Exploring: The films of George Eastman

George Eastman — born Luigi Montefiori on August 16, 1942 — is an Italian actor, writer and director who took on his Americanized name after appearing in several spaghetti westerns in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He’s known for his menacing glare and towering height — he’s 6 foot, 9 inches tall.

After working with Joe D’Amato on the film Cormack of the Mounties, the two began a professional relationship that extended throughout the next few decades. Probably Eastman’s best-known role is playing Klaus Wortmann, the insane cannibal killer in D’Amato’s Anthropophagous. He played a similar role — now named Mikos Stenopolis — in the spiritual sequel/Halloween ripoff Absurd and also starred in Erotic Nights of the Living Dead and Porno Holocaust for the multi-named D’Amato (born Aristide Massaccesi, but also known as Ariston Massachusetts, Arizona Massachusset, Federiko Slonisko, Federico Slonisco Jr., Dan Slonisko, Raf Donato, David Hills, Michael Wotruba, Dirk Frey, Robert Hall, O.J. Clarke, Gilbert Damiano, Peter Newton, Richard Haller, Kevin Mancuso (actually the name for both he and Eastman together when they co-directed 2020 Texas Gladiators), Dario Donati, Joan Russell, Robert Yip, Lim Seng Yee, Boy Tan Bien, Chang Lee Sun, Fu She, Hsu Hsien, Leslie Wong and certainly many more that no one has figured out were really him).

Eastman didn’t just appear in Italian exploitation films. He also was the nemesis for Charlton Heston in 1972’s The Call of the Wild and played Goliath in the 1985 version of King David, which stars Richard Gere.

NOTE: Thanks to Matthyou Stern on Facebook for mentioning that he was also the minotaur in Fellini’s Satyrcon.

After a string of 1980’s appearances, mostly always as the heavy, he moved into directing and writing with films such as 1990’s Metamorphosis before becoming a screenwriter full-time.

Eastman is one of my favorite actors in Italian cinema. When he shows up in a film, you’re guaranteed that he’s going to bring all of his scene-chewing insanity to every moment that he’s on-screen. Here are but a few of my favorite roles that he’s played.

ACTING – Arno Treves in Baba YagaThe first time I ever saw Eastman in a film was in this 1973 adaption of Guido Crepax’s erotic comic book. He plays Arno, a director who is the friend and lover of photographer Valentina Rosselli (Isabelle De Funès), who comes into the orbit of Baba Yaga (Carroll Baker), who may or may not have occult powers. Grab it from Blue Underground.

WRITING – Keoma: Eastman wrote the original treatment for this Enzo Castellari directed and Franco Nero starring spaghetti western that at once is the end of the era of those films and also was the potential for an entirely new look at the genre. Endlessly dark and influenced by Shakespeare, Sam Peckinpah and Bob Dylan — quite a cocktail — it’s a film that deserves a much larger cult. You can check out the new blu ray release from Arrow Video to see why (and there’s also a mini-doc, Writing Keoma, that features a new interview with Eastman).

ACTING – Rabid Dogs/Kidnapped: This 1973 film by Mario Bava wasn’t released until after his death, due to rights issues and no final cut having ever been completed. Taking place mainly within a car filled with criminals who all have their own agenda, Eastman plays Thirty-Two (named for the size in millimeters of his member), a drunken rapist and murderer whose madness sets the plot into overdrive. You can get it from Kino Lober.

ACTING – AntropophagusAlso known as The Grim Reaper in its cut down US release, Eastman owns every frame of this movie, appearing as mad cannibal Klaus Wortman. How many other actors eat their own intestines and rip open a woman’s belly to eat her unborn child, much less both in the same movie? This movie has so many titles, even I can’t keep track of them, like Antropofago, Man Beast, Man-Eater and The Savage Island. It’s also one of the 39 category 1 video nasties, which you can read about right here. Want to see it for yourself? Severin Video has you covered.

ACTING – Absurd: Eastman plays Mikos Stenopolis, a man experimented on by the Vatican, who begins the film by being impaled on a fence before killing every single person in his path. If this seems a lot like the movie directly above it, that’s no accident, as it also comes from the D’Amato/Eastman alliance. This one, however, is the only Halloween ripoff that has a Pittsburgh Steelers came as its backdrop. Severin Video has also rereleased this on blu ray.

ACTING – 1990: The Bronx WarriorsAnyone who makes fun of this Enzo Castellari post-apocalyptic film gets thrown out of my house on their ass. Eastman plays Ogre here, dressed in the finest Mortal Kombat fightwear years before that actually was a thing. Lucky you — you can get this movie and Escape from the Bronx and The New Barbarians on this new blu ray reissue from Blue Underground! Or watch this on Shudder and thrill to a movie that is somehow even better than the multiple movies that it’s ripping off.

ACTING – IronmasterIn case you ever think that this world sucks, here’s a heartwarming thought: at one point in the mid-1980’s, Umberto Lenzi and George Eastman, wearing a cape with a lion head, were running wild inside South Dakota’s Custer State Park making a complete ripoff of Quest for Fire that eschews any realism and goes straight for the throat. Life can be wonderful, you know. Buy this from Ronin Flix and find out for yourself.

ACTING – The New BarbariansReleased in the US as Warriors of the Wasteland, this may be my favorite role that Eastman ever played. As One, the leader of the Templars, he murders, rapes, pillages and tortures his way through what’s left of the world after the bombs have fallen. Between him and Fred Williamson’s Nadir, the main hero Scorpion can only come across as second rate. Seriously — you have not lived until you see Eastman go full-on maniac and scream out batshit dialogue when he’s not murdering someone every two minutes. Essential viewing. Also available on that aforementioned post-apocalyptic Blue Underground three-pack.

ACTING – BlastfighterYou may have watched ripoffs of Rambo: First Blood before. But have you ever seen one with a magical gun that can shoot darts and grenades? Or one that has Michael Sopkiw, who was the childhood friend of Eastman, and is just trying to live out his life in his cabin and leave his blastfighter under the floorboards, but poachers won’t leave well enough alone? No. You have not. So you should totally get this from Ronin Flix.

ACTING – DeliriumLamberto Bava claims that this is one of the few movies where he had the budget to get things right. Well, he did one thing correct: he hired Eastman to be Alex, the photographer boyfriend of the main character. Then he didn’t have him do much at all. Oh well. This movie is also available from Ronin Flix. I wonder if Eastman owns stock in that company.

ACTING – The BarbariansCannon Films. Ruggero Deodato. The Barbarian Brothers. If these words make you excited, well, you’re at the right website. Eastman makes a quick appearance here as Jacko, arm wrestling one of the brothers in a bar. Here’s hoping he got a sweet paycheck out of this one.

WRITING/DIRECTING – 2020 Texas GladiatorsIn the book Spaghetti Nightmares, Eastman derided the entire post-apocalyptic genre: “These (post-atomic) films, which were made in the wake of the various Mad Max movies, were decidedly crummy. The set designs were poor…and the genre met a swift and well-deserved death. I only wrote these awful movies for financial reasons…no attempt at originality was made at all.” On this one, I’d agree, as it’s pretty much a spaghetti western with different clothes. You can grab it at Cult Action.

ACTING – 2019: After the Fall of New YorkA hero named Parsifal navigates a world where women are no longer fertile, looking to bring back the one woman who can have a child. Does this sound like Children of Men? Well, amazingly, that book and movie ripped off this movie after it ripped off Mad Max. Then again, this one also has Sergio Martino directing it and features Eastman as Big Ape, a pirate-dressed Planet of the Apes character in the midst of all this who is obsessed with finally having sex with the aforementioned fertile woman and spreading his DNA all around the brutal new world of 2019. This movie is exactly as insane as that writeup makes it out to be.

ACTING/WRITING – EndgameWhy this movie isn’t out on blu ray right now blows my mind. It’s my absolute favorite post-apocalyptic film ever — I know, I say that often and even did about Warriors of the Wasteland up above — but this movie is absolutely and utterly scumtastically perfect. Just look at that cast — Al Cliver, Laura Gemser and Eastman as Karnak, the second-greatest Endgame player of all time. Eastman also wrote this film, which is packed with utter depravity and mayhem. Grab it yourself from Cult Action like I did.

ACTING – Hands of SteelA Sergio Martino directed movie that rips off Mad Max and The Terminator while also somehow trying to be Over the Top starring John Saxon, Janet Agren, Claudio Cassinelli (who was killed in a stunt mishap on set) and Eastman as a demented trucker: Yes. Give me all of that. You can get this from Ronin Flix, complete with a new Eastman interview.

DIRECTING – MetamorphosisAlso released as Re-Animator 2 in Spain, this Eastman directed film tries to remake The Fly while basing itself on lizards instead of insects. You can grab it from Shout! Factory.

WRITING – Stage Fight: This Michael Soavi-directed, Eastman-written slasher is perhaps the last great blast of Italian horror cinema. It’s one of the most visually stunning filsm you’ll see, packed with brutality and beauty in equal measure. It’s a movie that I can’t get enough of — the way the end plays with the viewer’s perception and even breaks down reality is truly perfect. Grab it from Blue Underground or watch it on Shudder ASAP!

I’ve skipped a few other movies, but when you’ve been involved in as many films as Eastman, this is bound to happen. I’ll probably add to this list when I get a chance to check out his work in movies like Erotic Nights of the Living DeadPorno HolocaustEmanuelle Around the WorldEmanuelle Around the World, Caligula: The Untold Story and the two Django films that he appeared in.

Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite Eastman movie? And when is he going to act again? I realize that he reprised his role from 1986’s Christmas Present in 2004’s Christmas Rematch, but he should totally be still acting!

NOTE: Thanks to Twitter user Sjekkie Sjen for telling me: “It’s spelled Joe d’Amato not Joe D’Amoto.”

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