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Enzo G. Castellari, Action Auteur - A Biography

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2007

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Italy is a land of an amazing number of great, world renowned filmmakers - Michelangelo Antonioni, Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini immediately spring to mind, or genre grandmasters like Sergio Leone, Mario Bava [Mario Bava bio - click here] and Dario Argento.

Enzo G.Castellari has never made it quite to the top, mainly because he has only all too rarely managed to transcend the ramifications of commercial filmmaking, and maybe he is best comparable to Lucio Fulci [Lucio Fulci bio - click here], as he has been to Italian action cinema what Fulci has been to horror ... ironically in that respect that Zombi 2/Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), Fulci's breakthrough film as a horror director, has been originally offered to Castellari, who turned the offer down though because he felt out of his league.

Castellari's thing, as mentioned above, was action cinema, and (arguably) nobody in all Italy (and to a degree even internationally) could direct action sequences quite as well and as inventive as Castellari, who always knew exactly how to pace his setpieces, when and how to create tension, and in the use of slow motion, he was second only to Sam Peckinpah - and it's no shame to be second to Peckinpah.

In fact, regarding action Castellari has developed such an unique style that one might dub him an action auteur with some justification.

 

Repeatedly, Enzo G.Castellari has been accused of being a reactionary on grounds of his films, but that is a rather gross simplification on one hand and an over-interpretation of his films - in terms of confusing a film's particular plot with an overall message - on the other. Rather than reactionary, Castellari's fims, at least his more personal ones, tend to be archaic, at times even biblical, tales of crime, retribution and retaliation that often have no real winner in the end, just a last man standing.

 


 

Early Life

 

Born Enzo Girolami in 1938 in Rome, Italy, Enzo G.Castellari came in touch with the (Italian) movie industry at a very early age, as in the 1940's, his father Marino Girolami, a former European boxing champion, tried his luck in the movies, first as an actor - as which he was only moderately successful at best -, but soon he turned his attention to behind-the-camera work, working as second unit director, writer, and finally director (with his most notorious directing job probably being La Regina dei Cannibali/Zombie Holocaust [1980], which he directed under the alias Frank Martin) and producer.

 

From an early age on, young Enzo and his older brother Ennio spent their summer vacations on their father's film sets rather than going to the beach like the other kids, and their father would frequently ask them to help out, often giving them little (uncredited) roles in his films or whatever else there was to do. This left a big and lasting impression on both of them, and so it should come as little surprise that both would end up in the film industry, and while Ennio started out as a professional actor at the age of not even 20 - a career that granted him continuous work for the next aproximately 50 years -, young Enzo took all sorts of jobs in the industry, be it extra or stuntman - given his past as a boxer, his dad had trained both boys as athletes -, and in the early 1960's he worked his way up to editor, second assistant director and assistant director, first on his father's films, who back then made mostly comedies often scripted by Tito Carpi (who would also go on to [co-]script many of Enzo's films in later years). By working in a lot of different jobs within the industry, Enzo would learn much about the technical aspects of moviemaking - which would later show in his films, which all show expert timing and great use of a wide array of camera and editing techniques.

 

By the mid-1960's however, Enzo, now in his mid-20's, would leave his father's employ and start working for other directors - and on films that apparently fitted his talents better, primarily Westerns, including Centomila Dollari per Ringo/100,000 Dollars for Ringo (1965, Alberto De Martino) starring Richard Harrison [Richard Harrison bio - click here] and Pochi Dollari per Django/Some Dollars for Django (1966, León Klimovsky) starring Anthony Steffen. Soon though, Castellari's true talents became apparent, and from assistant director it was only a small step to director (especially since he is said to have directed portions of Klimovsky's Some Dollars for Django himself anyhow) ...

 


 

Spaghetti Westerns - The 1960's

 


Flix.com

In the latter part of the 1960's, spaghetti Westerns reigned supreme in the Italian film industry, and these films, rather cheap in production (after all you could always re-use sets, props and costumes from eatlier films), would almost always make their money back. And since Westerns back then were a rather risk-free business, first-time directors were almost always offered a Western as their debut - and with Enzo G.Castellari it was no different, his first film as a director was Vado ... l'Ammazzo e Torno/Any Gun can Play (1967), a - wouldn't you know it - Western. However, even at his young age of not yet even 30, Castellari showed enough self-confidence to not blindly follow the lead of all other genre directors, and instead of turning out another violent and dead serious genre piece he filled his film with irony, which made Any Gun can Play one of the very first spaghetti Westerns with a comedic edge to it - contemplating by quite some years the tendency the genre took towards the comical (and childish and silly) following the Trinity-Westerns.

All that said, Any Gun can Play is not yet a masterpiece like some of Castellari's later films would turn out to be, and he doesn't yet show his virtuosity as a(n action) director yet either, but that said, the film is a competently made debut and one of the better of the vast number of spaghetti Westerns that were coming out in the latter part of the 1960's.

 

(By the way, it was for Any Gun can Play that Castellari changed his name from Enzo Girolami [his birth name] to Enzo G.Castellari [Castellari being his mother's maiden name, and the G standing for Girolami], just to avoid being branded as nothing more than the son of Marino and brother of Ennio Girolami, who were both at the time more successful than he was.)

 

Castellari's next films, all Westerns, were no masterpieces as well, I Tre che Sconvolsero il West (Vado, Vedo e Sparo)/One Dollar too Many/I Came, I Saw, I Shot (1968) - starring Antonio Sabato, John Saxon [John Saxon bio - click here] and Frank Wolff - was another Western comedy, while Sette Winchester per un Massacro/Seven Winchesters for a Massacre/Blake's Marauders/Renegade Riders (1968) - this one starring Ed Byrnes who was also in Any Gun can Play, Guy Madison and Enzo's bother Ennio Girolami - hit a more serious note. But with this films, Castellari's talents gradually developed, especially his ability to shoot complex action scenes on a budget and his predilection for interesting, unusual camera-setups and -angles.

 


It was with Quella Sporca Storia nel West/Johnny Hamlet (1968) that Enzo G.Castellari really came into his own: Based on an idea by none other than Sergio Corbucci, one of the spaghetti Western-directors, Castellari self-consciously took William Shakespeare's Hamlet and turned it into a Western - without losing too much of the play's impact actually. Johnny Hamlet is probably Castellari's first personal film, a movie that breaks the mold of the usual spaghetti Western not only thanks to a few jokes but due to a complex narrative, and while it does not reach the heights of Castellari's later masterpiece Keoma (1976), it does contemplate some of that film's most powerful scenes (like the crucifixion).

Johnny Hamlet by the way stars Andrea Giordana in the lead, an actor who never really had his breakthrough, plus former Cisco Kid Gilbert Roland (who was also in Castellari's Any Gun can Play), Horst Frank and once again Ennio Girolami.

Unfortunately, despite its obvious qualities, the film did not prove to be as successful as Castellari's earlier films ...

 

Ammazzali Tutti e Torna Solo/Go Kill Everyone and Come Back Alone (1968), starring Chuck Connors and Frank Wolff, on the other hand is not one of Castellari's more memorable films, and it would turn out to be his last Western for four years ...

 


 

The Golden Years - The 1970's

 


Enzo G.Castellari's career really came into full swing when he was allowed to say the spaghetti Western genre good-bye (for a time anyways) and to try his hands on a variety of other genres.

Castellari's first film away from Westerns was a war/espionage film - a genre actually rather closely related to the Western -, La Battaglia d'Inghilterra/Eagles over London/Battle Squadron (1969), a decent World War II actioner that however bears little resemblance to real events and resembles more closely the American propaganda films of the 1940's. Still, the film, starring Frederick Stafford, Francisco Rabal and Van Johnson is at least solid entertainment, with many a well-staged action scene. As a matter of fact, only the air raid-scenes really do disappoint, which for budgetary reasons were a combination of a few newly shot scenes and an abundance of archive footage from World War II, rather sloppily spliced together - which is a bit of a pity since these scenes were supposed to be the highlights of the film ...

 


Flix.com

In 1971, Castellari followed this up with Gli Occhi Freddi della Paura/Cold Eyes of Fear, a crime thriller with giallo-overtones - giallo, a specifically Italian version of the murder mystery often involving masked psychopaths, was the rage in the early 1970's. But Cold Eyes of Fear is actually closer to William Wyler's hostage drama Desperate Hours (1955), Humphrey Bogart's last truly memorable film, than to the works of Dario Argento, whose murder mysteries helped define the giallo genre back in the days. Cold Eyes of Fear also takes a stab or two at corruption within the legal system though.

 

After the quite accomplished thriller Cold Eyes of Fear, Castellari made two films that are not really worthy his talents, Te Deum/Sting of the West/Con Men (1972), a Western comedy starring Jack Palance, and Ettore lo Fusco/Hector the Mighty (1972), a rather mindless comedy set in ancient Greece.

 

Castellari's next film however would be a turning point in his career - La Polizia Incrimina la Legge Assolve/High Crime/The Marseilles Conenction (1973) -, not so much because it was a good movie, which it was, but because it was Castellari's first collaboration with Franco Nero, by then a renowned star in his own right [Franco Nero bio - click here].

Franco Nero, who plays an Italian cop taking on a pan-European drug syndicate in this one, was the perfect embodiment for Castellari's macho-fantasies, which - other than with other action directors - always had a subtle tragic note about them, and Franco Nero knew perfectly well how to play that key ... so it comes as little surprise that Castellari repeatedly claims in interviews that Nero is his favourite actor, while Nero especially loves to play Castellari's not-so-super heroes. Hardly surprisingly, the two men made quite a few films together over the next 3 decades and became close personal friends ...

 

Since High Crime was a big enough success and Castellari thought he had really found his leading man in Franco Nero, he hired him for his next three films as well, of which two  would turn out to be among Castellari's finest efforts ever.

 


Flix.com

The first of these two collaborations was Il Cittadino si Ribella/Street Law (1974), a modern day revenge-thriller. On a plot level, this film is rather derivative of the Charles Bronson-vehicle Death Wish (1974, Michael Winner), which was released only months before this one. However, on one hand Castellari in this film proves to be a director who's self-assured enough to let one forget the similarities for the duration of the film, creating some incredibly fine setpieces. And on the other hand, Franco Nero is an actor quite capable of adding some extra depth to the rather one-dimensional character he is playing. Add to this a script that finds quite a few facets in a straightforward revenge tale and you come up with one great action movie.

 


Flix.com


However, Castellari's absolute masterpiece (and his best collaboration with Franco Nero - so far ?) has to be his next film, Keoma (1976).

Keoma was probably the spaghetti Western to end all sopaghetti Westerns, made at a time when no more spaghetti Westerns were made in the first place. But though Keoma a very basic revenge plot familiar from many an other spaghetti Western, the film itself is anything but run-of-the-mill: It's an archaic piece of Western cinema that owes as much to Greek tragedy and Ingmar Bergman as it does to Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah. Filmed with a script that was actually constantly (re-)written during filming, the film offers as much allegoric images as it does shoot-outs and besides excellently staged action setpieces it doesn't shy away from metaphors and symbolism either, making this one a film that can be enjoyed as a pure action flick as well as a piece of art (and anything in-between).

The film was well-received by audiences and critics alike upon its release, and has since become a regular cult favourite, having been reissued on video and DVD numerous times as well as being in the top ten of virtually all serious Spaghetti Western fans, having been included in the movie collection of the Museum of Modern Arts, and having such prominent supporters as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Sam Raimi.

 

With Keoma having become such an outstanding success, the Italian film industry thought the era of the spaghetti Western had returned, and soon quite a few new Westerns made in Italy popped up at the local cinemas, however, none of the other movies could even remotely duplicate the success of Castellari's film, in fact most of them bombed awfully, even Castellari's own Cipolla Colt/Cry, Onion/The Smell of Onion (1976), which he again made with Franco Nero in the lead. But while Keoma was a dead-seriouos film, Cipolla Colt was comic to the point of insanity ... which after years of bad Italian Western comedies probably helped to sink this film.

 

Leaving the far West behind, Castellari took the audiences to France during Napoleon's reign with Le Avventure e gli Amori di Scaramouche/The Loves and Times of Scaramouche (1976), a rather crude period comedy with Michael Sarrazin as the title character, Aldo Maccione as Napoleon, and Ursula Andress thrown in to spice things up a bit. In all, The Loves and Times of Scaramouche was one of the weaker efforts of Castellari and especially disappointing considering this man had made Keoma the very same year, but at least (once again) the action scenes are competently crafted.

 


Flix.com

For Il Grande Racket/The Big Racket (1976) Castellari returned to modern times for a quite violent cop/mob thriller. As we have come by now to expect from Castellari, this one is full of competently crafted action setpieces, however, lead Fabio Testi - not a bad actor in his own right - is only a poor substitute for Castellari's favourite leading man Franco Nero, and he fails to develop his role of a cop out for revenge to its full, multi-layered potential.

 


Flix.com

Just like The Big Racket, La Via della Droga/Heroin Busters (1977) stars Fabio Testi, who is supported by David Hemmings in this one. On a story level, Heroin Busters is even worse than The Big Racket, this time around Testi plays an undercover supercop who takes on a drug syndicate almost single-handedly and ultimately wipes it out for good. Once again though, its action setpieces are the film's saving grace, and the final chase scene on foot, by motorbike, car and ultimately even airplane is nothing short of amazing ... and would have deserved to be carried by a better script.

 

Castellari's remaining 3 films from the 1970's are a rather mixed bag of goodies:


  • The World War II film Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato/Inglorious Bastards/Deadly Mission/G.I. Bro (1978) starring Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson is often diemissed as a rip-off of The Dirty Dozen (1967, Robert Aldrich), even though the similarities are only marginal. In fact, Inglorious Bastards is a very entertaining and light-hearted war film based on a well-written script, and it once again proves Castellari to be one of the top action directors. Quentin Tarantino is actually a big fan of this film and has announced a remake for 2009 - for better or worse.
  • Sensitività/The House by the Edge of the Lake (1979) is a weird horror/sexfilm Castellari claims he has only made for the fun of it in his holidays but he never finished because the money ran out. Eventually, the film was apparently brought to an end by someone else (the producer ?) - and the movie looks it.
  • And then there's Il Cacciatore di Squali/Shark Hunter (1979), the first real low in the collaborations between Castellari and his favourite lead Franco Nero, a totally meaningless and under-budgeted jungle adventure set in the Caribbean that seems to be going nowhere in particular, and not even the joint efforts of Castellari and Nero can save the film ...

 

Decline - The 1980's

 


With Il Giorno Del Cobra/Day of the Cobra (1980), Enzo G.Castellari started into the new decade with another collaboration with Franco Nero. But while Shark Hunter from 1979 was the pits, this one is actually pretty good, even if it is a bit mindless in plot (Franco Nero plays a supercop fighting a drug syndicate). But great action scenes and another wonderful performance by Nero save the film.

 


In a way, Day of the Cobra is very much reminiscent of Castellari's flicks with Franco Nero from the mid-1970's, but actually, in the 1980's, the situation for filmmakers like Castellari was totally different from the previous decades:

By the end of the 1970's, Italian movie industry had started to change: With the advent of the Hollywood blockbuster, genuine Italian films found it less and less easy to find even a local market (let alone an international one), which is why Italian film producers were more and more eager to jump any bandwagon there was, churning out cheap rip-offs of current international successes by the dozen before whichever trend died down, with films like Road Warrior (1981, George Miller), Escape from New York (1981, John Carpenter), Dawn of the Dead (1978, George A.Romero), Alien (1979, Ridley Scott) and Conan the Barbarian (1982, John Milius) being more than welcome blueprints, as all of these films were formulaic enough to quickly model screenplays after them (which is not to say any of these films were bad or even silly, some are genuine masterpieces, actually).

True, even in past decades, Italian cinema never completely shied away from ripping off international (formula-)movie hits - e.g. Dirty Harry (1971, Don Siegel), Death Wish (1974, Michael Winner) or even the Winnetou-series of films back in the 1960's that sparked the spaghetti Western as a genre in the first place -, but never has it become quite so obvious as in the 1980's, and never before had the Italian film industry quite as little faith in its own strength.

 

As noted above, Castellari turned down the opportunity to make a Dawn of the Dead-rip-off, Zombi 2/Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), which then turned to gold in the hands of Lucio Fulci [Lucio Fulci bio - click here] and became an international hit that according to some sources even outgrossed Dawn of the Dead - but of course it's at best doubtful that Castellari would have turned in quite as effective and successful a film as Fulci did, because as he himself noted repeatedly, zombies just weren't his thing.

 

In 1981 though, Castellari gave in to make a horror rip-off after all, L'Ultimo Squalo/The Last Shark/The Last Jaws, a film closely modelled after Steven Spielberg's vastly overrated shark horror film Jaws (1975), but unfortunately the results were tired rather than anything else (for which of course the film's blueprint is at least partly to blame), an uninspired piece of animal horror by the numbers, that totally lacks Castellari's personal touch his fans have by now grown so fond of ...

Still, the film became a big international success, so much so that production house Universal allegedly tried to get it banned in the USA on grounds of too obvious similarities with their own Jaws - which is probably the main reason why this film is nowadays rather hard-to-get on DVD ...

 



Flix.com

For his next film, Castellari quite obviously took Road Warrior (1981, George Miller) as a blueprint: I Nuovi Barbari/The New Barbarians/Warriors of the Wasteland (1982) is little more than a post doomsday film about a guy (Giancarlo Prete, making a rather poor stand-in for Mel Gibson) driving around the desert in his souped up car fighting baddies and looking for gas. On the plus side, the film at least features some solidly staged action setpieces, also stars veteran actors Fred Williamson and George Eastman, and some of the props and outfits are endearingly trashy. But unfortunately that's not enough to save the film ...

 


Flix.com

With another pair of post-doomsday films, Castellari fared much better, the Riffs-series:

These films are not based on Road Warrior but rather on Escape from New York and Walter Hill's gangwar movie The Warriors (1979), with even a few nods to Stanley Kubrick's classic A Clockwork Orange (1971) thrown into the proceedings. The results, 1990: I Guerrieri del Bronx/Bronx Warriors (1982) and Fuga dal Bronx/Escape from the Bronx (1983), are two cheap but effective sci-fi actioners that are rather enjoyable thanks to a certain grittiness in direction, an abundance of great action sequences, and even the occasional social commentary not usually found in Italian films of this ilk.

 



Seemingly lost in making rip-offs, Enzo G.Castellari suddenly came up with one of his most personal films, Tuareg - Il Guerriero del Deserto/Tuareg: The Desert Warrior (1984).

The film, based on a novel by Alberto Vázquez Figueroa, is about a member of the Tuareg (Mark Harmon), a proud tribe of Sahara-nomads, who has been humiliated by gouvernment officials when they snatched a guest from his home - and since hospitality is everything, is holy to the Tuareg, our hero goes out of his way to avenge himself on those who wronged him and to break his former guest (Luis Prendes) free from prison. However, he takes his revenge further and further, until he kills the president ... realizing only too late that unbeknowest to him the political situation in the country had changed profoundly, and the new president is exactly his former guest, whom he had sworn to protect ...

Even though most of the ads make the film look like an impersonal rip-off of the Rambo-series of films, Castellari in fact tells an archaic tale of honour and revenge, crime and retribution, and at times he even uses an almost lyrical approach to his subject matter. This means of course that the action and violence in the film are rather toned down - at least compared to Castellari's other movies, there is still quite some in the film -, which made the film a bit too brain-heavy for your usual action fan expecting, no, hoping for another Rambo-rip off. And since the film contained too much action and not one authentic Tuareg actor let alone overlong sequences of the Tuareg lifestyle, Tuareg: The Desert Warrior bombed terribly with for the world movie crowd (a possible target audience for an intellectual excursion into the Tuareg-mindset) as well, despite the film's obvious qualities. 

Actually, this is one film overripe for rediscovery ...

 

With a failure like Tuareg: The Desert Warrior on his hands, and with the Italian film industry on the decline as it was, Catellari was from now on relegated to direct impersonal (and underbudgeted) genre movies like the trashy sci-fi movie Colpi di Luce/Light Blast (1985) starring Erik Estrada and the actioners Striker (1987) and Hammerhead (1987), both starring Frank Zagarino ...

 


Of some interest might be the Cannon-production Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989), if not necessarily for all the right reasons: Reportedly, Castellari wanted to turn this one into a serious fantasy adventure quite despite the fact that Lou Ferrigno was not the ideal Sinbad [Lou Ferrigno bio - click here], despite the relatively low budget and despite Luigi Cozzi's rather hokey and genre referential script. Eventually, Castellari lost out to all of these factors and abandoned the project, which was then brought to an end by Luigi Cozzi taking over direction (without receiving credit for it) ... and it shows: Sinbad of the Seven Seas is much closer in story, style and everything to Cozzi's extremely wacky Hercules-series than to anything Enzo G.Castellari has ever done ... which in my book is quite ok because I liked those Hercules-films a lot - as comedies, as which they should be seen -, but regarded as movies by action auteur Enzo G.Castellari these films are a vast disappointment ...

 


 

Television - The 1990's and Beyond

 

By the 1990's, the Italian film industry (at least that arm of the industry responsible for feature films) was pretty much extinct, so like many of his colleagues, Enzo G.Castellari had to accept TV-assignments to keep in employ ...

 





 

Castellari's first job for television was directing the first season of the Italian/German/US American crime comedy series Extralarge (1990/91) starring Bud Spencer, who by that time was way past his prime (and who allegedly used a stand-in for most of his scenes, not just the action scenes), and Philip Michael Thomas, whose hitseries from the 1980's Miami Vice had by that time outstayed its welcome.

By and large, Extralarge was a series not worthy of Castellari's talents (like most of the films he did since the mid-1980's actually), and it shows: The 7 feature-length episodes he directed are little more than your typical impersonal TV-fodder that have little going for them ...

 

By 1993, Castellari's Keoma had achieved some kind of cult status, and a possible (semi-)sequel had long been talked about ... and with the success of Westerns like Kevin Costner's overrated Dances with Wolves (1990) and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992) the time seemed ripe for Enzo G.Castellari to direct yet another Western: Jonathan degli Orsi/Jonathan of the Bears (1993), a movie filmed entirely in Russia but with a bunch of authentic native Americans, sees genre legend Franco Nero [Franco Nero bio - click here] playing Jonathan, a white man raised by Indians, and John Saxon [John Saxon bio - click here] as the villain trying to rob Jonathan's tribe blind. And while being no Keoma, Jonathan of the Bears is a film that manages to stand on its own, an epic Western with (totally unembarrasing) lyrical, philosophical and even esoteric elements that fortunately does not try to blindly duplicate the spaghetti Western style (which went out of style years ago in the first place) but finds an aesthetic language all of its own.

But while the film is quite fascinating in both looks and action (naturally, this being a Castellari-film), it totally bombed at the box office, mainly because the Western trend went as soon as it came and the film was released a few months too late, when distributors had lost all their faith in the genre once more and accordingly did little to promote the film. 

Interestingly, despite the film being sought after by Keoma-fans worldwide, it has to that day not been released even on DVD in large parts of the world (at least officially) - which is a shame because the film is actually pretty good ...

 

Unfortunately, Jonathan of the Bears would remain Enzo G.Castellari's last cinematic feature so far, after the film's failure it was back to television, to mount a handful of miniseries - Il Ritorno di Sandokan/The Return of Sandokan (1996), a sequel to Sergio Sollima's Sandokan (1974) miniseries and the movie that followed it, starring the original's Kabir Bedi plus Franco Nero once again, Deserto di Fuoco (1997), an adventure vehicle for Anthony Delon with once again Franco Nero in a supporting role, and Gli Angeli dell'Isola Verde (2001) with, you guessed it, Franco Nero - and a TV-movie, the thriller Gioco a Incastro (2000). None of these are worth a special mention though ...

 


 

Closing Words

 

Enzo G.Castellari did not direct another film/TV-show after Gli Angeli dell'Isola Verde in 2001, when he was 63 years of age. For a time there have been rumours of him directing another Western in Mexico, to be called Badlanders, with Liam Neeson, Ethan Hawke and of course Franco Nero attached to it, but this film has yet to come into being ...

 

Throughout his career as a director, Castellari did take small roles in his own films (not just walk-ons à la Hitchcock), and very occasionally he also accepted roles in other directors' films, like the role of Benito Mussolini in the 1983 miniseries The Winds of War (Dan Curtis) starring Robert Mitchum, Ali McGraw and Jan-Michael Vincent, or a role in Fabrizio De Angelis' sub-par war movie Cobra Mission/Operation Nam (1986) starring Oliver Tobias, Christopher Connelly, Manfred Lehmann, John Steiner, Ethan Wayne, Donald Pleasence [Donald Pleasence bio - click here] and Castellari's brother Ennio, but of course, directing was his actual vocation.

 

Interestingly enough, just like his father Marino introduced his kids Enzo and Ennio to the film world, so did Enzo G.Castellari, involving both his kids Stefania Girolami Goodwin and Andrea Girolami in his work at an early age, first employing them as actors (especially Stefania has been in many of her dad's films), then as assistant directors and the like, and both of them stand on their own feet in the film industry nowadays ...

 

Now it might be that Enzo G.Castellari, nowadays almost 70 years of age, will never again be given the opportunity to direct another film, but given the state of the Italian film industry, maybe it's for the best to let it rest, it's such a shame to see a man like him wasted in underbudgeted action flicks or TV-productions not worthy of his talents. 

Enzo G.Castellari should be remembered for what he was: Without ever having received proper credit for it, he was Italy's number one action director, he has made some remarkable spaghetti Westerns, and he did have a personal style that went beyond just copying Sam Peckinpah (which he was accused of occasionally because of his predilection for slow motion). And films like Johnny Hamlet, Street Law, Tuareg: The Desert Warrior and Jonathan of the Bears, to a lesser degree also Day of the Cobra and the Riffs-films, and of course Keoma are without a doubt among the finest Italian genre cinema ever had to offer.

Period.

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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