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November 12, 2010

Hollywood on the Tiber R.I.P.


Cult film impresario Dino De Laurentiis has died aged 91. A brilliant run.

Early hits ranged from Italian titles La Strada and Nights of Cabiria, which both won Academy Awards, to Barbarella, War and Peace, and the Al Pacino hit Serpico. The modern era brought success with the Conan the Barbarian films, and the Silence of the Lambs sequels Hannibal, Red Dragon, and Hannibal Rising.

Yet De Laurentiis was equally famed for his flops, which were typically underwritten with cash from outside investors. Dune, which burned $40m in 1984, was his; so was the infamous 1976 remake of King Kong, and 1977's Orca.

The man has left a greater legacy than George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. Barbarella (1968), Serpico (1973), King Kong (1976), Three Day of the Condor (1975), The Shootist (1976), Orca (1977), Flash Gordon (1980), Conan the Barbarian (1982), The Dead Zone (1983), Firestarter (1984), Dune (1984), The Bounty (1984), Blue Velvet (1986), Evil Dead II (1987), Army of Darkness (1992) to name a few.

Even his failures were triumphs.

Take Orca, for example. Sure it was crap, but it scared the hell out of me. It was genuinely upsetting. It hit primal Bambi nerves Jaws leaves untouched.

His much maligned King Kong adaptation is clearly superior to Peter Jackson's CGI confection. Plus, it isn't supposed to be Eisenstein; it's supposed to be King Kong. So chill.

Dune gives David Lynch fans an eye twitch. Result.

Barbarella, Conan the Barbarian, Evil Dead II... it is a long list. And, of course, this. Dispatch war rocket Ajax!

Posted by Ghost of a flea at November 12, 2010 07:08 AM


Three Days of the Condor was ridiculous in its 70's-tinted conspiracy paranoia (i.e. "vague but powerful government agencies conveniently employing everyone i have ever known are out to get me!!!111").

But because the man is also responsible for Conan and Ash Williams, he gets a pass.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 12, 2010 08:24 AM

Hadn't seen a clip from King Kong since I saw it in the theatre ~ you make a good point, will have to check it out again. As for Jackson, that 'running between the dinosaurs' legs' scene is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of his version.

Posted by: The_Campblog [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 12, 2010 04:15 PM

@Mr. Taylor: I enjoy Three Days of the Condor in the same way I enjoy The Parallax View or The Ipcress File. Though it is not as good as either of those, come to think of it.

@Mr. Campbell: I recommend the original King Kong if you have not seen it in a while. It is creepy as hell. The closest thing to a film adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu in its context and feel.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 12, 2010 04:21 PM