Ruggero Deodato, director of the acclaimed 1980 horror film Cannibal Holocaust, has died aged 83. Italian media reported that he died on Thursday.
Deodato had a long film career and operated in a variety of genres, but remains best known for his gruesome horror film, which was banned in several countries and even resulted in his trial for the murder of its actors.
Cannibal Holocaust was also a pioneer of the pseudo-documentary genre of “found footage”: these were images recovered during the expedition of an American film crew into the Amazon jungle. The film became infamous for its true violence against animals, including the on-screen killings of monkeys and a coati, as well as depictions of extreme violence and torture.
Less than a fortnight after its release in Italy, the film was seized by local magistrates and Deodato was charged with obscenity and murder after an article alleged that some of the deaths in the film were real. Murder charges were dropped after Deodato produced the supposedly dead actors in court, but he and the film’s backers were convicted of animal cruelty – a verdict that was overturned in 1984.
In the UK, Cannibal Holocaust was on the notorious ‘video villain’ list. After being released on home video in 1982, it was effectively banned after the Video Recordings Act in 1984. It finally received a certificate and was released in 2001 with a five-minute cut, and in 2011 it was released. re-released, with all cuts reversed other than a 15-second animal death scene.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2011, Deodato defended the scenes of animal cruelty. “In my youth, growing up, I spent a lot of time in the countryside near animals and therefore often saw the moment of their death… The death of animals, although unbearable – especially in a state of mind current urban – has always happened in order to nourish the characters of the film or the team, both in history and in reality.
Deodato also told the Guardian that the film was inspired by the Italian experience of terrorism in the 1970s. “It was the era of the Red Brigades. Every evening, on television, there were very strong images of people killed or mutilated. Not only murders, but also fabrications. They were increasing the sensationalism of the news just to shock people.
Born in the southern Italian town of Potenza, Deodato worked as an assistant director on a series of Italian films in the 1960s, including Sergio Corbucci’s cult westerns Django and Ringo and His Golden Gun. . He then became a director in his own right, making comedies, detective films and musicals, including the 1976 film cops crime thriller Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man, the 1977 horror film The Last Cannibal World and Cannibal Holocaust.
Following the latter’s notoriety, Deodato continues with another “dirty video”, the torture thriller The House at the Edge of the Park, which is inspired by Wes Craven’s Last house on the left. After that came films including the slasher Body Count, starring veteran American actor Charles Napier, and the erotic horror The Washing Machine.
Deodato appeared in a cameo role in 2007’s American Horror Inn Part II, fittingly playing a cannibal. Her most recent credit was in the 2019 anthology film Deathcember.