Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Johnny Deadline: The "Siempre Pollo" Phenomenon

 by JB

I am so proud of the interviews and research that went into this column, I am re-running it in honor of Junesploitation’s “Italian Horror” Day.

There was great rejoicing last year in the dual worlds of film preservation and film excavation. Lucio Grosso, the so-called third maestro of the Italian subgenre “Pollo,” passed away at the age of 96, but that was NOT the subject of rejoicing. Rather, an enormous carboard box of “Pollo” films, long thought lost, was recovered in Grosso’s house where he had been hiding them from the world. When news of a forgotten genre surfaces or a stash of lost films is found, I make it my business to share these glad tidings with my loyal readers.
“Pollo” was itself a subgenre of Italian “Giallo” films, violent crime stories that had a brief heyday on international screens from 1968 to 1978 and thrust genre pioneers Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Antonio Margheriti, Umberto Lenzi, Sergio Martino, and Ruggero Deodato into the international limelight. As disrespected as Giallo was in some quarters, its feathered offshoot, Pollo, was always vilified and never achieved the level of respect, success, or sophistication as its “yellow father.”

Guillermo Del Toro: “I have loved the Pollo films since I was a little child. They speak to both an innocence and a horror, perhaps to a horror to be found in innocence, or maybe the other way around. Maybe they speak to the guilty, sordid, and delightful. These are beautiful films, which are also strangely ugly and mean-spirited, just like life and dreams. Plus, you know... chicken, if prepared correctly, is delicious.”
As most of my readers know, there were three perpetrators of the Pollo genre: Mario Izzi, Giancarlo Noccanoccala, and Lucio Grosso. Mario Izzi began his career in Italian film as Mario Bava’s focus-puller and had soon worked his way up to assistant director on a series of nudie-cuties starring Edwige Fenech. Similarly, Giancarlo Noccanoccala began his career as a “gofer” on Mario Bava’s films, and had soon worked his way up to head caterer on a series of nudie-cuties starring Edwige Fenech. Grosso, the most disreputable of the trio, began his career extorting money from various Italian studios on behalf of the local mafia, but soon worked his way up to assistant hairdresser on a series of nudie-cuties starring Edwige Fenech. Grosso’s passing last week truly spells the end of an era. (Era.)

John Landis: “You would think that the public would grow tired of these films very quickly. I mean for the love of God-- the murderer was ALWAYS a chicken!”

Mario Izzi: “We made [the Pollo films] fast back then, and I mean fast. The genre really only lasted from 1970 until early 1972 and produced a total of 1200 films, slightly more than 20 films a week. Burn out was inevitable.”
Giancarlo Noccanoccala: “Look, say what you want, and I know you will. I am quite used to critics knocking me and my work, thank you very much. I was just trying to make a name for myself in the industry. If I had to ride a chicken to fame, so be it. I was just trying to put groceries on my table-- groceries on the table and a beautiful mistress in every one of the EIGHT apartments I had strategically rented around Sicily. So there.”

Joe Dante: “A popular joke at the time was ‘Why did Lucio Grosso cross the road?
He was chasing a chicken.... and Mario Izzi’s success.’ Before he made his famous string of Poe pictures... Roger Corman actually had big plans to import “Siempre Pollo” films to America... He ultimately decided that the films would not translate well to American audiences, who liked their chicken less spicy. Wait, what?”

Patrick Bromley: “I was originally drawn to this genre, then repulsed by it, then drawn to it, drawn to it, drawn to it, ever nearer, drawing me in closer, then repelled, repelled for three more months, then six, then twelve, then repulsed, then revolted to the core of my being, then back to being strangely drawn and attracted to it, and now it’s one of my favorite genres. I don’t know what that says about me... Wait, what?”
John Carpenter: “Not many people know this, but in the first three drafts of the Halloween screenplay, Michael Meyers was a chicken. Such is the debt I owe to Italian Pollo films.”

John Landis: “When you are watching a Hitchcock film, you realize that you are in the hands of a master. When you are watching one of the Pollo films, you realize that you are in the hands of a chicken. And the thing is... chickens don’t have hands.”

As some film experts had long theorized, Grosso was sitting on a huge cache of films that he refused to either license or screen. Digging under the floorboards of the gourmet kitchen in his Calabria mansion, Cine Italia co-founder Guiseppe Found discovered the treasure trove of Pollo films Grosso was hiding from the public late last week. This marks a major discovery that is sure to change the shape, smell, and taste of film history worldwide forever. An incomplete list of the lost films recovered include:

Ciocarre, Ciocarre, Ciocarre Sangue (Cluck, Cluck, Cluck Blood);
Becci di Paura (Beaks of Terror);
Solletico con una Piuma, Pugnalata con un Coltello (Tickle with Feathers, Stab with Knives);
Gamba, Coscia, Collo, Soffocare! (Leg, Thigh, Neck, Strangulation!);
L’ouvo Era Colpevole (This Egg is Guilty);
Cottolete di Morte (Cutlets of Death);
Quellocelli Non Va Bene (That Bird Just Ain’t Right);
Mondo di Pollo Pazzo (Crazy Chicken World);
Ventriglio e Giustizia (Gizzards and Justice);
Pugnalare il Seno (Stab the Breast);
Sangue e Gnocchi (Blood and Dumplings);
Talon Porcellino della Morte (Kinky Talons of Death);
Mio Tacchino Cerca Trovo (My Turkey Seeks Vengeance);
Pulcini con Pistolas (Chicks with Guns);
Il Gallo in Questione (The Rooster in Question);
Uccidere La Maggior Parte Uccelli (Murder Most Fowl);
Sprea di Chioccia Vendetta (Hen Revenge Spree);
Un Pollo ha Attraversato la Tomba (Why Did the Chicken Cross his Grave?);
Un Covata Di Criminilita (The Criminal Brood);

and Nido Di Mitragiatrice (Machine Gun Nest)
“Regulars” here at F This Movie may want to try and specifically schedule some Pollo films into their Junesploitation viewing plans. It would be a nice way to remember the late Lucio Grosso, and remember that all of the Pollo films go well with coleslaw and home-made biscuits.

1 comment:

  1. I laughed out loud when I got to the end of the Guillermo del Toro “quote.” Columns like this make me happy JB couldn’t stay retired.