Italian screenwriter and director Ruggero Deodato, whose lengthy career was most noted for the controversial horror film “Cannibal Holocaust,” died Thursday at age 83, according to multiple reports.
The 1980 film, a “found footage” pseudo-documentary pioneer, depicts an anthropologist from New York University played by Robert Kerman leading a team into the Amazon rainforest to find crew of documentary filmmakers that went missing. They discover their bodies, but are able to recover the crew’s film reels, which a US television station then wants to air, despite gory footage of real violence against animals, sexual assault and exploitation of the native Amazonian populations.
The graphic violence in the film raised objections, including an arrest of Deodato on a series of charges including murder after rumors said some of the deaths depicted in the film were real. Deodato later brought the actors to court to prove they were alive, and the charges were dropped.
The film was banned in multiple countries when it debuted, and remains banned today in several locales, but has attained cult status and has been re-released several times.
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Deodato told the Guardian that the terrorism that swept Italy in the 1970s inspired the film. “It was the time of the Red Brigades. Every night on TV there were very strong images of people being killed or maimed. Not only killings but also some fabrications. They were increasing the sensationalism of the news just to shock people.”
Though notorious for his work in horror, which earned him the nickname, “Monsiuer Cannibal,” Deodato’s career spanned genres and included comedies, dramas, science fiction and more, influencing directors from Oliver Stone to Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth.
Born in Potenza, in southern Italy, Deodato grew up in Rome and was friends with the son of famed director Roberto Rossellini, who gave him his start as a second-unit director on some of his films. Deodato later worked in a similar capacity for cult film directors Antonio Margheriti, Riccardo Freda and Joseph Losey. His directorial debut came in 1964’s “Hercules, Prisoner of Evil,” when he replaced Margheriti, who quit the production.
In 1966, he directed the spaghetti western “Django,” followed by a series of musicals and comic book-based films. He also worked in Italian television and filmed commercials. In 1977, he directed “Jungle Holocaust,” a predecessor to the 1980 flick that also generated notoriety.
He directed a dozen other films, including the slasher “Body Count” in 1987 and the torture thriller “The House on the Edge of the Park,” in 1980, which was inspired by Wes Craven’s “Last House on the Left.”
This year, Deodato was helping to develop a cannibal-themed video game, “Borneo, A Jungle Nightmare.”
He married his first wife, Siliva Dionisio, in 1971. Their son, Saverio Deodato is also in Italian film. His partner at the time of his death was Micaela Rocco.
Deodato’s death was first reported by Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.