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Ruggero Deodato, the Italian director behind the gruesome and controversial 1980 film Cannibal Holocaust, died Thursday in Rome, the Il Messaggero newspaper reported. He was 83.
Made in the style of a documentary and shot in Colombia, Cannibal Holocaust starred Robert Kerman and employed purported “found footage” taken by a sadistic American film crew during an expedition into the Amazon jungle to locate indigenous tribes.
It depicted murder, mutilation, torture, gang rape and animal slaughter and was banned in several countries including Deodato’s own, with Italian authorities seizing his film and destroying prints shortly after it hit theaters.
Deodato was put on trial for murdering actors and faced 30 years in prison, but he produced the supposedly dead men in court, and the charges were dropped (the actors had signed contracts to disappear for a year). He was fined for obscenity, however.
Deodato said he made Cannibal Holocaust in response to sensational news reports about terrorism seen on Italian television at the time. And in a 2011 interview with The Guardian, he 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,” he said. “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.”
He told The Telegraph in November that “all the animals were eaten. They didn’t just die for the film.”
Deodato got a cameo as a cannibal in Eli Roth’s Hostel Part II (2007), and the American horrormeister used Cannibal Holocaust as inspiration for his own cannibal film, The Green Inferno (2013).
Born on May 7, 1939, in Potenza, Italy, Deodato worked as an assistant director for Roberto Rossellini on Il Generale Della Rovere (1959) and Escape by Night (1960) and for Sergio Corbucci on the spaghetti Westerns Django and Ringo and His Golden Pistol, both released in 1966.
He made his directorial debut on Hercules, Prisoner of Evil (1964).
His résumé also included Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976), Jungle Holocaust (1977), The House on the Edge of the Park (1980), Body Count (1986), The Barbarians (1987), The Washing Machine (1993) and Deathcember (2019).
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