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Author Topic: CLAUDIO FRAGASSO 2  (Read 3008 times)


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« on: 18 Jul 2007 - 11:58 »

Massimo Vanni stars in Zombi 3, as well as Enzo G. Castellari’s films.
Vanni is Italian and he is a stuntman. He works under the pseudo ‘Alex McBride’ and also starred in Rats - notte di terrore and Oltre la morte. As a friend of mine, I have to tell him that he’s a stuntman and not an actor. It’s a very difficult problem…

When shooting a film with Mattei as director, have you ever thought to yourself “God, I can do better than this?!”
Always! (laughs). Mattei isn’t a good director, but he’s a great editor. On set, Mattei never had the strength to start filming. He talked a lot, but never did much. Mattei has a problem in getting people motivated and would always say to me “Claudio, will you start the movie for me!” But when he does start, you can’t stop him. Mattei gets carried away! You’ll have to see him one day.

Like Oliver Reed, Richard Harris has earned himself a reputation as an imbiber of massive proportions. What was the state of the bar bill during the shooting of Trappola diabolica/ Strike Commando 2?
Harris was good, because at that time he wasn’t drinking due to a serious illness. Before we started filming, Harris had stopped drinking completely, and on set wouldn’t touch a drop of booze. Like Alice Cooper, all Harris would drink was Coca Cola (without whisky)! However, I didn’t get to know Harris that well as he only had a small part in the film. He was on set for a week. And Mattei directed most of this film, not me.

Was it true that American trash director, Fred Olen Ray, was hired to re-write parts of your script for Interzone?
The first draft of the script was written by my wife. They did meet each other while she was writing the script, but Ray’s name only appears on the credits for ‘practical’ reasons. The finished script was 100% my wife’s.

Troll 2 doesn’t have much to do with the first film does it? Why call it a sequel?
I only made it because we had nice costumes and masks! (laughs). The same producer of Monster Dog liked the original film and came out with the money to make a ‘sequel’ However, during shooting, I had an argument with him and changed my name on the credits to ‘Drago Floyd’. I didn’t want people to know I was the director of the film as I was hardly ever there. Because I didn’t get on too well with Massaccesi, who was the associate producer, so I changed my name.

If I may say so, your version of Terminator 2/Shocking Dark plays very close to James Cameron’s film as well as Aliens. Did you ever hear from Cameron?
No, not a word. I’d just like to say that I wrote the script and had nothing to do with the shooting of this film. My aim wasn’t to copy his films slightly, but COMPLETELY! I wanted to mix both of his films together and make a sequel. There’s nothing like a good rip-off! (laughs) I wasn’t very happy when I wrote this script as I was already moving away from this genre. I desperately wanted to leave Mattei and his films as I earned to find my own road to film-making.

And Robowar would be an Italian version of Predator?
Yes! I did them purely for the money. I really didn’t care about the outcome that much. Out of all these films that I was commissioned to make with Gaudenzi, Oltre la morte was the only one which I enjoyed.

Oltre la morte is a fun, gruesome zombie film. Why did it suffer terrible censorship in Italy?
(Fragasso questions me if I have seen the uncut print, which I have) There was a big misunderstanding with the producer, Franco Gaudenzi, who demanded some cuts so that it wouldn’t face censorship problems. After that was done, and he had fooled the censors, he forgot to re-edit the gory footage back into the film. I was left feeling very angry as this was my grand farewell to the horror genre. But, I still love the horror film. My next film will be about a police squad who track down a group of serial killers, and due to censorship,  I have to be very careful how much blood I include in the film. It’s going to be a thriller, but there will be a horrific atmosphere about it.

La casa 5 is a wonderful horror film. Very stylish with atmospheric visuals such as the huge wooden carving of a swan which rocks ‘to and fro by itself. Did you enjoy making La casa 5?
I was at the stage where I didn’t want to make any more gory horror films, no more splatter and blood. I tried to find the atmosphere in films such as The Exorcist and I researched into cases where people who had been possessed by the Devil. I liked the location where I shot the film as New Orleans is very atmospheric. But I never expected Massaccesi to lock me up in La casa 5 and run off! Unfortunately, Massaccesi had to leave for another film in Italy, leaving me to direct all by myself, without money or any help. Yet again, I personally had to make all the special effects. What I did do was to try and maintain the atmosphere from the original script. Basically, for La casa 5, I had to adapt on a day-to-day basis.
Would you agree that certain parts of La casa 5 borrow extensively from Lucio Fulci’s L’aldila/ The Beyond where the living dead rise out of Hell, the door to which is situated in the basement? Even the house in question would appear to be the same.
Lucio Fulci was one of the first people in Italy to make these films, but it was inevitable that they would be similar in some way. Unlike Terminator 2 and Robowar, it wasn’t my intention to borrow from the Fulci film. The house I used looked identical to the one in L’aldila, and it was very difficult not to copy certain exterior shots. So what I did was to change the atmosphere more than actual scenes. Massaccesi made a LOT of money from my film. Unfortunately, his production team didn’t have enough money to work on, so it was necessary for me to end the film on a ‘fade out’ scene.

David Brandon has worked extensively in Italian horror cinema throughout the 80s and 90s, such as Massaccesi’s Caligula… la storia mai raccontata/ Caligula… The Untold Story, and  Michele Soavi’s Stagefright. How was it to work with such a veteran on the set of La casa 5?
He’s a wonderful actor. It’s now very difficult for him to work with us because he prefers the theatre. But every time we meet, we have a great time together.

Have you had any problems on set with an actor who has become difficult?
Always. To make a film with me, actors have to sacrifice a lot because of the stress and tension on set. On Monster Dog, the actors were transformed by using a variety of masks that quite often suffocated them. If they were not prepared to work with the masks, it was very difficult for me. Basically, if they weren’t killed by rats, they were killed by dogs! A lot of actors who have worked with me before have asked to do so again. In my later films, actors tend to get attached to me and Rossella, and look up at us as a mother and father figure. We become mummy and daddy to them! All their personal and love problems stop with us as if it was a big family. On my film set, it’s not just a working relationship. I’ve also worked with actors who have done the same for me such as Giancarlo Giannini and Donald Pleasence.

In 1995, you changed direction and made an action film, Palermo Milano - solo andata. Was it a critical success?
I was surprised on how long it took the film to be a success, it wasn’t an immediate hit. I like to think I can make a decent film on a low budget, but the critics can be unfair. When I made Teste rasate/ Skinheads, critics enjoyed the film, but when they found out about my previous horror movies, they said I was a b-movie director. Their word to the public was not to expect anything much from the film. When Palermo Milano was released, the critics said the same thing! And later, because of word of mouth, people get to see the film and thoroughly enjoy it. This proves how stupid the critics are. With Teste rasate, the critics didn’t even bother to talk about the film, just what I had done before. I have never understood how someone with my experience has never been taken into consideration. On the other hand, you get someone with the same experience as me, but has never worked on a horror film, and they are treated differently than me. The Italian critics believe that an Italian director should be a Fellini, a missionary of cinema, where I am almost perverse. The arty people and the intelligentsia of the cinema world think that I am the bad guy of film. But doesn’t that make Tarantino a bad guy too?

Palermo Milano is similar to that of Ricky Tognazzi’s La scorta. Was that an influence on you as director?
Unlike my film, La scorta is a very cold movie and is shot in a TV style. The difference is that Palermo Milano is far bloodier, it’s a road movie, and is far more complex. I also invented some surreal sequences that Ricky Tognazzi would never dream of filming on his own (Rossella Drudi smirks). It’s true! (Fragasso beams). In my new movie, there is a scene in Piazza Duomo (in front of Milan Cathedral) which I am proud of, and I challenge all the Italian directors to better it in the four days I had to shoot it. As for Tognazzi, we have never had a good relationship, but I have worked a lot with his brother (Gianmarco Tognazzi) who was an actor in Teste rasate. Because Ricky Tognazzi and his wife write together, as Rossella and I do, we found out we didn’t get along that well. It’s just a question of them disliking our films, and us theirs. We don’t see eye-to-eye. The problem is, that in Italy, we don’t make as many cop films as we used to. In Hollywood for example, you wouldn’t have directors comparing each other’s police movies as they produce so many. However, in Italy, there are so few Italian cop films made, that they get compared, and this is what has caused the friction between me and Tognazzi (Fragasso now asks me if he is considered as a horror director in the UK. I explain that he was, but now with films such as Palermo Milano, he is regarded as a mainstream director with much promise. He is very pleased.)

Since your success with Palermo Milano, could you tell me more about your latest film, Bella coppia?
Bella coppia is my most recent film and was released in Italy on 13th February 98 as The Killing Couple. It’s a giallo which starts in Berlin, Rome, and climaxes in Paris. The couple in the film are two famous Italian actors, Raoul Bova, who is very much liked by Italian women, and Raz Degan. The film is inspired by Hitchcock and I wrote this with my wife many years ago. The idea for the film came about that some normal couples can actually be very strange, you know, the ones that will kill for a child of their own. The moral of the film is, if you have children, you might kill less often!

What are your views on the current state of the Italian film industry?
It’s shit. Italy is a provincial country, and people tend to think small. If their views were more global, Italy could make films that were different from each other. Italian films are often very similar and are usually comedies that are hard to sell abroad. Whereas in the 60s and 70s, the Italians made many films of different genres such as the western and horror. And when I hear Tarantino say that he was inspired by these films whose directors are forgotten now, it makes feel very sorry. In Italy, Tarantino is by many considered a genius - and rightly so. If an Italian director attempts to make a film like Tarantino, he would be massacred by the Italian critics. If America is considered as having the best film-makers, ours are treated as Third World directors. The English film industry has begun to witness a rebirth, and they are very lucky as their films are in the English language and can be understood throughout the world. Let’s take Trainspotting as an example. For an Italian director, it would be very difficult for them to make such a film in Italy. Italian directors don’t like taking risks, and I think I am one of the few who make films that are not comedies. For example, Bella coppia is my attempt to make a European style of film that travels through Germany, France and Italy. I didn’t want it to be a typical Italian movie. It’s as if an Italian film can’t have an international setting, and critics have already said that our movies should only tell of the Italian way of life. Isn’t that crazy? American films are quite often international and fascinate people all over the world, like The Devil’s Advocate. That film could have been shot in Italy by an Italian crew, but would it be credible as the Hollywood movie? I don’t think so because we have no film industry to sell it abroad.

If you were abandoned on a desert island with nothing but a television, video, and one film taken from your career to keep you company, what movie would it be?
(laughs) It would have to be my last film. When I have completed a film, it’s as if it’s my own baby. If I was to be condemned on an island, this isle of suffering, with one of my films, it would be my most recent film. I remember my first films with tenderness and joy. Although I want to distance myself from the early horror films, I do remember the nice things that happened on set. So, if it would be possible, I would like to take two films with me to the island. My first film so I can remember how I was then, and the last film so I can see myself as I am now.

Thank you for your time, Claudio. Best of luck with Bella coppia.


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