City of the Living Dead : Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti interview.

Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti interview.

Interview with Dardano Sachetti and Elisia Livia Brigani
By Jean-Marc Stacciari and Pierre Bény
Translated by Frédérick Durand
NT = Note by Frédérick Durand

How did you start to work with Lucio Fulci ?

DS : I met him in 1975, at the time of The Psychic. Back then, he was working with Gianviti, on this screenplay based on a novel. The producers sent me on that project. We completely re-wrote the screenplay together. It was a rich an interesting collaboration. At the time, I usually worked alone in my room. I had an idea and I worked on it. With Fulci, it was different. Every day, we would meet, talk during 2, 3 or 4 hours, brainstorming, exposing ideas, discussing about them. Then, we would try to organize these ideas in order to build the story. It was very interesting for me as I had never worked that way before. I brought him a new conception of the fantastique cinema. It was a « useful mariage ». The Psychic is a fearful thriller, based on a precise and refined final conclusion. I like the film very much, it's a great giallo that was disadvantaged by the production the actors, costumes and ambience have a photo-novel style and are not in perfect adequation with the dramatic charge of the story. Then, I worked again with Fulci in 1978 for Zombie.

Did you write the film because of the success of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead ?

DS : No. Here's how it happened : during the summer of 1978, a producer asked me to write a story with adventure, western and fantastique elements. He was a dedicated fan of Tex Willer, an italian comic strip in which there's fantastique episodes. In one of the episodes, Tex must fight against zombies. He wanted an adventure story of that kind. The Romero/Argento film was released, if I remember correctly, at the end of 1978-beginning of 79. Zombie was shot in may 1979, but when I wrote it, Dawn of the Dead was not released yet. I imagined a fantastique story set in the Carabbean islands, a classic adventure film with no links to the urban zombies of Romero. When the screenplay was finished, we added two scenes : the beginning and the end as you know them, two urban sequences that give the impression that the zombies invading New York are the same than those of Romero. Initially, Zombie is an adventure film conceived like a giallo, because, in its first part, people are killed but we don't see any zombies. There's always that strange disquieting presence, and when we discover that it's not a killer, but a zombie, horror and fear progress. I tried to conceive a giallo slowly becoming a fantastique film. It was ideal for Fulci as he had directed many giallos, but had no experience as a horror film maker, so he could begin in the genre with the best way. In its first half, Zombie contains a powerful suspense and, in the second, it becomes a pure horror film. That's with that film that was born Lucio Fulci « Godfather of Gore ». The success of Zombie, particularly on an international plan, created a series of productive hypothesises for Fulci and we followed up with other successfull films, despite all the barriers and problems met by Lucio in Italy. These problems were essentially due to italian critics and « official » directors who didn't like adventure and fantastique, preferring the comedies.

Why are you uncredited in the opening titles of Zombie ?

DS : During that period, I was working with De Laurentiis, I had an exclusive contract with him. I couldn't work elsewhere. But, finally, the films with De Laurentiis never happened, and I hadn't wrote anything since 7 or 8 months. When I was proposed Zombie, I accepted, but, in order to not take risks, I signed it under my wife's name, Elisa Briganti, with whom I had written the story.

Do both of you sit around a table to write ?

DS : No, our work is daily. When we live with someone, we don't sit around a table to write. While cooking, we speak, in a very relaxed fashion. There's a continual exchange of ideas. We are telling the scenes to each other before writing them.

So Lucio Fulci is for nothing in the story of Zombie ?

DS : No. The screenplay was written in september 1978 and Lucio was hired in march 1979. Enzo G. Castellari was firstly supposed to shoot it. Then, fortunately, Castellari refused because he was not offered enough money. We called Fulci. When he came in, he found the subject and the script ready. Fulci never wrote any screenplay (Fulci would probably came back from the grave to correct that affirmation if he could ! NT). He was an excellent reader of screenplays, he understood them very well. If there was en error, he would find it immediately and would say : « This scene does not work ». I never met a director who read a screenplay better than Fulci, someone who was that able to decrypt it and underline its weak points. Fulci was a very lucid director. Even though he could be confused regarding the creation of a subject, when he had a screenplay in his hands, he'd become an implacable cinematic machine. His own story is typical of the italian cinema, where many people meet to exchange ideas, each one of them bringing with him a part of the story. On a set, Lucio was able to bring out the best of the scripts : some of the films adapted from my stories look so good because of his vision he didn't change a coma, but he was able to transcend what was written. Some other directors are not able to understand a screenplay and reduce its range ; they adapt the screenplay in a rather dull way.

What are the origins of City of the Living Dead ?

DS : Because of a reaction to the fact that the producer of Zombie, following the huge success of the film, paradoxally decided to not work again with us. Lucio contacted the firm Medusa and proposed them one of his old ideas, on which I started to work. For this reason, City is one of Fulci's weakest films (Oh ! Oh ! Seems that MANY Fulci fans wouldn't agree with this. NT), because it's half an old-fashioned story, with a small village, a curse, and half a modern story filled with innovations. The best Fulci film is The Beyond, because it's more modern. City is conventional, with aspects similar to Freda and Bava. We did City quickly, just to not let the occasion pass, but we didn't believe in it very much. The following films were much more studied, directed with care and attention, until Manhattan Baby, that was a great misfortune for the producer. Manhattan Baby, trashed by everybody, could have been Poltergeist two years before Tobe Hooper (Does Sachetti know that Poltergeist was not shot after Manhattan Baby ? NT). The film needed a big budget, it should have costed 1,2 milliards of liras, and we only got half of that, due to financial problems. All the electronic special FX were suppressed and the film became very poor visually. For this reason, is doesn't work.

Do you assist to the shootings ?

DS : No. With Fulci, we would resolve the problems before the shooting. As long as the screenplay had problems, we didn't shoot. When it was fixed up, he no longer needed me. Fulci asked for me only one time, during the shooting of Manhattan Baby. The sets and mood had completely changed, so we had to rewrite an entire scene as it no longer worked out well.

How much time did you take to write a screenplay ?

DS : For City, we discussed during a month and a half. The screenplays were written quickly about three weeks to write and three other weeks to polish them, fix them correctly and eventually add new ideas.

What is Lucio Fulci for the italian cinema ?

DS : The official cinema never had a great consideration for him (Strangely, Catriona Mc Coll always said the contrary, that Fulci, as a person, was appreciated in the most intellectual milieus of the italian cinema. NT) and he ignored it. The technicians had a great esteem for him. The official critics have always caused problems to Fulci those critics who, nowadays, attack Natural Born Killers or Tarantino to denounce their violence and their lack of « educational » content.

Did you always want to write fantastique stories ?

DS : That taste for the macabre may be hereditary. My grand-mother dug up the cadaver of her husband three times, as she couldn't believe he was dead. Anyway, I love the fantastique cinema. When I was 8, I went to see Gordon Douglas' Them (1956) where atomic radiations created giant ants. That film hit me in an incredible way, I saw it 4 times the same day. Then, I read Lovecraft, Poe and an italian SF series titled « Urania ».

You also worked with Mario Bava

DS : Yes, he was a very funny man. On the contrary of Fulci, who had an agressive personality, Bava was very flexible and ironic. Mario always put something entertaining, sympathetic, in his work. With Fulci, everything was adrenalin-driven. With Mario, it was completely different. He was much more poetic. With Fulci, we had a stronger and realistic relationship, a constant combat but always very creative.

Do you think that Bava is more representative than Fulci regarding the italian fantastique cinema ?

DS : Yes, but not in the way where Bava would have done better things, simply because he obtained better critics than Fulci. I think Bava was more brilliant than Lucio from a technical point of view, considering the photography and a certain intuition, Bava was a genious. In my opinion, Bava had a default : he was not a director. He directed films almost in spite of him. He loved cinema, he was the best at SPFX and centring. To hear him talk about cinema was an enchantment. Fulci, on the other hand, was a director, someone who tells a story, on the set, who makes movies. On a certain point of view, Mario was superior to Lucio, but the latter was very much concrete, in opposition to Mario who was chasing fantastique things. Mario had a real point of view about life, he maintained a philosophical relationship with it.

You worked with Mario Bava for Bay of Blood and Shock.

DS : Yes, and on a film that was never made because Mario died. It was to be a science-fiction project called Anomalia ; I wrote the screenplay. Corman was supposed to produce it with Fulvio Lucisano. Corman read the screenplay and I still have his annotations. It would have been very interesting, but Mario died two months before the beginning of the shooting.

Is the Fulci of The Psychic different from the Fulci of House by the Cemetery ?

DS : Yes, very different. When I met Fulci in 1975, he was celebrated, he had a good status. Then, in 1977, he had many problems in his personal life : his daughter had a severe equitation accident, his wife left him, he had financial problems. All these events hardened him. The violence he put in his films was the one he met in his life. At the end of his life, however, he changed ; he was softer, very comprehensive and human.

Why did your collaboration with him end ?

DS : For nothing... For reasons independant of our desires, simply because the italian production had stopped.

Fulci had directed musical films...

DS : Yes, in the 50s and 60s, he did those films with Adriano Celentano who, at that time, was a successful singer.

(Elisa Briganti intervenes...)

How do you explain that, in the italian horror films, and in the ones you've written with Dardano Sachetti, there's a morbid aspect absent from the american horror films ?

EB : Beyond this unhealty aspect, we have a different kind of invention and creativity, with more inventivity. I don't think of a more specific term : a curiosity, a different opening towards reality and fantastique. Maybe it's a part of our national characteristics. In other cinematographic genres, we also reached another proceeding, in particular towards american cinema. When we write, Dardano and me, our first intention is not put to put the accent of the macabre aspect. Our goal is simply to find original ideas, new forms of overthrow and fear. There's probably a different emotional charge that we're able to bring out.

DS : There's a simple element that distinguishes the anglo-saxon cinema from ours : catholic religion. The problem of the protestants is very simple : in front of you, you have a representation of Evil (Moby Dick for example). It can be destroyed. It's clear. In this cinema, there's always Evil on one side (incarnated by a killer, a monster, an extraterrestrial or supernatural element). You must fight it, it's Saint George vs the Dragon. When you kill the Dragon, you're saved. The catholic religion, on the contrary, brings us to repress certain things, the fight against Evil is not direct.

The Evil is within you, not outside, you must fight your bad instincts, repress them or outdo them. I always tried to write anglo-saxon stories, that's why most of these films based on my stories work well abroad. The directors put forward the sadistic side. But you must not forget that I grew up in a catholic country and for this reason, even without knowing it, I breathed that culture, its symbolic, its metaphors. Our cemeteries are different than the British ones, there's this baroque aspect... Besides, the director put his own vision.

We always find this ambivalence. On one hand, when you use an anglo-saxon iconography that's not yours, you're the weakest : it's obvious that you use stranger elements that you don't fully possess. On the other hand, there's what you have in the heart of you, that can emerge only at this moment because there has been provocation. If you want, that explains why, for the comedies - that is the contrary of horror - we're always vulgar, never elegant of brilliant. Our comedies are always extremely violent, heavy, vulgar because we're used to repress ourselves, so when we explode, that's spectacular.

Many people know you outside the italian frontiers.

EB : We receive more phone calls and mail from France and USA, from people who know perfectly well all our films, from people who remember things that we have forgotten. Dardano has written for the most important genre directors in Italy the viewers who like this kind of films remember his name in spite of them, because they always see it in the opening credits (laughs).

(Elisa Brigani speaks :) I also think that he (Dardano) invented certain things. It is probable that films like Bay of Blood have inspired Friday the 13th. So many things were born in his spirit, and sometimes in mine. His reputation abroad is deserved, even though he's much more known there than in Italy. Very often, script-writers are underrated in comparison to directors, actors or SPFX. In my opinion, in horror, thriller or giallos, the screenplay is very important. It is obvious, though, that the SPFX must be efficient enough. You also have to consider that many of these films are genuine wagers. They are conceived with a derisive budget, actors that are sometimes extremely mediocre, a shooting schedule so brief that achieving a film in these conditions - even though it's a terribly bad one - is almost a miracle. That's why it bothers me when these films are harshly criticized : some of them are objectively bad, but they are nevertheless little miracles. They contain inspired inventions, much more than the million dollars films because, in these A-films, if something goes wrong, they redo it, they prepare it during months.

When you meet directors, do you work with them ?

EB : Yes, of course. I worked almost exclusively with Dardano. We work together, then he usually discusses with the director. For these kind of films, the writing schedule is very brief. We write the screenplays together, then the film is shot without our implication. Often, the directors have stated that it was their ideas. They have indeed decided how to film them, but the ideas, they found them on paper. Fulci was very sympathetic, with a difficult personality from time to time. We have seen him before his death as we have worked again with him.

For what film ?

EB : The Wax Mask, and for one of the TV-Movies we had written for Dario.

On a professional level, what are the differences between Fulci and Argento ?

EB : I never worked with Argento, in opposition to Dardano. With Lucio, my collaboration was efficient, even though there were confrontations due to his personality. His was rude, complex, but fascinating. Lucio was very cultured, he had the facility to deepen things, a great capacity to understand the various aspects of human nature.

Isn't it difficult to be a woman in the field of the fantastique ?

EB : No. I'd say it's difficult to be a woman in the world of script-writing, as in all other fields of cinema, but not particularily in the genre. I even find there's sometimes more respect and care towards the women who work in the genre. I have a particular position as I'm working in the context of a couple - I have a male protection that's also a filter. I know female script-writers who work alone and are able to do this work in spite of the difficult reality of italian cinema.

You too have imagined very cruel scenes...

EB : It's a kind of challenge that I find funny. To imagine a cruel, heavy scene, a terror scene, it's a way to release your inconscious fears. That's a challenge in front of the difficulty to awake emotions that are buried deep inside you. The most important fonction of fantastique cinema is its releasing aspect (These words echo those of Fulci on the Fulci's Horror & Thriller CD : « Remember that fear is the oldest feeling of mankind, and the most releasing. » NT). The goal is not to cultivate violence or to suscitate negative emotions ; it's the contrary, as the fantastique releases us from fears, sensations inside of us, it makes them live on the screen, towards the imagination, and, by this mean, render our reality easier.

Do you sometimes suffer from a lack of inspiration when you write a screenplay ?

EB : Yes, and sometimes I also have too much ideas. Then, I must choose and it's difficult because when you choose a way, you must go on and you're never quite sure of being in the right direction in order to bring the characters where you wanted to. As for the lack of inspiration, the process is the same then when I have too much ideas : I talk about it around me that's why it's preferable not to be alone when you write.

According to you, what's the best Fulci film ?

EB : The Beyond is one of the best among those we've written. I also like The Psychic a lot, even though the film is not very appreciated by genre fans. It's a rich film, stylistically cleaner, more linear than the others, with less « highs » and « downs » - that's why I enjoy it.

You have also imagined the story of House by the Cemetery, with its heavy finale.

EB : Yes, and I would say - maybe I'm wrong - that this ending is kind of ironic, because after this unexpected « heavy » conclusion, the doubt triumphs, not the Evil. On a rational point of view, that's more disquieting - it's also closer to the true nature of these films, that's to explore our inconscient, our faults, to deepen them and make them explode. For these reasons, the ending mustn't « reassure » the viewer but instead should leave a feeling of disquieting.

Don't you think that Demons 2 is inferior to the first episode ?

EB : Yes. There has been agitated discussions about the screenplay. We have revised it, but it didn't resolve the problems of the film.

What can you say about Dario Argento ?

DS : He adores horror, but his true universe is the thriller. On the contrary of what many people think, Dario is funny, very spirited and ironic. He's very observant, he could have directed many other films, like Kubrick. Dario wouldn't have his thematics, but he would have diversified his work and would not be classified today, forced to always make the same film. He could have directed moody films like Alien and not necessarily thrillers with a killer and murders (The same thing could be told about Hitchcock (as well as about many other directors), but no one dares because he's so much an institutionnalized icon ! NT). Dario was labelled and people expect these films from him. He's forced to make movies with a knife that appears suddenly and in the end, we discover that it was cause by a childish traumatism with the implication of the mother. He's forced to always work in the same register. If Dario was on a more opened marked - USA for instance - he could have shot a film like The Fly (Error ! Trauma was a US film, NT). Dario is very close to Cronenberg via certain aspects. These 2 directors have made very violent films. Dario adores the genre and exerced an important influence on an international plan. As a director, he teached many things to many people.

Were you implicated in Inferno ?

DS : Here's what happened. Dario's father and brother were producing the film. They called me. I read the screenplay because there were small problems. I had two reunions with Dario, but I didn't write anything. There's not a single idea that's mine in Inferno. Dario himself settled the problems of the screenplay.

Can you talk about your beginning in cinema ?

DS : My first subject adaptated on screen was Cat O' Nine Tails, my first screenplay was Bay of Blood. Until 1981, 48 of the 50 subjects I wrote became films - it was a very good average. Then, there was an accumulation of non-used screenplays, because of the reduction of the market. In the 70s and 80s, we produced in Italy about 250 films per year. Now, we shoot about 70. Before, I wrote 5 or 6 films a year. Now, 1 or 2 only. When I do not work, I write for my personal pleasure.

EB : Yes, stories with more freedom, less tied to production constraints, more difficult to adapt, more beautiful, sometimes.

DS : As for Cat O' Nine Tails, I wrote it following my own initiative, thinking that Argento would never do a comedy. I wrote 7 or 8 pages, gave him the synopsys and he liked it. Then Dino de Laurentiis had me under an exclusivity contract, and he went to the USA. I stayed here in Italy, so I began the series of crime films with Lenzi and Massi.

When did you start to work with Elisa ?

DS : In 75/76.

EB : We're together since 1972. I finished psychology studies and the subject of my thesis was creativity I worked with children during that time. It was my theme of predilection, then I realized it was more interesting to create than to study creativity. I understood it while living with Dardano, I was passionate with his work. I already liked cinema and literature, so I started to work on a curiosity basis, to participate. As I was passionate by this, I continued to collaborate with him.

What is the first screenplay written by both of you ?

EB : Hard to tell... I began by doing little things : I read everything he was writing.

Do you particularily like the psychological aspect of the characters ?

EB : Back then, yes. Now, I'm more interesting in building a story. Dardano, who has not studied psychology, has an important sense of observation. He's often better than me to establish the best psychological developments of the characters.

Regarding the interesting Midnight Horror of Lamberto Bava and as for Ratman : from who comes the idea of the sexual mutilations, only briefly mentioned by Bava, probably because it was a TV-movie ? (Unless I'm wrong, the interviewers are referring to You'll Die at Midnight when they talk about « Midnight Horror » - NT).

DS : It's my idea and I'm glad to learn you enjoy it. Only one critic has talked about Midnight Horror as being Lamberto Bava's best film. It was a great and beautiful giallo, created to be a made for TV movie, so we had a very small budget. It was shot in three weeks only... A giallo must be done with great care, because you have to create an atmosphere and the details are important to problematize certain situations. I based my ideas on the Florence Monster, a serial killer that was very talked about in 83/84, namely to build the character of the female psychologist of the film. The film itself is not bad, it contains nice situations, but there were 2 or 3 over-commercial scenes with a research of « effect for the effect's sake », because when you shoot a little film, the fear of not being good enough makes you often choose the easiest solution. You think that if you use the « effects » at a maximum, the public will be satisfied. Regarding Camineo's film (Ratman) I never saw it, it was produced under strange circumstances : with each week, the budget became smaller. The subject was not bad, evoking difference and monstruosity. There was also a tentative to create the same ambience than in Zombie, as the story was located in a Carabbean island.

EB : The problem was there, a lack of money - a lack of time also, both for the writing and the shooting.

DS : Imagine that we give 600 000 dollars to Cronenberg to shoot The Fly, that he has 3 weeks to do it, with Paolo Malco replacing Jeff Goldblum (Malco is namely the star of House by the Cemetery). Or you give a million dollars to Spielberg and 5 weeks to make Jurassic Park. How would the final result look ? We have to take a part of the fault too, because, knowing from the start there would be no money, we should work on a less ambitious and simpler level. The other problem is the production and most of all the distribution... They are so afraid that the film could not work that as soon as an american film gains success, they use elements from that film. Besides, it can only be a part of the title...

Was it the case for Blastfighter, a Rambo rip-off ?

DS : The story of Blastfighter is more complicated. Fulci was supposed to direct it. I had written a science-fiction story. The story was set in the future, in a moving city where the energy (that represented the most important thing) was missing. There was a city constituted of a conglomerate of cars, hundreds of bodies of cars that were moving on an hypothetical desert and, in that context, there was somekind of western of the future, where people were killing each others to possess that energy. (Maybe you're scratching your head with perplexity while reading this. Don't worry, you're not alone. I was doing the same thing when translating this confused résumé. We recognize our dear Dardano - an explosion of strange ideas, clichés and surrealism mixed together in a bizarre an apparently incoherent fashion to give a typically Sachettian result - NT).
Fulci had signed two contracts to make two films at the same time, Blastfighter and Rome 2072 : New Gladiators. He hoped to anticipate the first of one month, and to postpone the other of a month, so that he could direct both films. At one time, the producers of Blastfighter understood what was going on and this constation ended up in a violent quarrel between Fulci and them. I had also a part in that quarrel, not because of me, but because of Fulci : each time I brought him the screenplay, he was saying that it was not correct, to gain some more time. The film was not shot, but it was already announced under that title at the Mifed (an annual international film market), so they had to do a film with that title. They called Lamberto Bava, but there was a problem of rights with the screenplay and Fulci didn't want to give up, so we conceived a new, different story.

We like a lot another of your movies, Shark, rosso nell'oceano, with that animal that's a cross between a white shark and a giant octopus, as monstrous as a dinosaur and with the intelligence of a dolphin.

DS : Regarding this film, and to help you to comprehend in which conditions we worked on it, I'll reveal something that I should maybe not tell. An evening, in a garden rented by the production firm, we sat, Lamberto Bava, me, the cinematographer, the assistant-director and another person. We took an aquarium-shaped transparent basin full of water and we put it on a small table. On one side, the camera was rolling, on the other, there were two wood planks. Between the two planks, there was a shirt filled with pieces of meat, sausages, etc. I held a little pump immersed in the basin and when Lamberto said :
« Action », one of us was tearing the shirt with the two clawed planks of wood. At this moment, I squeezed the little pump and the false blood was squirting. When you watch the film, the images that you see, those of the monster biting a character, were shot in that way ! The film was shot in the weeks in the Caribs.

Without the animal ?

EB : The animal, it was the two planks of wood. Without money and time, we're forced to invent solutions that finally, on the screen, look credible enough. Of course, Jurassic Park it ain't, but behind all this, there's an idea, a little « plus » beyond that technical perfection gained with a lot of time and money.

DS : It's obvious that if you compare Jurassic Park and Shark, that's a massacre ! But when you check the end credits of an american film, you see 300 names - in an italian film, that's 25. Let's get back to The Fly. This film is a reflexion about society, science, knowledge, the desire of Man to dominate nature and the capacity of the latter to rebel itself. This interest for nature can often be found with the Americans. Here, in Italy, we have a discourse concerning the individual fears. Dario Argento is very strong for this, he has understood that the killer is impersonal ; his films are schizophrenic, apparently.
During the first half of the film, the killer does not exist, it's a gloved hand with and knife, that's all. Then, there's a little part, in the middle section, where he develops a plot to prepare you to a final explanation where he will introduce a psychanalytical discourse. Dario has perfectly understood that for the Italians, fear is impersonal. This is not a rational fear driving you to something ; it's like the fear of the wolf, of the man in black, of the ogre, this fear that makes you covering your head with your sheet. It's a fear due to an interior emotivity, different of the fear searched and developed in other countries. We're brought to do a certain type of scene that are not dicted by the story, but by Fear.
Often, the story does not work very well globally, but there are scenes, that, taken separately, are quite efficient. The Americans, for example, are very much interested in the psychology of the killer. In Seven, during the first half, many murders are commited but we don't see the moment when they are perpetrated, only the context, that helps to understand the personality of the killer who will then manifest himself to explain his reasons. In Italy, that's the contrary : we show how the victims are killed, the personality of the killer is not used as an instrument to suscitate the fear.

What does the zombie represent for you ?

DS : The zombie, in reality, is the remorse, the dead that's coming back... When you have commited sins for which you must pay, someone arrives... on a certain point of view, the zombie is laic, as the other fears are religious. That's what renders the zombie so scary. In face of a religious fear or danger, you can escape by two ways : either you are very religious so you think : « I confess myself, my soul will be in peace and I am saved » ; or you are atheist and you think you don't believe in the devil and all this does not concern you.
The Exorcist, for instance, has very much interested me - not the part tied with the devil (I don't believe in that), but the part referring to Man in his psychic and physical decadence.

What are your favorite screenplays ?

DS : My favorite one was never directed... in fact, it was shot by Lamberto Bava, but in a different way. It was somekind of sequel to The Postman always Ring Twice. Fulci was supposed to direct it, but there were problems. It was a perfect story with a strong tension and a fierce wickedness. The story : a killer couple kills the husband, bury him and the pregnant woman give birth to the child of the dead man. Ten years after, an unknown man presents himself in the same way that the killer had presented himself before : he makes an irruption in the middle of this family that re-created itself differently with the time. He will weave a strange relationship with the child and avenge himself in a terrifying way.

You have participated in the last project of Fulci, The Max Wask...

DS : Three years ago, I worked on a Fulci/Argento project, a re-make of The Mummy. Dario didn't like the synopsis. Then, they decided to make The Wax Mask. They wrote a screenplay on which I didn't collaborate. Fulci was supposed to shoot 2 TV-Movies in the context of a TV-series presented by Dario, but it was never done as the TV did not give the green light to the project. Wax Mask has encountered various problems that postpone the beginning of its elaboration. Three days before Fulci's death, Dario said to him that everything was OK... I think this joy killed Fulci !

Did Fulci feel a certain form a recognition towards you ?

DS : Yes, but he never admitted it in public. Like every directors, he took all the merits for himself. However, we always worked very well together. We did 8 or 9 films together, we had projects for the future - that prooves that there was a good esteem and relationship. Sometimes, there was hard confrontation between us, but it was always due to the producers who had been a nuisance in every point of view. Because of them, the confrontation was casted between Lucio and me because Lucio exacted certain things that, he said, would have caused him prejudice if I hadn't done them... But I didn't do them as the producer was no longer paying me.

What was the subject of Anomalia. This screenplay of yours was supposed to be directed by Mario Bava in 1980 ?

DS : That was a sci-fi film. A spaceship, searching for a lost « astronef » (spaceship) sending a permanent signal, arrives on a planet. There, the astronauts discover a high wall that divides the universe in two. On this wall, all the demons of the universe are carved. A little door's on it. They open it and find themselves in the beyond, at the heart of the anti-material. They enter in something that does not exist and when, finally, they are able to escape, all the monsters carved on the wall will come alive. That's the subject of the film.

I'd like to know more about the genesis of The Bronx Warriors (Castellari) ?

DS : It's an idea of the producer De Angelis. Walter Hill's The Warriors was just out in Italy. De Angelis asked me to write a story based on this title, The Bronx Warriors. 20 % of the film was shot in the Bronx, and 80 % in Tivoli, in a career. When I work to order, like in this case, I try to introduce new elements (on the contrary of some others who completely copy the original film). In Bronx Warriors, there's sci-fi elements. The action was transposed in the future. It was not a social problem of the youth, like in The Warriors, but something different, more adventurous. It was a very simple screenplay, left to De Angelis and directed by Castellari. All these productions suffered from a big handicap : they were made following the possibilities of the instant, which is to say that the director would modify the screenplay, adapting it to what could be done. All these films were made in a not very professional way. If some of them are good, it's due to the skills of people like Fulci or Castellari who have succeeded, despite the chaotic organization, to accomplish miracles, to adapt themselves. Fulci was very competent with that exercise.

What can you tell us about your work on Soavi's The Church ?

DS : I wrote the screenplay as being Demons 3. It was changed (the priest was added afterwards) and the atmosphere was modified, because, in the beginning, it was supposed to be an ironic film. It's partially good. Lamberto Bava was supposed to shoot it, but he was called to do the series High Tension for Reteitalia at this time (4 films : School of Fear ; Prince of Terror ; Eyewitness and The Man Who Didn't Want to Die). Michele Soavi didn't like the idea of filming Demons 3 so the story was modified and the final result is hybrid. The idea of the final monster is Soavi's, but the initial prologue, set in the Middle-Ages with the knights is taken from the original screenplay.

Don't you find that The Church is made with obvious care ?

DS : Michele is very talented. His style is elegant, modern, on a technical and formal point of view. He has not totally find his way, however. Except maybe for Dellamorte Dellamore.

We enjoyed a lot his first film, Bloody Bird.

DS : Luigi Montefiori (aka George « Anthropophagus » Eastman) wrote the screenplay for it. At the time, he came to see me, saying : « I have a story, but I don't fully like it. Maybe we could rewrite it together ». I have nothing to do with Bloody Bird, that said. Luigi is my friend and I didn't want to create problems with him. I have a strange relationship of love and hate with this film.

According to you, what is the best TV-movie of Lamberto Bava ?

DS : The Cavern of the Golden Rose (NT : Now playing on Showcase !)... I don't like it in a particular way, but I must admit something : Lamberto discovered that there was a lack regarding the TV-fantastique for children. He is becoming the modern Walt Disney of italian TV. I'm not commenting the quality of his work, but he occupies a place that no one else had before. The Golden Rose gained a huge success towards Europe, France, Germany, Spain. The last series was shot in Cua, it's a co-production with Spain. In Europe, there's no TV for children, every show is imported from USA and Japan. These films could have been better, but at least Lamberto did them.

EB : Lamberto told me he likes to film this series, independantly from the fact of having found an economically winning way. He loves Tolkien and all this literature.

DS : Everything has probably began with The Neverending Story.

Do you have the impression of belonging to the memory of the italian fantastique cinema ?

DS : When these films were made, we didn't have the impression of building something. They were not made to reach a precise goal. A posteriori, we realize our implication in the elaboration of somekind of patrimony. At the time of Zombie, fearing of having to pay us more, Fulci and me, the producers didn't tell us about the worldwide success of the film. Now, to affirm that I'm the « memory of the italian fantastique cinema » is senseless. In Italy, no one's talking about it. Neither Argento, nor Bava say that in interviews. No one's mentioning us. That's strange as I did 11 or 12 films with Lamberto Bava, 8 or 9 with Fulci and 3 or 4 with Argento, neglecting all the others. Of the 40 most important italian horror films made between 1975 and 85, I've written 25.

EB : The strangers are talking about it... The Americans say that you invented genres, underlining the fact that you've worked with the greatest italian directors.

DS : Last year, Sage Stallone asked me to write a story because he wanted to start directing.

Will you do it ?

DS : We'll see. As soon as the people you've worked with do not underline your work because everyone wants to have the spotlight on him, as soon as your friends or the critics who write the books don't write that you're number 1 - In the book Spaghetti Nightmares, they present me as a « faithful screenwriter » - I don't consider myself as the « memory of horror » and I won't start to pretend it. I'm only a « faithful screenwriter ».

Have you never thought about directing ?

DS : Sometimes, but never really. It's very different.

And a novel ?

EB : I thought of it many times (separately or with Dardano). We'll do it. It's the only way, today, to do horror in Italy. Maybe that could help to revitalize cinema (NT : Many genre directors have proved it in the early 90's. It's easy to think about Jean Rollin with at least 15 novels to mention. Jodorowsky must also be named, along with Mario Mercier).

Re: Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti interview.

thanks for posting that, it made my day...

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Re: Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti interview.

Are there any English texts of Sacchetti's scripts out there?

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Re: Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti interview.

Well I read the whole thing.

So *bump*.

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Re: Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti interview.

Interesting interview(s). The translation makes a mess of things occasionally, but you can read through it. The only thing I didn't care for were the editorial comments in the answers. The reader knows that not everyone shares the same opinions as someone being interviewed.

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One last thanks for posting this, before it all goes away.

Thanks for sharing this rare interview.