Beyond Giallo

This blog is dedicated to the giallo genre of cinema but Italian cult cinema is so intertwined that it's inevitable that any fan of one of the many genres of Italian cult cinema will be drawn into others. With so much cross over between genres i.e. giallo/poliziotteschi hybrid What Have They Done to Your Daughters, it's easy to fall down the rabbit hole and to start taking interest in the many genres that Italian cult cinema has to offer. Despite my blog's remit about being "all things giallo" I already find myself reviewing and talking about films that don't fall under the giallo label. You'll find that many actors, directors and producers worked in various genres so if you like say, Castellari's stylish looking westerns you'll probably enjoy his poliziotesschi and post apocalyptic films. This section of my blog is an introduction to other genres - I'll list them, tell you a bit about them and give you some notable examples so that you can check out the stuff you're unfamiliar with. I'm perhaps being a little bit anoraaky listing genres such as Nunsploitation as stand alone when they fall under the Sexploitation umbrella but hey, it's my blog so I'll do what I want!

Cannibal

Considered by some as an off shoot of the mondo film, the Italian cannibal film first came to life in 1972 with the release of Umberto Lenzi's Man from Deep River. Cannibal films gained prominence in the 1970s reaching their peak in the early 1980s. The release of the notorious video nasty Cannibal Holocaust (1980) paved the way for an explosion in the genre during the 1980s with many directors seeking to capitalise on Ruggero Deodato's success. The genre went into decline at the tail end of the 1980s with Natura Contro (1988) being regarded as the last Italian cannibal film. Cannibal films usually feature a group of Western explorers who are travelling to a remote area of the world to either study the indigenous people and their practices or exploit them but ultimately fall foul of barbaric cannibal practices. Cannibal films are often criticised for their use of animal killing and torture for shock value i.e. the turtle disembowelment scene in Cannibal Holocaust. 

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Notable Examples: Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Cannibal Apocalypse (1980), Eaten Alive (1980), Cannibal Ferox (1981)

Mondo

Mondo is a type of documentary film that emerged from Italy in the 1960s featuring highly sensationalist and exploitative subject matter such as sex and death. The term mondo comes from the Italian word for 'world' as the original mondo films focused on various taboos and cultural practices from around the world. Mondo Cane (1962) is regarded as the first mondo film and was part of a series of documentaries by Gualtiero Jacopetti, Paolo Cavara and Franco E. Prosperi focusing on various "shocking" practices such as surgeries, tribal initiations and animal sacrifice. The majority of mondo films are comprised of a mixture of real and staged footage presented to the viewer as real with voice over explaining and commenting on onscreen events. The mondo film soon became popular outside of Italy and films billed as mondo appeared in the US, the UK and West Germany. The term mondo soon began to be tacked on to films that had no relation to the original mondo documentaries and merely tried to cash in on the popularity of the term - these were mainly US features. Italian mondo films disappeared after the 1980s but the mondo film still exists today with the most recent entry "Mondomania" from the Philippines being released in 2012.

Mondo Cane (1962)

Notable Examples: Mondo Cane (1962), Africa Addio (1966), Ultime grida dalla savana (1975), Dolce e Selvaggia (1982)


Monster/Animal Attack/Creature Feature

Monster films, sometimes known as animal attack or creature feature films, seeked to capitalise on the success of American monster and animal attack films of the 70s and 80s. US summer blockbusters like Jaws had the Italian film industry racing to duplicate the popularity of these American movies. Although the monster movie had been around in Italy as early as the 1950s (See Caltiki - The Immortal Monster), it wasn't until the tail end of the 70s that the genre started to gain momentum off the back of the American film industry's latest offerings. Italian monster/animal attack films were moderately successful but failed to live up to their American counterparts and were quickly forgotten in favour of other genre films. Nowadays Italian monster/animal attack movies are regarded as so bad they're good B-movies with poor acting and special effects. The Italian monster/animal attack film isn't regarded very highly in cult circles and only tend to be released if they're an offering from a prominent Italian director i.e. Castellari's The Last Shark (1981).

The Last Shark (1981)

Notable Examples: Caltiki - The Immortal Monster (1959), Tentacles (1977), The Last Shark (1981), Killer Crocodile (1989)

Nazisploitation

Nazisploitation is a sub-genre of the sexploitation genre and is undoubtedly the most controversial genre of Italian cult cinema. The infamous British video nasties list contained 4 nazisploitation films that were successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, currently only one of these films is now available in the UK. Arguably an offshoot of the Women in Prison (WIP) genre, nazisploitation contained the same elements of WIP films but set the majority of their action in Nazi settings primarily concentration camps and death camps. Nazisploitation films tended to feature SS officers (female and male) inflicting various methods of torture on prisoners - mainly sexual and sado-masochistic in nature. The genre thrived on the sadistic, cruel nature of the Nazis and incorporated Nazi experiments and mythology into the "storylines" i.e. The Beast in Heat. The success of Canadian nazisploitation fare, Isla: She Wolf of the SS, paved the way for European genre directors to try their hand at nazispolitation in the hope that their efforts would follow the commercial success of Isla. However, the genre failed to garner much interest resulting in a very short life span for nazisploitation - the majority of features dubbed as such being filmed and released between 1976 and 1977. Nazisploitation as a term is mainly used for sleazy, exploitative, cheap movies from this time period exploiting the horrors of the Holocaust however, it is also sometimes used for films that may be regarded to some as art house or historical dramas that use the themes of Nazism and the Holocaust to explore the human condition. Films such as The Night Porter (1974) and Salon Kitty (1976) sometimes fall under the nazisploitation label despite being regarded by many as more serious fare.

The Beast in Heat (1977)

Notable Examples: SS Experiment Camp (1976), Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977), SS Girls (1977), The Beast in Heat (1977)

Nunsploitation

Just like Nazisploitation, Nunsploitation is a sub-genre of Exploitation/Sexploitation. Nunsploitation films are typically set in the past and in convent settings and feature nuns behaving in a less than devout manner. Nunsploitation films are concerned with the relationship between sex and religion and the sexual suppression and religious oppression that results from taking a vow of celibacy. The films in this genre tend to deal with the internal struggles faced by women who try to maintain devout lives as nuns whilst wrestling with their own carnal desires. Whereas the poliziotteschi criticised the Italian political and judiciary system, the nunsploitation genre tackled religion and the Catholic church, with many films within the genre criticising religion and it's effects on our lives making this a rather controversial genre of film. The genre had its peak in the 1970s with several films released in this time period, many featuring well known genre names such as Anita Ekberg, Luc Merenda, Eleonora Giorgi and Florinda Bolkan. Nunsploitation is similar to Nazisploitation and Women in Prison films as they are often set in all female environments in closed, confined places. 

Story of a Cloistered Nun (1973)

Notable Examples: Story of a Cloistered Nun (1973), Flavia the Heretic (1974), The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine (1974), Killer Nun (1979)

Poliziotteschi

The most political and action orientated genre of film on our list, poliziotteschis are Italian crime films that focus on police work and criminality. Whereas the giallo is often told from the point of view of the victim and/or the killer, the poliziotteschi focused on law enforcement and the, often unorthodox, methods used to apprehend criminals by the police and vigilante citizens. Poliziotteschi was a popular genre of film in 70s and 80s Italy and many directors produced films in the genre, notably Castellari, Lenzi, and Di Leo. The success of American films such as Dirty Harry (1971) had a huge impact on the Italian crime film and led to their subsequent production and rising popularity. The poliziotteschi film contained themes of corruption, lawlessness as well as social change and upheaval. The majority of poliziotteschi films were about mafia wars, gang rivalry, political corruption and drug cartels and the struggle law enforcement had in tackling these issues while keeping to police protocol. Car chases, gun shootouts and heists were staple elements of the Italian crime film and were characterised by their over the top, bloody style of violence which differed considerably to their less violent American counterparts. Arguably, the poliziotteschi shares many similarities with the spaghetti western essentially updating the stories of law and order in the wild west to major cities in 1970s and 1980s Italy. During the 1970s the spaghetti western began to wane in popularity and the poliziotteschi was able to take elements from the once popular genre and update them for the modern age thus once again revitalising the Italian film industry alongside other emerging genres such as the giallo. Poliziotteschis reflect the political climate of the time they were made and often focus on the prevalent social, political and economic issues affecting Italy during the 70s and 80s. Due to this, the poliziotteschi perhaps reflects the climate of the time more so than any other Italian genre film giving these films an added dimension and a real window to Italy's past troubles.  

The Big Racket (1976)

Notable Examples: Caliber 9 (1972), Gang War in Milan (1973), Almost Human (1974), The Big Racket (1976)


Post-Apocalyptic

Like creature feature movies, post-apocalyptic films emerged in the 1980s off the back of popular American films set in post-nuclear worlds such as Escape from New York and Mad Max. Post-apocalyptic films usually take place in a future world which has been ravaged by some sort of disaster, often nuclear in nature, which has led to the breakdown of society as we know it. The majority of these films focus on the emergence of new post-nuclear societies which are run and controlled by a new ruling class of street gangs and criminals. Post-apocalyptic films tend to take place in a future world full of unrest and lawlessness where tribal justice reigns. Many of these films focus upon the rivalries between gangs and the resulting turf wars and power struggles to secure control of an area or city. Often low budget in nature, post-apocalyptic films are notorious for their unique interpretations on what a future world might look like utilising lavish costume design to create a vivid future world of colourful gangs. Post-apocalyptic films came along during the decline of Italian cinema in the 1980s and were one of the last types of genre film to find success in Italy before the industry went into permanent decline.

Raiders of Atlantis (1983)

Notable Examples: 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982), The New Barbarians (1983), Raiders of Atlantis (1983), Hands of Steel (1986),

Sexploitation/Erotica

Sexploitation films are a sub-genre of exploitation cinema that encompass several further sub-genres such as Nunsploitation, Nazisploitation and Women in Prison films. Sexploitation cinema emerged in the 1960s as a result of relaxed censorship laws and changing social attitudes and grew throughout the decade into the 1970s. Sexploitation is a term used to describe films that feature gratuitous nudity and the exploitative use of sex, often sharing similarities with softcore pornography. Sexploitation films are usually low-budget productions although certain films, such as the work of director Tinto Brass, have higher budgets and seek to combine elements of erotica with more high brow culture such as literary works i.e. Brass' take on Tanizaki's novel The Key in his film La Chieva (1983). One of the most prevalent directors within the sexploitation genre was Spanish director, Jess Franco, who directed several sexploitation co-productions between Spain and Italy in the 60s and 70s. Sexploitation and erotica films had perhaps the most longevity out of all Italian genre cinema remaining popular all the way through to the 90s in their various forms.

The Key (1983)

Notable Examples: The Frightened Woman (1969), Venus in Furs (1969), Black Emanuelle (1975), Beast in Space (1980)

Spaghetti Western

The most well known of all Italian genre films, the spaghetti western is the most celebrated genre on our list. Italian westerns were derogatorily dubbed as "spaghetti westerns" as a way of differentiating them from American westerns which were regarded as superior films. Spaghetti westerns became popular in the mid 1960s after the commercial success of Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and continued to be popular till the mid to the late seventies when other genres of cult cinema such as the poliziotteschi became more fashionable with audiences. Initially critically maligned, the Italian western captured the imaginations of film fans across the world and soon became a lucrative genre of film with many directors capitalising on the success of Leone's Dollars Trilogy (1964-1966). Spaghetti westerns were shot in inexpensive locations in Italy and Spain that resembled the American Southwest giving them a distinct look that blended the American Southwest with a European aesthetic. The Italian western differed from the traditional American western opting for less dialogue, more violence and an operatic approach to story telling. The music in spaghetti westerns wildly differed from their American counterparts and the spaghetti western soon became synonymous with the music of Ennio Morricone who scored over 30 westerns utilising sound effects such as the cracking of whips, whistles and gunfire to give his scores a distinctive sound. Many spaghetti westerns featured titular characters who appeared in several films i.e. the Django series, the Ringo series and the Sartana series. Other well known directors who worked within the genre include Sergio Corbucci, Sergio Sollima, Duccio Tessari, Enzo G. Castellari and Tonino Valeri.

He Who Shoots First (1966)

Notable Examples: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Django Kill...If You Live, Shoot! (1967), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Keoma (1976)

Sword & Sandal (Peplum)

The sword & sandal film (also known as peplum, plural pelpla) emerged in Italy in the 1910s and is regarded as one of the earliest forms of genre cinema in Italy. Peplum films played a vital role in the history of Italian cult cinema despite being one of the lesser known and talked about genres. Many peplum films were inspired by historical and biblical stories and were described by Italian director, Vittorio Cottafavi as Neo-Mythology. A blend of fantasy and action, pepla usually tell the story of a heroic figure who is embarking on an epic quest often taken from mythological tales i.e. Hercules and his twelve labours. Many peplum films featured historical characters and events taking great lities with historical accuracy. After reaching their peak in the 1950s, the peplum genre went into decline in the mid sixties and was replaced in popularity by the spaghetti western. 

Hercules (1958)

Notable Examples: Hercules (1958), The Colossus of Rhodes (1961), Valley of the Lions (1961), Hero of Rome (1964)

War/Euro-War/Macaroni Combat

Italian war films or macaroni combat films, as they're brilliantly sometimes known as, are Italian produced war films typically produced during the 1960s. A reaction to the successes of American war films, euro war films attempted to replicate popular American films such as The Dirty Dozen (1967) on a fraction of the budget. The overwhelming majority of macaroni combat films were set during World War 2 and ironically, told from the side of the allies rather than the side of the axis powers. Macaroni combat films were typically Italian Spanish productions that often featured big name Hollywood actors like Rock Hudson who played the leading role in Cirino and Karlson's Hornet's Nest (1970). Italian war films had small budgets and were simple productions that relied upon the use of violence to counteract their minimalist production values. Popular Italian directors who worked within the genre include Umberto Lenzi, Antonio Margheriti, Enzo G. Castellari and Roberto Bianchi Montero. 

Salt in the Wound (1969)

Notable Examples: Salt in the Wound (1969), The Seven Red Berets (1969), Churchill's Leopards (1970), The Inglorious Bastards (1978),

Women in Prison

Appearing in the late sixties, women in prison films were a reaction to relaxed film censorship which allowed filmmakers to depict harder sexual content in films such as bondage, lesbianism and sadism. A sub-genre of sexploitation, WIP films tend to take place in predominantly female environments, usually prisons and other forms of detention centres, and helped to spawn similar genres such as the Nazisploitation and Nunsploitation film. Italian WIP films were often more extreme than their American counterparts and showed more graphic content thus making them popular internationally. The majority of WIP films focus on the brutal sexual relationships and power play between female prisoners and their prison guards. 

99 Women (1969)

Notable Examples: 99 Women (1969), Hell Behind Bars (1983), Women's Prison Massacre (1984), Women in Fury (1985)

Zombie

The tail end of the 70s saw the decline of the well loved Italian genre staples of the giallo and the poliziotteschi. Well known directors who had worked in the aforementioned genres started to branch out towards other genres, primarily those that were popular in the United States in order to retain their reputations as popular film makers in Italy. It was with the landmark genre film, Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), that Lucio Fulci managed to breathe life once again into the Italian film industry, bringing about the next phase of the Italian genre film - the zombie film. The zombie film had already been established in the United States thanks to the work of George A. Romero and already had some connection to the Italian film industry due to the involvement of Dario Argento in Dawn of the Dead. But it wasn't until Lucio Fulci released Zombie Flesh Eaters that the zombie genre gained prominence in Italy. Zombie Flesh Eaters spawned several Italian zombie films with many well known directors cashing in on the zombie phenomenon from Lenzi to Mattei until the genre petered out in the early 90s with Lenzi's Black Demons (1991) being one of the last entries in the genre. 

Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

Notable Examples: Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), City of the Living Dead (1980), Nightmare City (1980), The Beyond (1981)

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