Ruggero Deodato, who created the found footage genre with the infamous horror film Cannibals, died in 1980. He was 83 years old.
Born in Potenza, Italy, on May 7, 1929, Deodato began his career as an assistant director for filmmakers like Sergio Corbucci in the 1960s, according to The Guardian. However, Deodato soon made a permanent name for himself with the 1980 release of his magnum opus.
Cannibal Holocaust, which focused on a fictional documentary crew who roam the Amazon only to be butchered and eaten by a group of indigenous people, was so realistic that Deodato was arrested on murder and obscenity charges by Italian police after it opened.
“I hired actors in New York because I wanted young actors who hadn’t been in movies and who weren’t well known,” he told Starburst Magazine in 2011. Expired. “To me, you are dead.”
It didn’t help that the Holocaust was purportedly real footage recovered from the film crew’s deadly expedition. Filmed on location in the rainforests of Colombia, it also starred an actual group of indigenous people – and depicted them killing real animals that they ate to survive.
“When the case happened, they honestly accused me of killing the actors!” Deodato told Starburst. You hired the best lawyers in Italy, and you put the film on. They saw the movie, and I thought, “That’s it, I’m going to jail.”
The murder charges were dropped when Deodato presented the supposedly dead cast in court, leaving him with a relatively manageable charge of indecency to deal with. In the end, he was fined “millions of liras” and given a four-month suspended prison sentence.
Deodato went on to make other horror films like “Body Count” and “Phantom of Death”. His stellar work never tops, but it did inspire Roth to cast Deodato in his 2007 outrageous sequel “Hostel” — in which Deodato played a cannibal.
In the end, Deodato’s entire career was inspired by the real-life horrors on television. At first, the German terrorist group Red Brigades influenced him. He told The Guardian in 2011 that “very powerful images of people killing or maiming” flooded his television as a child.
He also said that the “sensationalization” of the news equally inspired his films.
As for the killings of animals depicted in Cannibal Holocaust – which include turtles, snakes, pigs and monkeys – they “always occurred in order to feed the film’s characters or crew, both in story and in reality,” Deodato told The Guardian.
While many consider Cannibal Holocaust one of the most loathsome films of all time, Deodato’s fans, peers, and colleagues—who have taken to social media to share their heartfelt tributes—remain the guerrilla filmmaker’s inspiration. In this sense, his legacy is sound.
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