This post is a part of our New Voices Section.
Written by Ron Altman.
For more than 25 years I have been working my way through catalogues and IMDb entries, even Leonard Maltin’s beloved guidebook, like an explorer trekking through the jungle, to find hidden gems and treasures, unheralded movies of times long gone.
When in the 1990s and early 2000s it used to mean going from video store to video store and rummaging through flea-markets for rare video tapes, the development of private torrent trackers like Karagarga and Cinemageddon has given movie lovers the chance to find out-of-print, unavailable or never-released movies and download them with the click of a mouse. Labels like the Criterion Collection have made a name for themselves releasing restored versions of art house classics from all over the world.
In Europe, most films that stand as ‘cult’ today were mainly made in Italy or Spain. What are the typical ingredients of those European cult movies? It’s clearly horror, fantasy and mystery elements, paired with extreme violence, but also erotica and sex.
The Italian film industry, best-known and loved for the works of its masters Fellini, Rossellini, De Sica or Antonioni, produced an immense treasure trove of B-movies – even entire genres – from the 1960s to the 1980s, most of them truly ‘cult’:
Peplum epics (1957-1964), gothic horror (1963-1968), spaghetti westerns (1964-1972), heist movies (1965-1968), James Bond clones aka Eurospy movies (1965-1969), giallo mysteries (1962-1975), police and mafia thrillers (1972-1979), western comedies (1971-1975), sex comedies (1975-1980), cannibal movies (1972-1981), science-fiction films (1978-1983), woman in prison and Nazi exploitation pics (1975-1982)… – all hundreds, if not thousands of movies produced in and around Rome’s Cinecittà, many of them blueprints of (often) American originals to cash in on their popularity. The most successful films of these (sub-)genres have found their way to a world-wide audience, like HERCULES (1957), A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964), DANGER: DIABOLIK (1967) or SUSPIRIA (1977).
Many directors and collaborators have received credit for their work, like Sergio Leone, Mario Bava, Dario Argento or Ennio Morricone. But literally hundreds of movies lie undiscovered and unheralded. To be fair, many of them are poorly made, but some of them are stunning and surprisingly good, which makes picking out those gems all the more interesting and gratifying.
Ron Altmann (*1975) is a hobby film historian and critic from Austria.
Since 1997 he has published over 5,000 capsule reviews of old and new films – mostly cult – on his website www.cultmovies.info and also on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CultMoviesFilmReviews/).
He is also an executive producer of Dario Argento’s latest horror film The Sandman (in pre-production).