Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dellamorte Dellamore / Cemetery Man (1994)

One can't help but wonder what cemetery watchman Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) would have had to of done in his past life to have to constantly lose his love, over and over again, in Michele Soavi’s darkly poetic and comical DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE. Could it be that Francesco is being punished by Death himself in an attempt to drive him to the breaking point so he’ll stop shooting the dead and instead do Death’s work for him by killing the living?   

I remember going into this expecting a zombie movie, but I ended up enjoying and appreciating it on a number of different levels, with the zombies being the part I cared the least about in the long run. Love and death are the main themes here and the zombies are merely a backdrop to the story and end up becoming the least important element. It is like this is a zombie movie that isn’t primarily about zombies.   

There is an eminent cycle of ironic plays on life and death all throughout this film. Consider the brilliant intro when Francesco is having one of his evening chats over the phone with his only other living associate that ever calls him. He is interrupted by a knock at the door and after opening it, without being alarmed at all, Francesco gazes at a slightly rotting visitor for a mere few seconds before shooting him in the head, point blank, and all the while looking very bored. After the person on the other line asks how things are with him, Francesco calmly replies with “You know how things are (exhales cigarette smoke), life goes on” to which the camera travels out the front door to a beautiful view of the Buffalora Cemetery. Cue the opening credits.  

Bravissimo Soavi! That’s how you start a movie.

Viewers who don’t quite buy into the odd premise of this movie will still find a lot to love with the two very appealing leads: the aforementioned Francesco and his moronic partner, Gnaghi, played by French actor/pop-star, François Hadji-Lazaro. I love the character of Gnaghi and cannot even put into words my gratitude for all the grins and laughs that he’s brought me over the years. Francesco, on the other hand, is just too cool, not because he’s always lighting a cigarette (a likely tribute to Soavi’s idol, James Dean) but just his worry-free approach to his dangerous job, as if disposing of zombies is just part of the everyday grind. Also, his resolve and sincerity when pursuing what he describes as the most beautiful living woman he’s ever seen is something to be admired from an extremely girl-shy type like myself. We all have had that moment when we are blown away from the sight of that perfect woman (or man) that happens to come along and yet feel that nothing will likely come of it, but Francesco pursues and scores even when the circumstances are against him. This should serve as a motivational example for anyone that knows what they want, and it should also be a reminder that even the most farfetched fantasy could become a reality. I even admit to sometimes thinking about dressing like him, but I don’t think I could pull it off, as I don’t think I’m tall and lean enough.

An amusing anecdote, which sort of adds insult to injury at times for Francesco, is when the cemetery visiting elderly woman as well as the Mayor of Buffalora refer to him as an engineer, despite a few annoyed objections. Calling a cemetery watchman an engineer seems highly sarcastic and insulting, but the characters who call him that don’t seem to mean any disrespect. This is sort of an inside joke and is unusual but still pretty funny and likely to confuse anyone who may not be familiar with another elderly lady in Dario Argento’s DEEP RED, calling the Jazz Pianist, Marcus Daily (David Hemmings), an engineer. I thought of this as Soavi’s homage to his former mentor as well as a nod to Italian horror fans in general. Though I do think Francesco firing his gun right after saying “I’m not an Engineer” under his breath, with a cool British accent, far surpasses everything else that is cool in this movie.
Francesco’s object of desire is a grieving widow (Finnish/Italian actress/supermodel, Anna Falchi), known as “She”, whom he first spots while she’s attending her husband’s funeral. After Francesco sees her again when she visits her late husband’s grave, she is completely cold to his initial advances and his attempts to get to know her while she is trying to mourn. Who can blame her? Though she is oddly intrigued when, after a final attempt to get her attention, Francesco mentions the cemetery’s marvelous ossuary. After being hypnotized by the damp, wet, and deathly skeletal remains of the dreamlike ossuary, she suddenly starts to give in. Being surrounded by death and brought closer to death is what it finally takes for her to be able to find the strength to move on with life and find love after death with Francesco, thus continuing the dark cycle of irony. 

The sex scene that takes place before a turning point in the story between Francesco and his love is done in good taste and is what I’d imagine a soft porn scene shot by Tim Burton to look like. When their love making is interrupted by the return of her late zombie husband (she wanted to make love over his grave in order to still be faithful to him!), Francesco experiences grief from losing his love for the first time. The bizarre occurrences that take place throughout the film where she repeatedly appears in Francesco’s life again in several reincarnations (including a zombie) is what really starts to cause the movie to be much more interesting than typical zombie fare. A certain part where Francesco loses her again after nearly giving up something very important reminds us that sometimes we shouldn’t take our current relationship for granted, as you may find yourself alone out of the blue again after losing the person you had just planned on spending the rest of your life with. 
In addition to Francesco’s love story is Gnaghi’s even more demented but hilarious love story about love after death. After Gnaghi’s crush, the mayor’s much too young daughter, Valentina (Fabiana Formica), is killed in a motorcycle accident and buried in the cemetery, Gnaghi realizes that this is his only chance to be with someone he was unable to win-over during the time she was alive. Gnaghi’s anticipation for her return is just great. In a voice over by Everett, Francesco tells Gnaghi, “patience Gnaghi, in love it’s the waiting that is the best part”, as Gnaghi plays the movie’s own nursery rhyme jingle on a coffin-violin while occasionally stopping to check his pocket watch in anticipation, knowing full-well that she’ll awaken seven days after her death. I won’t ruin what happens for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet, but it is one of the best love stories ever committed to celluloid. 

Someone I recommended this movie to a while back, watched it and claimed that it was good for the first half or so but eventually went nowhere. I have to disagree, because the movie didn’t just go nowhere. It went everywhere. Zombies, death, love, sex, severed heads walking around on their own, a cool looking grim reaper, poetry, the feeling of being inebriated without having to drink, and a whole lot more. It seems Soavi did go overboard, as the movie crams in as much as it can and fills every kind of void while nearly abandoning the initial premise in the later half. The solipsistic ending is a little head scratching but still gives off a really good climactic feeling, despite the fact that we don’t really know what we are climaxing to when it happens.  But with enough focus and open-mindedness, I still believe that many viewers could come away from DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE with a full understanding of the meaning of death and love. 


This is a really cool music video from François Hadji-Lazaro (the actor that plays Gnaghi). The video is wicked, with Picasso like antics and creepy dolls, and Hadji-Lazaro is actually pretty good. It gets a thumbs-up from me.

If that video wasn’t cool enough, than I hope there is much to be enjoyed from these pinups of Anna Falchi, who played the nameless love and cause for grief in Francesco’s life. 

This is old news now, but it was announced well over a year ago from FANGORIA that Soavi intended to develop a sequel to DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE with plans to shoot from sometime at the end of 2011 to January, 2012, which means that it should have been shot already. I truly hope that this is happening and that Everett and Hadji-Lazaro reprise their roles, because it would give the sequel a much better chance at working (just like the possible BEETLEJUICE sequel having a much better chance with Michael Keaton), and Falchi would be most welcome, too.  I cannot find any other news aside from the initial announcement, though. Anyone out there know anything? 


  1. This is a very good write-up on what I've long considered one of the absolute best movies of the entire decade of the 1990s.

    Lots of great, quotable dialogue in this one.

    "Y'know, you've got a really nice ossuary!"

    "Do they try to climb in at night?"

    "You can't shoot me--I'm the mayor!"

    "You threw up on me. How sweet."

    "Twice--the third one was faked."

    "Mind your business--I shall be eaten by whomever I please!"

    And on and on. As I start to list them, I realize that, in the category of "great, quotable dialogue"--as with Gnaghi's distinguishing marks on his ID card--one could just write "All."

    One of the layers of the picture is the idea of being trapped in a horror movie as an existential crisis. I've always looked at the ending as the characters coming to the literal end of the movie. "The rest of the world doesn't exist." The road ends, and there's nothing, because the movie is over. Gnaghi is portrayed as the half-wit sidekick who is secretly quite intelligent; he's the one who is content, and accepts the life they lead. Francesco is the one who is always letting it get to him, always letting it drive him to extremes, and who, at the end, tries to escape it. I looked at the dialogue reversal at the end as a comment on which view, in their predicament, is wiser.

    I don't know where a sequel would go, but I'm certainly very interested in the idea. Anna Falchi, who really is an extraordinary beauty, was dubbed in this film by a different actress, which I've never understood--her English is perfect, and her voice is much better than the one used. Any sequel should let her speak for herself.

    1. I read somewhere that this film borders on existentialism and I tried to analyze the ending in this context, but I just wasn’t satisfied with what I came up with and so I just decided to describe it as head scratching, because that’s basically what I was doing. I honestly think you may’ve nailed it though with your interpretation.

      Thinking back, every line of dialogue is a memorable quote.

      “If you finish fast, I’ll buy you an ice cream.”

      “He’s sweet, will you buy him daddy?”

      (Looks up to the sunny sky) “God the weather’s gone bad.”

      “They thought their life was ahead of them but in fact it had already passed them by.”

      “You will allow me to return, won’t you?” “you will allow me to kiss you, just once, won’t you?”

      “I just came to water the flowers on your poor father’s grave..." “Husband”

      “Plot thickens.”

      “First love doesn’t count, it’s last love that counts.”

      “Just yesterday, she was alive… Happy… Do you remember? Dear Gnaghi even threw up on her, and she took it so well.”

      “I better get the pick axe and shovel.”

      I think I’ll stop there, but I could just keep going.

      I haven’t thought too hard about it, but I think I’m with you in saying that this is one of the best films that the ‘90s has to offer, and for me is easily one of the best movies ever made, overall. It does have its critics though.

      Thank you for the compliment, I’m looking forward to knowing what you thought of tonight’s episode of TWD. Hope you continue until the end of the season, you are really on a roll :)

    2. It's certainly one of my all-time favorite films. I've intended to write about it for ages, but, like a lot of other things, I've just never gotten around to it.

      It makes me feel stupid that I never have, but have found the time to write 6 or 7 articles on THE WALKING DEAD. I've long been of the opinion that zombies are the most versatile critter in horror, and that one can use them to tell just about any kind of tale. This is one of the movies that shows their potential. It's sad to go from this back to TWD, which uses none of that potential, and seems to be entirely unaware of it (if I'm on a roll, with TWD, I'm like mold on a stale roll).

    3. Your articles on TWD are great reads and aside from you not thinking too highly of it, from what I see, TWD has brought your blog back to life. I enjoy the show and yet don’t think I’ve ever been able to disagree with anything you’ve written about it.

    4. No, I think you have the right idea, here, with your own little corner of the internet. My TWD articles all started sounding the same to me weeks ago. That makes me feel rather uncreative, and I've already been feeling uncreative the last 14 months.

      Still, they've proven incredibly popular. I wrote the first one in January, and 6 of the 7 (including the one from just last week) have already cracked the 10 most hit-upon articles in the entire life of the blog (about 3 1/2 years). My traffic is more than double what it was at its previous high point. I seem to have tapped into some popular sentiment.

      Since I have to watch the show anyway, I thought I'd just grit my teeth and continue, and, along the way, try to expose all the new readers to some of the things that interest me, but the Lina Romay piece is the only other thing I've written. This is sort of like the conundrum I'm facing with my own movie project at the moment; I'd like to make a CEMETERY MAN, but feel the need to make a TWD (not literally, in either case, but you see what I mean). I'd also really like to see TWD right itself. I just don't really have much hope of it happening, not anymore.

      When I'm inspired, I write a lot. Actually, I write a lot anyway; I just write better when I'm inspired. I've recently managed to get my hands on some movies that may spur me to something more than ruminations on the faults of TWD (I hope my own project will do the same).

      Most noteworthy, since I'm writing here, is that, not long ago, you had an enthusiastic write-up, here, for ALL THE COLORS OF THE NIGHT, so I tracked that one down. I'm not a big fan of gialli, in general. As I see it, they're a great idea that, in practice, usually ends up being handled badly. COLORS didn't sound like a standard-issue one, and you seemed to be quite pleased with it, so I thought I'd give it a try. I have another with it, 7 DEATHS IN A CAT'S EYE, but it sounds as much like a gothic horror as a straight giallo, which is just fine with me (and Margheriti is great, anyway). Other items: HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD and Lenzi's NIGHTMARE CITY (I've seen them both, but not for many years), HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, L'AGE D'OR (Bunuel always makes me smile), all of the ILSA movies (which, believe it or not, I've never seen), the 1990 restoration of Pastrone's CABIRIA (I've only ever seen the really short version that floated around for decades), Buster Keaton's THREE AGES (one of the few Keatons I've never seen), JONATHAN OF THE BEARS (one I've wanted to see ever since KEOMA), and Jess Franco's THE DEMONS. Enough to keep me busy for an afternoon or so.

      This turned into a rambling thing that went all over the board, and often far afield of the relevant subject, for which I apologize. I pause before hitting "Publish." But...

  2. One of the best Italian horror of the last twenty years! It is true, it is also an existentialist.
    Here in Italy, there is confusion between the character Dylan Dog and Francesco Dellamorte, both Scalvi, similar, and Rupert Everett inspireds Tiziano for physical appearance of Dyland Dog.

    1. Hi Luigi! I’m happy to hear from you. I’ve read about Dylan Dog comics and I do see the resemblance to Everett. I haven’t gotten around to seeing the movie Dylan Dog: Dead of Night yet.

    2. Hi Giovanni, thanks!
      I saw Dead of Night in the theater: disappointment, is a far cry from the comic! Instead a group of italian guys are creating an amateur project that does not look bad, should be more faithful!
      Instead Francesco Dellamorte has been made ​​well, i have here the book, very nice!
      Did you like the comic of Dylan Dog? Here he was for years the best selling comic!

    3. I’ve only read about the Dylan Dog comics and haven’t read any yet, but I’ve just ordered off for The Dylan Dog Case Files at a good price I wasn’t too attracted to Dead of Night and I had a feeling that it was going to be disappointing. Can’t wait to read this when it comes in :)

    4. Let me know how to find those stories, Dylan is a legend here, but Iialso know
      that has been reworked for the U.S., with some changes. It remains
      however, a great comic, deep and with social themes and quotes from movies and books. ;)

  3. Just followed your Necrotic Cinema blog. I wasn’t following this particular blog previously, but I’ve been following The Uranium Café though.

  4. This film is definitely on the top of my to-watch list. I saw Michele Soavi's THE CHURCH a while ago and really enjoyed how stylish it was (despite how muddled up the plot was). I just watched THE SECT two hours ago and I loved it. It has a lot of interesting themes and symbols (like the use of fire and water) and it's a pleasure to see Jamie Leigh Curtis' sister as well as one very smart bunny!

    Anyway, I've heard wonderful things about this film so I definitely need to check it out. It's a shame that Soavi stopped making horror films.

    1. I don't know why, but this film changed my life. I've seen it numerous times and I never grow tired of it. I'm definitely eager to know what you think when you see it.

      THE SECT is awesome too and I hope to cover it some day. With THE CHURCH I enjoy analyzing that one in fragments, for me it's like a collection of ideas that don't necessarily fit well together but are like a compilation of stylish horror scenes. Sort of like a bunch of mini-masterpieces.

  5. I came in with high expectations and I left...thoroughly satisfied! This is definitely Soavi's best horror film to date. It was shockingly dark yet lighthearted at the same time and there were just so many stand out scenes (like Death manifesting from the burning papers and the sex on the grave). I don't care what anyone says, Rupert Everett is an awesome actor! Special mention also goes to Gnaghi!

    I also saw StageFright: Aquarius which I found hi-larious with Barbara Cupisti's wig and that weird barn owl killer.
    However, my personal favourite Soavi film would still be The Sect because of the cute bunnies and the esoteric imagery.

    1. I had a feeling that you'd like it. I think the only thing that hurts it is what seems like a lack of direction, at least for the later part, but the movie is so fun that none of that seems to matter.
      STAGEFRIGHT had some great horror scenes but aside from Cupisti and Radice's characters, I thought the cast was a little boring. THE SECT is magnificent and I'm actually planning a review for that next. Stay tuned ;)

  6. This film is so underrated. Good review

  7. As an earlier commenter wrote, Rupert Everett's physical appearance was the inspiration for Tiziano Sclavi when he created the paranormal ('nightmare') investigator Dylan Dog. I have a collection of the comics from 1992 sent to me by a friend in Italy. Unlike American comics, the early Dylan Dog books were 6x8," black and white art, 100 pages per story. There are so many great stories that I had hoped Everett would have made an actual Dylan Dog film after the excellent, beautifully made Dellamorte Dellamore. The character of Dellamorte pretty much wears the same clothing as Dylan Dog and even carries the same revolver. The American Dylan Dog: Dead of Night film in 2011 with Brandan Routh was a disaster in every way. At this point, 24 years after Dellamorte Dellamore, I have no faith in a sequel with Everett in the starring role.