You see, I watched his classic gore-fest Cannibal Holocaust many years ago and even blogged about a second viewing of it on this very site. In fact, it's still far and away the most visited post on this poorly attended blog (for specious pictorial reasons, no doubt). Then, I watched his massively entertaining (and massively problematic) poliziotteschi film and proceeded to collect a number of his other flicks on disc.
Cut to seven years later, and I still haven't done my Deodato DVD due diligence! Time is running out for the man (he's almost 80) and for My Year of Italian Exploitation (it's almost December!). I would hereby like to surrender myself to the proper authorities. Or at least the improper Ruggero. Please come and arrest me. I'm at the phone booth on the eastern corner of the Roman Colosseum, near Via Labicana, wearing a cornflower blue sweater, lightly tinted aviator shades and a wide, gregarious smile. Goodbye...
(click, dial tone)
#76 - PHENOMENAL & THE TREASURE OF TUTANKHAMEN (1968)
Deodato, directing under his Clark Kent alias "Roger Rockefeller," delivers a mildly diverting addition to the superhero/supercriminal trend of late '60s Italian cinema. A rich count (Nicola Parenti) occasionally dons a full-length black body stocking and becomes "Phenomenal," foiling robberies Batman-style to bubbly lounge music. This time, he's after a King Tut mask that's gone missing from a Parisian museum. It's not nearly the delirious fun of Bava's supercriminal offering Danger: Diabolik the same year. But, if I HAVE to watch superhero shit, I'd rather sit through a swift 90 minutes of this than the equivalent, bloated dreck of 50 years later (Venom, Avengers, the entire DC universe, etc.).
#77 - ZENABEL (1969)
This swashbuckling sex farce landed like a wet thud in the Summer of Love and, more appropriately, the same week as the Piazza Fontana bombing. Producer's wife Lucretia Love plays a lusty 1600s heroine, Zenabel, who discovers she's of noble blood and gathers an army of virgins to help her take revenge on the Spanish baron (John Ireland) who killed her Duke father. Some critics cite this film as the first one in which Deodato displayed an identifiable directorial style. You could argue from the opening slo-mo, tracking shots of Zenabel and her comely crew of maidens disrobing before a waterfall that, yes, they might be right. But what could've been a spirited celebration of take-charge feminine empowerment soon gets undermined by some seriously misguided male directorial choices. Zany slapstick music played during a gang rape? A fox and hound hunting chase where the foxes are nude ladies and the hounds very hungry looking pit bulls? This type of stuff obviously would not wash in 2018, but I doubt it even went down as successful satire in the free-spirited '60s.
#78 - WAVES OF PLEASURE (1975)
Take the tense three-way in Polanski's Knife in the Water, add another beautiful woman in far less clothing, then crank the horniness volume past 11, and you might have a pretty good idea what you're in for with Deodato's seafaring sex-thriller Waves of Pleasure. Silvia Dionisio and Al Cliver play a vacationing couple who "befriend" a rich asshole playboy (John Steiner) and his subservient girlfriend (Elizabeth Turner), then get themselves invited on his yacht with nefarious intentions. It's a great set-up for some naughty maritime noir, but Deodato and Co. seem a bit more concerned with clothes-shedding scenes and wife-swapping intrigue than any kind of labyrinthine plot. Waves is a lot closer to softcore than noir, but who can complain when there's four gorgeous people swapping spit and being shitty to each other against such lovely oceanic scenery?
#79 - LAST CANNIBAL WORLD (1977)
They say we're in the midst of "horror renaissance." But I'd be hard pressed to find any scene in the current CGI-scares landscape more terrifying than the one in LCW where Massimo Foschi wakes up after a dose of bad jungle mushrooms to find himself stripped naked and chained to rock, his very real genitals being poked and prodded by a pack of hungry cannibals. Deodato's first bite into the mondo cannibal genre is still as stomach-churning as it was when I first saw it at least a decade ago. And even more #problematic. There's the bat that gets squeezed to death and eaten whole by the anaconda. The toucon that gets pelted with rocks. The crocodile that gets bonked on the head, then gutted and skinned alive by hungry natives. The dead eagle that gets pulled from its belly. Oh yes, and let's not forget the humans! Those fearless thespians who Deodato puts through the Philippines jungle ringer nearly as much as their animal kin. Maybe Massimo and Me Me Lai aren't the best actors out there, but I can say with certainty they are among the bravest in film history.
#80 - CONCORDE AFFAIRE '79 (1979)
Director "Roger" Deodato definitely rides coach on this second class attempt to milk the lucrative American Airport franchise of as much filthy lira as possible. A greedy businessman (Joseph Cotten, coasting on Geritol highballs) is sabotaging Concordes and crashing them mid-flight in order to drive up the stock on his own South American airline. Investigative journalist (James Franciscus) stumbles on the plot and, eventually, the underwater wreckage. Can he get the story out before baddie Cotten tanks a second jet? Who cares? I mostly fly Delta! I've never seen any of the legit Airport franchise films, so I can't weigh in on how this one stacks up. But I can "Shirley" say it's nowhere near as good as the Zucker Bros spoofs of same. Over Macho Grande? No, I don't think I'll get over Macho Grande…
#81 - THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1980)
🎵Sweetly oh sweetly
Sweeter than a rosebud
Love and hope you bring me
Sweetly oh sweetly
Summertime is coming
Happy and carefree
Waiting just for you…🎵
#82 - RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS (1983)
A trigger-happy mash-up of The Road Warrior, Escape from New York, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Zardoz with maybe a quarter of the directorial finesse displayed in any of those aforementioned classics. When a Russian submarine somehow raises the lost island of Atlantis from the sea along with a bunch of mohawked, leather-clad "Interceptors" on motorbikes, two thieves and a group of scientists must ban together to…oh, never mind. Just listen to this delightful OliverOnions theme song and check your brain at the door for 90 minutes.
#83 - CUT AND RUN (1985)
The last entry in Deodato's unofficial "cannibal trilogy" is a decidedly mixed bag. It basically slaps the storylines of Last Cannibal and Holocaust together like mismatched skin grafts, adds a few extended cameos (Richard Lynch, Karen Black and the Hills Have Eyes bald guy), throws in some cocaine smuggling, a weak kidnapping plot, a few Jonestown references, along with the usual savage hordes of bloodthirsty third world cannibals who, truth be told, do a lot more dart gun blowing than intestine munching in this one. The intrepid film journalists (Lisa Blount and Leonard Mann) this time are a video crew with clunkier Betacam equipment. Now it's John Steiner who gets ripped in half between two trees instead of some complete unknown. It feels like Deodato got a fatter budget than usual and blew it all on casting and helicopters, leaving only $2.50 for the afterthought script. My hope is that he spent even less on Zapped! and Charles In Charge star Willie Aames, who is truly terrible here, despite playing a role so close to home…an out of his element California rich kid.
#84 - THE LONE RUNNER (1986)
Tarzan/Ator star Miles O'Keefe trades in his loincloth for a cowboy duster and a crossbow as Garrett, "The Lone Runner," a desert desperado who's part Lone Ranger, part Rambo and not much for small talk. He materializes out of a Middle Eastern sandstorm to dispatch Bedouin bad guys and help a local king retrieve his pricey diamonds and lovely blonde daughter from the clutches of rapacious thieves (vamping John Steiner again). The plot is entirely disposable and updated/lifted from many a better western, but there's some minor fun to be had watching Miles execute half-assed martial arts moves, fire explosive grenade arrows and twirl the occasional double-sided spear. If nothing else, it's proof that Deodato can deliver decent straight-to-video action.
#85 - BODY COUNT (1987)
Deodato gets into '80s slasher game too late in the decade, bringing little new blood to the table. The set-up is your basic cabin in the woods, horny/disposable teens on vacation scenario. Exploitation vets Charles Napier, David Hess and Mimsy Farmer are on hand to provide adult supervision and a mostly superfluous three-way love triangle/adultery plot. Other than one or two mildly interesting kills, Ruggero does nothing to advance the Jason Voorhees' playbook. The problem lies mostly in the film's goofy masked antagonist, an "Indian shaman" who stalks the woods lugging a backstory that's never really explained. By the time the inevitable unmasking/twist comes at the end, you've long since stopped counting bodies and started tallying the "Time Left On Video" minutes.
#86 - DIAL: HELP (1988)
I hate my phone. It's a piece of shit Android with terrible AT&T service that exists merely to field daily telemarketing calls and unsolicited phishing texts. I hate it even more now that AT&T's Time Warner merger has effectively killed FilmStruck. But, after seeing what poor Charlotte Lewis (of The Golden Child fame) goes through in this movie, I feel that perhaps I should complain a bit less. British fashion model Jenny contends with a phone that not only kills all the goldfish in her aquarium with a high-pitched dialtone, but also strangles her, seduces her in the bathtub, nearly goads her into suicide, shoots quarters like bullets into people's faces, and somehow manages to tie her down with magnetic tape in a room full of docile pigeons and out of control ceiling fans. I'm still not exactly sure how all this occurs—something to do with excess electricity bursts and "psychic energy." Needless to say, I won't be purchasing one of her '80s Giorgio Armani brand landlines anytime soon. But I may be committing this delightfully cuckoo Deodato phone horror joint to my permanent DVD collection.
#87 - PHANTOM OF DEATH (1988)
Even a top-shelf cast (Michael York, Donald Pleasance, Edwige Fenech) can't do much to save this boilerplate neo-giallo with a progeria syndrome twist from Deodato's deo-dismal direction. York plays a talented concert pianist who goes on a murder spree after contracting a rare, rapid-aging disease which eventually turns him into a cross between Brundlefly and Benjamin Button. but with clunkier makeup. While it's nice to see Pleasance get a break from chasing Michael Myers to pursue Michael York for a spell and fabulous to see Fenech doing just about anything (despite her impossible to parse French accent), this Phantom of the Opera knockoff sadly suffers from a terminal case of Severely Squandered Potential.
#88 - THE WASHING MACHINE (1993)
An oddly intriguing neo-giallo/softcore sleazefest about a very gullible Budapest police investigator who gets involved with three wackadoo sisters after one of them reports finding a dead gangster named Yuri in her washing machine. The supposed Maytag murder turns out to be a hallucination (or is it?!!), an elaborate excuse for the three siblings to collectively fuck with the inspector's head (and literally fuck him individually). There's also a nifty twist involving Yuri, blackmail and some counterfeit money which I promise not to spoil 25 years after the fact. The Washing Machine feels a bit like Deodato remade The Witches of Eastwick for late night cable—not necessarily a bad thing. He seems to do his best non-cannibal work when paired with inanimate objects/appliances (first telephones, now laundry machines). He hasn't been that active on the big screen recently, but I think he's still got one more gem in him. Someone get him a FitBit-focused horror script, before it's too late!
You're not watching Ruggero unless Ruggero is watching you!