Interview by Cannibal Cam
He’s had his weiner dismembered and a massive drill through his cranium. He’s rockin some pretty sweet productions on stage. Digs melodic sounds of Italian music and smokes like a chimney. He is the one and only Giovanni Lombardo Radice, but many may know him as John Morghen. Once I set my foot firmly into Spaghetti horror his mug kept popping up. CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE, CITY OF TYHE LIVING DEAD (PAURA NELLA CITTADEI MORTI VIVENTI), LAST HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (LA CASA SPERDUTA NEL PARCO), THE CHURCH (LA CHIESA) and the most unforgiving, even in his mind, MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY (CANNIBAL FEROX). Just when he thought he was away from the cannibals, along comes MONDO HOLOCAUSTO! aka EATEN TO PIECES which leads a crew into the amazon for some deadly interactions. The acting line up in this movie seems to be a B – Movie actors wet dream so go look it up folks. Really not much else needs to be said on my behalf. I will shut up now………………….
First off I would like to say thank you for the fond memories. I’ve watched most of your films and incredibly enjoyed your characters. Thanks a bunch.
-So how have you been and what have you been up to and where do you live?
I am fine. I have been working mostly on stage, directing The Dinner Party by Neil Simon, translating it and other four plays including a very smart theatre adaptation of the Pedro Almodovar movie ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER ad Shakespeare’s Antony And Cleopatra. I shortly revived Athol Fugard’s ROAD TO MECCA (in which I was reverend Marius) and acted as a black drag queen (!!!) in Michael Kearns OFF, which I also translated. I promoted my last two movies, HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS by DomizianoCristopharo and A DAY OF VIOLENCE by Darren Ward, which both appeared on dvd. In the Halloween weekend I’ll be in New Jersey at the Chiller Convention for the 30th anniversary of CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and from there I’ll fly to Dallas to shoot an independent short movie by Nathan Harris, called THE INFLICTION. I generally live in Rome if movies or theatre do not call me elsewhere.
-When you began your career with The House on the Edge of the Park
( La casa sperduta nel parco) , Ruggero Deodato casted you, were you aware of the actor David Hess at the time and what kind of intensity you were getting into?
Not at all. I wasn’t a horror fan (never been) so I hadn’t seen the Wes Craven movie that inspired Deodato and didn’t know who Deodato and Hess were. It was my first movie, so all of a sudden I was plunged in that crazy (but funny) circus where everybody was in a hurry and shouting (we shot the all thing in three weeks!). But I immediately understood that the movies were my thing as much as stage work. And what I like about the movies is exactly the intensity you have to reach in a close up or in a death scene or in very dramatic moments. You don’t have the distance you are used to on stage and your very soul must be there. I learned a lot by David, who was the most cooperative fellow actor I ever met and have been fond of him ever since. I appreciated Deodato very much and I still see him from time to time.
-You say with the movie Cannibal Ferox, you truly regret taking part in that film? I understand why for sure, for future projects I mean.
Yes I said that and I repeat it and I paste and copy the official excuses I put on the web a few years ago:
“I’m not technological at all and, as I said many a time, only faintly amused by the lasting fame of my horror past. Only very recently I started navigating on line and realising that I have 43 pages on Internet came as a shock. It would have been a “funny” shock, but “Cannibal Ferox” spoiled it. I have been reading comments by viewers who actually had sexual pleasure out of watching women tortured. I feel very sorry for them and really and truly hope that it’s just a fantasy in their mind. But still, now, I can’t cope with the idea that I was in it. From despise to horror (the real one). Even in 1980 I knew it was crap, but at that time videocassettes had just begun to appear (at least in old “down to date” Italy) and cdroms and Internet were scifi (the last still was so, or at least not as big as now), even when I commented the laser disk – then DVD). Back in 1980, in my mind the movie (like all my others of that sort) would have been shown in a theatre for two weeks and that was it. If I only had suspected (as I should have) that the bloody thing would have been wherever, every day, from now to eternity, I wouldn’t have done it, no matter the money. As God is my witness.
Instigating violence with a movie is a controversial issue (think of “Natural Born Killers”) and always will be. But to take the risk for Art’s sake is one thing, to take it for the sake of a Z spaghetti trash is very different.
Maybe the fact that I was quite young can be pleaded in court. But I feel guilty nevertheless.”
As for future projects I am not sure if I understand what you mean. I was asked if my name could be spent in trying to put up a movie about cannibals (can’t remember the title) and I said yes because it was almost a parody of the genre and because my character was involved in a New York subplot (so no jungle, no mosquitoes, and no piranhas). Domiziano Cristopharo, who directed me in HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS had the idea of a Cannibal Ferox 2000, but it remained just a project and anyway it was related to the Lenzi movie only because of the title, for obvious box office purposes.
A part from that I don’t foresee cannibals in my future and surely I don’t miss them.
-With all the parts you have played throughout your career, you seem to be pretty schooled with keeping distance from other characters you did previous. Did you attend an acting school or is it just natural?
Natural. My school was the stage, first, by the age of fifteen, with the French Arts Council Theatre Company in Rome (I am three lingual with English, Italian and French) and then on the professional stage.
I am devoted to Stanislavsky (and not so devoted to the interpretation of his method Lee Strasberg gave) and I use a technique called zoomorphia to prepare characters, which consists in deciding what animal your character is and studying its movements and behaviour. I am strongly convinced that once you find the “body” of your character half the job is done.
-The most famous film for me would be City of the Living Dead (Pauranellacittàdeimortiviventi), how was Lucio Fulci to work with? How was it working with Gino De Rossi, being killed by a great make-up artist?
To me Lucio was always very kind. He liked my acting and respected me. The atmosphere on set was edgy, because he was always shouting (at the production mainly) and work was quite hard. But all the same I have good memories.
Lucio surely had a bad temper and frequently mistreated people. He was very unhappy both for tragedies that had happened in his family and because he was unsatisfied about his career. Once I invited him to a party in my house. He went to the toilet and found out that whilst theatre posters were displayed in the living room, the horror movie posters were decorating the bathroom. He came back yelling “Hey, people, I’m in the loo!” Anyhow, he was a cultivated man and respected me for my family background and for my theatre credits. As I said he was always very polite and friendly with me.
Gino De Rossi was first quality. The De Rossi family has always been a part of Italian cinema. I had a terrible time in the realisation of my fake head, but it wasn’t his fault. It’s just that at that time you had to stay there for more than an hour with your head covered with plaster, breathing through straws. Like been buried alive.
Nowadays realising a fake head it’s much less painful as I experienced in London, where my burned face in the OMEN remake was realised. But wearing it in Prague…boy, what a nightmare again!
I would say a scene in DEADLY IMPACT by Fabrizio De Angelis (greatest asshole I met in my life). We were shooting a car chase scene in Phoenix Arizona, with the good guys (Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson) chasing the bad guys (Renato Zamarion and myself). Whilst Svenson and Williamson had puppets or stunts for whatever risky scene, I was always there myself and Renato was driving (Italian actors were apparently less valuable than the American ones). So, at the end of the chasing we were stopping in a dead alley. Renato was escaping through a fire stair whilst I was jumping on the top of the car, waiting for the good guys car to be REAL close, firing to them and then jumping down and escaping, while their car violently crashed on ours, literally destroying it. It could be done only once and can you imagine what would have happened if my pants had gone stuck somewhere and I couldn’t jump out of the car? No wonder one year later Italian actor Claudio Cassinelli died in the same location on a helicopter accident in another movie in which De Angelis was involved, maybe as a producer….
-Do you regret working within the exploitation genre?
As in the Edith Piaf song “No, nothing at all, I do not regret at all, neither joys nor the sorrows…” (my translation from French).
Why should I regret them? They saved me financially in a moment in my life when theatre was reducing me to bankruptcy, they taught me a lot about acting because I had to deal with impossible scripts and lousy dialogues all by myself (no Italian director generally tells actors what to do or how to do it) and, finally, they gave me an international fame that lasts until now (if not increasing) and that fame helps me getting new jobs (mostly in USA and GB). No complaints.
-Since I am a huge music fan, Do you listen to music and if so, what do you listen to
-in a car?
I don’t drive. Never got a license.
Opera, classical music, French songs (Brel, Piaf, Aznavour), some Italian melodic from the 70s.
Never been in a disco in ages. But I dance what’s on. I used to like it, but now I would feel an old fool. I studied ballet for many years, so give me a Tchaikovsky and I can improvise something or give me a woman who can waltz and it would be a pleasure….
The ones I listen to relaxing.
-Since the rise of conventions, have you been attending and enjoying some of the fame that comes with meeting fans?
Yes, very much, even if conventions are quite a tiring affair adding the thing that I am a heavy smoker and nowadays in USA and many other parts of the world you can’t find a fucking smoking room in a hotel not even selling your ass to a grizzly bear…But I like meeting fans and I am always moved by their affection.
-What do you like to do on your spare time? hobby?
I still do quite a lot of sport, even if light one as a man my age should, mostly Pilates or water gym. And I keep using the masseur diploma I got in my youth, so I give massage to people. I like it and it’s a financial income most welcome in dead moments as an actor.
-I remember reading that your family was not exactly happy with your career at the time, do they appreciate now?
If they do they appreciate from Heaven, Hell or their graves, since they all died. My maternal grandparents were the ones more fiercely against this dishonouring profession, but he died in 1981 and she in 1986. My beloved father, who always let me do whatever I wanted, unfortunately died at 64 in 1982. My brother Marco, who wasn’t against my acting, just bored to tears by theatre, died at forty in 1989…No one left, a part my mother’s sister who’s the most bizarre lady ever, always amused by whatever I do. In the new generation I have a nephew who wants to become a movie director and a son who couldn’t care less about me acting or not, but comes to see me on stage and always pleads to come with me abroad to conventions or filming.
-Who were your favourite directors to work with and why?
My favourites were : Antonio Margheriti, because he was both a great professional and a true gentleman, Michele Soavi for his visionary fury and because I love him as a person, Deodato because of his funny furies and his great sense of rhythm and them some that you might not know of such as Roger Young who directed me in the Bible episode about Saint Paul (and made me the most nice compliment I got saying that I was like an instrument a director could play at his plesure), or Fabrizio Costa, who offered me great occasions in huge European period coo productions (THE HEART AND THE SWORD, THE CORIER OF THE CZAR). I also enjoyed a lot working with Luigi Magni, a myth in Italy, but probably unknown elsewhere. There’s one who knows how to direct an actor for real!
-What do you think of the horror movies nowadays? Do you, or did you pay attention with what was, and is going on?
No, sorry I still do not like horrors. I like thrillers, ghost stories, gialli, but the gore in horror is not for me. Unless I am in it, of course…
-So what type of giallos, ghost stories or thrillers do you like?
Like Hitchcock (all of his movies), What Ever Happened To Baby Jane, Seven, The Sixth Sense, The Silence Of The Lambs, The Others, movies from the Agatha Christie books (Poirot, Miss Marple)….That kind of stuff
-Any last words for your fans out there?
Why the last? I don’t plan to die soon… (Joking). Keep loving me. Your love is a great thing in my life. And I promise I will give you something new to watch. Or at least I’ll try hard…In the meantime check for Dvds of HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS and A DAY OF VIOLENCE, you’ll not be deceited.
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