Monday, July 13, 2009

Five Directors Charged With Crimes Committed in Their Movies

5. Ruggero Deodato, Cannibal Holocaust

Mondo movies have a special place in film history as the single most appalling genre of film after the romantic comedy. You may of seen them tucked into the corner of your local video store in the "special interests" section, right next to Faces of Death and Jerry Springer: Too Hot For TV. Perhaps the most infamous of these films is Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust , a film so excruciatingly painful to watch it spawned hundreds of "reaction videos" on YouTube, in which college-age girls whine for hours about the mistreatment of animals (never mind human beings). In the film, a group of researchers look into the disappearance of several Amazon explorers. They trek into the jungle, mutilate several animals on-screen, and piss off the natives enough to result in an orgy of disembowelment and cannibalism. What makes Cannibal Holocaust different, however, is the Mondo film-making style, one that is shot as a documentary while going for the most shocking and realistic gore possible. As a result, after the film's release Deodato was put on trial for murder in his native Italy. The prosecution alleged Deodato had murdered his actors to get realistic shots - the main shot in question being the iconic impalement scene of actress Francesca Ciardi. It didn't help matters that, as a means of creating publicity for the film, Deodato had required the actors to sign contracts stating that they would make no public appearances within a year after filming. Eventually, Deodato beat the charges by producing all four actors, alive and well, on an Italian talk show, as well as demonstrating to the courts how some of the effects were pulled off. Eventually, the film was banned across the world for obscenity and animal cruelty. This, however, would not be the first time an Italian director would have to beat these kinds of charges...

4. Lucio Fulci, A Lizard in a Woman's Skin

Giallo movies, unlike their Mondo cousins, do not strive to present themselves as reality caught on camera. What they do attempt, however, is a level of gore, depravity, and sexual violence not seen since the days of the Darfur civil (wait, is that still happening?). Enter Lucio Fulci, master of incomprehensible plots, questionable acting, and gratuitous... well, everything. During a particularly gruesome (and completely random) scene in his 1971 film A Lizard in a Woman's Skin a woman opens a foreboding door to see several dogs being tortured in medical experiments. The effects were, for the time, so realistic that Fulci was hauled before a judge and charged with animal cruelty. Faced with two years in prison, Fulci was saved at the last minute, Rohan-like, when special effects wizard Carlo Rambaldi rode down the hill and demonstrated how he generated the scene in front of the judge. Thus, the career of one of history's most baffling film-makers was saved.

3. Hideshi Hino, Flower of Flesh and Blood

Of course, what discussion of disgusting movies could be complete without mentioning Japan. The so-called Guinea Pig series of films were Mondo-inspired pieces shot and edited to be the closest thing to a real snuff film. When the most infamous film in the series, Flower of Flesh and Blood, featuring a semiconscious woman hacked apart by a man dressed as a samurai, got into the hands of actor Charlie Sheen (I'd rather not think about how), Sheen was so convinced of its authenticity that he contacted the FBI. The feds, in turn, contacted Japanese authorities, who eventually made director Hideshi Hino demonstrate the special effects techniques in front of a judge, just like Fulci and Deodato before him. Of course, it didn't help that the Guinea Pig series of films was said to be a major influence in the crimes of Japan's most notorious deformed serial killer, Tsutomu Miyaki.

2. Gualtiero Jacopetti, Africa Addio

One of the most controversial films of all time, Jacopetti and Gualteiro's 1966 documentary Africa Addio chronicles the collapse of social order in post-colonial Africa. There are almost too many controversies surrounding this film to count: the allegations of racism, which didn't get any better when the US version was released several years later under the title Africa Blood and Guts, which cut out almost all of the original version's social commentary in favor of depicting acts of African savagery. Then, there were the far more serious charges that the film staged many of its more sensationalist scenes, from the visceral decimation of Africa's wildlife to its wars of ethnic cleansing. Because of these allegations, Africa Addio is considered the first Mondo film. Unfortunately for co-director Jacopetti, an Italian court felt that one of the scenes staged by the director was the execution of several rebels by white mercenaries. He was tried for murder, though the charges were soon dropped for lack of evidence. It appears whatever secrets Prosperi and Jacopetti kept from the public would stay in Africa.

1. Victor Salva's Home Movies

Let's play a game called spot the pedophile. Let's say there is man whose first movie features a demonic clown terrorizing a group of small boys. His next film centers around a sensitive and brilliant albino teenager terrorized by the town jocks, often by the heavy use of homophobic slurs. Then, throw in a third movie featuring roughly forty-five minutes of teenage athletes with Abercrombie bodies sunning themselves atop a broken-down school bus. If you think you might want to keep your children away from someone like that, congratulations, you are a better parent than most parents of child actors. Meet Victor Salva, director of such movies as Clownhouse, Powder, and Jeepers Creepers one and two. Though he never had to stand trial for an act committed in one of his feature films, he did have a little trouble explaining to the authorities why he had a photo album of nude child actors in his room. Oh, and also the video he made of 12-year-old actor Nathan Winters giving him a blow job didn't help much either. He was convicted in 1989 and never made another movie again... whoops, my mistake, he made several movies afterwords, including one financed by Disney and several by legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, nearly all of which consisted of large casts of teenage boys. Disney certainly likes moving up the evil ladder; besides the whole Hitler-supporting thing, now it seems they got no beef with convicted pedophiles, either. At this rate, they should be building a death star within twenty years...