Lucio Fulci

b. June 17, 1927, Rome, Italy
d. March 13, 1996, Rome, Italy

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And you will face the sea of darkness, and all therein that may be explored.”

– ”The Book of Eibon”, cited in The Beyond

Lucio Fulci is best remembered for his delirious hallucinatory and visceral horror films of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Expressed in these films was a creative libation of splanchnic yet nonetheless seductive images strung together by loose, almost incoherent, narratives. As a director, Fulci has worked in most genres. In over 60 films and 120 scripts he has shown himself to be a film pragmatist, working within generic and financial constraints to produce films which intensified during certain periods of time and style to redefine genre and cinematic pleasure.

Born in Rome in 1927, Lucio Fulci’s indoctrination into film could be described as theoretical. While this is poignantly reminiscent of those critics who claim his direction as ‘great’ is similarly theoretical and not necessarily borne out in his technique, Fulci’s beginnings as an art critic and medical student created the first levels of a baroque palimpsest, defined by flesh folded in new configurations which simultaneously folds the viewer in a visceral rather than conceptual way. These beginnings received diverse and somewhat oddly configured additional plateaus through training at Luchino Visconti’s Experimental Film School with film philosophers such as Nanni Loy, Umberto Barbaro, Francesco Maselli and Luigi Chiarini rather than technicians or cinematic artisans.

Fulci began his public career scriptwriting and making rudimentary documentaries such as Pittori Italiano dei dopoguerra (1948). During this time he worked under Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini, Steno and Mario Bava. However the insistence of many critics and filmographers on emphasising this effulgent genesis seems symptomatic of the compulsion to redeem Fulci as a serious or valuable director. Essentially at this time Fulci primarily demonstrated his ability to perform technical tasks which fulfilled other people’s projects. Later, in reference to his most established and praised works one could claim he was similarly fulfilling the demands of producers to make quick, cheap films that would sell. Fulci’s talent seems therefore to lie not necessarily in some auteurist vision, but in his capacity to create beauty, perversion and surprise – perhaps due to, rather than in spite of, his constraints.

The Comedies

Fulci’s directorial debut Il ladri (The Thieves, 1959) brought vision to the scriptwriting work he had done for previous films starring Italian comic legend Toto. The film’s abysmal response coincidentally mirrored the responses to Fulci’s first major international success Zombi 2 (Zombie Flesheaters, 1979) while also generically mirroring his work as a director of figlia (literally small stream, meaning a film which takes a popular film and independently makes sequels; Zombi 2 was a self-proclaimed unauthorised sequel to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and his work for Toto was a continuation of the many previous Toto films.) Fulci’s early comedies functioned as competently written and directed vehicles for stars such as Toto (where Fulci worked as assistant director under Steno) and Italian pop star Mina in Urlatori alla sbarra (Howlers of the Docks, 1960). At this stage Fulci showed an inclination towards directing a particular type of comedy. Unimpressive acting and disjointed scripts are secondary to the elements of these films which, like his horror films, evoke a corporeal response. Slapstick comedy, which the Italians refined to high effect, and jukebox teen music, impregnated with the current interest in jazz as (like teenagers and youth culture) designed to repudiate and challenge the intelligible for the sensible, formed these films. Both films point to adeptness for making films designed to affect rather than be interpreted.

002 Operazione Luna

Fulci’s comedies frequently pastiched other genres in which he had already directed. The mafia, addressed in Gli imbroglioni (The Swindlers, 1963), is parodied in I due evasi di Sing Sing (Two Escape from Sing-Sing, 1964). Bond films become the 002 films 002 Agenti Segretissimi (002 Most Secret Agents, 1964) and 002 Operazione Luna (002 Operation Moon, 1965) and the Come series takes on the army in Come inguaiammo l’esercito (How We Got Into Trouble with the Army, 1965), the bank robber-caper in Come svaligiammo la banca d’Italia (How We Robbed the Bank of Italy, 1966) and the bomb in Come rubammo la bomba atomica (How We Stole the Atomic Bomb, 1967). Ironically the horror genre was treated in the last of Fulci’s comedies, the sex comedy All’onorevole piacciono le donne (Nonostante le apparenze… e purché la nazione non lo sappia) (English title The Eroticist, 1972, pre-dating The Exorcist but the lexiconic resonance is uncanny), replete with naked nuns and juxtaposing sex, religion and politics; and Il cavaliere Constante Nicosia Demoniaco ovvero: Dracula in Brianza (1975, English title Young Dracula, one year after Margheriti’s Dracula cerca sangue di vergine e…mori di sete, known as Young Dracula in various English language releases) about a thirsty vampire’s attempts to navigate blood drinking in an industrial age.

Both the comedies and the sex comedies show adherence to the Italian proclivity for the ineptness of masculinity in general, and machismo in the case of the sex comedies. These films suggest a criticism of the hierarchical compulsion of the male, insinuating that a homosocial fidelity (companionship in the comedies, vague homoerotics in the sex farces) is, in the end, redemptive of the solitude and the social responsibilities which ablate the baser desires of man. The Come films point to the compulsion to failure toward which modern man is fated through a variety of grand narratives of masculinity – the Army, the Robber, the Secret Agent. All’onorevole shows up the public, not the politician, as hypocritical in expecting a man to be signifier of stoicism and saviour of community in the face of the natural drives of humans, both male and female, ecclesiastic and secular. In this film, Count Nicosia has been so drained (of imagination, of the decadent individuality suggested by the decrepit bourgeois family) by industrialisation that he subjugates himself to capitalism by turning his factory workers into an on-site blood production line for his own needs. Although these rudimentary modern fairy tales of the antagonistic effects of capitalism, industrialisation, religious and political institutions can hardly be described as subversive or radical, they do point to a non-conformist nihilism in Fulci’s work that transformed later into a multi-coloured overwhelming nightmare world due to the oppressive nature of the everyday. As in the work of H.P. Lovecraft (Fulci and his scriptwriter Dardano Sachetti’s prime literary inspiration), by taking cinesocial nihilism out of space, impossible colours and worlds consume Fulci’s viewing victim in a way that, although more horrific than that of the everyday, is excessively imaginative and inspiring. This suggests that inherent in Fulci’s comedies is their cathartic effect, another cinema-corporeal aspect of the themes which Fulci continued throughout his career.

The Adventures

Another genre Fulci worked with throughout his career can loosely be described as the adventure film, although related more to adventures in machismo. Peplum fantasy in I guerrieri dell’anno 2072 (Warriors of the Year 2072, 1984) and La conquista (Conquest, 1983), spaghetti western (with Franco Nero no less) in Tempo di massacro (Massacre Time, 1966) and Los desesperados (Desperate Men, 1969), vengeance, murder and wildlife of the order of Grizzly Adams gone violent in Zanna Bianca (1973) and its sequel Il ritorno di Zanna Bianca (1974), American frontier injustice in Il Quattro dell’Apocalisse (Four for the Apocalypse, 1975) and the ultra-violent mafia film Luca il contrabbandiere (The Naples Connection, 1980) all explicate disillusioned masculinity in a more aggressive and less poignant way than the comedies. These films are rugged, in their characters, in their characters’ lack of sympathy

La conquista

expressed in environments themselves without sympathy, and in their execution. Some, such as Conquista and Zanna Bianca, express the hero as essentially dull men in interesting worlds. Whereas the characters succeed in being irrelevant in the later horror films, here the dullness is markedly more a failure than a distraction. Although each film is set in a heterotopic world populated by cartoonish figures of the flawed epic hero (Conquista‘s protagonist Ilias’ name bears this aim), or, more interestingly, all-male communities, Fulci’s lack of traditional narrative and character crafting (admittedly probably more to do with lack of interest) cannot be balanced by his talent in phantasmagoric vistas and viscous configurations of flesh. With the possible exception of the peplum films, whose clumsy special effects are belied somewhat by a strangeness that is appealing rather than amusing, the adventure films can seem mean spirited in their almost pragmatic violence. While the comedies are almost tragic in their mourning of masculinity, these films make one glad it is over. Fulci’s setting of these films in dystopic, unrealistic worlds appears to insinuate that the characters are themselves unrealistic and this may be why I am so unsympathetic to them. It comes across like Fulci is filming a requiem for a cinematic archetype that is met less with nostalgia and mourning than with “good riddance”. These characters whiff of the seductive but guilty pleasure of the butch alienated hero in the westerns, however they lack the nuance of more accomplished maestros of the western. Yet Fulci’s compulsion to include the unintelligible in dream-like sequences and quiet, gothic landscapes makes these films worthwhile by virtue of the simple, if not accidental, way Fulci expresses meaning through subtle and disorienting situations rather than through characterisation or narrative. These films demonstrate at best directorial competence and, at worst, disinterest. They are not failures so much as indications of Fulci’s failure in traditional film methods and, perhaps more importantly, the failure of traditional film form and theory to comprehend the incomprehensibility of affect, disorientation and cinematic pleasure launched along trajectories beyond the holy trinity of character, narrative and satisfaction. It is in this sense that Fulci is an artist, rather than an artisan.

The Gialli

7 note in nero

While Fulci contextualised the erotics of male homosociality through comedy and reaffirmation of machismo in the adventure films, he was simultaneously venturing into the horror territory with his gialli. These films adhere to the traditional giallo narrative structure while questioning and doubling standard cinematic concepts: the mistaken identity story Una sull’altra (Perversion Story, 1969), the mistaken reality (is it real or is it a dream?) story Una lucertola con la pelle di donna (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, 1971), the more claustrophobic Calabrian village murder mystery Non si sevizia un paperino (Don’t Torture a Duckling, 1972) and another exercise in phantasy becoming reality in the psychic tale 7 note in nero (1972). With the exception of 7 note, all films were written by Fulci and introduce the delirious and arid worlds of Fulci’s tenebrous imagination, yet oscillate between glamour and power (for instance, he reintroduces the pedagogic male as the businessman/doctor in Una sull’altra and politician in Lucertola). Even though, as in his previous films, Fulci’s mind strained against the parameters of generic convention, through violence and dream sequences, special effects and a fascination with perversion (human rather than specifically sexual) he expressed a vision at once fascinatingly resonant with its horror genealogy and unique in its imaginative vision. Here he was first mentioned in the same category as Dario Argento, (whose L’uccello dale piume di cristallo was almost contemporaneous with Fulci’s Una sull’altra), Sergio Martino and, particularly, Mario Bava, based on the best of Bava’s gialli, Sei donne per l’assassino (1964) and Reazione a catena (1971), the first for the elegant cinematography and saturated colouring, reflected in Lucertola, and the second for the general themes of violence and dishevelment of flesh in all of Fulci’s gialli. Interestingly 7 note begins with the body-behind-a-plaster-wall that forms the crescendo of Argento’s Profondo rosso (1975), reflecting Fulci’s reinterpretation of the blind killed by the guide dog that forms a link between Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) and E tu vivrai nel terrore: L’aldila (The Beyond, 1981). Far from being plagiarism however, this shows that Fulci’s many nods to other directors in various film refers more to a symbiotic proclivity in Italian filmmaking rather than a unidirectional simple case of pastiche. However his films belong more to Bava’s gothic genealogy, suspending logic and pleasure for fascination and strange worlds. It is clear, particularly in Paperino, a film that reveals a paedophilic priest as the murderer in a town where the other male inhabitants are equally if not more horrible than the murderer, that Fulci’s configurations of violence were not the generally hygienic and fetishistically composed violences of Bava or even Argento. Fulci’s violence is rarely clean, aligning itself with repulsing effluence of bodily secretion and violence which crumbles rather than cuts its victims. Fulci exchanges a knife for a chain whip in the harrowing murder of Martiara (Florinda Balkan) in Paparino and gruesomely eviscerates three dogs in Lucertola in a scene that clearly influenced Carpenter’s creatures in The Thing (1980).

Lucertola opens with an acid (the drug kind, not the corrosive kind which features in many later films) orgy that sets the film up as more stylised and yet timely in its elegant depiction of free love, refining the burlesque raunchiness seen in Una sull’altra. All of these gialli seem to mourn the fallibility of the machismic figures of the earlier films, but here we see for the first time Fulci’s solution to his disdain for small-minded men through the introduction of the ‘sight’ of women. Whether this is the second sight of 7 note‘s psychic Virginia (Jennifer O’Neill), the hallucinations of Lucertola‘s Carol (Florinda Bolkan) or the ability to be more-than-one of Una sull’altra‘s Susan (Marisa Mell), Fulci sees the inflexibility of the male’s role in society as precisely that which will destroy him. Whether this incarnates through a lack of imagination, the inability to negotiate the world through images and thought rather than evidence, or, as in Paperino, the demand to regain and reaffirm patriarchal power in the face of chaos that results in violence in spite of a lack of evidence, Fulci mourns society’s failure to engage with the possible rather than the pre-conceived. This vision, in my opinion feminist but also creatively post-structural, is fundamental in understanding why many of Fulci’s later films feature female protagonists, often incarnated by his muse (but at no point fetishised, neither cinematically nor as an enigma) Catriona McColl.

The Horrors

The project of describing the best of Fulci’s films, his gory horrors, is a paradoxical one. Being required to describe these films might expose them as poverty stricken within the constraints of signification of images, narrative and their capacity to be viewed as a readerly text. In order to evoke the powers of Fulci’s best films I must first reconfigure the seemingly given paradigms of cinema. Here I ask the reader to variously rethink or forgo these concepts as necessary for cinematic pleasure. This involves letting go of: narrative as a temporalisation of viewing pleasure which accumulates the past to contextualise the present and lay out an expected future; images as deferrals to meaning, signs to be read or interpreted; characters as integral to plot, both in film in general and horror in particular as that which must be conceptually characterised in order to be meaningfully killed off or destroyed; narrative as intelligible contextualiser of action; exploitation as gratuitously existing for its own sake or to affirm and intensify traditional axes of oppression in society; gore as demeaning or a lesser focus in the impartation of visual expression; pleasure as pleasurable; repulsion as unpleasurable; violence as inherently aggressive; horror as dealing only with notions of returned repression, infantilism or catharsis. I ask the reader, in the tradition of Lyotard’s economy of libidinal pleasure, to shift their address from why or what the images mean to how they affect.

Zombi 2

Fulci began his gore film series with the George A. Romero figlia Zombi 2, a surprisingly engaging reconfiguration of the Living Dead mythos, where the ethnographic zombie films of Val Lewton contracted with the bodily horror of George Romero in the USA and Jorge Grau in the UK. Fulci’s success in presenting gore anchors on his acute understanding of violence against bodies as reliant on the particular significations of the parts of the body being destroyed, rather than a semiotic destruction of flesh in general, hence his propensity for showing eyeball puncturing. His zombies are cheap looking, but this makes them unnerving in their abject grittiness, rather than unconvincing. Fulci followed Zombi 2 with his opus latifundium, his “real estate” trilogy: Paura nella città dei morti viventi (City of the Living Dead, 1980), a Lovecraftian story of a priest who hangs himself thus opening the gates of hell; L’aldila, about a hotel which is a gate to hell (noticing a theme?), and Quella villa accanto al cimitero (House by the Cemetery, 1981), about one Dr Freudstein – surely one of the best ever character names in a film! – who, by transplanting parts of his victims to his body for over a century has managed to stay alive, although, in keeping with the trilogic theme, he looks like hell. These films saw the first paradigmatic shift in Fulci’s interest from the temporality that defines traditional cinematic narrative, to a focus on space, broadly meaning atmosphere, acts which may or may not bear relevance to preceding and successive images, claustrophobic mise en scène set within houses and damp landscapes which drip with the viscosity of the bodies crawling therein. Fulci manages this oppressive environment even in the clinical world of the pathology lab or the infinite space of the bridge which leads to the island of New Orleans, both in L’Aldila. These films resonate with places rather than people, events rather than story, ergo ecstasy (event outside of temporality) rather than time. Fulci states “Our only refuge is to remain in the world but outside time” (1). It may seem a stretch to claim Fulci distorts time in the same way as more deliberately artistic filmmakers; his films retain a rudimentary relationship with narrative, whether for the sake of loose coherence or the producers of the film.

These three films saw Fulci collaborate with screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, who had previously written Il gatto a nove code (with Argento) and Reazione for Bava. Sacchetti later wrote the stories for Lamberto Bava’s first films, La Chiesa (1989) for Michele Soavi, two screenplays for Ruggero Deodato and Sergio Martino (in collaboration with the brilliant Ernesto Gastaldi) and the strange yet fascinating Apocalypse domani (1980) for Antonio Margheriti. For Fulci, Sacchetti wrote the giallo 7 note and his later gore films Manhattan Baby (1982) and the controversial slasher pseudo-giallo film Lo squartatore di New York (The New York Ripper, 1982). The third member of the trilogy responsible for Fulci’s most accomplished work is Giannetto De Rossi, whose special effects are more interested in the body transformed rather than destroyed by violence. It is this alchemical combination that formed the delirious dream-like worlds of the real-estate trilogy. Whether the viewer awaits a narrative to explicate the murders, the reanimation of the dead and the baroque methods of death, or whether they are there to explore the sensations of the images unto themselves, these films offer images as possibility – the possibility of experiencing film otherwise, the possibility of meaning without the satisfaction of affirmation of interpretation, and the possibility of the masochism of watching horror, an eternal anticipation that confuses rather than pleases when the shocking images arrive.

In Cinema 2, Gilles Deleuze states:

[firstness] is not a sensation, a feeling, an idea, but the quality of a possible sensation, feeling or idea. Firstness is thus a category of the possible: it gives a proper consistency to the possible, it expresses the possible without actualising it…this is exactly what the affection-image is (2).

If firstness is the primary moment, before language orients effect toward the eternal deferral of meaning through signification, then firstness repudiates language as these films repudiate film language. Because films do unfold in time and because these films are not experimental, they do indeed include rudimentary road signs for the viewer, but these are distraction rather than moments of intensification which inhabit the films. The narratives are there but they don’t matter, what matters is the very matter of the images, their materiality. Deleuze calls the image which subjugates movement to time the chronosign:

the before and after are no longer themselves a matter of external empirical succession, but of the intrinsic quality of that which becomes in time. Becoming can in fact be defined as that which transforms an empirical sequence into a series: a burst of series (3).


These films are about intrinsic quality, texture, consistency. For this reason they affect sense rather than intellect – confusion, disgust, suffering, delight at the pangs of horror are the qualities these films evoke. The screen is not the marker between actual and virtual but, in Paul Virilio’s words, the “osmotic membrane” (4). Nowhere does this osmosis become more apparent than in films which affront the sensoria of the viewer without recourse to the dividing wall of signification and deferral to meaning which protects the viewer from affect. Pierced eyeballs, crucifixion, spiders eating a face, bodies melted with acid, pneumatic drills through the head, but also the aesthetics of white blinded eyeballs, the tension of Dr Freudstein in Quella forcing a child’s head against a door into which his parents are hurling an axe to ‘save’ him from the bloody Doctor, the blind Emily having her throat torn out by her guide dog (in a perverse homage to Argento’s Suspiria) and Fabio Frizzi’s scores for Paura and L’Aldila which give Goblin a run for their money all create impossible worlds which demand a visceral affiliation. I should add, to describe what happens in these films, which may make them sound shocking or provocatively perverse, entirely fails to express the certain qualities of these images that makes any description of them inherently redundant – it is not what happens or why it happens, but how it happens that makes these images seductive. The worlds of Fulci’s real estate trilogy are ridiculous, false, phantasmatic but perhaps it is this very phantasy which protects the films from the mean spiritedness that sometimes threatens to overwhelm those violent gore films which locate themselves entirely within the real world, turning baroque violence into vulgar and potentially misogynistic sadism. D.N. Rodowick exploring the wonder of these worlds states:

Believe [quotes Deleuze’s Cinema 2] “not in a different world but in a link between humanity and the world…to believe in this as in the impossible, the unthinkable, which nonetheless cannot be but thought” (1989: 170)… Belief is no longer belief in a transcendent world, but a belief in this world and its powers of transformation. It is believing in the body, in its relation to thought, and in the potential of the body and thought to affirm their powers of change and their receptivity to transformation. The transformation of belief as will to power is an affirmation of time and its powers of becoming and of faith in a life that can be transformed by an active and creative will. This is the power to become-other in thought, and then, to become-other (5).

I will say little more about these films, reflecting their repudiation of signification, only to urge the reader to rent them, buy them, see them and, most importantly, open up to them.

Lo squartatore di New York

Perhaps due to an increasing cynicism borne of a lack of recognition, sadly Fulci resigned himself to making the particularly nihilistically violent films his baroque films had so adamantly challenged. Some may argue this begins with Lo squartatore di New York, a film many critics see as inherently misogynistic due to its violence against women and its all-women-are-whores-complex killer. This response seems at best rudimentary and at worst vacuously automatic. Beyond the fact that men are killed in an equally graphic, if less Freudian, way than the women, the film is a straight murder mystery which may be placed alongside other gialli, such as Sergio Martino’s I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (1973), or even Argento’s Tenebre (1982). What makes the film different is Fulci’s destylised violence. Arguably one could say this makes the violence against women more abject and therefore more sensitive to the desexualisation of female directed violence. Similarly one could claim the film is particularly remarkable in its representation of women as victims due to the prevalence of strong and interesting women in the real-estate trilogy. Essentially I believe the backlash against this film is a disgust at gore misdirected to an ad hoc complaint of misogyny which ignores the different nuances and inspirations behind real misogyny in films such as Bloodsucking Freaks (Joel M. Reed, 1976), Maniac (William Lustig, 1980) and the recent Ted Bundy (Matthew Bright, 2002), repulsive due to their light-hearted making humorous of violence against women. Polarising the subject matter of Squartatore Fulci made, in the same year, Manhattan Baby, which continued his sensitive interest in children and their role in horror films (seen later in his telemovie La dolce casa degli orrori, 1989). He also adapted Poe in Il gatto nero (1981), flat perhaps due to Fulci’s tendency toward themes more Lovecraftian than Poesque.

After this early 1980s flurry Fulci began his descent into films which express a clear lack of interest in his art. Due to the plethora of films I will focus the following summary on key films which signify various aspects of Fulci’s later work. Un gatto nel cervello (1990, dedicated to Clive Barker, “my only friend”) is a composite of all the gore from Fulci’s previous films, told in a story about a film director called Lucio Fulci, played by Fulci (an extension of his Hitchcockian habit of playing cameos in his films), which both parodies his label as the Italian godfather of gore, and mourns this label’s misunderstanding of a true vision beneath, yet elaborated through, the gore. Fulci’s worst film, not due to ineptitude but a real misogynistic turn, Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio (1988), where female ugliness vindicates gratuitously sadistic murder, is ambiguously something which gives the kind of audience he despises what they think they want, and a bitter reflection on his career. The later phantasy horror films, here more gothic than baroque due to their turn from corporeal viscerality to ethereal atmosphere, are seductive and point to Fulci’s remaining potential. Il fantasma di Sodoma (1988), a story of Nazi ghosts haunting a group of teenagers, and Demonia (1990), where Loudonic nuns drink blood and haunt archaeologists, are interesting interpretations from the standard Italian genres of nunsploitation and Nazi fetishism alongside teens-in-peril. The films are headily impressive, the air almost tactile, the atmosphere acrid and voluminous. These films make flesh of phantasms and offer ghosts which are vague in a visceral rather than ethereal manner. However nothing of the residue of Fulci’s talents in the film can make them any more than they are, which is a series of almost poignant reminders of Fulci becoming somewhat of a simulacrum of what he once was. They are pretty, sometimes delicious, but irredeemably diluted. This prettiness without substance reached its zenith with Fulci’s final film Voci dal profondo (1994). Fulci died destitute from diabetes on March 13, 1996.

Concluding Remarks

This tour of Fulci films will seem, particularly in the earlier summaries, rudimentary and not entirely sensitive to a thorough analysis of what is here being called a Great Director. Completists may suggest I am fetishising certain films, perhaps because of my own proclivity toward the horror genre, at the expense of the redeeming features of others. However, unlike other great directors, who exhibit strengths and weaknesses in a body of films that are coherent and present disparate aspects of a generally unified auteurist vision, Fulci expressed a vision that not only strained against the limits of his tight budgets and the lack of respect he received in his lifetime beyond the fringe of cult film aficionados, but also the limits of cinematic form itself. While paying limited address to the necessities of narrative, character, resolution and plot, unlike other film directors he did not transform these in a project of deliberate challenge or deconstruction of image and perception. Fulci seems more to be possessed of a certain conceptual world, a fleshy and dark world which insinuates the infinity of possibilities of thought and the affectivity of art beyond signification itself, even subversive signification. Far from being the radical challenge to good taste or fetishised for being a driving force in the denouncement in Britain of the video nasty that many (mostly male) critics espouse him as, Fulci does not seem to care for those conventions he flouts. Although the claim may place me at a lunatic fringe, I am tempted to align his vision with those of other mystics such as William Blake, Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft and Austen Spare, someone more deserving of analysis through Deleuze and Guattari rather than film theory. These people were not interested in particular projects so much as the project of possibility itself. That they came from the disparate arenas of poetry, prose, philosophy and art matters less than their shared philosophies, and here Fulci is the visionary who is an accidental filmmaker, rather than a director with something to say. The act of viewing Fulci’s best films is similarly an act of possibility, opening up to the creative act of thought launching self outside the self, thought from the outside, and the involution of image, flesh and thought that reflects itself the incarnation of these three elements in the trinity of Fulci, Rossi and Sacchetti. He is yet to receive academic attention beyond rudimentary pop criticism, and the loss of this director is made more acerbic through the knowledge that he will never see the acclaim his films may one day (deservedly) receive.

Lucio Fulci


I ladri (The Thieves) (1959)

Ragazzi del Juke-Box (The Jukebox Kids) (1959)

Urlatori alla sbarra (Metti, Celentano e Mina… or Howlers of the Docks) (1960)

Colpo gobbo all’italiana (Getting Away with It the Italian Way or Hunchback Italian Style) (1962)

Due della legione straniera (Those Two in the Legion) (1962)

Le massaggiatrici (The Masseuses) (1962)

Uno strano tipo (The Strange Type) (1963)

Gli imbroglioni (The Swindlers) (1963)

I maniaci (The Maniacs) (1964)

I due evasi di Sing Sing (Two Escape from Sing-Sing) (1964)

002 agenti segretissimi (002 Most Secret Agents) (1964)

I due pericoli pubblici (Two Public Enemies) (1964)

Come inguaiammo l’esercito (How We Got Into Trouble with the Army) (1965)

002 operazione Luna (002 Operation Moon) (1965)

I due parà (The Two Parachutists) (1965)

Come svaligiammo la banca d’Italia (How We Robbed the Bank of Italy) (1966)

Tempo di massacro (Massacre Time) (1966)

Come rubammo la bomba atomica (How We Stole the Atomic Bomb) (1967)

Paura nella città dei morti viventi

Il lungo, il corto, il gatto (The Tall, the Short, the Cat) (1967)

Operazione San Pietro (Operation St Peter’s) (1967)

Una sull’altra (Perversion Story) (1969)

Beatrice Cenci (The Conspiracy of Torture) (1969)

Los Desesperados (Desperate Men) (1969) codirected with Julio Buchs

Una lucertola con la pelle di donna (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin) (1970)

All’onorevole piacciono le donne (Nonostante le apparenze…e purché la nazione non lo sappia) (The Eroticist or Senator Likes Women [Despite Appearances…and Provided the Nation Doesn’t Know]) (1972)

Non si sevizia un paperino (Don’t Torture a Duckling) (1972)

Zanna Bianca (White Fang) (1973)

Il ritorno di Zanna Bianca (The Return of White Fang) (1974)

I quattro dell’apocalisse (Four for the Apocalypse) (1975)

Il Cav. Costante Nicosia demoniaco, ovvero: Dracula in Brianza (Young Dracula) (1975)

La Pretora (My Sister in Law) (1976)

7 note in nero (7 Notes in Black) (1977)

Sella d’argento (Silver Saddle) (1978)

Zombi 2 (Zombie Flesheaters) (1979)

Luca il contrabbandiere (The Naples Connection) (1980)

Paura nella città dei morti viventi (City of the Living Dead or Gates of Hell) (1980)

Il gatto nero (The Black Cat) (1981)

E tu vivrai nel terrore: L’aldila (The Beyond) (1981)

Quella villa accanto al cimitero (The House by the Cemetery) (1981)

Lo squartatore di New York (The New York Ripper) (1982)

Manhattan Baby (1982)

La conquista (Conquest) (1983)

I guerrieri dell’anno 2072 (Warriors of the Year 2072) (1984)

Murderock – uccide a passo di danza (Murder Rock – Dancing Death) (1984)

Il miele del diavolo (Dangerous Obsession) (1986)

Aenigma (1987)

Zombi 3 (Zombie Flesh Eaters 2) (1988)

Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio (When Alice Broke the Mirror) (1988)

Il fantasma di Sodoma (The Ghosts of Sodom) (1988)

La dolce casa degli orrori (The Sweet House of Horrors) (1989) made for television

La casa del tempo (The House of Clocks) (1989) made for television

Un gatto nel cervello (A Cat in the Brain) (1990)

Demonia (Liza) (1990)

Non si sevizia un paperino

Hansel e Gretel (1990) codirected with Giovanni Simonelli (but uncredited)

Le Porte del Silenzio (Door to Silence) (1991)

Voci dal profondo (Voices from Beyond) (1994)


Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, Minneapolis, The University of Minnesota Press, 1988.

Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta, London, The Althone Press, 1989.

Luca M. Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta, Spaghetti Nightmares: Italian Fantasy – Horrors as Seen Through the Eyes of their Protagonists, trans. Gillaim M.A. Kirkpatrick, Key West, Fantasma, 1996.

D.N. Rodowick, Gilles Deleuze’s Time Machine, Durham and London, Duke University Press, 1997.

Paul Virilio, The Lost Dimension, trans. Daniel Moshenberg, New York, Semiotext(e), 1991.

Select Bibliography

Chas Balun, Beyond the Gates, Key West, Fantasma, 1997

Jean-Claude Michele, Directed by Lucio Fulci: Italy’s Gore Master, Maisons-Alfort, Fantasy Film Memory, 1990.

Michele Romagnoli, L’Occhio del Testimone: Il Cinema di Lucio Fulci, Bologna, Granata, 1992.

Stephen Thrower, Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci, Guildford, FAB Press, 1999.

Web Resources

Shocking Images – Official Lucio Fulci Website
Great site with news, interviews, discussion forum, downloads, store, obituary and more. News has not been updated since August 2003 but there is enough information and colour to keep one engaged for many hours.

Lucio Fulci: Godfather of Gore
From the House of Horrors site. Nice tribute with links to information on some of his films at other points of the site.

Lucio Fulci 1927-1996
Fun one-pager (nice audio) featuring an account of Fulci’s appearance at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention in the USA shortly before he died.

The Godfather of Gore
Italian site with filmography, images and links.

Lady Stardust
Personal website of Antonella Fulci, figlia di Lucio. In Italian.

Lucio Fulci
At time of essay’s publication, this site was temporarily closed. Be sure to check back!

Click here to search for Lucio Fulci DVDs, videos and books at


  1. Luca M. Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta, Spaghetti Nightmares: Italian Fantasy – Horrors as Seen Through the Eyes of their Protagonists, trans. Gillaim M.A. Kirkpatrick, Key West, Fantasma, 1996, p. 60.
  2. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, London, The Athlone Press, 1988, p. 99.
  3. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta, London, The Althone Press, 1989, p. 275.
  4. Paul Virilio, The Lost Dimension, trans. Daniel Moshenberg, New York, Semiotext(e), 1991, p. 17.
  5. D.N. Rodowick, Gilles Deleuze’s Time Machine, Durham and London, Duke University Press, 1997, p. 192.

About The Author

Patricia MacCormack is lecturer in Communication and Film at Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge. Her PhD was awarded the Mollie Holman doctorate medal for best thesis. She has published on perversion, Continental philosophy, French feminism and Italian horror film. Her most recent work is on Cinesexuality, masochism and Becoming-Monster in Alternative Europe, Thirdspace and Suture. She is currently writing on Blanchot, Bataille and Cinecstasy.

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