Dellamorte Dellamore DVD Review
Written by Ilan Sheady
DVD released by Shameless Screen Entertainment
Directed by Michele Soavi
Written by Gianni Romoli and Tiziano Sclavi
1994, Region 2 (PAL), 103 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 27th February 2012
Rupert Everett as Francesco Dellamorte
François Hadji-Lazaro as Gnaghi
Anna Falchi as She
Mickey Knox as Marshall Straniero
Fabiana Formica as Valentina Scanarotti
Clive Riche as Doctor Verseci
Katja Anton as Claudio's Girlfriend
Barbara Cupisti as Magda
The thought of Rupert Everett in a horror film conjures some very strange images. I pictured the Ideal Husband actor popping caps in zombies' heads and quipping with perfect verbal articulation and, credit where credit is due, my imagination was right on the money.
Cemetery caretaker Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) and his mentally deficient assistant Gnaghi (Francois Hadji-Lazaro) are charged with keeping the bodies within, buried. But nothing is quite so simple in Buffalora Cemetery where the dead have a tendency to awaken after 7 days. Coldly disposing of the corpses is all well and good until Francesco accidentally kills his lover (Anna Falchi) and then the line between the dead and the living begins to get a bit blurry.
What follows is a steep descent into madness, not only for our protagonist but for me, the viewer, assaulted with concepts of flying heads, bizarre plant-like zombies and phenomenally large nipples. This is Pulp European Exploitation Erotica (PEEE?) at its most confusingly entertaining and as with most of Shameless’ titles, you do have to be a little bit twisted to enjoy it.
Originally released in 1994 The story is based on the novel by Tiziano Sclavi, which is, in turn, spawned from his hit Italian detective/horror comic series Dylan Dog (to which a film adaptation starring Brandon Routh was released early 2011). In the comics Dylan was always illustrated based on the look of Rupert Everett so right from the casting, faithfulness to the source material was the highest priority even at the price of a clear narrative/plot/storyline.
The film itself isn’t particularly scary, the few times Francesco does appear to be at risk of his life it’s overshadowed by the fact that he’s naked and fighting zombie boy scouts or cross dressing nuns. The gore is infrequent but brutal and the jokes swing between bone dry humour to outright farce. One particular ‘returner’ (a zombie by any other name) emerges from the grave riding a motorcycle and makes a meal of his girlfriend who protests to Francesco “mind your own business I shall be eaten by whoever I please”.
As you can’t have exploitation titles without some form of exploitation the director has chosen to target Anna Falchi’s enormous nipples. That mightn’t necessarily be the true purpose of the film but I’m pretty sure the ‘love and death’ theme was just a precursor to get her to take her clothes off and ride the Rupert pony.
Throughout all of this Everett is giving 120% of his signature sophisticated acting style, while everyone around him is in some drug-fuelled haze of social ineptness. The local chief of police makes Inspector Clouseau look like Columbo and the Mayor happily casts off the shackles of grief over the loss of his daughter, provided a photo opportunity with her decomposing corpse will get him the sympathy vote in the next election. As for why everyone thinks Francesco is the grounds’ ‘engineer’ is totally beyond me, but I feel that way about most of this film: Totally beyond me.
But don’t mistake that to mean this is a bad film. Francesco and Gnaghi make an amazingly sympathetic pair, the cinematography and lighting is nothing short of a work-of-art, while the location scout deserves an award for finding the perfect look for the cemetery as it is hauntingly beautiful and at the same time seductively eerie. I could happily stop the film at any point and admire the amazing composition of the picture, not unlike the panel of a well crafted comic book. I’m pretty sure that scholars could write on the symbolism of this film and rather than blaming the film for not getting its message across I find I’m blaming myself for not being open minded enough to see the metaphors through the trees.
It’s been suggested that this film is an early Constantine and while I can kind of see that, I see it as more Barbarella meets Return of the Living Dead crossed with Michael Douglas in Falling Down. And if that doesn’t get you even slightly interested you’re a stronger person than I am… or just not as twisted.
Video and Audio:
The scenery is literally magical in this film and the dark blues show up in the night shorts extremely well. Until the Blu ray is released I imagine it will never have been as clear as it is now. That said, you can also see a lot of the faults in some of the dated effects. Plastic heads are hard to hide on a HD widescreen TV but seeing as nobody is trying to convince audiences that this is a timeless classic for future generations I won’t hold it against them.
The Audio is a different can of worms. While it’s been restored and improved as far as technology can allow, the music sounds terrible, resembling the opening intro to Babylon Zoo’s ‘Space Man’, and the use of Francesco’s internal and often external monologue sounds SO clear it feels like an extra audio commentary. None of this can be helped NOW but you should still expect it to be a little irritating.
The DVD contains a trailer of the movie and an archive of Shameless’ other releases which gives you 12 short glimpses into some of their titles in all their nipple-exposing glory.
There’s a photo gallery containing a very uninspiring 14 pictures most of which are photographs of the screenplay and various video covers. It’s a cheap shot at filling space on the DVD menu but someone will appreciate it, even if you have to be a hardcore fan. Also just for kicks you can choose to watch the film in Italian (go on you crazy buggers, live on the edge).
Finally the audio commentary with Director Michele Soavi & writer Gianni Romoli is a little unconventional as it’s more an interview, in Italian, overlaid onto the film and so it’s kind of uncomfortable to both read and watch at the same time. During the commentary the writer even admits to having problems creating a narrative and confesses to have failed in his search for a logical chain of events, which is refreshing for someone to admit. Regardless the commentary is an insightful look into the production of the film if you can keep track of what they are saying. All in all it’s an unimpressive collection of extras for this day and age. A documentary on franchise creator Sclavi would have been fantastic. Maybe a look into the Dylan Dog universe with comic panel comparisons with the final result, but instead we have a film that feels like it’s been put through a conveyor belt of extras rather than treated like an individual.
I’m also told there’s a booklet included with the DVD which might be a worthwhile collectors piece, but I haven’t seen it myself to be able to comment.
Fun Fact: Including all the trailers, this DVD has the nipples of 17 different women on display.