Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention, but sadly never returned to these type of flicks. They’re femme fatales and final girls whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…
This installment of Cult Classic Cuties is going to be a little different as it won’t profile an actress in a particular role, but in a series of roles for the same director over a short period of time. Italian actress Daniela Doria made only a handful of films between 1976 and 1982, but interestingly enough, a number of those films were with Italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci. In fact, she appears in four films in a row, between 1980 and 1982, for the gore master. While none of the roles were major ones, Daniela caught one’s eye with her beautiful features, not being afraid to bare her natural charms and the fact that she seemed to always meet a grim fate. Daniela’s four Fulci films are City Of The Living Dead (aka The Gates of Hell), The New York Ripper, House By The Cemetery and The Black Cat! Since a lot of her scenes are NSFW and she left acting over 30 years ago, it was not easy finding photos…
Not much is known about the actress before or since her Fulci days. She wasn’t afraid to be photographed or filmed “au natural” and certainly was brave enough to perform in some unpleasant death scenes for Fulci, including a few in the vulnerable state of being nude and/or bound. She played her last film role in an Italian comedy in 1982 and then disappeared from acting, or at least in films, after that. She was a beautiful young woman who apparently caught Fulci’s eye and was, from appearances, a good sport about disrobing in spooky settings and being splattered with plenty of trademarked Fulci gore. Either that or she simply found the legendary Lucio Fulci…a director to die for!
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After making some true horror classics like Zombie and The Beyond, Fulci lost his way and this flick is a sad example. The story has a vicious killer stalking sexually active women in New York City. One who carves up their bodies in vile ways and makes ominous phone calls to the detective (Jack Hedley) investigating the case. The killer both kills and makes his calls while quacking like a duck…you read that right…and no woman seems to be safe as Det. Williams is baffled by this sadistic killer and his reign of terror.
1981’s House By The Cemetery was a lesser effort by Fulci and he followed it up with this sleazy and perverted slasher that seemed to be more mean-spirited than anything else. Gone is the artistic flair the Italian horror maestro directed his previous classics with and instead this is a vicious little movie that mixes some very nasty kill sequences with the silly premise of it’s killer quacking and talking like a cartoon duck when committing his horrifying acts. The mix of extreme violence and this comical plot element is unsettling, but not in a good way. Fulci’s films were always filled with blood and gore, but they had class. Here his camera lingers on perverted acts such as an unnecessary sequence of a promiscuous woman (Alexandra Delli Colli) being foot raped by a thug in a bar and the vicious savaging of a bound and gagged woman (Daniela Doria) with a razor blade. When it comes to exploitation, sleazy can be just fine, but here Fulci seems to be reveling in these misogynistic acts and it makes one uncomfortable as it has an edge to the viciousness that goes beyond trashy entertainment. Once we get our climactic reveal, the killer’s motivations really don’t make sense and the explanation is extremely convoluted. He doesn’t even have a solid reason for his butchery…or his disturbingly comical choice of vocalization. It doesn’t really work, as it’s just a weak excuse for all that has preceded it.
One a technical level, the film is well made enough for a modest budget and the gore is top notch as always in a Fulci film. Hedley and the rest of the actors are all fine for an Italian horror and there are some very pretty women in the cast, though some meet very gruesome fates. The beautiful cinematography of Sergio Salvati is sadly missed as are the atmospheric scores by Fabio Frizzi. Instead we get adequate but unremarkable cinematography by Luigi Kuveiller and a functional but forgettable score by Francesco De Masi. The script was written by Fulci and three co-writers and yet still seems weak despite all the collaboration, including Dardano Sacchetti, who worked on all of Fulci’s best films.
Overall, this is a lesser effort by a man who only a few years earlier made at least three films now regarded as Italian horror classics. Sadly, the maestro would never reach that pinnacle again, though his legacy as one of the horror greats is solid, just based on his work from 79-81. This film is effective, though sometimes not in the rights way and does have the extreme gore Fulci’s fans look for. Unfortunately, it can also be a mean-spirited film and one which wallows a bit too much in perversion and sleaze and comes across as somewhat misogynistic with it’s extreme brutality towards women. Not to mention the killer’s silly M.O. Worth a look if you are a horror fan discovering Fulci, but sadly a film that signals the beginning of a lesser chapter in Fulci’s legacy that he would not really recover from.