Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Buon' compleanno, Ernesto Gastaldi!

Rare photo of Ernesto Gastaldi, taken during a 1956 trip to Spain.

For some reason, his birth date is not recorded on the IMDb, but today marks the 74th birthday of screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, who in the literal sense was arguably the most important auteur of the Italian popular cinema of the 1960s and '70s. He worked for all the great Italian horror directors from Freda (THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK) to Bava (THE WHIP AND THE BODY) to Polselli (THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE) to Margheriti (THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH) to Lenzi (SO SWEET... SO PERVERSE) to Martino (THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH) -- and, in my opinion, had a knack for enticing titles second only to Ian Fleming. Unlike his more specializing colleagues, Gastaldi also left his mark on such diverse genres as Italian sci-fi (THE 10th VICTIM), sword-and-sandal adventure (THE GIANTS OF ROME), erotic drama (SECRETS OF A CALL GIRL), police thrillers (FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION), and of course the Spaghetti Western (MY NAME IS NOBODY). He also did uncredited script work on such pictures as SODOM AND GOMORRAH and ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.

Especially in this day and age, when 50 is being called "the new 30", it's disheartening to me that this protean artist -- now "the new 54" -- hasn't written a new film since 1998, especially when he tells me that he has a number of unproduced scripts from his heyday littering his file cabinets, including one that he calls "the most perfect thriller machine I ever concocted." Quentin Tarantino (or any other filmmaker aspiring to hew some acreage of their own from the turf QT has claimed for himself) should pick up the phone, go back to the source, and call this maestro out of his premature retirement.

Ernesto Gastaldi in 2004.
I've had the good fortune to be a personal correspondent of Ernesto's for perhaps 15 years now, and I'm still wowed when I realize that the pen-pal who occasionally sends me friendly encouragement is the same fellow responsible for so much amazing cinema -- movies that, without him, would never have existed. WEREWOLF IN A GIRL'S DORMITORY... THE MURDER CLINIC... ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK... THE CYNIC, THE RAT AND THE FIST... AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK... TORSO. He invented Sartana.
I don't know what Ernesto is doing tonight, but I hope he is surrounded by the warmth of family and friends, enjoying himself and bound for still more adventures in filmmaking.

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