Giovanni Lombardo Radice
Interview by Gavin Schmitt.
Giovanni Lombardo Radice is an Italian film actor, better known to some
audiences as John Morghen. He refers to himself as "Johnny".
Radice is mostly famous for the gruesome death scenes his characters fall
victim to in films such as "Cannibal Ferox". In one interview, Radice stated
that he wished he had never portrayed Mike Logan in the aforementioned film.
He has fond memories of Lucio Fulci and is described as "wonderful" by
Fulci's daughter, Antonella.
He created his stage name John Morghen by taking the anglicized form of
his first name (Giovanni becomes John) and using his grandmother's maiden
name as his last name (Morghen). His family practically disowned him when
they discovered he was using his family name to create incredibly violent
I had the pleasure to throw some questions at Johnny in April 2011, and
he was able to give me the inside scoop. Read on...
GS: You wrote a review of "Last Cannibal World" where you summed it up
as "a piece of shit". Is it fair to say that Italy has a history of making
just as many "shit" horror films as winners?
GLR: Winners in what sense? Box Office? It’s not my term of evaluation.
Horror fans? I never was one. Anyway, when I wrote that review I wasn’t deep
in the horror web market as I am now. I hadn’t watched back my own movies,
for instance, which happened later because of the movie commentaries and the
many interviews. So, later on, I had time and need to re-think my position
and had some terms of comparison. Some movies are better than others and I
do think that the Cannibal genre is generally the “shittier”. It pretends to
depict reality, which is preposterous, whilst other movies go in a Fantasy
World and more in the fairy tales tradition, some of them being quite gory.
In “Cinderella” (the original, not Disney) birds pick out the eyes of the
bad stepsisters. Isn’t that Fulci already?
GS: "House on the Edge of the Park" was written by Gianfranco Clerici
. Was he ever on set or offering script revisions?
GLR: Yes, he was there a lot. And I remember a very funny “business
meeting” with Deodato, Clerici and myself very seriously discussing in what
position I should make love with Lorraine De Selle. Who was on top of who
GS: Allegedly, "Cannibal Apocalypse" had a cannibal blowjob scene that
was cut from the script. Can you tell me about that?
GLR: Absolutely true. The Nurse character, played by May Heatherly, had a
sex love affair with a doctor and when turning into a cannibal she was
supposed to eat off his dick in the middle of a hot romp in the hay. May
Heatherly was an enchanting, refined and cultivated lady in a serious
relationship with the son of the Spanish Ambassador to the Vatican. She was
there on behalf of the Spanish co-production (she lived in Madrid) and
because she needed the money, I guess. She was desperate about the blowjob
scene and turned for help to the chivalry sense of John Saxon and myself. We
talked to Margheriti and he agreed it was too much. So tongue got the place
of dick. More nourishing I think, from a cannibal point of view. The penis
is all nerves and veins after all…
Another time, poor May was in a state because after shooting she had to
attend a party at the Embassy and stage blood wouldn’t go away from her
legs… A cannibal version of Lady M. “Away, damned spot…”
GS: I have met Ruggero Deodato twice, and he seemed very friendly and
light-hearted. Would you agree? If yes, is it strange that such a happy man
makes very dark and violent films?
GLR: Well, if people should be what they “do” I would be a serial killer…
And horror was just a parenthesis in Deodato’s career. He did a lot of
different things, including brilliant commercials and a teenager miniseries
that I wrote for Italian TV (I Ragazzi del Muretto). He has a great fantasy
and brilliant visual sense, so probably dark plots appeal to him from that
point of view. And it’s fairly common for “blood thirsted” directors to be
very nice people. Dario Argento is a very witty man, Michele Soavi has a
schoolboy attitude towards life and Darren Ward (the young English director
of A Day Of Violence) is the perfect Mr. Right, with a lovely wife and two
adorable little daughters. And I never saw such a wicked fantasy as his.
GS: You appeared in a couple Deodato films and a few from Soavi. How
do their directing styles differ?
GLR: Deodato was brisk, professional, straight to the point. Shouting at
times (to the crew mainly), but always correcting his pretended anger with
some jokes. When shooting "House On The Edge Of The Park" he was always in a
hurry. The whole movie was done in three weeks. Michele was passionate,
treating the movie as a child, always doing something, helping the crew,
sketching takes for next day. The Massaccesi production for "Stagefright"
was poor, but not hurried, the Argento one is richer and more complicated.
Soavi was shooting from more angles than Deodato and he had a more “stagy”
imagination. Deodato had a great sense of rhythm. What they shared was a
genuine passion for their work.
GS: You have had harsh words for Umberto Lenzi, saying he thought he
was a genius when he wasn't. Was Lenzi the worst director to work with or
does someone else have him beat?
GLR: He could compete with Fabrizio De Angelis with whom I shot "Dead
Impact" with. But they had a different kind of nastiness. De Angelis was a
street robber who could have killed you to spare five dollars (being both
producer and director) and very rude. Lenzi was full of himself and
GS: You have also said that animal torture symbolizes "a longing for
fascism". Can you explain this?
GLR: Not just the animal tortures, the general idea. Violence for the
sake of it, prevarication, admiration for The Strong White Man, blandly
masked with depicting him as a sadistic madman… Crap.
GS: Did you get any time off-camera with Daniel Day-Lewis on "Gangs of
GLR: No. He was very polite with everybody, but the set was a huge one,
hundreds of people. No occasion. Anyway he is my favorite actor, alongside
Jeremy Irons. I considered it a privilege to be in the same studio with him.
I’ll never forget when I saw him in “My Beautiful Laundrette”. I had seen
him and thought he was wonderful in “A Room With A View” and it took me more
than one hour to realize it was the same actor!!!
GS: In "Manson Rising", who is the character Lanier Ramer and how does
he fit into the story?
GLR: He is the guru first getting Manson into scientology and religious
mad philosophy. They meet in jail and he marks an important turn in Manson
GS: Is "House on the Edge of the Park 2" really happening?
GLR: I really hope so. The cards on the table are excellent. Deodato and
myself invented a story not only violent and extreme, but with many
insights, good characters and high tension and Andrew Jones developed it
into a marvelous script. Fans are high on the idea and investors seem very
interested. Anyway, I keep my fingers crossed, because I dealt enough with
independent productions to know that you can never be a hundred percent sure
until you are on set, with costume on and ready to shoot. When I started my
career, if you were offered a movie it was quite automatically happening.
Not so these days.
GS: You have said you "pity" the people who enjoy watching films such
as "Cannibal Ferox". Is it awkward for you to be at a convention and sign a
"Ferox" poster, feeling the way you do?
GLR: That’s a very good point indeed. It is awkward. What happened was
that when Mike Baronas (my American representative) convinced me to attend
conventions I positively refused to have t-shirts or gadgets with Cannibal
Ferox, but on the other hand he was positive in declaring that I could not
refuse to autograph pics or posters on fans request. So I do, but always
adding something nasty about the movie, funny if possible, but nevertheless
negative. And if I will attend the Chiller convention for the 30th
anniversary I intend to have a big sign back to the table, saying that half
the profit will be given to Amnesty International. I can’t deny being in
that movie, so maybe the best I can do about it is explaining people why I
consider it terrible. I also try to convince fans that I was terrible too,
pulling faces and shouting all the time. But it seems to be a lost cause…
GS: You have been really busy the last few years... where have all
these films come from?
GLR: From the web. Strangely enough, even if I have an official site
where my agent’s contacts are written in capitals, directors and producers
contact me directly via mail or Facebook (Myspace it was but Facebook killed
it). Which is fine, because before coming to discuss money I must read the
script anyway. I dedicate quite a lot of time to web contacts. I chat with
fans, I answer mails… I find it interesting and rewarding even if I am much
more interested on their lives than on explaining once more how it was to
work with Fulci. The fact you didn’t ask makes you winner of the Inventive