Omega Rising: Remembering Joe D'Amato (2017) Movie Script

I'm a copier, a cheater.
Ruggero Deodatos film had just come
out and had gone really well...
called Eaten Alive... No... Yes...
it was called Last Cannibal World...
It had done really well, it had been seized by the
censors, so we decide to ride their commercial success.
I had an associate called Fabrizio De Angelis, with whom I put
together a company in order to make Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals.
It came out well, with this combination, a little
horror and a little sex, that worked well...
We went to Fogliano, but
nobody believes we did.
We hired a lot of Filippino's from Rome, we put
some wigs on them and pretended they were lndio's.
They all fell into the trap.
At Fogliano there is an artificial
lake with two palm trees...
it could look like the Amazon and with these
Filippino's in wigs, it was perfect...
I first met Aristide
Massaccesi in 1971
when I worked on the first
film I had written.
A film directed by Michele Lupo,
with Giuliano Gemma.
Aristide, during this period, was a director
of photography and a camera operator.
I liked him because he was
simple and spontaneous
very friendly, and extremely brave.
I saw him shoot a scene,
precariously tied to a coach
with the serious risk of
harming himself.
I asked him if he was crazy.
He was a pleasant person
and he always had a joke so you
would always be laughing.
With Emanuelle e Francoise- le
sorelline (Emanuelle's Revenge)
I was involved by chance.
He had a script that was too short and
he asked me to have a look at it.
I admit to having stolen the
idea from an old film,
adding this idea of a man being
held captive in a cage.
A French film, that took the concept
from a previous Greek film.
It was an idea that had been
copied a couple times.
He offered me a role.
I didn't want to do the film,
especially my role.
It took place in a villa owned by
one of the producers,
Which was a five minute
walk from my house.
So, seeing as I needed the money...
the morning cf the shoot, instead of getting a
cappuccino, I went there and did my scenes.
That's the only reason I did it.
I've never seen the film.
I haven't the foggiest idea
of what came of it.
I doubt there is a film, in which Aristide put
any real effort in the framing of his shots.
That was not his role. His
role was to hurry up.
Most of his films were sold
before shooting,
he would get money from the
distributors and shoot them.
Often he would go so quickly that he would
finish a lot sooner than scheduled.
He couldn't go tell this to the distributors
though because if not they would say:
why the fuck did I give that
amount of money?
Once, one of his
distributors visited the set
and we didn't have a
thing to show him
so we pretend to shoot without any
film in the camera.
He explained the situation to us and
we went along with his charade.
The Anthropophagus project
was born by chance.
I had gone to his office for a visit and he
was dealing with a script that didn't work.
He only had the beginning:
a man that finds himself
shipwrecked on a lifeboat.
I told him, jokingly I will write it for
you but I have to be the protagonist.
The film was supposed to
be set in Greece.
I would often choose what films to do on the
basis of where they were going to be shot.
I wrote what you can
see in the film.
There weren't any great ideas.
The only original concept was this
man going crazy and
basically becoming a cannibal
after devouring his son.
As luck would have it, I didn't
even get to go to Greece
because all my scenes
were shot in Rome.
Talking about the film is difficult,
because there is nothing to it
just a few gruesome scenes that a
certain fraction of the public like.
I enjoyed writing them but I
can't say I liked them.
Absurd however, which can be
considered a sort of a sequel,
I had more fun writing.
Even though that too was a little
film, not a big deal.
Following Aristide's request I tried to conceive
a film that wasn't going to be too expensive
where most cf the action took place on one set:
a villa, in which this crazed man finds refuge.
It's your average horror film,
nothing exceptional... but it works.
My first meeting with Michele was in
a cemetery at night...
but I'm not sure it was Absurd
maybe another film... no it
was probably Absurd.
We needed a bunch of teens
with motorbikes.
Calling here and there they rounded
up a few friends and
among this group there was also Michele Soavi
and that's where he fell in love with cinema
and fell in love with Aristide,
because it was hard not to.
He even came on the following days
when we didn't need the
bikers anymore.
He would hang round and help, asking
if he could do anything.
Slowly a relationship began. Aristide
took him under his wing, like a son.
Michele was completely unaware of
what life on a set was.
He was bright and loved cinema, in fact
he had a developed aesthetical taste...
I met Aristide Massaccesi through his trusted
Assistant Director, Claudio Bernabei
with whom I was also a friend.
He was working on Absurd and for a scene
they needed kids with motorbikes...
...and of course being a
small production
they were looking for people who could
bring their own bikes with them,
at Manziana where they
were shooting.
He looked at me and asked do you have a
photo? I answered of me or my motorbike?
and he began laughing. It was
love at first sight.
I was very young, nineteen years old
and trying to find some work,
fascinated, as I was, by cinema.
At night, I would admire these spaceships that
would be shooting in the city, during the summer.
For me that was a dream, instead of
hanging out in bars smoking joints.
To be able to work in that world, at
night, was like a dream to me.
I was picked so I went to the
set with my bike.
It was a night shoot,
there was me and other teens and we
were supposed to taunt an old drunkard
on this minuscule set, made
out of 8 people.
I would see this little man, Aristide, climbing
on vans and shooting all over the place.
In six hours we had an
infinite number of shots.
I was paid immediately, which is
something very rare.
Usually you get paid weeks later but
instead his partner, Donatella Donati
came up to me smiling and handed me
my 50 thousand lira.
For the bit parts or as
an assistant.
Then Michele was an AD on a film I
directed, as always, produced by Aristide.
Seeing Michele as kept insisting, Aristide
decided to give him a chance in directing a film
and he asked me to write the script.
Actually, he asked me
to write two... for Michele and one for me.
The first film I wrote was... the one he called
Acquarius... Stagefright and I was supposed to direct it,
but I was having trouble with a restaurant I had
just opened in Rome and had to take care of it,
so I told Aristide Michele can direct the
first and I will do the following one.
So Michele directed Stagefright...
which is another film I wrote with a
small budget in mind.
There wasn't much money, so I set the story
in one location, this big abandoned theatre.
The film is nice, it works very
well, especially thanks to Michele
who did a better job than what I
would have ever done.
I was more talented with actors but he had a
great visual sense and a good taste in music.
The film even won a prize at Avoriaz Film
Festival and its mostly thanks to Michele.
One day he asked me if I wanted to
work on a film as a script supervisor.
That was the time of Caligula:
The Untold Story,
where I met many people that became
important in my career.
For example David Brandon, a
wonderful Irish actor with whom
I became friends and later cast as
the protagonist in Stagefright.
Stagefright arrived just like that.
I had already become as assistant to Dario Argento
and I had done other things with Aristide as an AD.
I had also already directed a
couple of music videos
which I immediately brought to
Aristide for his opinion.
One useless cloudy morning Aristide
calls me and asks me
if I want to direct a horror film.
Are you sure you want to put the
responsibility of a film in my hands?
Yes, come over and we can talk.
So we started working on the project, which began with a
completely different story from what became the film.
We would have these long brain-storming
sessions in which we talked about
how this film was supposed to be, I
would explain what I had in mind...
That was the period in which
Filmirage was born.
There were young directors, one American, Deran
Sarafian and Fabrizio Laurenti for example.
He was the first to create a reality
for which to nurture young talent.
Aristide's school was more
than essential to me.
He was the first one to put an Arriflex in
my hands and say shoot, shoot, just shoot
He would suggest shots or do a
scene with a stuntman
and ask me to be the extra camera.
It was a very
stimulating atmosphere.
So Stagefright was born in a beautiful
delirium of emotions and feelings.
Then Montefiori came on-board with a
script he had written for me.
This was very fortunate because the script was
suitable for me and perfect for Aristide's wallet.
The location, an abandoned theatre,
kind of a hanger
which was supposed to be in America
and was perfect for me
and allowed me to have all the time
necessary to elaborate the scenes
not having had much experience...
my knowledge was mostly theory
even if I had done various films as an AD and I had been
able to work in various roles: as a grip, an operator...
this saved me because to direct you
need to know how to do everybody's job
so not to get ripped off when it
comes to time and costs.
It was an expensive
film for Aristide.
He would usually do films
in three weeks
he had given me four and we
ended up needing six
but he was very, very happy
with the footage.
The film was photographed
by Renato Tafuri
who did a wonderful job.
A lovely photographer that contributed
to the fortune of this small film,
which later won a prize at Avoriaz and opened
my career internationally with Terry Gilliam.
Let's start by saying that for me
Aristide Massaccesi was our Roger Corman.
In the sense that Aristide, on one
side was a great professional.
A wonderful DOP. Then on the other he was
a completely crazy producer, like Corman.
Our meeting occurred in occasion of Goblin, known
as Troll 2, my first experience in the States.
Aristide had created a
strange situation:
he had a truck full cf cameras and electrical equipment
with which he toured America working with various
crew members of the independent
American film industry.
Money arrived from independent American
producers or from Italian production companies
like the ones I had worked with: Filmexport, Franco Gaudenzis
Flora Film, all of whom made films for the American market.
The astuteness of Aristide was if I have to do films that
imitate the American's it's better for me to shoot them there.
One might think it would be very
expensive but actually it wasn't.
If you go and shoot in the province, like me in Utah,
working without involving the unions and do a small film
it costs as much as going to the
Philippines to shoot.
Of course it takes courage but
he had plenty of it.
He was extremely creative.
All the scripts that came in, me and Rosella
would discuss them with him. He was great.
While he was around this style of cinema could
exist, with his departure this cinema died with him.
Aristide Massaccesi, real name of Joe D'Amato, was
a father figure for me, as he was for many others.
Filmirage was his factory and he launched many
artists. He called me the visionary because
I had some crazy ideas
which he loved.
My relationship with him was incredible and
that kind of relationships between writer
and producer, sadly,
doesn't exist anymore.
He always knew what we were talking about, he knew how to
truly read a script, which may seem like a silly thing...
...but now producers don't read scripts
and don't know how to read them.
He was very creative and for me it
was like a school, an academy.
Aristide made me write completely
different stories...
he would tell me write a horror,
write an erotic film
- like Eleven Days, Eleven Nights which
was the first erotic comedy in my career.
Write me a pseudo-Rambo, write me a a Vietnam movie,
a fantasy film. we would always be changing genre.
He would tell me that every five pages something
had to happen, if not it doesn't work.
Plus I would laugh a lot around him. He was filled
with irony and would always have a joke ready
but he was never vulgar. I really to
underline this because
I've read in books about him or
viewed interviews online...
people speak well about him but are
also saying he was crude or vulgar.
I never heard him say a bad word, or curse. A man
of simple tastes, clean and always a gentlemen.
Something that still moves me every
time I think about him.
A wonderful thing he told me that I will never forget:
never cut your wings, alluding to creativity.
Every time I would have to write something
I would ask how much the budget was
and he would answer you write and don't worry
about anything. Don't set any limits, just fly.
I can only be grateful and say thank you for the
relationship and friendship I had with him.
The basis of our collaboration was
of reciprocal respect
and his capacity to make me laugh.
I found him, in an ambiguous
environment like the one of cinema
where there is a lot of
pretentiousness, a very simple person.
Direct while speaking and especially good natured.
Very generous, that was his biggest trait.
Our partnership developed in a way
that was not consistent.
Until 1971, I was only an actor and
I had never written anything.
After having met him I
started writing.
I wrote for many production
companies, not only for him
but with him I would
have the most fun.
First of all because he
was intelligent.
When I wrote something that was good
he would take what I had done
without changing anything.
While, what irritated me with other
directors and producers,
was the fact they always had
something to say,
to modify or change making the story
worse instead of better.
In other words, the esteem he had for me and
my work made him even nicer in my eyes.
As a director he had his limits,
but they weren't limits due to a
lack of capabilities
but due to his desire for doing
things on a small budget.
It's obvious if you do a film in ten
days, two weeks maximum
that you can't afford to take care
of shots and the fine details.
It was his choice however.
If he had wanted to, he could have
become, probably not a great director...
-he was a competent professional but
could only reach a certain level-
but he could have become
a big producer.
His greatest capacity was to be
liked by everybody.
Everyone I know that had a
chance to work with him
did so happily because he had
a great personality
and really managed to
make you feel good.
The films I did in Central
America with him
I did them, not because I was
interested in the stories...
I didn't even read the scripts...
but because working with him was a
bit like being on vacation.
Working at Filmirage with somebody
which was so knowledgeable,
capable of doing everything from
working the lights to camera operating
from directing to photographing, was
like attending an academy.
Working and observing
everything he did... every area of filmmaking: how
he would be on set directing or...
how he prepared and organised his films. There was a
lot to learn and it was wonderful to work with him.
He would be a real artisan, even
discussing the masks and effects we had
handmade by Maurizio Nardi and other great artists, that
used to work with plastic and not gel like they do now
and able to give them suggestions,
as with the editor...
Working with him meant not only working in a protective
environment but also meant that you were always learning.
There was always a sense of
community and family.
It's never happened like that again...
We were all his sons and daughters.
The production company was made out
of two main figures:
one was Aristide, the good father to us all,
the young writers, directors and even actors
that were being forged
like Deran Sarafian
with whom I became friends and I
wrote his first film for him.
He was sent by Sarlui who asked
Massaccesi get this kid started.
The second figure, who wasn't at all maternal, poor thing
she died not many years ago, was Donatella Donati.
Donatella Donati and Massaccesi made
an incredible couple:
Aristide was sweeter, kinder but all the annoying things, the
stuff he didn't want to do he would delegate them to Donatella
who was a hound, a strong woman,
daughter of an important producer.
They were an extraordinary couple,
professionally speaking.
Then there was a whole army of secretaries,
lawyers, administrators and editors...
nearly all women who were in some
way an appendix of this couple.
All these people were very
protective with them.
I have never seen employees so
attached to their employers.
They adored them and I think this was due to the fact that
they would infuse the workplace with a family mechanism.
There was a very human-based
rapport between everybody:
if you had to have a fight you would -sometimes a screenplay
wouldn't work- you would say things directly in someone's face.
It was really like being in a
family. Something strange and rare.
I started composing with Edoardo
Vianello and Wilma Goich.
Edoardo, apart from singing with Wilma and with the
Vianellas, was interested in composing for films and theatre.
He asked me if I had ever composed anything and as a
matter of fact I had only done a few small things.
So he involved me in the making of the
soundtrack of a film and a theatre piece.
The play was called Sempre in camicia (Always with a
Shirt) and it had a group of actors that later became
maybe not famous, but well-known.
That was my first big experience
composing a soundtrack.
In the meantime this music was listened to
by some people which started asking me if
I was willing to compose the music for .
..let's say more important films.
One of these was Aristide Massaccesi who saw
in me a more horrific vein than a romantic one,
which I do feel is pronounced in me
and he proposed that I compose
the music for Absurd, Rosso sangue.
While asking me to do this film, he also asked if
I could replace the soundtrack for another film.
I won't say the name of the musician
but the film was Unconscious
a title that was later discarded and replaced. He
had directed this film but didn't like the music.
I did a new soundtrack and the film was released with
this other composer in the credits but with my music.
Immediately after we did Absurd, for
which I have, naturally, full ownership.
This began a career, mostly in horror films, but
in the meantime I would do many other things.
Aristide Massaccesi was a very nice person.
With the people that worked for him
and so with me as well, he was
undoubtedly demanding.
He had clear ideas generally, but in respect to music, not so
clear; but as far as everything else I would say very clear.
He was a man full of resources, capable with two
Quartz, a lightbulb and candle to photograph anything,
and you would watch the scene and go
who did this, Vittorio Storaro?
With me he was a wonderful person and
would leave me free to express myself.
I worked with many directors and the only one
that really knew what he wanted musically
was Lucio Fulci, who was a bit of
a musician himself.
But apart from Lucio, I worked with directors
who would impose their musical ideas
which is fine by me, a director
is like an orchestral conductor.
When I'm directing an orchestra I don't impose but
I except my ideas and visions to be followed...
because I'm composing, I know
the rhythm and atmospheres required.
A film director is like me when I step onto
the podium. The director is the leader.
For example in a film, during a chase, if he wants a
love theme, even if there are people shooting guns
and running I will do what he says.
So there are directors who impose and have this
sort of approach, even when their ideas don't work
in the case of Aristide this didn't
happen, he would trust me.
I can't think of one single theme he imposed on me.
I have a nice memory of him even in this sense.
First of all he did something that
few people would do.
When he commissioned a film to a director he would
never go on set and intervene or be polemical.
He would only step in if
there were problems.
For example, if there was a film that had to last three
or four weeks and the director was late on arrival
in that case he would intervene
and would maybe take the
camera operator's place.
I had a very direct and cordial relationship with
him and when I directed Beyond Darkness (La casa 5)
we already had a strong synergy after Troll
2 and so he let me proceed freehandedly.
He would never be invasive. A real cinema-man.
People like him don't exist anymore.
Volcanic because he was fecund
with ideas and projects.
Ironic because he had an accentuated sense cf humour. Bitter
because in his films there is a profound existential streak.
I'm naturally talking about his horror/giaililthriller
works and not the other part of his career.
I didn't know him personally but when
I did meet him the image I had of him
from reading interviews and watching his films,
was confirmed. He was just like I imagined him.
I was introduced to Aristide Massaccesi by Lucio Fulci.
We are in the late eighties, early nineties here.
During this period, Lucio was preparing
with Aristide The Doors to Silence.
One day I receive a telephone call from Aristide's
office telling me they needed somebody to
reshape a script. Aristide wanted to direct
but wasn't convinced by it very much.
We are talking about Frankenstein 2000. I
said yes immediately and went to meet him.
I found a man that was a true Roman, disillusioned,
sarcastic and a pleasure to listen to.
It was a situation similar, but a little more articulated, in
comparison to what I had already done with Cat in the Brain.
Here there was script written by Michele Soavi
and Marcello Modugno in which Aristide wanted to
insert more of a literary connection
with Mary Shelley's novel.
I concentrated myself on the figure of the monster: his awakening,
when he is telepathically reanimated by this girl in a hospital bed
during a dark and stormy night, an atmosphere
that connects it to the literary source.
Then I wrote some of the killings, a few were
already in the script but others I wrote.
The ones committed by the creature who takes
revenge on this friend whom he was very tied to.
Donald O'Brien was a wonderful
person, exquisite.
English, actually Irish, but had lived for many years in America.
Sometimes I still come across old black and white films with him.
Then he came to Italy, maybe to do some films with Fulci,
or even before that with the peplums, inspired by Ben-Hur.
He stayed in Italy as an actor, very
nice and very available.
Poor guy, he had an accident. He
fell in the shower as he was washing
and he hit his head becoming
paralysed completely down one side.
In fact I did a film called Frankenstein 2000,
Return from Death, and he played Frankenstein.
He had a big scar on his forehead,
really well made.
There was a scene in which I had
thirty kids dancing in a discotheque.
Frankenstein arrives and grabs one
of them, kills them.
As we were doing some test shots, one of the kids
comes to me and says This guy is brilliant...
He walks exactly like Frankenstein.
Poor guy walked like that because he was
paralysed. But everybody believed he was acting!
As you know Joe was the producer on his films,
or for many at least, among which this was one.
So he had to combine various necessities. He had
to minimise costs and would work very quickly...
considering he was also the DOP of
the film. He never wasted time.
He had a simple and essential way of directing
but it was also incisive in my opinion
and this Frankenstein wasn't any
different from what he was other films.
When Filmirage died... you have to look
at what the situation was at the time.
There were great difficulties in getting films
of a certain kind theatrical distribution.
There weren't as many cinemas any longer and
maybe, unfortunately, the industry has been
saturated and was overflown by
too much product.
The public turned their backs on certain genres, like
the erotic films which were previously popular...
so Aristide facing this situation had to make hard
decisions. He had more debt than money coming in.
A lot of other companies were
closing by the early nineties.
The Americans had complete
reign on the market.
As a business man he maybe had some faults.
He didn't really give priority to money.
He was 100% an artist and was just
happy to make his films.
Unlike Franco Gaudenzi who had reasoned:
I have Zombi 2, so let's make Zombi 3.
Aristide wasn't like that, he chose
the projects he believed in.
He had to be inspired, he had to have fun. The financial
aspect was the last thing he was interested in.
He was a true artist.
His downfall began when Filmirage, which
was a company that worked primarily
on receiving foreign sales,
stopped getting pre-sales.
So he had to turn to porno films, which
didn't give him much satisfaction.
We would sell these small films, as
if they were American.
In places like the American Film Market
in LA, MIFED, Cannes, for a lot of money.
I remember Strike Commando, which I made
with Bruno Mattei, that film exploded...
it was sold all over the place.
We invested a lot in that market but after some time
we realised that we were becoming too small for it.
The average American product was too higher
budgeted compared to what we could do...
there wasn't that equilibrium anymore and in fact in the early
nineties I started moving away from that genre and situation.
The same thing happened to Aristide
when there wasn't a market any longer.
The only thing he could do was porn but it wasn't
a world that he wanted anything to do with.
The feeling that this kinda of cinema
was dying... I didn't have it.
I came in late, when Italian genre
cinema had dissolved.
Then the actual directors
started dying...
and one had to adapt.
On why this type of cinema died is
not something I won't to dwell on.
It's always the same question...
but who cares?!
Things have changed and
have evolved.
Now we have TV series that cost
much more than films.
I adapted myself, like when I learnt
how to use all this sort of stuff.
It's part of the evolution and
it's a cultural thing.
It's for the most part a
cultural thing.
I heard some rumours about debts due
to bad business ventures
but mostly conducted by Massaccesis
partner, not by him.
About the films that flopped...
all of his films were flops because they weren't films
that anybody expected would take in much money.
I'm talking about the period
of Anthropophagus...
Absurd...t hey were films already covered by
distributors and financiers. He wouldn't put a penny.
He would put in his time, his energy,
his equipment but never any money.
He started producing with his own money when
he started doing a series of porn films.
They were projects that were
made in three days.
He would got to the States and
direct a dozen in a week.
I once told him what I thought. You must
choose. You have two roads in front of you...
You can become a big producer, if you stop
wanting to do everything by yourself.
Or you can continue like this and
everything you do will be driven by fear.
His strength was to manage, to have
everybody liking him.
He could have managed to work
with any distributor.
All of them would have given him money for a film,
but he didn't have to be the one directing it too.
You are principally a director of
photography. You are not a director.
Yes, sometimes you make some nice shots, but
they are shots that you copy from other films... don't use a shot because you've understood
that it works dramatically in that scene.
Sometimes you do a shot that works in that
context but not in the one you need it for.
I tried to make him understand this
reasoning a couple of times
but he was too scared to put himself
in other people's hands.
He preferred staying in the smaller leagues
but having everything under his control.
This doesn't pay off in
the long run.
Then he had a breakdown.
You know that when he came back from
the States, on his last trip...
they had lost all his reels,
creating a huge problem for him.
That was the principal cause
of his heart attack.
Poor thing. I was so sorry...