The following interview originally appeared in DRACULINA #24 and appears here courtesy of the author, Massimo F. Lavagnini.
LUCIO FULCI: It was I LADRI back in 1959. The producers didn't have a buck, as usual, but they wanted Toto to be the lead actor (note: Toto is one of the most popular comic actors in Italian history). The movie was a hybrid, it ended a flop.ML: Why did you choose to become a director?
LF: I didn't want to become a director, I wanted to just be a screenwriter. In fact, I refused to direct TOTO ALL INFERNO (Toto goes to hell) some years before. I didn't want to do the films of Toto! But, then I married, I needed the money. I can say that for me becoming a director was an alimentary accident. I came to this new job with great professional experience, ten years spent with Steno (Stefano Vanzina). After I LADRI, I made a musical called RAGAZZI DEL JUKEBOX which was a huge success.ML: I know you've done many comedies with Franco & Ciccio (Note: Franco French and Ciccio Ingrassia are two comic actors as popular in Italy as Abbott and Costello are in the states).
LF: My very first movie with them was I DUE DELLA LEGIONE STRANIERA. I found these two great actors in the world of the curtain raiser, and I transformed them into real stars. This movie was a very cheap production of Titanus. At the time the company was on the edge of a deep crisis. They didn't think the movie could have such a big success. I DUE DELLA LEGIONE was theatrically released without the mark of the company! Only after they realized that the movie did well at the box office, then they decided to promote it with the phrase "Titanus proudly presents the two new great comedians: Franco & Ciccio." I remember that Modugno (Note: Mister Volare!) was envious of their success! Sometimes I think I'll be remembered for UN AMERICANO A ROMA and the movies of Franco and Ciccio, you never know... In those years with Franco Franchi I also did a TV show for RAI 2 which nobody mentions UN UOMO DA RIDERE. It was a great show with Gloria Paul, Silvio Spaccesi for the first time on screen and Mario Merola.ML: How difficult is it to make people laugh?
LF: (deadly serious) It's more difficult than to scare.ML: After your comedies you started with the chillers. One of the first is UNA LUCERTOLA CON LA PELLE DI DONNA...
LF: I've had great troubles with the LUCERTOLA, the censorship attacked me for the scene of the mangled dogs. They were obviously fake, created by Carlo Rambaldi. A great FX maker, but he made the bats all wrong... I had to redo them by myself. Anyway, he's a very nice person. The problem with the special effects is how to shoot them, a problem of pure technique. For example; Zemeckis knows perfectly how to handle the camera and the FX. Pity that his FORREST GUMP is just a rip-off of ZELIG. It's not worth an Oscar.
The ending party at 1994's Cattolica's Mystfest.
Lucio Fulci (center), talking with the winner of the festival, Roger Avary (right).
LF: Me and Gianviti. Sacchetti gave us a great idea for the ending of the movie, the sound of the carillon... I remember I had great troubles with the screenplay which our producers Luigi and Aurelio de Laurentis didn't like. They asked me "can we turn it into a counterespionage movie?" (laughs) But then I came to an agreement with Fulvio Frizzi, who was the commercial director of Rizzoli. He took the responsibility to produce my movie. Unfortunately, THE PSYCHIC was a big flop, because some genius at Rizzoli thought it was a good idea to release the movie in the summer time (Note: On the contrary to the US market, in Italy the summer is low season for the cinema distributors). I care very much about THE PSYCHIC, but my favorite remains DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING.ML: You've done some great spaghetti westerns. How much do you like this genre?
LF: I love it. I've done four spaghetti westerns, my very best one is I QUATTRO DELL'APOCALISSE, another movie produced by Rizzoli. A classic.ML: Do you have some anecdote about working on ZOMBI 2?
LF: We had three little producers, but very honest. They didn't skimp on anything. Giannetto had all the possibilities to do good FX.ML: Your golden time has been that of the famous trilogy started with GATES OF HELL.
LF: (angry) I'm bored with all the critics who talk of a "Trilogy". I think my real golden time was in the early seventies, with PERVERSION STORY, DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING... But yes, of course, the beginning of the eighties brought me much fame. One thing that I'd like to say is that for my movies, I've always chosen actors, not stars. I hate the stars. For L'ALDILA' we took David Warbeck because he was like Jack Nicholson. Warbeck, Paolo Maico... there's no difference. They're no Peter Lorre, they're good just for the horror movies.ML: Tell us something about NEW YORK RIPPER.
LF: A good movie. It was a success at the box office. We shot it entirely in New York City. It was fun to do the scene with the eye of the girl ripped by a razor blade, a great effect which I made with Di Girolamo. I met again with this guy on the set of ZOMBI 3...ML: That movie's very bad!
LF: You see, I don't repudiate any of my movies except ZOMBI 3. But that movie's not mine. It's the most foolish of my productions. It has been done by a group of idiots, which are Claudio Fragasso - natural born cretin, Bruno Mattei - who before becoming a "director" was a house painter, and a guy named Mimmo Scavia - the director of productions, who arrived in the Phillippines and his first thought was to just fuck some Oriental girls. I refused to end ZOMBI 3. I took the plane and came back to Rome. On the screen you can only see fifty minutes directed by me, and that's because Fragasso continuously changed my screenplay. "We can't do this, we can't do that..." I'm only proud of the scene of the biting skull.ML: Why don't you tell us something about your "fantasy experience" with CONQUEST?
LF: CONQUEST... It was a movie that the producers wanted to do at all costs because it stars Jorge Rivero, one of the most important Mexican actors. They asked me to do a prehistoric movie. I tried to do a movie based on the friendship, because it's the story of a friendship between Rivero and Occhipinti. You won't find the same old theme of the dinosaurs... I shot it all in back lighting, all with fogs, with the help of a great camera operator, a Spanish guy named Alexandro Ulloa. Well, CONQUEST was a flop in Italy, but in Mexico people lined up to buy a ticket! That's because this Jorge Rivero is so popular.ML: Then you made THE NEW GLADIATORS.
LF: I have to say that there's a very good topic by Sacchetti, and it's about the television following us everywhere. Television torments us until we become heroes. This is the reading key of THE NEW GLADIATORS. A great idea for an anticipating movie, but I'm not very satisfied with it. I wanted to do a future Rome in which the ancient monuments were covered by gigantic plexiglass domes. The producer, Amati, imposed me to put the skyscrapers. Ridiculous. He's a great producer, but it has his tastes...ML: About MURDEROCK. Why did you contaminate the giallo genre with the musical?
LF: With MURDEROCK I started from the idea of a woman who wants to invent a murderer to take revenge on the person who harmed her. The producer came to me and told me to turn my giallo into a musical, because of the big success of FLASHDANCE... So he imposed the soundtrack of Keith Emerson on me, but I'm not satisfied at all with his work.ML: In 1986 you filmed your first erotic movie, DEVIL'S HONEY.
LF: I liked the screenplay, which was written by a woman. Then I discovered it was stolen from a subject some people should have shot for another cinema company. I was intrigued from the idea of a sado-masochistic relation, but it isn't porn. At the end of the movie you can see a gun in the corner of the room; it means that for me those couples always end up in blood. There's no future for these people. DEVIL'S HONEY is not a movie to throw away.ML: What about NIGHTMARE CONCERT?
LF: I think it's my most entertaining movie of the nineties. Now the central idea of the movie has been copied from Mr. Craven for his NEW NIGHTMARE!ML: Why did you insert some scenes from other films shot by other directors? (Note: If you've watched NIGHTMARE CONCERT, you'll know that the movie is composed not only by scenes from two other films of master Fulci, but also from sequences taken from Andrea Bianchi's MASSACRE, Enzo Milioni's BLOOD MOON, Leandro Lucchetti's BLOODY PSYCHO, and Mario Montero's DON'T BE AFRAID AUNT MARTHA WOULDN'T HURT YOU).
LF: It was a group of movies which I supervised, the "Lucio Fulci Presents" series. There was a very bad movie of mine called SODOMA'S GHOSTS and a little gem called THE TOUCH OF DEATH. It had a great ending ala Edgar Allan Poe; it was the shadow: responsible for the killings.ML: DEMONIA?
LF: A wonderful movie, ruined from very bad photography. And that's that. After DEMONIA I made two good TV movies, HOUSE OF CLOCKS and THE SWEET HOUSE OF HORRORS, produced by ReteItalia but never broadcasted, after the failure of the first series directed by Lamberto Bava. The best one is HOUSE OF CLOCKS. The second has a great idea in the beginning, with the ghosts forced to stay in the house because the children want them to stay. But the movie is bad.ML: I've read you're very proud of VOICES FROM THE DEEP.
LF: I love it very much. It's a wonderful movie with a wrong cast. Karina Huff is unpleasant, Del Prete is completely out of the role, the mother-in-law is too wicked and you understand immediately that she is the killer. VOICES FROM THE DEEP was adapted from one of my tales.ML: About DOOR TO SILENCE, I heard that Joe D'Amato has reedited it.
LF: (angry) Bullshit. He hasn't the right to talk, he hasn't even paid me! He changed the music score, making a big mistake. It was perfect for my movie. Recently I was invited to a Fest in London where they screened the print with the original soundtrack. It has been an incredible success. It's an extraordinary movie.ML: Maybe. But it isn't a commercial movie.
LF: I don't care about the audience. I told Aristide (Massaccesi) not to do it, but he insisted. It's shot in real time, ninety minutes. I wanted to insert a chronometer in order to visualize the passing of time, but Aristide took it off.ML: Weren't you pissed off from the ridiculous pseudonym printed on the poster?
LF: Let me explain. It was the fault of a woman with shitty breath, a despicable being called Lucaroni. She told Aristide that "in this moment Fulci isn't fashionable... let's call him Simon Kittay". Even the Japanese asked me to explain about this matter. She isn't working for Massaccesi anymore, hah!ML: Give us some anticipations on this new movie you're working on, WAX MASK. Is it produced by Dario Argento?
LF: It's produced by Giuseppe Palombo, the associate of Argento. I think we'll start shooting in September. About the story, I can say it isn't a carbon copy of the original HOUSE OF WAX, which obviously inspired us. Our story is settled in 1915 in Torino. The protagonist is a frustrated artist who kills and becomes a monster, because of the faults of society.ML: With your new WAX MASK are you planning to come back to the splatter cinema?
LF: We have seven or eight ultra-violent scenes. The first one who isn't scared can suicide himself!!ML: One last question. Tell us about your new book, which is going to be published soon in Italy.
LF: I've just finished writing my second book called MIEI MOSTRI ADORATI (My Lovely Monsters). There are some short tales and many anecdotes of cinema. I'm preparing a novel called CACCIA AGLI ANGELI CADUT (Hunt of the fallen Angels).