As a teenager, Agostino “Dino” De Laurentiis enrolled in Rome’s Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, gaining experience behind the camera as a grip and an assistant director, and in front of it as an extra and in bit parts. By the age of twenty he had produced his first film, but the coming of WWII put his career on hold. When it resumed, De Laurentiis became an international name as the main producer behind the celebrated Italian neorealist movement, with both La Strada and Nights Of Cabiria winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. However, it was, perhaps, the 1956 version of War And Peace that most pointed the way forward, with its American cast and director drafted into a European film, in a production that was in all conceivable ways BIG.
At the beginning of the 1960s, De Laurentiis built his own production facilities outside Rome, from whence issued everything from biblical epics to pop-art spectacles, and from spaghetti westerns to Shakespeare. In the early 1970s, he relocated to the US, and initiated that phase of his career for which he is, perhaps unfairly, best-known—and most notorious—with a series of productions whose ambitions were matched only by their wrongheadedness. Meanwhile, the “DEG” logo of his production company, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, began (like its contemporary, Cannon) to convey a certain message to genre fans, appearing on Amityville sequels, Halloween sequels and Stephen King adaptations seemingly without number; while the producer balanced out his Academy Awards when Body Of Evidence took home the Razzie for Worst Picture in 1993.
But it is hard to argue with 2000’s choice of Dino De Laurentiis as the recipient of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award—if only for the sheer scale of his contribution to the motion picture industry: at the time of his death in 2010, he had been involved in over 600 films.
So join us this month as we consider just a few of them:
It’s FROM THE BIBLE TO BARBARELLA—all through May at the B-Masters Blog!
Liz Kingsley is the insane genius behind And You Call Yourself a Scientist!