Lucio Fulci, the Master and Godfather of Gore, made a dozen acclaimed horror films before he passed in 1996. Although he’s known for the Gates of Hell trilogy, Fulci directed westerns, black comedies, and fantasy films. It’s interesting to learn from Wikipedia that Fulci directed documentaries and wrote comedies too before turning to the horror genre.
Looking back, he created some particularly funny images in his films, such as a zombie fighting a shark underwater in Zombi 2. He also worked as an art critic for a time, perhaps explaining his unique approach to his work. He saw things intensely. Like Werner Herzog, he created original images onscreen, which is why he’s considered a legend.
Fulci is celebrated for The Beyond, Zombi 2, and Don’t Torture a Duckling, but here’s a list of deeper cuts streaming free on Tubi TV.
Conquest is a 1983 low-budget fantasy film (with some horror elements) about a person who fights mutants, outlaws, and werewolf monsters on a Beowulf quest to adulthood.
It features a magical bow-and-arrow, wooden crosses, metal masks, and a hot-plate death. The film is so over-the-top and ridiculous that it’s pretty funny. One of the film’s funniest parts is when a fighter weakly dropkicks a werewolf (in a dopey costume) into a pit. Bloof!
The film is a classic tale of good vs. evil, but it was a box office bomb. Though critic Jeremy Wheeler called it “masterpiece shlock.”
Silver Saddle, alternatively titled They Died With Their Boots On, is a western, one of the last of its kind ever made. It’s about a bounty hunter who gets into all kinds of heroic adventures. Taking place in Texas in 1850, the characters have names like Roy Blood and Two Strike Snake. There is a madam, a brothel, a graveyard, and lots of hats. Silver Saddle has gorgeous costumes; the women look exceptional with big hair and earrings, giant feathers, and bright, corseted dresses.
Silver Saddle is worth seeing for the interior shots alone. There are wides filled with knickknacks, paintings, and rich, leather goods like saddles and harnesses. There are bar brawls and gunfights; what more do you need to know? Fulci met the crew that he would work with for much of his career, notably the composer Fabio Frizzi who scored Fulci’s best films.
It isn’t a horror film, but it features a hanging graveyard (an image I’ve never seen before) and a close-up bullet wound, which is more gruesome than most westerns. It’s interesting to see what Fulci thinks is interesting; his camera follows the bullet wound when we might expect a repeated shot of the gun holster. Bonus: Juliette Lewis’ dad is in the film, the character actor Geoffrey Lewis who plays Two Strike Snake.
City of the Living Dead is the first film in The Gates of Hell trilogy and the most successful, not a deep cut exactly but perhaps new to young horror fans. It’s the most Halloween of horror films. It has everything: hangings, bleeding eyes, live burials, maggots, drill bit gore, and the living dead. It’s Fulci at his finest.
City of the Living Dead is a masterpiece. The camera work is incredibly real, twisting and turning around creepy rooms, panning reacting faces. It’s like a head turning from one horror to the next as if the camera is an eye and Fulci is obsessed with eyes, and not in a good way.
The version streaming on Tubi Tv is a special edition, containing a previously edited scene with a woman who vomits her intestines. At first, I thought it was worms and then her tongue, and then I was like, oh my god, it’s her innards. Forget the Stendal Syndrome; I’m not going to eat zoodles for the rest of the month.
The New York Ripper is a weird one, not going to lie. It shares some themes with Don’t Torture a Ducking. There’s a serial killer in New York, murdering models, and oddly enough, he has a duck voice. Yes, a duck voice. The serial killer, dressed in black, stabs a woman to death while clucking like a duck. A duck! Later, he calls the police to taunt them, quacking away in a squawky, icky voice. It’s so bizarre you want to laugh, which, in a way, makes the murders even more cruel.
Some of the footage is so controversial that it remains censored, even today. The New York Ripper is a brilliant film because it depicts brutal misogyny. Looking back on Fulci, the violence in his movies is troubling, and yet, is it the reflection of gruesome reality that’s troubling — or the filmmaker? I feel that he’s condemning misogyny, using art as a mirror.
These hard to find Fulci movies are streaming (for free) on Tubi TV, an app that I started watching two years ago because it had Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf, alternative title: Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch, a campy horror film that everyone should watch — it’s so bad, it’s great.
If you’re a Fulci fan looking for more content, check out this selection, streaming free, just in time for the Halloween season. Fulci lives.