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 films.
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 revue 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 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 meting” with Deodato, Clerici and myself very seriously discussing in what position I should make love with Lorraine De Selle. Who on top of who and such…
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 persons. 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: Pretty much. 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 all 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 ones richer and more complicate. 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 to work with or does someone else have him beat?
GLR: He could compete with Fabrizio De Angelis with whom I shot Dead Impact. 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 bombastic.
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 New York”?
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 with Jeremy Irons. I considered a privilege being in the same studio with him. I’ll never forget when I saw him in “My Beautiful Laundrette”. I had seen him and thought him 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 life.
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 sure hundred per cent 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 Interviewer Award.
Special thanks to Giovanni for this incredible interview.