokan (Sandokan the Great (1963) and Pirates of Malaysia (1964)).

By 1965, Lenzi began directing European spy films, such as 008: Operation Exterminate, followed by Superseven chiama Cairo and Le spie amano i fiori, and even adapted fumetti neri comics such as Kriminal to the screen. Lenzi turned to making war films such as Desert Commandos and Legion of the Damned and westerns such as Pistol for a Hundred Coffins and All Out (1968).

Lenzi had box office success in Italy with his erotic thrillers starring Carroll Baker such as Orgasmo, So Sweet... So Perverse and A Quiet Place to Kill which were influenced by French "film noir" movies drawing from the works of Jacques Deray and René Clément.


After the commercial success of giallo films by Dario Argento, Lenzi followed the new trend with Seven Bloodstained Orchids, which referenced both Cornell Woolrich and Edgar Wallace novels, while another giallo Knife of Ice was a variation of Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase. Other gialli created by Lenzi in the early 1970s included Spasmo and Eyeball.

During the early 1970s, Lenzi also directed the first of the Italian cannibal films, with The Man from Deep River (1972), a genre that he would explore again in the 1980s with Eaten Alive! and Cannibal Ferox. During the late 1970s, Lenzi devoted himself almost exclusively to crime dramas, with the exception of two war films: Battle Force and From Hell to Victory (1979).


The 1980s began the decline of genre cinema in Italy. Despite this, it marked the release of films that Roberto Curti described as some of Lenzi's "most notorious". These included Nightmare City and the previously mentioned Cannibal Ferox. Following these films, Lenzi created some sexy comedies, including Cicciabomba.

Lenzi also worked on horror films towards the late 1980s, such as Ghosthouse (1988) under the name Humphrey Humbert and the slasher film Nightmare Beach which was credited to Harry Kirkpatrick as Lenzi refused to sign his name to the film. Other later 1980s work included horror films made for television, such as The House of Witchraft and The House of Lost Souls.


In 1992, Lenzi directed David Warbeck in an adventure film called Hornsby and Rodriguez (aka Mean Tricks). Lenzi ended his career with a few cop films that were similar to the American productions of that period. Lenzi later embarked on a career as a novelist, writing a series of murder mysteries set in the 1930s and '40s Cinecitta, involving real-life characters of the Italian film industry.

Lenzi died on 19 October 2017. The director was hospitalized at a hospital in the Ostia district of Rome. The cause of the death is unknown.


Roberto Curti referred to Lenzi as "one of the undisputed leading figures in Italian genre cinema" and that he was "a sort of institution in Italian genre cinema." Louis Paul suggested that Lenzi released some "quite enjoyable action films in the 1960s and some good thrilers in the '70s, he never consistently excelled at any one genre." and that Lenzi would "probably be remembered most for his cannibal-themed horror films."


See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Umberto Lenzi" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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