"Italian Giallo" is the definition by which the world remembers the revolutionary, shocking thrillers made in Italy in the 70's that would set the base for psychothrillers of the 80's and sometimes would mix serial killers with supernatural elements, although the word "giallo" originally meant classic murder mysteries and detective stories. Director Mario Bava was the first to lead Italian mystery movies in a new direction in the 60's, but the real Italian Giallo phenomenon started in 1970 with the huge success of Dario Argento's "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage". Not only this movie, credited to Argento both as writer and director, heavily influenced other Italian directors (Aldo Lado, Umberto Lenzi, Sergio Martino... mentioning only the ones I had the pleasure of meeting personally, but there are many, many more); it is also said to have inspired Alfred Hitchcock while making "Frenzy".
So, Dario Argento is undoubtedly the father of Italian Giallo.
But is he the only one?
On Sept. 11th, 2021, during the "Premio Torre Crawford" Festival in San Nicola Arcella (Italy), guest Aldo Lado tells a different story, which has been recently published in France, in Laure Charcossey's book "Conversation avec Aldo Lado", but was never previously heard in Italy.
|Moment of revelation: Lado and Cappi in the TV news|
Let's go back to the 60's. Dario Argento is the writer of Maurizio Lucidi's war movie "Probabilità Zero", filmed in (then) Yugoslavia, with Aldo Lado as assistant director. According to Lado, Argento tells him he'd like to make a movie from Fredric Brown's "The Screaming Mimi" but he hasn't been able to obtain film rights for the novel. Lado reads the book and doesn't see it as film material, except for one thing: in the book, a man witnesses a murder and not the murderer, the murderer thinks the witness has seen it all. That would really work.
So - said Lado last saturday - they start working together on a film project of their own and, in a restaurant in Rome, they come up with a title which will become famous: "L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo". Then Lado goes back working as assistant director on various films all over the world, later including "The Conformist" by Bernardo Bertolucci, from a novel by Alberto Moravia. According to Lado, he doesn't hear about "The Bird" till, back in Italy, he reads that Argento is working on "their" film; Argento wouldn't return his calls and the movie is released only with Argento's name as writer. The lack of credit, says Lado, "delayed my career for three or four years". He adds "I didn't speak with Dario for over forty years".
In 1971 Lado is the director of an Italian Giallo of his own, filmed in Prague as "Malastrana", but the distributors choose a different title, "The Short Night of the Butterflies"; and, since director Duccio Tessari is releasing his "The Bloodstained Butterfly", the title is changed again into "The Short Night of the Glass Dolls", reminding of the "crystal plumage" of Argento's film. Meanwhile Lado has been working with Bertolucci on the project of "Last Tango in Paris", delayed because Marlon Brando got himself hired by Francis Ford Coppola in "The Godfather". Lado will miss "Tango", since he is called to film in Venice - the city where he grew up - his second giallo, "Who Saw Her Die".
He won't make another giallo - "I didn't like to make the same film twice" - although some thrilling elements appear in the shocking, highly political movie "Last Stop of the Night Train". He will later be back to something similar to giallo with a few tv productions and the film "Il notturno di Chopin". Meanwhile he adapts various novels for the screen, including one by Moravia, "La disubbidienza". He later becomes a film producer in France and currently lives near Rome, writing novels. He also published in English the book "The Movies You Will Never See", a collection of original unused film stories of his.
Quentin Tarantino said that his two giallo movies and "Last Stop of the Night Train" are enough to consider him one of the great Italian directors. But maybe a paragraph of the history of Italian cinema should be rewritten and Dario Argento would not be the only father of Italian Giallo.
Sept. 14th, 2021