18 June 2024

Alberto De Martino was born on June 12, 1929 in Rome. His father, Romolo De Martino, was an established makeup artist in Italian cinema of the 1930s and 1940s - so it was a logical progression that young Alberto would first enter the motion picture world as a child actor.

After his University studies (where he also played jazz piano with Antonio Margheriti on drums and Lucio Fulci on trumpet), De Martino kept his momentum in the film business going.

In the true Renaissance spirit of Italian moviemaking, Alberto tried his hand at a broad variety of tasks including film editing and synchronisation before finally landing his directoral debut with 1962's The Invincible Gladiator.

His first horror film was 1963's gothic creepiness The Blancheville Monster. Also known simply as Horror, De Martino's initial try at terror was a respectably decent outing about a young girl who revisits her ancestral estate only to discover much has changed since her absence...namely her father.

De Martino directed a handful of gialli thrillers in the early 1970s. The first was 1971's The Man with Icy Eyes starring Barbara Bouchet and Antonio Sabato. After a high ranking senator is assassinated, a mysterious man is convicted of the murder...but is he really the killer?

Next up was 1972's The Killer is on the Phone (aka Scenes from a Murder) starring Telly Savalas and Anne Heywood. Five years after the murder of her husband, amnesiac Eleanor (Heywood) finds herself stalked by the same psycho (Savalas) who murdered her hubby...will she regain her memory in time to save her life?

Clearly inspired by William Friedkin's The Exorcist, De Martino's next notable horror was the 1974 possession shocker The Antichrist (aka The Tempter). Devoid of faith and emotionally downtrodden, invalid Ippolita (Carla Gravina) is an easy target for wandering demons. Soon, the poor girl is possessed by a lascivious devil who feeds her desires for sex, profanity...and killing.

Having crafted a thoroughly enjoyable imitation of The Exorcist, the director's next horror project would be 1977's Holocaust 2000...a direct riff on Richard Donner's The Omen.

Aka The Chosen, De Martino's Holocaust follows industrialist Robert Caine (Kirk Douglas) as he heads up a troublesome nuclear plant project in the Middle East. But Robert discovers his son Angelo is the Antichrist incarnate - and hellbent on using his father's work to officially begin the Apocalypse.

Several years before David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (1988), De Martino conceived and directed 1982's giallo/thriller Blood Link about two Siamese twin brothers...one of them a homicidal maniac. Can the good bro stop the killing spree of his mad sibling?

De Martino's last notable horror was his immensely enjoyable (and undermentioned) 1985 giallo Formula for a Murder (AKA 7 Hyden Park). As a child, Joanna was raped by a man dressed as a priest. Now grown and wheelchair bound, wealthy Joanna discovers a killer wants her dead...and the madman is wearing priest's clothing. Could it be the same psycho from her youth? Or someone from her present?

While L'Anticristo may (justifiably) be Alberto De Martino's most recognizable feature, the director's legacy is a long one of competent, solid films ranging from crime thrillers to sword n' sandal epics to westerns to horror.

In the current era, where directors of only one or two often dubious movies can receive undue attention, it's important to give a nod to those whose commitment (to terror specifically and cinema in general) was unwavering.

The Antichrist 1974
Blood Link 1982
Formula for a Murder (7 Hyden Park) 1985
Holocaust 2000 1977
Horror 1963
The Killer is on the Phone 1972
The Man with Icy Eyes 1971
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