Color, 1994, 105m.
Directed by Michele Soavi
Starring Rupert Everett, Anna Falchi, Francois Hadji-Lazaro, Mickey Knox, Fabiana Formica
Severin Films (UHD & Blu-ray) (US R0/RA 4K/HD), Cecchi Gori (Blu-ray) (Italy RB HD), '84 Entertainment (Blu-ray & DVD) (Austria RB/R2 HD/PAL), Medusa (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL), Cinekult (Blu-ray & DVD) (Italy RB/R2 HD/PAL), Intergroove (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL), Shameless Screen Entertainment (DVD) (UK R2 PAL), Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Laser Paradise (DVD) (Germany R0 PAL) / WS (1.85:1)
A sheltered cemetery keeper, Francesco Dellamorte (Everett), guards the gothic resting place for the dead in the small town of Buffalora. Accompanied only by his monosyllabic, mentally deficient helper, Gnaghi (the amazing Hadji-Lazaro), our hero must deal with the living dead, who rise from their graves within seven days after being buried, by shooting them in the head or braining them with a spade. A beautiful and mysterious young widow (Falchi) comes to visit one day, and after that Francesco's life is never the same as events go from peculiar and blackly comic to nightmarish...
The last major classic of Italian horror cinema, Dellamorte Dellamore features a twisty narrative lifted from a novel by Dylan Dog's Tiziano Sclavi and is that rarest of beasts, a '90s Italian horror film that actually received a (belated) theatrical release in America. (In fact, only a handful of Dario Argento films enjoyed the same fate, and that was years later.) Dellamorte Dellamore (literally "Of Love, Of Death") had all the makings of a major cult item but instead has quietly startled viewers through word of mouth and random TV airings, often under the clumsy title of Cemetery Man. The real star here is director Michele Soavi, who cut his teeth acting in '80s horror films and learned his trade directing previous films under wings of Joe D'Amato (Stage Fright) and Dario Argento (The Church, The Sect), along with substantial assistant directing work for Terry Gilliam on The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. His baroque and often witty visual sense reaches its pinnacle with this film, which combines sets and visual compositions worthy of Mario Bava with quirky gags reminiscent of Brazil. The first twenty minutes alone is a masterpiece of visual storytelling, and the jarring, haunting final scene cannot be easily forgotten. Composer Manuel De Sica (The Garden of the Finzi-Continis) contributes an atypical electronic score reminiscent of Tangerine Dream which integrates perfectly within the film's bizarre, dreamlike texture.
As philosophically rich and sensually aware as it is filled with zombie-blasting mayhem, Dellamorte Dellamore is truly unlike any other film in European cinema. Everett delivers one of his best, non-campy performances; his morose, sarcastic, yet oddly romantic hero is truly a representative figure of our "jaded" modern times, while the stunning Falchi deservedly earned a cult following for her memorable three(!) roles.
The first time many Americans saw Cemetery Man was via a U.S. videotape and laserdisc transfer released by Fox, a nearly unwatchable mess badly cropped on all sides of the screen and annoyingly fuzzy to boot. The previous Japanese laserdisc was letterboxed more accurately and sported a nice surround track but suffered from pasty, washed out flesh tones. Both of these were mildly supplanted by Laser Paradise's "Red Edition," which came closer to the framing of the European release, and the flesh tones are much richer and more dimensional. The audio was about the same, with the music in particular often overpowering the rear and front speakers. The disc also includes an amusing German trailer as well as an assortment of trailers and clips for titles like Stage Fright, Brain Dead, and Army of Darkness. The best standard def option was the eventual Italian DVD from Medusa, which featured dead-on framing, anamorphic enhancement, and the best picture quality of the bunch; as an added bonus, it features both the English and Italian audio with optional English subtitles. Extras here include a 17m45s making-of featurette (in Italian with some really left-field music choices), a Soavi and screenwriter Gianni Romoli commentary (also Italian only), a trailer, cast and crew bios, and liner notes. Later and less satisfying is the much-delayed and quickly discontinued American DVD from Anchor Bay, licensed from Fox, which featured a vastly inferior anamorphic transfer with a gray, drab veneer and far duller colors, not to mention much more print damage and iffy PAL conversion; on the other hand, you do get (apart from the carried-over Italian trailer) a 28m17s making-of featurette called "Death Is Beautiful" built around an interview with Soavi, and liner notes by Mike Felsher.
Significantly better than those options, at least at the time, was the Italian Blu-ray from Cecchi Gori in 2011, which features far more detail and depth. The PCM audio is presented in both English and Italian, with optional Italian subtitles which can be switched off when playing the English version. (No English subs here, however.) The same Italian extras are ported over (featurette, commentary), though once again these are not English friendly; on top of that you also get two newer video interviews with Soavi and Romoli ("Conversando Dellamore," 30m24s, and "Conversando Dellamorte," 34m38s), "Tiziano Sclavi raccontato da Luca Crovi" (11m10s), a video look at the popularity of Dylan Dog ("Quel fenomeno di Dylan Dog," 39m6s), a 131m55s and 33m38s retrospective video montage of a Dylan Dog horror fest and onstage recreation (with guests including Wes Craven, Robert Englund, and Richard Stanley), and a photo gallery, not to mention bonus trailers for Wild Beasts, Satanik, Killing Birds, and Queens of Evil. Several other Blu-ray and DVD options also popped up in Europe around the same time and for a few years after, all taken from the same master.
In 2023, Severin Films delivered what is likely to be the definitive edition of this masterpiece with a four-disc set featuring a 4K UHD, two Blu-rays, and a soundtrack CD, packaged with a webstore exclusive slipcase (as Dellamorte Dellamore, with Cemetery Man on the insert sleeve) plus a booklet with an essay by Claire Donner. The UHD is dedicated to the main feature (plus the English-language Italian and U.S. trailers), which also has the Soavi and Romoli commentary with English subtitles. Audio options include English Atmos, 5.1, and 2.0 DTS-HD MA options along with Italian 2.0 stereo, with optional English SDH or translated subtitles. All of them sound excellent given that this film has always had a strong, well-separated mix, and the Atmos is especially enjoyable as it opens the audio space up to include some limited but fun overhead activity. The film itself looks stunning here, especially on the UHD which reveals many layers of texture and detail in the nocturnal scenes that were hard to make out even in theatrical prints. It's a rich, very impressive presentation all around. The first Blu-ray disc has the feature with the commentary and continues with "At The Graves" (35m47s), a new, comprehensive interview with Soavi about the film, staring with his affinity for Dylan Dog and going through the process of selecting the source novel among other options, followed by a walk through the casting and production. "Of Love And Death" (20m35s) catches up with Everett about his longtime wish to appear in Italian films, his familiarity with Dylan Dog (whose appearance was based on the actor), his approach to the character, his immense satisfaction with the final film, and an unexpected tie to Entertaining Mr. Sloane. In "She" (24m13s), Falchi talks about her own "comic book" personality, her approach to differentiating her three roles, and memories of working with Soavi and Everett in a kind of demanding cinematic playground. She also reenacts one of her most memorable dialogue moments and reveals he downside of having to kiss Everett on camera all day. Finally disc one wraps up with the subtitled archival making-of featurette (18m32s).
The second Blu-ray begins with "A Matter of Life And Death" (57m53s), a very in-depth interview with Romoli about the mingling of prestige and genre films in Italian cinema, his affinity for horror along with De Sica, and the nuts and bolts of adapting the novel while integrating elements of the comic as well in the wake of his prior work with Soavi. In "Graveyard Shift" (29m15s), cinematographer Mauro Marchetti chats about the influence of German Expressionism (especially Fritz Lang), his first meeting with Soavi, and the clever, budget-conscious effects achieved in camera to bring the surreal environment to life. "Head Over Heels" (23m43s) features actress Fabiana Formica, who steals all of her scenes in the film as the mayor's unfortunate daughter, reminiscing about seeing an audition call at school and ending up on a wild ride that had her playing a large portion of her role as a severed head. Then her screen father gets his turn in "The Living Dead Mayor" (11m14s) with actor Stefano Masciarelli explaining how he got cast and what he remembers about being around Soavi and developing his character. In "Music from the Underground" (20m53s), composer and musician Riccardo Biseo discusses his own music background and his work on this film as musical director for the late Manuel De Sica. In "Resurrection" (19m22s), special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti looks back at the rare opportunity of meeting Scalvi, the genesis of the idea for the film, and the creation of the monstrous effects in the film including the wide variety of undead characters and various other macabre confections including the gigantic winged manifestation of Death. "Cemetery Gates" (26m6s) features set designer Antonello Geleng talking about his working relationship with Soavi going back to City of the Living Dead, the use of an old cemetery like a soundstage to put in all the foliage and elaborate graves, and the advantages of being able to shoot there indoors and outdoors on the spot. Finally in "Grave Encounters" (9m18s), author Alan Jones sketches out the major points of interest about this film from the popularity of Dylan Dog through this film developing right after Soavi's two big productions for Dario Argento. He also covers being on the set for a week and enjoying the experience of watching Soavi at work. Finally the disc closes with the U.S. and international trailers.
Severin Films (UHD)
Severin Films (Blu-ray)
Cecchi Gori (Blu-ray)
Anchor Bay (DVD)
Updated review on November 23, 2023