EDITOR’S NOTE: The crew at the new magazine It Came From Hollywood asked if we’d be interested in running an interview with Dardano Sacchetti and my answer was, “Why are you even asking this question?” Thanks for sending this!
The name Dardano Sacchetti needs little introduction to fans of the 80’s post-apocalyptic movies that followed in the wake of Mad Max (1980) and Escape from New York (1981). In a very short time, Sacchetti wrote a number of action pictures set in a not-so-distant future rife with nuclear fallout, demented overlords, and bands of mutated survivors. 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) is probably the one fans are most familiar with, featuring such genre luminaries as Fred Williamson, Vic Morrow, Luigi Montefiori (better known as George Eastman) and Christopher Connelly as well as serving as the first film appearance for fan-favorite Marco di Gregorio (Mark Gregory).
With the launch of the magazine It Came From Hollywood, Sacchetti agreed to an epic, two-part interview. Rather than rehashing the titles he has talked about in various print and screen interviews, It Came from Hollywood explores how he worked all those years in the world of Italian cinema, quickly learning that on-screen credits aren’t always correct, and then diving into a number of films for which he has rarely commented. What follows is an excerpt from our interview, covering the less than bright future of our world as created from Sacchetti’s typewriter.
Without further ado, the future worlds of Dardano Sacchetti.
1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)
Although the film was partially shot in New York City, do you know how much of it was shot in Rome?
Producer Fabrizio De Angelis’s technique was simple: shoot a week in America with a very small crew. Sometimes it was only the director, the camera operator, and an actor. There was a lot of material to steal, that is, to shoot without permits. (The famous scene of the zombies on the bridge in Zombie was shot at four in the morning with the bridge closed.) Then the film was completed in Italy, paying close attention to the locations and the costumes. Usually there was always a baseball bat, a university or fan cap, some posters, etc. The rest was all an illusion, but it worked.
Did you have much contact with director Enzo G. Castellari after you delivered the script for any rewrites?
Whenever Italian directors ask for changes or rewrites on set while filming, it is because they either have little ideas to add or they take suggestions from the actors for a few lines, but more often it is for production problems. It happened that you came in the morning to shoot a scene with a horse, and you found yourself without a horse.
Did Fabrizio De Angelis give you guidelines for the movie he wanted, or did he just ask you to write about gangs in a future New York City?
For horror films, of which he didn’t understand anything, he gave me maximum freedom. He just invented the titles that were in fashion. For all other films he told me, “Dardano, make it like Rambo, or something like that.”
Actor Marco di Gregorio’s (Mark Gregory) career was made up mainly of appearances in films you wrote. To this day he is a mystery to fans. Did you ever have the opportunity to meet him?
Marco di Gregorio was a boy who belonged to the same gym as Castellari, who noticed him and used him first in 1990: The Bronx Warriors. He was a good guy, unable to act and with a serious defect in that he did not know how to run. He had agility. He had a nice physique, a nice face and he cost nothing. I think I met him once in production just to say hello, but I don’t think he even understood who I was or what I was doing.
Fred Williamson is another actor who has starred in many films that you have written. Have you ever met him?
Never met, but we became friends on Facebook a few years ago.
Why didn’t you have anything to do with the sequel, Escape from the Bronx (1983)?
There was a quarrel with De Angelis and Castellari. I couldn’t tolerate them.
How did you meet the producer Camillo Teti?
You know, I don’t remember, but maybe Dario Argento has something to do with it because I think he was a producer of a couple of Argento’s films, and he looked for me.
How did Exterminators of the Year 3000 come about?
The film was born as a catastrophe and it was a catastrophe because of Teti, director Giuliano Carnimeo, and me too. It simply shouldn’t have been made.
The biggest surprise was when Tommy’s secret was revealed. Was that always the challenge with these films, inventing new surprises to keep the audience entertained?
I always try to include surprises in all my scripts. In my scriptwriting courses I explain that every scene is a small film. It must have a beginning, an end, and a central idea. I have never written transition scenes. There was a director, Giorgio Capitani, who said, and he was right, that my scripts were a series of crucial scenes, and it is true.
The heroine’s name is Trash, the same name as the hero in 1990: The Bronx Warriors. Was it just a coincidence or at any point was this script conceived as a possible third installment of the Bronx films?
I always reused names in my scripts. It is a little cunning way to prove, if anyone would like to steal, that I am the creator of the character.
With 2073, Rome AD: New Gladiators, it appears that you are commenting on how large corporations only seek profits and ratings, at the expense of their workforce, as well as a comment on the situation at the time of the collapse of the Italian film industry when television took over?
It was a great movie, which Americans later copied with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man (1987). It was very anticipatory of the future, but Fulci made it a mess. He had signed two contracts for two different productions, Blastfighter and this one, The New Gladiators. He was convinced he could fool the producers by doing one after the other. Fulci had to give up Blastfighter, but when it came to making The New Gladiators, the atmosphere had turned negative. Fulci’s name at that moment was no longer sought by foreign buyers. The budget was cut in half and the story was about the future fight against the domination of TV. The film’s advertising partially transformed the film into a mediocre thriller, losing sight of the central nucleus of the idea. But I was already pissed off because without any fault I had lost a contract and the good relationship I had with a producer. There was the clamorous quarrel between me and Fulci, that led to ten years of coldness between us.
Was this script an original script you wrote or was it a job of doctoring an existing script?
It was an original story of mine that Fulci wanted to make. Blastfighter was the only apocalyptic movie I wrote that I liked a lot, but Fulci made a mess of it and it was diverted to Lamberto Bava. Then the story changed completely. There was no longer anything similar to my original story, but the title remained because the film had been sold with that title.
There is a lot of speculation that the original script was a science fiction story similar to Mad Max but set in the woods.
That is a mistake. The location was a desert covered in a huge cloud of sand and fog. There were two cities that were a cluster of car carcasses piled on top of one another, that moved slowly in the desert. The car-city was like a sort of western village and in the center there was a saloon. The most valuable thing were the batteries because there was more energy.
So, Blastfighter ‘s original concept was a post-apocalyptic desert world, and cities were literally made up of thousands of cars stacked on top of each other, with an entire city inside, and these gigantic traveling cities moved slowly across the desert. This is a fantastic concept!
Exactly. In my opinion it was a spectacular idea, a very strong one that maybe I will take up again. The only one who came close to capturing a similar spirit of the film is the Canadian director David Cronenberg with Crash (1997). I say that meaning, Crash has absolutely nothing to do with my original story to Blastfighter, but the overall atmosphere of “a place of death where life is remembered” is the same, even if developed with different visions.
You were credited as Frank Costa on the finished film, but in the print of the movie I saw, that credit doesn’t appear.
Frankly, I don’t know. Frank Costa was a pseudonym invented by producer Amati. Another time he made me say I was John Gould or something, for Cannibal Apocalypse (1980). They were little cheats, like when they gave Italian actors American names to fool both Italian viewers and U.S. buyers.
Hands of Steel (1986)
Was Hands of Steel a script revision or original screenplay?
It was a script revision born to become something else.
Was this the only time you and Elisa wrote under the name of Elisabeth Parker, Jr.?
No, we used it other times too.
The poster for the film gives away the film’s biggest surprise.
The director did not believe in the film, which was written in a completely different way.
In a video interview, Luigi Montefiori has condemned the senseless helicopter accident that killed co-star Claudio Cassinelli during filming. Do you recall this tragedy?
I don’t know what Montefiori said, but it’s the truth that Cassinelli didn’t need to be on board.