DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (aka CEMETERY MAN) (1994) – The Dungeon Review!

I am writing this review as I sip a coffee on the balcony of my new apartment. It’s nice out here! I am going to buy some plants and flowers and shit to make it all secret gardeny. I love my new neighborhood too! I particularly like that the best video store in Vancouver is just minutes away from me! I can’t wait to dig into their catalog of goodies! I will definitely have an interesting mix of titles for reviews in September. I apologize for the thin postings for zombie month. I usually cover a lot more films for this feature. The whole moving thing really messed with my blogging. Since this is the last week of zombies I wanted to make sure I covered another flick from my favorite’s list. I figured there were more reviews out there for the other films on my list and Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) could use more love. I happen to think Dellamorte Dellamore is one of the most original and entertaining films about the undead out there!

Dellamorte Dellamore’s DVD came with a bunch of trailers and an interesting interview/documentary thing on Michele Soavi. Soavi discusses his association with Dylan Dog creator Tiziano Sclavi who wrote the novel on which Dellamorte Dellamore is based. Soavi cites three directors as his teachers; Joe D’Amato, Dario Argento and Terry Gilliam. Soavi worked on films in Italy with both D’Amato and Argento in various capacities; he just seemed to greatly admire Gilliam who he referred to as a visionary poet (or something along those lines-I really should have written it down). In any case, it is a nice little documentary bonus.

Dellamorte Dellamore never calls its menace “zombie” therefore none of those classic zombie characteristics apply. The dead certainly look rotten enough when they come back but they are highly functional. In Dellamorte Dellamore those who rise from the dead are called “returners”; at least that is what Francesco Dellamorte, caretaker of the Buffalora Cemetery calls them. Within seven days of being buried in the Buffalora Cemetery the dead rise from their graves and it is Dellamorte’s job to make sure they get back to their final resting place permanently. He could lodge a formal complaint, but the amount of paperwork involved is such a hassle it is just easier for Dellamorte to shoot them in the head. Dellamorte also has an assistant named Gnaghi, a portly good natured man with child-like tendencies. The two live and work in the Buffalora Cemetery.

Dellamorte Dellamore opens with Francesco Dellamorte chatting on the phone to a friend in nothing but a towel. Dellamorte answers a knock at the door and is greeted by a reanimated corpse. He calmly shoots the corpse in the head and carries on with his conversation. Just another night in the Buffalora Cemetery for our Mr. Dellamorte. Dellamorte says to his friend “life goes on” and in his world it certainly does! The “returners” are generally pretty easy targets; although a few do give Dellamorte some trouble. There is an insane accident that kills several people at once; all of which will be buried in the Buffalora Cemetery. Dellamorte and Gnaghi have their work ahead of them! The makeup and effects are top notch! Each “returner” is unique in appearance which is determined by how they died. I particularly enjoyed the teeth clacking boy scouts! The “returners” seem to recollect loved ones, they speak, and one of them even rides a motorcycle. They do come back pretty pissed sometimes and they will bite you. It hurts like a sonofabitch but their bite does not turn you into the undead. Everyone who dies in this film dies twice; and a lot of people die in Dellamorte Dellamore. There is blood and gore but most of it isn’t particularly graphic. More die quickly with a shot to the head than by any other means. There are a couple special nuggets however that I will not tell you about.

While I would refer to Dellamorte Dellamore as a horror-comedy, it is also a gothic romantic tale. One of the film’s most important elements is “She” who goes by many names and none. He first meets “She” at her rich old husband’s funeral. I can not really go into details about “She” without spoiling a chunk of the film. But “She” shows up in several different scenarios all of which Dellamorte falls madly in love with her. Dellamorte spends the rest of the film in this love-death loop that is bound to take its toll on his psyche! The film does indeed take a strange turn after pieces of burned phonebook take the shape of death who speaks to Dellamorte. Dellamorte Dellamore’s finale is really something else! I love Dellamorte Dellamore’s look and feel. It is dark and gothic yet whimsical. I can see a touch of Gilliam influence in Soavi’s visuals. Dellamorte Dellamore has an entertaining story and great humour that gets decidedly darker as the films rolls on. The film’s central character Francesco Dellamorte is equal parts charming, arrogant and awkward. I also found him kind of sexy! Among Dellamorte’s hobbies are reading outdated telephone books, clipping obituaries out of the newspaper and having sex with beautiful women in graveyards. Rupert Everett was a brilliant choice for Dellamorte; I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. Gnaghi, Dellamorte’s faithful, slow-witted assistant who speaks only in grunty sounds is a likable and empathetic bloke and is played perfectly by François Hadji-Lazaro. “She” is both the love of his life and the primary source of his pain and anxiety. The gorgeous Anna Falchi is as comely as they come and it is not difficult to understand how Dellamorte falls in love with her on site!

Dellamorte Dellamore came out of one of horror’s most uninspired decades and was such a fantastic surprise! It is playful, funny, dark and strange. There was a rumour a year or so back that Michele Soavi was going to do a sequel to Dellamorte Dellamore. Sadly no such project is listed on Soavi’s IMDB page. If Soavi ever does do a sequel, I will be the first in line! Dellamorte Dellamore gets my highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Michele Soavi

Starring: Rupert Everett, François Hadji-Lazaro, Anna Falchi, Mickey Knox, Fabiana Formica, Clive Riche, Katja Anton, Barbara Cupisti, Anton Alexander

13 Responses to “DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (aka CEMETERY MAN) (1994) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. This is a great film and don’t think many people know about it. Along with all the comedic elements (does Gnaghi purposely look like Curly?), it has some great creepy scenes and suspense – especially the grim reaper sequence.

    • It pleases me to hear other horror fans dig Cemetery Man. Such an original bit o’celluloid that is funny and creepy…the ending really took me off guard the first time around!

    • …I do think Gnaghi was meant to look like Curly. His name even sounds like that 3 Stooges sound they make when they are poking each other in the eye etc. That gna-gna-gna sound.

  2. If only this film could have been the rule and not the exception to what you so correctly called “one of horror’s most uninspired decades.” A true gem from the 1990’s,which offered too few great horror films,and your review is top notch as always.

  3. I gotta catch on my Zombie movies! I didn’t read the whole review cuz I dont want to let the dead cat out of the bag…:) ..I gotta start making a list and pop some popcorn…thanks GG (btw glad your enjoying your new apartment) PS dont forget about the review of the remake to Dawn of the Dead I really would like to hear your thoughts on that one…thanks dear.

  4. Never mind that last bit..I just saw that its up and coming on your home page…:)

  5. I’ve never been able to understand how this film was overlooked. I remember Fangoria doing a two-page spread on it back in the day, and then, nothing. Though I think the scratch-your-head philosophical, overly European ending had a lot to do with it. We still don’t see many intelligent zombie movies, let alone intelligent zombie movies with a wicked sense of humor.

    • I probably watch as much horror from Europe and Asia as I do from North America. “Scratch-your-head philosophical, overly European ending” …your probably right, not really a mainstream crowd-pleaser. Too bad…they don’t know what they’re missing!

  6. I keep hearing good things about this one so I’ll have to buy it… or search my library for a copy to borrow!

    • If you don’t need a fancy new blu-ray copy, you can probably pick it up cheapish…but if you can get it from the library why the hell not? You know how I love my library! I’m not near the central branch anymore so now I can only order online and have them sent to my branch.

  7. […] Francesco Dellamorte oversees the Buffalora Cemetery where people don’t stay buried. The returners, as Dellamorte calls them are generally pretty easy targets; although a few do give Dellamorte some trouble. In the course of the story Dellamorte meets a beautiful widow whom he falls in love with on sight, he also meets and falls in love with a few of her doppelgangers, he buries and re-kills several returners and has a conversation with death himself. The makeup and effects are top notch! Each returner is unique in appearance which is determined by how they died. I particularly enjoyed the teeth clacking boy scouts! A returner’s bite hurts but it does not turn you into one of the undead. Everyone who dies does so twice; and a lot of people die in Cemetery Man. There is blood and gore but most of it isn’t particularly graphic. More die quickly with a shot to the head than by any other means. I love Cemetery Man’s look and feel. It is dark and gothic yet whimsical. It has an entertaining story and great humour that gets decidedly darker as the film rolls on. The film’s central character Francesco Dellamorte is equal parts charming, arrogant and awkward. I also found him kind of sexy! Among Dellamorte’s hobbies are reading outdated telephone books, clipping obituaries out of the newspaper and having sex with beautiful women in graveyards. Rupert Everett was a brilliant choice for Dellamorte; I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. Gnaghi, Dellamorte’s faithful, slow-witted assistant who speaks only in grunty sounds is a likable and empathetic bloke and is played perfectly by François Hadji-Lazaro. “She” is both the love of his life and the primary source of his pain and anxiety. The gorgeous Anna Falchi is as comely as they come. Cemetery Man is playful, funny, dark and strange. To read the full review click here. […]

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