Italian Horror Cinema, University of Bedfordshire, 9 May 2014


The Italian film industry was largely built upon the success of its export market with a long tradition of adaptation based on successful box office imports. From Leone’s breakthrough A Fistful of Dollars (1964); adapted from Kurasawa’s Jojimbo (1961) to Lado’s Night Train Murders (1975); a reimagnining of The Last House on the Left (1972). These home-grown versions were often cast with actors from the UK or US to give them a broader international appeal and were then sold back to the territories that originally inspired them. Dubbed, repackaged and retitled for an English speaking audience. If a film were successful domestically, there would often be numerous unrelated sequels until all opportunity for profitability had run its course. In the late 70s and early 1980s these films became increasingly accessible on 42nd Street. Distributors like Terry Levine imported and retitled the most extreme that Italy had to offer and screened them on this now infamous stretch in New York. Worldwide, the introduction of home video, the technology that would eventually usurp the grindhouse introduced an international audience to Italian horror. To fully exploit the potential profits both in the UK and in the US, distributors took a creative approach to titling the films – renaming individual films from territory to territory in an effort to ‘localise’ their appeal and prolong their shelf-life. Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of the zombie film. In this chapter, I will examine how Italy’s adaptive approach to cinema has had implications beyond its own borders. It will explore the repercussions that can arise When film that once was considered as transitory and “designed to create a fast profit” has ultimately proved to have a value and longevity beyond that original commercial impetus and explore the repercussions from the distributor serialising what could possibly deemed an ephemeral product.