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first saw Dellamorte Dellamore at a much-hyped
pre-release NFT screening, where much was expected from the film.
It’s always a problem to go into a film with high expectations,
because more often than not, you are destined for disappointment.
And so it was here – the general audience consensus was
that the film was a nice try, but not the return to the salad
days of Italian horror that we’d been promised. And the
sense of unfulfilled promise seemed to follow the film afterwards
– not the box-office hit that had been expected, it eventually
slipped out, unnoticed and unloved on video, a new title of Cemetery
Man being the final nail in the coffin.
But, time has a habit of allowing films to find their audience,
especially in the horror genre, and the film now has the sort
of reputation that the producers perhaps expected back in 1994.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a deserved
reputation of course, and so this new edition was an interesting
proposition – would a second viewing, almost twenty years
later, change my mind?
Based on a novel by Tiziano Sclavi, the film stars Rupert Everett
as Francesco Dellamorte, world-weary cemetery manager, who has
an extra problem to deal with on top on his usual work –
seven(ish) days after burial, the dead return to life and need
to be despatched in the traditional zombie killing manner. Along
with retarded assistant Gnagi, he laconically kills the dead and
is seemingly resigned to his lot in life, until a meeting with
a beautiful young widow (Anna Falchi) throws him into a state
of confusion, and things begin to rapidly unravel.
a comic strip, Dellamorte Dellamore is essentially
a series of skits – short mini-stories that are tied together
by an over-riding theme. This is both the film’s strength
and weakness. On the one hand, it allows it to move through various
plot strands without ever getting bogged down, but on the other,
there is no real story to get you teeth into. Instead, there are
amusing vignettes involving Gnagi falling in love with the Mayor’s
daughter and, after she is killed in a road accident, keeping
her living severed head at home with him; Dellamorte continually
seeing doubles of his great love Falchi, but never finding a happy
ending to their relationship; and Dellamorte gradually slipping
out of reality, as both his life and the film become stranger
and stranger and he stops seeing a difference between the living
and the dead.
All this is stunningly put together – director Michele Soavi
brings a real sense of style – if sometimes a somewhat self-conscious
one – to the film, with genuinely remarkable visual images;
this is one of the most beautiful horror films you’ll ever
see. The film itself offers an interesting mix of poetic beauty,
gore, eroticism (Falchi, described by Dellamorte as “the
most beautiful living woman I’ve ever seen”,
spends a lot of the time naked – something I have absolutely
no problem with) and some clumsy moments of slapstick. Certainly,
the humour is still an issue – for almost every effectively
laconic line delivered by Everett, there is a moment of dumbassery
(the severed head shuffling along the ground, for instance) that
would be more suited to a Troma film.These are brief moments,
but they threaten to unbalance the film and seem an ill-considered
But, to answer my earlier question: yes, this film proved to be
a much more enjoyable and fascinating affair second time around.
I still think it’s about fifteen minutes too long, but the
sense of the bizarre, the weird dream-state that much of the movie
lives in and the intriguing mix of sexuality and death make it
genuinely unique and strangely compelling. For once, it’s
a film that probably is as good as its fans claim.
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