Leading Lotharios of the Italian Giallo

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Living in a time where a high percentage of men deem it acceptable to slouch around in public wearing grey joggers while still maintaining that all women should look like models 24/7 has made me weep into my film collection wishing we still lived in a time where men would wear clothes that didn't have elasticated waistbands and instant access to their ballsacks. Why can't we go back to those good old days when men were able to slap a woman about if she was being hysterical without fear of being done for domestic battery? Ok, so maybe times have changed for the better but the fashions... well that's debatable. Part of the appeal of the old Italian films I so dearly love is the suave leading men and seductive leading ladies who were the epitome of seventies European cool. While the women get a lot of love in gialli, the men are often forgotten so here's my Top 10 leading men in gialli in no particular order. The criteria? You have to have appeared in some sort of Italian giallo at some point in your career and be hot by my standards. Being able to rock a turtleneck is an added bonus. Enjoy!

Fabio Testi

Starting his career as a stuntman, the Verona born Testi proved himself on film sets performing stunts for the likes of Sergio Leone before entering into the world of acting. Fabio's rugged good looks and charisma quickly propelled him into the limelight in the late sixties scoring him his first leading role in gialli with Death Knocks Twice (1969) which he followed up with roles in other Italian genre films. Most notable for his roles in the poliziotteschi genre, Fabio Testi appeared in a few gialli throughout his career. Perhaps his most notable role was in Dallamano's What Have You Done to Solange (1972) in which he played a sleazy gym teacher at a London school for girls. Testi also appeared in the third film of the Schoolgirls in Peril trilogy, Red Rings of Fear (1978). It was with Testi's move into the poliziotteschi genre with films such as Gang War in Naples, Vai Gorilla, Revolver and The Big Racket that he became a bonafied action star and went on to become a staple actor of the genre starring in some of the greatest Italian crime films of the 1970s. If Testi's good looks and wonderful sense of humour weren't enough to make your heart melt, the man can speak English, French and Italian fluently and his aptitude for language helped him land several roles in French language films by the likes of cinematic titans Claude Chabrol and Andrzej Zulawski. Like many of his contemporaries, Fabio found film work began to dry up in the late eighties as the Italian industry began to wane however he has steadily worked and still acts today, often in theatre productions.

Notable Films: Death Knocks Twice (1969), What Have You Done to Solange (1972), Rings of Fear (1978)

George Hilton

George Hilton is a titan of Giallo cinema. racking up the most gialli credits on our list. Born in Montevideo, Argentina as Jorge Hill Acosta y Lara, Hilton moved to England as a child before moving to Argentina to find acting work in soap operas and films. Many South American actors moved to pursue work in the burgeoning Italian film industry of the 1960s and Hilton quickly followed suit arriving in Italy in 1963 to start a film career in Europe adopting the moniker of George Hilton. Initially working in small bit parts, Hilton quickly found meatier work landing a role in pirate film The Masked Man Against the Pirates which led to a role in spy comedy The Amazing Dr G the following year. Hilton got his big break when he was cast alongside Franco Nero in Lucio Fulci's 1966 spaghetti western Massacre Time which led to several other leading parts in western films making George Hilton one of the most well known names in the genre. When the spaghetti western waned in popularity, Hilton started to appear in gialli and became most notable to audiences today for his onscreen chemistry with giallo leading lady, Edwige Fenech - the pair went on to make three highly successful gialli; The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, All the Colors of the Dark and The Case of the Bloody Iris. Hilton is most well known for his collaborations with director, Sergio Martino, with the two making three films together (the aforementioned All the Colors of the Dark and the Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh as well as The Case of the Scorpion's Tail). Hilton continued to work in the genre racking up several credits and starring roles effortlessly moving between the role of hero and villain often acting as the perfect red herring with his suave, sophisticated charms. George Hilton also worked in the poliziotteschi, fantasy and post apocalyptic genres. Hilton began to work less in the 1980s mainly appearing in television productions but nowadays he sparsely acts allowing himself to enjoy his old age.

Notable Films: The Sweet Body of Deborah (1968), The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh (1971)The Devil With 7 Faces (1971), The Case of the Scorpion's Tail (1971), Two Faces of Fear (1972), All the Colors of the Dark (1972), Case of the Bloody Iris (1972), My Dear Killer (1972), The Killer Must Kill Again (1975)

Ivan Rassimov

Ivan Rassimov is known to genre film fans for his roles in Sergio Martino' gialli, appearing in The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, All the Colors of the Dark and Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key. As well as appearing in Martino's gialli, Rassimov appeared in Umberto Lenzi's Spasmo and Mario Bava's Shock as well as gracing many films in other genres of Italian cinema. Ivan Rassimov was born to Serbian parents in 1938. Shortly after his birth, his family alongside his actress sister, Rada Rassimov moved to Trieste, Italy. After finishing his military service and completing his university education, Rassimov completed acting classes and was soon spotted by Mario Bava who cast him in his 1965 sci-fi film Planet of the Vampires. His role in Bava's film led to further work in Italian genre cinema including the aforementioned gialli as well as cannibal, poliziotteschi and spaghetti western films. During the 1980s, Rassimov found work in soap operas alongside genre fare. Rassimov retired from acting in 1987 and later went on to work for a publishing house in Rome where he worked up until his death in 2003 after a tragic motorcycle accident. 

Notable Films: The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh (1971), All the Colors of the Dark (1972), Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)Spasmo (1974)Shock (1977)

Andrea Occhipinti

Despite having less credits than the aforementioned actors on the list, Occhipinti is still a worthy entry on my list as he flies the flag for gialli in the 1980s. Occhipinti starred in two of the most popular non Argento gialli of the decade appearing in Lamberto Bava's A Blade in the Dark (1983) and Lucio Fulci's notorious video nasty The New York Ripper (1982). The Italian film industry was in decline when Occhipinti started to make a name for himself. After his roles in The New York Ripper and A Blade in the Dark he went on to make Conquest (1983) with Lucio Fulci and starred in Tinto Brass' Miranda (1985). The roles dried up mid eighties and Occhipinti mainly worked in TV movies and TV series for the rest of his acting career. In 1995 Occhipinti had a substantial role in Pasolini, an Italian Crime, a reenactment of the trial against Pino Pelosi for the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Occhipinti is now a successful producer (he set up the Italian production company Lucky Red) and his credits include Lars Von Trier's Antichrist (2009), Michael Haneke's Funny Games (2007) and The White Ribbon (2009) as well as Paolo Sorrentino's This Must Be the Place (2011).

Notable Films: The New York Ripper (1982), A Blade in the Dark (1983)

Franco Nero

Known mostly for his roles in spaghetti westerns, Franco Nero also dabbled in gialli with appearances in Bazzoni's The Fifth Cord (1971) and Petri's A Quiet Place in the Country (1968). Nero was born in San Prospero Parmense, Italy in 1941. Nero's father was an officer in the Carabinieri and the family moved to Bedonia before settling in Milan where Nero went on to study at the economy of trade facility before enrolling at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano. His most famous role was as Django in Sergio Corbucci's Django (1966) which led to roles in several other westerns including Fulci's Massacre Time (1966) and Castellari's Keoma (1976). Nero recounts that his subsequent films post Django were marketed in Japan as starring Django rather than Nero's own name due to the huge success of the Django character and films. Nero has appeared in over 150 films across a wide variety of genres including the Italian crime film with Street Law (1974) as well as American films such as Die Hard 2 (1990). Franco is also known for his relationship with Vanessa Redgrave. The two worked together on Camelot (1967) embarking on a relationship during the production. The pair had a child together before going their separate ways. Several years later they reunited and married starring once again in a film together, Letters to Juliet (2010). 

Notable Films: A Quiet Place in the Country (1968), The Fifth Cord (1971)

Urbano Barberini

Urbano Barberini is best known to genre fans for his appearances in Dario Argento's Opera (1987) and Mario Bava's Demons (1985).  The more devout Italian horror fan will know him for his role in Luigi Cozzi's The Black Cat (1989) and Lamberto Bava's TV movie Until Death (1987). What fans of Bava and Argento's films might not know is that Barberini is more than an Italian actor, he is also an Italian prince and a descendent of Pope Urban VII. Acting runs in the family's blood, Barberini's mother, Victoria Zinny, is also an actress, appearing in various spaghetti westerns and crime films in the industry's heyday. Barberini's brother, Karl and sister Veronica have also worked in the film industry in the films of Lamberto Bava - Veronica played Lucy in Macabre (1980) and Karl appeared in Demons (1985) and Delirium (1987). Alongside film roles, Barberini has also worked fairly extensively in theatre, treading the boards in various productions. Barberini has worked steadily since the decline of the Italian film industry and even snagged himself a role in the James Bond film Casino Royale (2006) as Tomelli. 

Notable Films: Demons (1985)Opera (1987), Until Death (1987)The Black Cat (1989)

Marc Porel

Porel was born in Switzerland in 1949 to French actor parents. His mother Jacqueline was a French actress who dubbed voices for Lana Turner and Vivien Leigh, his father Gerard Landry had a prolific acting career appearing in over a hundred films. Porel first got his break in acting at the tender age of 18 when he was discovered by actor/director Jean-Claude Brialy which led to his first role in Costa-Gravas' Un homme de trop (1967). Continuing to work in France in various supporting roles throughout the remainder of the 1960s, Porel went on to secure two leading roles in the early 1970s. Both films were met with a lukewarm reception and Porel decided to find work in neighbouring Italy. Porel went on to work with acclaimed Italian director, Luchino Visconti in Ludwig (1972) before finding work within Italian genre cinema. Porel starred in two of Lucio Fulci's gialli, Don't Torture a Duckling (1972) and The Psychic (1977). Alongside roles in Fulci's gialli in the 1970s, Porel also appeared in poliziotteschi such as Blazing Flowers (1978) and Fernando Di Leo's Colpo in canna (1975). Porel's most well known role was in Deodato's seminal crime film Live Like a Cop, Die like a Man (1976) alongside Ray Lovelock. Marc Porel married Italian actress and Suspiria star, Barbara Magnolfi in 1977 (they both went on to star in the 1978 giallo The Sister of Ursula) and the two remained married until his untimely death in 1983. 

Notable Films: Don't Torture a Duckling (1972), The Psychic (1977), The Sister of Ursula (1978)

Jean Sorel

French actor Jean Sorel has the honour of having some of the earliest gialli film credits on our list and has starred in some of the films that set the blueprint for the genre at large. He is most recognisable to fans of the genre for two roles - his first in Lucio Fulci's Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971) and his second in Aldo Lado's unconventional giallo Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971). Prior to appearing in Lado's creative take on the genre and Fulci's landmark film, Sorel worked with Romolo Guerrieri in The Sweet body of Deborah (1968) and The Double (1971) as well as with Umberto Lenzi in Paranoia (1969). Sorel also worked with Fulci prior to his role in Lizard in a Woman's Skin in Perversion Story (1969). Sorel also starred in lesser known gialli of the late sixties such as Samperi's Kill the Fatted Calf and Roast it (1970), Death Haunts Monica (1976) and Damiani's foray into the genre, A Complicated Girl (1968). Born John Chieusses Combaud of Roquebrune in Marseille, Sorel was the son of William of Combaud Roquebrune who founded the French magazine Liberty. Before becoming an actor, Sorel sought a career in diplomacy beginning his studies in the early 1950s before serving in Algeria. On his return from service, Sorel went into acting and secured his first role in 1959, continuing to work throughout the 1960s in various French and Italian productions including a role in Luchino Visconti's Sandra (1965). Outside of his work in the Italian giallo, Sorel is most known for his role as Pierre Serizy in Luis Buñuel's Belle du Jour (1967). Over the years Sorel has acted in comedies, dramas, adventure films and crime films in Italy and France. As is the case with most actors of the period, Sorel went on to work in soap operas and theatre in his later years and still works to this day.

Notable Films: The Sweet Body of Deborah (1968)A Complicated Girl (1968), Perversion Story (1969), Paranoia (1969), Kill the Fatted Calf and Roast it (1970), A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971), Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971), The Double (1971), Death Haunts Monica (1976)

Simon Andreu

Spaniard Simon Andreu will be familiar to fans of Luciano Ercoli's gialli. Ercoli and Andreu worked together on three films; The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970), Death Walks on High Heels (1971) and Death Walks at Midnight (1972). Ercoli's wife, Nieves Navarro appeared alongside Andreu in all three films and the two would go on to appear in more giallo together, Maurizio Pradeaux's Death Carries a Cane (1973). Beginning his acting career at the age of 20, Andreu studied the dramatic arts before clinching his first film role in Agustin Navarro's comedy Cuidado con las personas formales (1961). His ability to speak French and English fluently opened up many roles for the Spaniard and resulted in parts in European co productions through the sixties and seventies. Andreu worked steadily in the film industry and appeared in spaghetti westerns, dramas and crime films in Italy and Spain throughout the seventies and eighties. Whereas other actors on our list found acting work to have dried up post 1980s, Andreu consistently worked through the next few decades mainly acting in Spanish TV series. Despite mainly working in Television in his later years, Andreu has also had roles in English productions such as The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008), Savage Grace (2007), Beyond Re-Animator (2003) and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004).  Like Urbano Barberini, Simon Andreu has acted in the James Bond franchise playing Dr. Alvarez in Die Another Day (2002). Andreu returned to his gialli roots in 2004 when he took on the role of Detective Ajaccio in Spanish neo giallo Eyes of Crystal.

Notable Films: Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970), Death Walks on High Heels (1971), Death Walks at Midnight (1972), The Blood Spattered Bride (1972), Death Carries a Cane (1973), Eyes of Crystal (2004)

Nino Castenuovo

Although Nino Castenuovo has only appeared in a few gialli, Bianchi's Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975) and Ghione's The Bloodstained Lawn (1973), it's hard not to include such a handsome actor on a list of attractive men in gialli. We also have to give Castelnuovo credit for evening the playing field by stripping down to his pants/swimwear in Strip Nude for Your Killer - its not just the men who get to enjoy bare flesh in the giallo! Born in Lombardy, Italy Castenuovo started his working life as a house painter and mechanic before moving to Milan to work as a salesman whilst undertaking acting classes at the Piccolo Teatro. His first role was as a mime for a children's television show on Italian channel RAI which led to other roles throughout the fifties and early sixties, one of which was a supporting role in Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers (1960). His breakout role was as the romantic lead in Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) alongside Catherine Denueve. The film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes which led to more film roles for Castenuovo including a starring part in Vittorio De Sica's Un monde nouveau (1966). Castenuovo failed to live up to the success of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and after appearing in several box office failures, returned to Italian television starring in a popular mini series. Continuing to work in Italian cinema, Castenuovo took on roles in Spaghetti Westerns as well as the aforementioned gialli in the 1970s. After the 1970s, Nino continued to appear in television and diversified into theatre acting, he also had a small role in the 1996 Academy Award winning film The English Patient

Notable Films: The Bloodstained Lawn (1973), Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975)

Honourable Mentions

Luc Merenda, Tony Musante, Thomas Kretschmann and Lino Capolicchio

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