Ruggero Deodato, director of notorious horror Cannibal Holocaust, dies aged 83 Movies

Ruggero Deodato, director of the notorious 1980 horror film Cannibal Holocaust, has died aged 83. Italian media reported that he died on Thursday.

Deodato had a lengthy film-making career and operated in a variety of genres but remains best known for his gruesome horror film, which was banned in multiple countries and even resulted in him being put on trial for murdering his actors.

Cannibal Holocaust was also a pioneer of the “found footage” pseudo-documentary genre: it purported to be the footage recovered from an American film crew’s expedition into the Amazon jungle. The film became infamous for its real violence against animals, including onscreen killings of monkeys and a coati, as well as the depictions of extreme violence and torture.

Less than a fortnight after its release in Italy, the film was seized by local magistrates and Deodato was charged with obscenity and murder after an article alleged some of the film’s deaths were real. The murder charges were dropped after Deodato produced the supposedly dead actors in court, but he and the film’s backers were convicted for animal cruelty – a verdict that was overturned in 1984.

In the UK, Cannibal Holocaust was included on the notorious list of “video nasties”. Having been released on home video in 1982, it was effectively banned after the Video Recordings Act in 1984. It was eventually given a certificate and released in 2001 with five minutes cut, and in 2011 it was released again, with all cuts reversed other than a 15-second scene of animal death.

The film’s poster. Photograph: Allstar

Speaking to the Guardian in 2011, Deodato defended the scenes of animal cruelty. “In my youth, growing up, I spent a lot of time in the country close to animals and therefore often seeing the moment of their death… The death of the animals, although unbearable – especially in a present-day urban mindset – always happened in order to feed the film’s characters or the crew, both in the story and in reality.”

Deodato also told the Guardian that the film was inspired by Italy’s experience of terrorism in the 1970s. “It was the time of the Red Brigades. Every night on TV there were very strong images of people being killed or maimed. Not only killings but also some fabrications. They were increasing the sensationalism of the news just to shock people.”

Born in the southern Italian town of Potenza, Deodato worked as an assistant director on a string of Italian films during the 1960s, including Sergio Corbucci’s cult westerns Django, and Ringo and His Golden Pistol. He then became a director in his own right, making comedies, crime films and musicals, including the 1976 poliziotteschi cop thriller Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man, the 1977 horror film The Last Cannibal World, and Cannibal Holocaust.

Following the latter’s notoriety, Deodato followed it up with another “video nasty”, the torture thriller The House on the Edge of the Park, which was inspired by Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left. After that came films including the slasher Body Count, featuring veteran American actor Charles Napier, and erotic horror The Washing Machine.

Deodato appeared in a cameo role in the 2007 American horror Hostel Part II playing, appropriately, a cannibal. His most recent credit was in the 2019 anthology film Deathcember.

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