Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Italy is a country that spawned an extraordinary number of famous
horror directors. Some of them are sheer brilliance, like Mario Bava [Mario
Bava bio - click here], Riccardo Freda or Dario Argento.
Others show at least the occasional shot at greatness, like Lucio Fulci [Lucio
Fulci bio - click here] or Antonio Margheriti [Antonio
Margheriti bio - click here]. Then there are those who have
never been great horror directors but have made at least the occasional
entertaining and/or iconic film like Joe D'Amato [Joe
D'Amato bio - click here] and Umberto Lenzi [Umberto
Lenzi bio - click here].
And then there's Bruno Mattei ...
Mattei was a director who never saw himself as an artist, he saw himself
as a craftsman, and he would merely deliver what was asked from him - with
all the limitations that includes.
The thing was, as a director, Mattei
never rose above the depths of sleaze and gore, and in this segment of the
market, you are usually asked to deliver just that, sleaze and gore.
Everything else, like an even modestly comprehensible plot, ok dialogue,
inventive camerawork, tongue-in-cheek humour, believable or likeable
characters, or even character development, is a bonus, a bonus many other
sleaze-directors have the ambition to afford - Mattei never did. He delivered
the gore, he delivered the sleaze, but no redeeming values. Where for
example fellow sleaze director Jess Franco fills his films up with some of
the most outrageous (in a good way) camerawork and goes over-the-top most
frequently and hilariously so, Mattei's films are always on a
what-you-see-is-what-you-get-level, pretty much if you order sleaze and
gore, don't complain if that's exactly what you get. Plus, one can't
help noticing the ruthlessness Mattei tends to treat even the most
likeable characters in his movies with, invariably putting shock value
over audience identification.
That all said, Mattei was not an
untalented director, if nothing else, his films are at least competently
filmed and competently edited. Sure, they are usually atrociously acted,
badly scripted, feature some hilariously bad dialogue, and the
cost-cutting stock footage he uses frequently in his films is usually less
than convincing - but maybe that's already the wrong way to watch his
films. While Mattei-flicks might not work as narrative cinema, they work
perfectly as party films, best watched with a bunch of mates and a few
cans of beer - a situation where a plot as such is much less important
than the frequent outbursts of sex and/or violence, and where the guys'
cheering won't take your mind off the plotline - since there is none to
Early Life, Early Career
Bruno Mattei was born in 1931 in Rome, Italy. His father had a small
editing studio there, so it was only natural for Mattei to enter the
family business, and in 1951, at the age of 20, he took a job in his
father's studio, and eventually, he became a full-fledged editor, editing
or co-editing a whole bunch of Nick Nostro's films but also Harald Reinl's
Der Letzte Mohikaner/The Last of the Mohicans (1965) [Harald
Reinl bio - click here], films by Sergio Sollima, Roberto
Bianchi Montero, Bitto Albertini's Goldface, il Fantastico Superman/Goldface,
the Fantastic Superman (1968), Erwin C. Dietrich's Die Nichten der Frau Oberst/Guess
Who's Coming for Breakfast (1968), Jess Franco's El Conde Dracula/Count
Dracula (1970) and the like. Apart from that, he worked in many other
filmmaking capacities, including the sound and camera department, and a
stint as assistant to the great Riccardo Freda, to
really learn every aspect of the craft, until, in 1970 ...
Rise to Fame: The 1970s
In 1970, Mattei was finally promoted to director, and his
first film was Armida, il Dramma di una Sposa, a rather
straight erotic drama - but that film didn't catch on with the audiences,
so this meant back to the editing room for him for another few
Interestingly, Mattei directed his debut film under the
name Jordan B.Matthews, which already shows how much pride he put in his
own work. Over the years, countless other pseudonyms would follow,
including Vincent Dawn (his most prominent alias), Gilbert Roussel (not to
be confused with the French director of the same name), Jimmy Matheus,
Stefan Oblowsky and Pierre le Blanc. Now it's of course true that Italian
genre directors tended to use pseudonyms just to stand a better chance on
the international market - even Sergio Leone directed his gourndbreaking Per
un Pugno di Dollari/A
Fistful of Dollars (1964) as Bob Robertson -, but that doesn't
explain the sheer endless variety of names Mattei used for his films, many
of them even after they were already clearly traced back to him (like
Among the films Mattei edited during his second
stint as editor there was the enjoyably trashy giallo La
Sex Murders (1972, Ferdinando Merighi) and two films starring
Laura Gemser [Laura Gemser bio
- click here], Velluto Nero/Black
Emmanuelle, White Emmanuelle/Emanuelle in Egypt (1977, Brunello Rondi) and Eva Nera/Black
Cobra Woman (1976) by Joe D'Amato.
Together with Joe D'Amato [Joe
D'Amato bio - click here], Bruno Mattei also made his debut as
a screenwriter, for the film Emanuelle e Francoise le Sorelline/Emanuelle's
Revenge (1975, Joe D'Amato), a sleazy picture about a model (Rosemarie Lindt)
getting revenge on the man who raped her (George Eastman) - by having sex
with countless men before his very eyes. Of course, the film was more
D'Amato's movie than Mattei's, and D'Amato was certainly no stranger to
sleaze, but still, Emanuelle's
Revenge did already show Mattei's handwriting, especially his
ruthless handling of even loveable characters and his turning the film's
narrative into a mere hanger for wall-to-wall-sleaze.
in 1976, Bruno Mattei returned to the directing chair for Cuginetta ...
Amore Mio!/Love Sacrifice another straight forward sexflick he
also wrote together with George Eastman and Giacinto Bonacquisti. But just
like Armida, il Dramma di una Sposa, Love Sacrifice failed
to create more than a ripple and is by today largely forgotten.
all should change with Mattei's third film, the first real Mattei-film, if
you may: Casa Privata per le SS/SS
Girls (1977). More than a little inspired by the relatively
high-brow Salon Kitty (1976, Tinto Brass) - to a point where Mattei
copied sequences on a shot-by-shot basis -, this is another film
about a Nazi-run brothel where the whores are used as spies on fellow
Nazis. But where Brass gave his subject some serious thought, Mattei only
exploits it for showing some wall-to-wall sleaze interspersed with some
violence and combat-scenes boldly lifted from some other war movie (and
not a very good one at that). And he seems
totally oblivious to the humourous aspects of his story (like the girls'
lovemaking intercut with them training for combat), the obvious satire of
some of his scenes (like when Nazi commanders and prostitutes come
together for a final orgy during which they all shoot themselves in the
head), and he invariably fails to milk the film for its camp qualities.
However, like most of his later films, SS
Girls does one thing, it delivers exactly what you paid for when
you bought a film by that title, no more and no less.
Girls was of course made on the cheap, which shows, and not only
in the interspersed war movie scenes. But to further cut costs, Mattei had
to film it back-to-back with another Naziploitation film, KZ9 -
Lager di Sterminio/Women's Camp 119/SS Extermination Love
Camp (1977) - if for no better reason than to make the best out of the
locations and costumes already available ... and by the way, throughout
his career, Mattei repeatedly shot films back-to-back for cost-cutting reasons.
Camp 119 was sleazy as hell, just like SS
Girls, but other than the earlier film is focussed less on sex and
camp and more on gore and violence - and again, Mattei delivered ... and
in spades, too.
Girls and Women's
Camp 119 at the time were only moderate successes since the Naziploitation-genre
was at its height in 1977, and since too many producers were making
similar films, each film could only get a relatively small share of the
After these two films, Mattei threw in with Joe D'Amato again, [Joe
D'Amato bio - click here], to co-direct the new footage of
both Notti Porno nel Mondo/Emanuelle and the Porn Nights
(1977) which was followed the next year by Emanuelle e le Notti Porno
nel Mondo 2/Emanuelle and the Erotic Nights/Emmanuelle the
Seductress/Porno Exotic Love (1978), which he also did together
with D'Amato. Both films
were actually what you would dub mondo-films, collections of sleazy
stock footage (and newly shot sleaze) hosted by Laura Gemser [Laura Gemser bio
- click here], to make the most of her fame as Black
Emanuelle. Mattei worked on these films not merely as
director, but also as supervising editor, and his long experience in this
field must have helped (you have to remember, he started to work in the
editing department in 1951).
The next logic step down the sleaze
ladder from sex-mondo movies would be hardcore porn - and Bruno Mattei
gradually moved into that direction.
Amore Mio/Ciccionlina My Love (1979, co-directed with Amasi
Damiani) features a few explicit shots but wasn't yet hardcore, yet
important for the Italian porn industry nevertheless because it was the
first showcase for notorious pornstar-turned-politician Ilona Staller's (aka Cicciolina),
who was to soon become Italy's biggest pornstar, a genre she would stay with for the next or so 15 years. (It's true that
Staller made films before this one, but they were strictly softcore.)
followed his Cicciolina-film with Sexual Aberration -
Sesso Perverso/Libidomania (1979), which was a sex mondo film
more in style of Emanuelle and the Porn Nights
and Emanuelle and the Erotic Nights, which was supposedly based on the
book Psychopathia Sexualis by Richard von Krafft-Ebbing, and which claimed to show all sorts of sexual aberrations, including transvestitism
and sex change, sex with amputees and the like. True, Sexual Aberration
- Sesso Perverso still wasn't hardcore, but it felt even sleazier.
sequel however, Sesso Perverso, Mondo Violento, which Mattei made
in 1980, didn't even shy away from hardcore, and neither did his La
Provinciale a Lezione di Sesso (1980).
The Golden Years: The
Somehow, at least on paper, Bruno Mattei and hardcore porn seemed to
be a perfect match: Mattei never shied away from sleaze, which is one of
the foundations of the genre, he was one who in his films always pushed
the envelope, which seems to be one of porn's prerogatives, and his films
were always pretty much in-your-face, which again is a perfect
description for hardcore pornography ... yet after 1980, Mattei left the
genre to never come back. Sure, he made a handful of softcore flicks every
now and again, but he never again crossed the line.
followed his excursion into pornography with two nunsploitation films,
L'Altro Inferno/The Other Hell and
La Vera Storia della Monaca di Monza/The True Story of the Nun
of Monza (both 1980). And while The True Story of the Nun of Monza
is pretty standard fare, your typical sleazy period pic set in a monastery
with quite a bit of sex and violence thrown in, The Other Hell
is a modern day story that clumsily blends nunsploitation mainstays,
horror à la The Exorcist
(1973, William Friedkin), and zombies - then extremely popular in Italian
cinema - to a weird movie with an even weirder (and almost
incomprehensible) plot that tries to sit between too many stools at once,
and on the one hand fails miserably but on the other is lots of fun to
watch - provided you don't take any of the onscreen goings-on the least
bit seriously (even if the movie itself clearly does).
The Other Hell
by the way, was the first film on which Bruno Mattei worked together with
Claudio Fragasso, who co-wrote the script with Mattei and who over the
years became Mattei's most frequent partner-in-crime, as writer as well as
assistant director, co-director and whatnot.
Yet another point of interest is that The Other Hell
boasts a sountrack by popular Italian horror filmscore band Goblin
- which was entirely lifted from Joe D'Amato's better Buio
An interesting aspect about these films is that they didn't do particularly well in Italy, a land that by then
had been plagued by a few too many nunsploitation films, but sold quite
admirably on an international level, as grindhouses around the world seemed to be in dire need of films full of violence
and sleaze - and Mattei, as mentioned above, was one who could deliver. As
a consequence, most of his movies would be more successful in foreign
markets than in his native Italy, where he would never achieve the same kind of
fame he had achieved internationally.
of the Living Dead/Zombie Ceeping
Flesh (1981) took the zombies, which were only
featured attractions in The Other Hell,
and put them center stage. One has to understand that in Italy, following
the success of both Dawn
of the Dead (1978, George A.Romero) and Zombi
2/Zombie Flesh Eaters
(1979, Lucio Fulci [Lucio
Fulci bio - click here]), zombie films were the thing to do
for quite a few years. Of course, Italian zombie films were mostly cheaply
and quickly made, badly scripted and acted, but heavy on (crude) gore
effects - all of which fitted Mattei's modus operandi quite perfectly.
of the Living Dead itself is - entirely stupid, a film freely borrowing not only from zombie
classics like Dawn
of the Dead and Zombie Flesh Eaters,
but also - possibly in an attempt to justify the tons of jungle stock
footage - from movies of the cannibal genre like the not-so-classic Emanuelle
e gli Ultimi Cannibali/Emanuelle
and the Last Cannibals (1977, Joe D'Amato [Joe
D'Amato bio - click here]). And again, Mattei borrowed a Goblin-score,
this time from Dawn
of the Dead and Contaminazione
- Alien Arriva sulla Terra/Alien
Contamination. But while Hell
of the Living Dead might be an entirely bad movie on every level,
it's yet another laugh riot - again for all the wrong reasons.
From the jungle of New Guinea, where Hell
of the Living Dead was set (though it was shot entirely in Spain),
Bruno Mattei went back
to ancient Rome for his next two films, Caligola e Messalina/Caligula's
Perversions/Caligula and Messalina (1981) and Nerone e
Poppea: An Orgy of Power/Caligula Reincarnated as Nero (1982), both
co-directed with Antonio Passalia. Again, he was of course following a
trend, that of the erotic peplum, a genre initiated by Tinto Brass'
notorious Caligola/Caligula (1979) and brought to its climax
by the maybe even more notorious Caligola:
La Storia mai Raccontata/Caligula:
The Untold Story (1982). In a parallel to above-mentioned Salon
Kitty, Brass' Caligula still had some intelligence to it
beneath all sleaze and depravity, but the many erotic peplums that
followed were little more than mindless sleazefests, and the films by
Mattei and Passalia were of course no exception.
Mattei tried his hands on the women in prison genre, a genre that at first sight
seems to be cut out for a director of Mattei's ilk: It's sleazy and
violent by definition, it's got a basic storyline that practically tells
itself - innocent girl is thrown into the slammer and has to endure all
sorts of hardship and degradation - and that allows its director to go
over-the-top every which way he pleases ... just take a peak at Jess
Franco's women in prison films and you'll know what I mean.
in un carcere femminile/Violence
in a Women's Prison/Emmanuelle
in Hell (1982) and Emanuelle
Escape from Hell/Women's
Violent (1983) are among Mattei's lesser films, mainly because Mattei took one of erotic cinema's
most beloved characters, Black
Emanuelle - as played by Laura Gemser [Laura Gemser bio
- click here] -, a character Joe D'Amato abandoned quite a few
years back, and not only threw her into the slammer but also forced the
genre onto her - a genre the always horny, optimistic and easy-going Black
Emanuelle just wasn't cut out for.
1983 also saw
the release of a film Mattei himself wasn't really cut out for, I Sette Magnifici
Seven Magnificent Gladiators, an
old-fashioned peplum starring Lou
Ferrigno [Lou Ferrigno bio -
click here] and Sybil Danning [Sybil
Danning bio - click here], with former Hercules-actors
Brad Harris [Brad Harris bio -
click here] and Dan Vadis in supporting roles. The film was one of
production company Cannon's
attempts to cash in on the barbarian-genre made popular by John
Milius Conan the
Barbarian (1982), a genre that worked pretty much along peplum-lines and
required little more than a bodybuilder (in this case Ferrigno) and a bit of violence.
However, the very traditional basic narrative of the peplum wasn't much to
Mattei's liking, nor was its pseudo-grandeur, and thus The Seven Magnificent Gladiators
- a film also inspired of course by Shichinin no Samurai/The
Seven Samurai (1954, Akira Kurosawa) - has become little more than a
footnote in the annals of the barbarian-genre - a genre admittedly
rich in footnotes.
Bruno Mattei however was back to form with Rats
- Notte di Terrore/Rats:
Night of Terror (1984). Rats:
Night of Terror is an enjoyably trashy post-doomsday film in
which a gang of half-witted bikers stumble into a science lab beneath a
bar (?) somewhere in the wastelands - and instead of making the best of use of
it, they let themselves be attacked and eaten (in great detail) by local
rats ... and the final scene, in which a team of exterminators arrives
that turns out to be rats (human-sized and on two feet), is simply a
scream all in itself. So no, Rats:
Night of Terroris not a good movie, but it's loads of fun in a guilty
pleasure sort of way.
Bruno Mattei next tried his hands on the
Spaghetti Western - sure, the genre as such had fallen from grace about
ten years ago, but obviously Mattei and/or his producers thought a quick
buck could still be squeezed out of Western cinema if only the films were
violent and relentless enough to hit a chord with the gore-crowd - and
thus Mattei made Bianco Apache/White Apache/Apache Kid
(1986) and Scalps, Venganza India/Scalps (1987), both
co-directed by Claudio Fragasso. Neither of these films was a big success,
but at least Scalps has over the years garnered a certain notoriety
and is repeatedly re-released on DVD.
An interesting note on the side: Scalps
was co-scripted by former Spaghetti Western actor Richard Harrison [Richard
Harrison bio - click here], who doesn't act in it though,
while White Apache stars Harrison's son Sebastian.
his brutal excursion into the old West, one can't help but notice that
Mattei lost a bit of his edge, drifting off into action movie territory.
By then, in the mid of the 1980's, the homevideo-revolution was just
taking place, and exploitation directors like Mattei didn't direct so much
for grindhouses anymore but for the shelves of video rentals that demanded
films to cash in on popular action flicks of its time, films like the Rambo-series starring Sylvester
of course, Predator
(1987, John McTiernan) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the like.
So Mattei made countless films with actors who could be labelled as poor
man's Sylvester Stallone or poor man's Arnold Schwarzenegger, people
- Miles O'Keeffe, with whom Mattei did Double Target (1987),
which rather inexplicably also starred Donald Pleasence [Donald
Pleasence bio - click here].
- Reb Brown: Strike Commando (1987), also starring Christopher
Connelly and Robowar - Robot da Guerra/Roboman (1988), an
unashamed Predator- and Robocop-rip-off
(1987, Paul Verhoeven).
- Brent Huff: Cop Game (1988), a film set in Vietnam re-using
extensive footage from Antonio Margheriti's I Sopravvissuti della
Citta Morta/Ark of the Sun God (1983) [Antonio
Margheriti bio - click here], Trappola Diabolica/Strike
Commando 2 (1988), Nato per Comattere/Born to Fight
Generally speaking, Mattei's action flicks were still trashy as hell,
violent for the violence's sake, cheaply enough made to include tons of
stock footage, badly acted, and also, Mattei wasn't exactly a director too
proud to copy sequences from other, more popular films scene-by-scene
(which he had already proven in earlier films, to be sure). It's just that
his horror flicks were usually a whole lot more entertaining.
Of all the films Bruno Mattei made during the late 1980's, only one
film reached real, albeit sad, notoriety: Zombi
3/Zombie Flesh Eaters 2/Zombie
3 (1988) a film credited to Lucio Fulci [Lucio
Fulci bio - click here] that was supposed to be his return to form
and long-overdue sequel to (what else) Zombie Flesh Eaters.
However, about halfway through filming - which took place in the Philippines -, Fulci reportedly walked away from the set, and Mattei was
flown in to finish the thing - and Mattei's influence clearly shows in
some scenes: His total disregard for his characters, his predilection for
straight-in-your-face gore and his neglect for any kind of decent
narrative. But what was actually charming in Mattei's earlier shockers did
totally not work here, and the film became little more than a pointless
series of scenes of mindless violence that are not even bad in a funny
way, just bad - and thus, Zombie Flesh Eaters 2
might be the low point not only in Lucio Fulci's career (who, let's face
it, was a much more inventive director than Mattei) but also in Bruno
Mattei's, and it's probably only thanks to Zombie Flesh Eaters
that this sequel (sequel only in name, mind you) is to this day still reissued
every few years ...
Decline in the 1990's and Comeback
in the 2000's
Bruno Mattei started the 1990's with a trashfilm fan's delight, Terminator
II/Shocking Dark (1990), a postdoomsday flick set in future
decaying Venice - but basically taking place mostly in a powerstation. In
Italy, where copyright laws are traditionally lax, this was actually sold
off as a sequel to James Cameron's Terminator
(1984) - hence its
original title -, but it actually plays much more than another
Cameron-film, Aliens from 1986 - of which Mattei has lifted most of
the plotline and several sequences -, with just a few Terminator-elements
thrown in and a timetravel-finale that's a hoot all in itself. The plot is
something about a mutant created by some evil gouvernment organisation, an
even more evil cyborg (Chrisopher Ahrens) trying to hunt it down, and a
woman (Haven Tyler) and a girl (Dominica Coulson) caught somewhere
in the middle - and the whole thing is of course derivative as hell, and
hell of a fun to watch.
After this great start into the new
decade though, time wasn't too nice anymore to Bruno Mattei. By 1990, the
Italian filmindustry, and especially the B movie industry, was lieing in
its death throws, as the American phenomenon of the blockbuster was more
and more taking over both cinemas and video rentals both in Italy and
internationally, and Italian genre fare became harder and harder to sell.
Mattei wasn't one to sit around idly, so he turned to the one genre (this
side of hardcore pornography) the blockbuster had not yet conquered (and
wasn't likely to), erotica. And thus, over the next few years, Mattei
directed a handful of rather pointless softsex flicks, like Desideri/Desire/Dirty
Love 2/Mad Love 2 (1990), Tre Pesci, una Gatta nel Letto che
Scotta/Three for One (1990), Ljuba/Body and Soul
(1996), Belle da Morire/Killing Striptease (2001), Capriccio
Veneziano/Venetian Caprice (2002), Belle da Morire 2
(2005) and Segreti di Donna/Secrets of Women (2005).
during the 1990's, Mattei also made a few thrillers, mostly rip-offs of
bigger films, but they were a far cry from his 1980's sleaze- and
gorefests. Some of the more memorable were
It wasn't until the new millenium though that Mattei's career got a new
lease of life:
More than most other Italian genre directors, Mattei had read the signs
of the time correctly and has therefore found his future in the
shot-on-video market and in producing his films for an international
audience. Therefore he set up a deal with the Film
Export Group, which - nomen est omen - would sell his films to
markets eager for his sort of exploitation films rather than first try
them out at the home market and take it from there.
There was of course a downside to this, the budgets for Mattei's films
got even lower than before, any decent, name actors were out of the
question, and shooting on video had of course its limitations ... but all
this mattered very little to Mattei, not a proud man to make his name as
an auteur but a craftsman who could deliver to audience needs - and thus,
Mattei got back to form with films like
- The incredibly sleazy Snuff Killer -
Morte in Diretta/Snuff
Trap (2003), virtually a dirty and unforgiving (and
unofficial) remake of Paul Schrader's Hardcore (1979) - though
because of its subject matter (snuff), people are more likely to liken
it to Joel Schumacher's more recent 8mm (1999).
- A duo of cannibal films of which Nella Terra dei Cannibali/Land
of the Dead (2003) lifts most of the storyline from Predator
(as did Roboman before
with cannibals filling in for hunter aliens, and Mondo
Holocaust - The Beginning (2003) is an unashamed rip-off of
Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal
Holocaust (1980) [Ruggero
Deodato bio - click here], copying not only the storyline
and setup as such but also whole sequences from
that movie shot-by-shot without ever even trying to replicate its
- La Tomba/The Tomb (2004) is actually an updated
mayan mummy-movie - though I'm not quite sure if anyone ever wanted this
genre to have a comeback.
- With Anime Perse/The Jail: A
Women's Hell (2006),
Mattei returned to the women in prison-genre, to milk it for
some more sleaze.
- Shortly before his death, Mattei completed a pair of zombie-films, L'Isola
dei Morti Viventi/Island of the Living Dead (2006) and Zombi:
La Creazione/Zombies: The Beginning (2007), no doubt to
cash in on the reemergence of the zombie genre. And while his zombie
flicks pale in comparison to even the trashier Italian genre flicks
from the early 1980's concerning pure genre fun, it's still nice to see that at least one
veteran director hasn't forgotten his roots. And these films are not
too badly made, either. Plus, with Filipino actress Yvette Yzon [Yvette
Yzon interview - click here], who
has previously been in a handful of Mattei's erotic flicks, he has
found one of his most talented leading ladies in a long time ...
In May 2007, Bruno Mattei died from a brain tumor in his
native Rome, Italy, and it would be a vast overstatement to say that with
him, the horror genre lost a great auteur, or without him, Italian horror
would never be the same again - because Mattei never was great, and to be
fair, he never claimed to be. But Bruno Mattei was one of those directors
who make watching genre movies from the cheap end so much fun, because
with him, you never know to which depths he would descend next, you would
never know how sleazy he would dare to get, or how in-your-face the next
outbreak of violence would be.
Sure, most of his films qualify as what
would be considered as bad films, period - but trashmovie lovers
like myself cannot always denie the fun they have watching them !!!