Judge Paul Pritchard adds another DVD to his top shelf.
Who Was Lucio Fulci?
Having grown up in the United Kingdom during the age of the "video nasty," a selection of films deemed unsuitable for the mass public by an unelected group of busybodies, I have of course developed a love for some of cinema's more excessive offerings. Perhaps it is some form of reactionary response against the injustice I felt, even at a young age, that a film could be condemned by people who had not seen it and who had based their judgment purely on hearsay. Maybe it was the allure of video stores whose top shelves were adorned with the most grotesque artwork imaginable that left such an indelible mark on my fragile little mind. Or maybe I'm just a sick puppy. Either way, there is a section of my DVD library reserved for films that were and, in some case still are, unfairly treated. While I can't say I like all of these films, even finding some quite repulsive, I will defend their right to exist and find them a place in my collection.
It was while purchasing an assortment of "video nasties" that I first came across the work of Lucio Fulci. Settling down to watch City of the Living Dead and The Beyond, I was struck by the craft that went into Fulci's films. Okay, so his narratives often border on the incoherent, with exposition frequently taking a backseat to gore, but as a visual force I found Fulci to be exceptional. Though his critics will often hinge their arguments on scenes that depict spiders eating the eyes of their victims or power drills being driven through heads, they often neglect to mention the incredibly dense atmosphere Fulci is able to create. From the fog-cloaked streets of Dunwich in City of the Living Dead, which really does convey a sense of impending doom, to the final moments of Zombie, when the undead descend en masse on New York City, few can match Fulci's ability to create such striking imagery.
Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered Volume 1, a labor of love for director Mike Baronas, contains interviews with nearly ninety of Fulci's peers and collaborators. The setup is simple. Each interviewee is asked one question, "What is your fondest memory of Lucio Fulci?" The responses to the question are often refreshingly frank, and, though due respect is always shown, Fulci's less attractive traits are frequently touched upon, making this documentary all the more worthwhile.
Of all the things learnt from Paura, the saddest is how Fulci is apparently all but forgotten in his homeland of Italy; numerous collaborators repeatedly thank Baronas for making the documentary, hopeful that its release will increase interest in their late friend. In this area I fear Paura is destined to fail. Limited to twenty-five hundred copies, Paura simply has not been afforded a wide enough release to go beyond the Fulci faithful; the documentary is preaching to the converted.
Wisely split into three sections: accomplices, peers, and victims (otherwise known as actors), Paura begins with a menu where viewers select which group they wish to start with. From there the choice is offered of whether to play one particular interview or all. Before each interview begins a title card, listing all the films the participant made with Fulci, is displayed.
Taking anything from one minute to several, the interviews reveal a great admiration for Fulci, particularly from his peers. The general consensus, and one that I share, is that Fulci has never enjoyed the success or respect he deserved. Though the interviews frequently confirm what his fans have always believed, that he was a far more technically proficient filmmaker than his critics would ever readily admit to, it is the human angle on Fulci that makes this DVD so valuable. There's a particularly lovely tribute from Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust), who reminisces on his final meeting with Fulci. Other contributors, including Brett Halsey (A Cat in the Brain), talk of Fulci as the possessor of a fine sense of humor. Al Cliver (Zombi 2) provides one of the funniest memories of Fulci, involving a wind machine and a large amount of sand. It is a common fondness for Fulci that will be so appealing to fans who will finally discover they are not alone in their love of this oft-forgotten filmmaker.
On a DVD like this a high-quality audio and visual presentation is hardly crucial; as long as we can see who is being interviewed clearly enough the disc is doing its job, and so it proves with Paura. Picture quality is average at best, with the image frequently looking no better than something recorded on a bog-standard home video camera. The audio is no better (or worse), but offers reasonable clarity. A large number of the interviews are conducted in Italian, with subtitles displayed in English. No extras are included.
Acting as a perfect companion piece to Stephen Thrower's book Beyond Terror, Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered Volume 1 is indispensable for Fulci fans. With such a limited run, diehards are urged to pick up a copy on release, so as not to be disappointed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Paura Productions
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