November 11, 2010

Dino De Laurentiis, "the high-flying Italian film producer," has died.

He was 91. His name is attached to some of the greatest films ever — notably "La Strada" and "Nights of Cabiria" — and some all-out trashy pop entertainment — like "Bararella" and "Mandingo."

Here's a list of his 166 movies. How many of them have you seen? I've got to say I've managed to steer clear of de Laurentiis films. Other than "La Strada" and "Nights of Cabiria" — 2 of my favorite films, directed by Fellini — the only one I've seen — and we watched it for a laugh — is "Conan the Barbarian."

I never saw the de Laurentiis remake of "King Kong," which was filmed in New York City in 1976. I was living there then, and I remember the open invitation to anyone to come down to Lower Manhattan to be in the crowd scene. I considered going but didn't. I read this article in the NYT on June 22, 1976:
Drawn by 1930's nostalgia and 1976 excitement, a horrified crowd of more than 5,000 New Yorkers surged past police lines at the World Trade Center last night on cue and fought its way to the spot where a giant gorilla lay dead after a 110-story fall from the North Tower.

The ape, constructed of styrofoam covered with horse hair and bleeding a mixture of Karo syrup and vegetable coloring was of course King Kong, the resurrected star of the 1933 thriller being remade by Dino de Laurentiis.
Ah! The unreachable past! When the the death was fake and not even human. What absurd fun we had!
The extras cheered when a technician climbed on the chest of the fallen 40-foot ape to replenish its oozing "blood."


BigFire said...

Oh, come on, Conan the Barbarian IS a good movie. They did what they set out to do, and a lot of fun it was.

HDHouse said...

I had the opportunity to meet Giada, his daughter, on a number of occasions in advertising functions. She is a real deal, natural person and had great respect for her father and her family life. From decent persons come decent persons. Rarely the opposite.

traditionalguy said...

He was an entertainer for sure. King Kong was a great diversion movie. I liked his movies that I saw. RIP Dino.

Hank said...

Waterloo (about the battle, not the train station) is one of my favorite films ever. Rod Steiger as an aging Napoleon, and Christopher Plummer as the Duke of Wellington, were perfect in their roles, as was Dan O'Herlihy as Ney. Plus, they got the battle right, which almost never happens in movies. Had to borrow the Spanish Army to do it...

MadisonMan said...

Never saw one of his movies. Oh well.

ironrailsironweights said...

Mandingo was good trashy fun. So was Barbarella, to some extent.


Joaquin said...

This came too late!
The rumors killed him ;-)

rcocean said...

He made a lot of good trashy movies:

Flash Gordon
Death Wish
Battle of the Bulge
Year of the Dragon

Plus some just plain good ones:

Barrabas, Mafioso, Serpico.

t-man said...

Althouse caused me to watch Nights of Cabiria, and it is now one of my favorites as well.

victoria said...

Without DeLaurentis there a many Italian films of greatness that would have never been seen in the USA. For "La Strada" alone he deserves greatness. Powerful and moving film.

There has always been a place for people like him, the blockbuster, totally entertaining, no art involved films. That part of what film is all about. Got to have the trashy with the arty. R.I.P. Dino.

Vicki from Pasadena

John Burgess said...

I've surprised myself in seeing how many of his films I've seen. The art films as well as the wonderful trash.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Wow. Memory lane.

From oldest first.

Ulysses, Goliath and the Vampires... when my parents would drop us off at the local theater for an entire afternoon of bad monster movies, junk food and other screaming kids throwing things at each other.

Barabbas and Barbarella. Both viewed at drive in movies. Drive in movies a lost experience that kids today will never get to appreciate. Barabbas when I was young and my parents took us. Barbarella as a teenager with a bunch of friends. Nothing like a drive in movie on a warm California summer night.
Seen either on television reruns or video cassette.

Man Called Sledge, Death Wish, Ragtime, The Bounty, Conan the Barbarian, Three Days of the Condor, Dune and Red Dragon The last two because I had already read the books.

Probably saw others on the list but I can't remember. You know...the 60's

The Crack Emcee said...

Dino was great. I'm embarrassed how many of his pictures I've seen (and smoked pot to) but he had that habit of mixing great shit with *great shit* so, if you were into films, you had to take him seriously - like Zappa.

He lived a good life, and provided us with lots of laughs. And it's funny, because that's what I really remember:

Such cheesy fun it ran off the plate.

Thanks, Dino!

Trooper York said...

Mandingo was one great freakin movie.

James Mason was hilarious.

We quoted lines from that movie for twenty years after it came out.

And Susan George was the prefect slut as she proved in this flick and in Straw Dogs.

Quaestor said...

On a dollar for dollar basis, the De Laurentiis King Kong was one of the worst movies of all time if for other reason than it launched the career of Jessica Lange, an actress we could have done without.

I agree with Hank regarding Waterloo, one of the best war films of all time, IMOH. However, Hank is in error on one point. The army used in the film was Soviet, not Spanish. Waterloo was a joint Italian/USSR production with Ukrainian director Serge Bondarchuk handling the battle scenes, work have never been equaled. Bondarchuk managed to capture the the spirit of the conflict and many important details, particularly the fight for Hougoumont. The uniforms, the weapons, even the terrain and the mud were brilliantly realized. Anyone, even someone who has never studied the Age of Napoleon can watch this film and come away with a good knowledge of the issues, the whys and wherefores of the Hundred Days.

There only three errors of fact that I detected:

1) Ney was not with 5th Regiment of the Line when they attempted to block Napoleon on the road to Grenoble.

2) The charge of the Scots Grays was not so dramatic. Eyewitnesses say that the Scottish horsemen dispersed Derlon's grand column at a walk.

3) During Ney's mistaken charge French cavalry are seen descending a steep embankment at least 12 feet high. The sunken road was well below the level of the surrounding terrain and did slow and weaken Ney's horses, but not it's not that deep, it's six to eight feet below mean at most.

Accuracy and high drama, it can be achieved - De Laurentiis prove it can be done. So there, mister smartypants Spielberg.

ricpic said...

I second Hank on Waterloo. Though I doubt Napoleon was as neurotic as Steiger played him. Christopher Plummer surprised me, a really convincing Wellington.

Death Wish was also a cool pic.

The Drill SGT said...

a classic line

Mongol General: What is best in life?

Conan: To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.

The WWII version:

Soldiers to POWs as they pass by: "got any messages for your wives? We'll be seeing them before you do" :)

The Drill SGT said...

Since we don't have any other place to put it:

Here's to Veteran's everywhere on Remembrance Day!

Absent Companions

former law student said...

Serpico and Three Days of the Condor are well worth watching. They are both about one man vs. the system, whose life is threatened by the people he works with and should have been able to trust.

Quaestor said...

I must apologize for my terrible proofreading:

"...if for no other reason than it launched..."

"... De Laurentiis proved it could be done."

Sigivald said...

Dune? Army of Darkness?

I don't think he can really get much credit for them (Lynch and Raimi get all the important credit, respectively), but he was there.

Quaestor said...

Thanks, DBQ, for reminding me about The Bounty. For some reason I cannot fathom that film simply flopped. It had a powerful cast, lots of gorgeous Polynesian babes sans tops, and it told the story of the fabled breadfruit voyage faithfully (well, mostly faithfully, it went off the rails on two points, one very minor and the other crucial)

Hank said...

Thanks, Quaestor, for the correction. I went to Wikipedia and read the entry for the movie (had never done that before) and now it makes perfect sense. I had wondered how they got the battlefield to so closely resemble the historical location, and now I know the answer: Soviet bulldozers.

One comment about the charge of the Royal Scots Greys as depicted in the movie (hope I'm more right about this than I was about the Spanish army): I believe that whole scene was filmed the way it was to set up the shot that matched the famous painting Scotland Forever by Lady Elizabeth Butler. Even though she was wrong about the charge (as you noted), it made for a great scene.

Quaestor said...


You're absolutely right about the charge scene being a tribute to a painting. BTW the Royal Scots Greys was the name that regiment acquired after WWII when it was merged with the Royal Scots for budgetary reasons. In 1815 the Greys were officially the 2nd Dragoons.

Revenant said...

"Conan the Barbarian" is one of my favorite movies. Really captured the spirit of Howard's stories, I felt.

c3 said...

More crap than excellence (but is that any different from any other long term Hollywood producer?)

My favorites: Serpico and Ragtime.

So now I'm wondering if this was a common dialogue in Hollywood in the 70's and 80's:

Insider #1: Man this will be a budget-buster

Insider #2: Yeah, and the screenplay sucks too!

Insider #1; Market research says it could be big box office.

Insider #2: Or a disaster

Insider #1: Well ____________ wouldn't touch it

Insider #2: Neither would ____________

Insider #1: Hey I know let's get Dino! He'll do it

Quaestor said...

De Laurentiis lead another Italian/Russian effort which deserves to be better known The Red Tent (Anybody care to chip in for a re-make? It'll get Cameron right where he lives)

Quaestor said...

Oop! Just checked and learned Dino had nothing to do with The Red Tent. Too bad.

See the film anyway, it a doozy.

c3 said...

Tagline for "Drum" (starring Warren Oates)

It scalds. It shocks. It whips. It bleeds. It lusts. It out-Mandingo's "Mandingo"!

Gives me a John Waters kind of vibe.

Christopher said...

Probably the last of the bigtime moguls, I think. Hope he's in heaven having a great laugh with Sam Goldwyn and C.B. DeMille.

RIP, Mr D.

LarsPorsena said...


"I had the opportunity to meet Giada, his daughter, on a number of occasions in advertising functions. .."

Color me a deep envious green. She's a doll.

The Wasp said...

i was ten in 1976 and my aunt took me to see the dead Kong. They had covered him with a tarp and all we could see was a giant, hairy hand peeking out. We were still impressed.

HDHouse said...

LarsPorsena said...
"Color me a deep envious green. She's a doll."

I won't dispute that at all. She has cook's hands when you shake her hand other than that, she really is as gorgeous as she appears in pictures and on TV. The rest I must admit left me somewhat dazed.

LarsPorsena said...

"......really is as gorgeous as she appears in pictures and on TV. The rest I must admit left me somewhat dazed.

This is the only 'cooking' show I watch with my wife. but mind isn't on the veal piccata and my wife knows it. Kidding aside, we do use her recipes. Like her, elegant simplicity.

Big Mike said...

I saw a bunch of his movies. I linked to "Hurricane" because I thought maybe seeing a synopsis would remind me whether I saw it or not.

This De Laurentis movie isn't the one about the boxer. Apparently it's a disaster/romance flick set in the South Pacific.

They don't have hurricanes in the Pacific; in the Pacific they're called typhoons.

Crimso said...

"There only three errors of fact that I detected"

Damn, Quaestor, you are one hardcore grognard. I like it.

LarsPorsena said...

"grognard" Heh! "Now, Maitland".

The Drill SGT said...

Some say Cambronne said

" La Garde meurt et ne se rend pas"

We old Mustache's think he said:


T J Sawyer said...

Did Althouse write "Bararella" to lure us back into the Murkowski discussion from yesterday?

Prosecutorial Indiscretion said...

For a laugh? For a laugh? Clearly, Professor, you have not internalized what is best in life.

Fred4Pres said...

Dave Niehaus the voice of the Mariners has also died.

Youngblood said...

I'll take the opportunity to point out that "Manhunter", the first adaptation of Thomas Harris' "Red Dragon", is a vastly underrated film. Although eclipsed by the later "Silence of the Lambs", Michael Mann does a fantastic job bridging the gap between the traditional detective film and what would become the serial killer genre. And he does it with a style and flair that would be missing from later films based on Harris' work (even "Silence of the Lambs").

Yes, the art design screams "80's!", so it appears a little dated today, but it's still a great film.

And it makes the best possible use of Iron Butterfly's "In A Gadda Da Vida".

fivewheels said...

I wish the Wachowski brothers could get back to the kind of work they did on Bound, a De Laurentis production that had some people who saw it thinking they could be on a Coen-like path.

Then they went on to be produced by Joel Silver. Oh well.

Youngblood said...


Get with the program! They're not the Wachowski Brothers anymore, they're the Wachowski... erm... Siblings!

sonicfrog said...

I'm looking at the list. I've seen a bunch. He did a lot of very good movies, many not great but very fun entertaining popcorn movies (Flash Gordon / Army of Darkness both have great dialog), but there is one that is just horrible. I mean horrible... And no. It's not Barbarella.

What ever you do. DO NOT see "Body Of Evidence". It is just absolutely inane and stupid. The clincher dialog for Madonna, revealing her secret to the three men involved in her life?

"I fucked you, I fucked you, and I fucked you... That's what I do. I fuck!"

I'm still traumatized by its awfulness to this day!

HT said...

My mother took me some relatives and friends to see the King Kong remake at the Alabama. We all started crying and she had to take us home.

Pastafarian said...

Althouse said: "we watched it for a laugh — is "Conan the Barbarian.""

Hmmph. Harrumph, even.

Conan is one of my favorite films. And just the other week, you criticized my favorite movie of all time, "Schindler's List". I think your critique was something along the lines of 'just a bunch of actors hamming it up.'

You know what I just watched for a laugh? That risible campy "La Strada". A circus strong man beats and rapes a passive mime who...falls in love with him.


I think Dino had to do those Charles Bronson movies as a palette cleanser after this rancid treacle. Or maybe as redemption.

edutcher said...

Of his stuff, I only saw the Conan movies, Anzio (ghastly in its lack of accuracy and its attempt to milk the anti-war 'Nam thing), and Battle of the Bulge (more factual, Robert Shaw walks off with the picture). The latter two are cheapie attempts to make a couple of bucks off The Longest Day.

Only the first Conan movie is even close to watchable.

lgv said...

Yes, Manhunter was great.

The Dead Zone - fantastic.

There are some very entertaining movies on the list, including The Bounty, Assassins, Three Days of the Condor.

This is offset by Body of Evidence, the worst movie ever starring Madonna. Think about that one.

c3 said...

the worst movie ever starring Madonna.

Not to pick a fight or anything but I have to ask:

And the best!?

Quaestor said...

A League of Their Own

John Burgess said...

@c3: 'Seriously Seeking Susan' would be my choice. Mostly due to Rosanna Arquette, though.

Quaestor said...

Battle of the Bulge was a pretty crummy war pic, but I'll watch it none the less. BTW, Ken Anakin, whom Dino hired to direct, was a second unit director on The Longest Day.

There is one scene in B-of-B that really did strike me as dead on -- Hessler's attack has just driven a battalion of front line GI's from their positions centered on an old West Wall bunker in headlong retreat. Then from the swirling gray mists tanks and panzergrenadiers materialize. Except that the tanks are postwar M47's it could have been newsreel footage.

Quaestor said...

Isn't that Desperately Seeking Susan?

edutcher said...

Quaestor said...

Battle of the Bulge was a pretty crummy war pic, but I'll watch it none the less. BTW, Ken Anakin, whom Dino hired to direct, was a second unit director on The Longest Day.

Zanuck had 3 directors, one each for the American, British, and German scenes. Annakin wasn't a second unit director, he did all the scenes with British actors (Burton, Connery, etc.). It's probably why DeLaurentiis picked him.

c3 said...

Isn't that Desperately Seeking Susan?

Shows you how good it was.

Belkys said...

and married Sofia

Don said...

U-571 and Army of Darkness, both decent flicks.

lgv said...

Not to pick a fight or anything but I have to ask:

And the best!?

tongue in cheek

Vision Quest

Like all her movies, contains no acting.

ken in sc said...

What is best in life? Faster horses, older whiskey, younger women, and more money.