As you’ve probably heard by now, prolific film producer Dino De Laurentiis has passed and his funeral will be held this coming Monday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. Now if you were a kid in the 70s like me, then you probably became familiar with Mr. De Laurentiis through his efforts to bring the 1976 remake of King Kong to fruition. Yeah, I know. The greatest generation got the classic original with Willis O'Brien's brilliant stop-motion animation, the latest generation got Peter Jackson’s lavishly bloated CGI love-fest, and us… we got a crusading bearded liberal being chased by a guy in a monkey suit. But what the heck, it was the 70s! I saw Dino’s Kong in the theater and I still watch it today. It’s too much fun not to.
Okay, so not every film the man was involved with was a classic, but he does have some really good stuff in his 500+ film oeuvre, including what many regard as one of the greatest of the old school Biblical epics, Barabbas. He was nominated for over 35 Oscars and won the Irving G.Thalberg Memorial Award for “demonstrating a consistently high quality of motion picture production”. It’s just that for every Serpico to his credit, there’s also a Mandingo. Face it, there’s a reason Michael Medved called him "Dino De Horrendous". But we bad movie lovers certainly don’t hold that against him. I mean, come on, just think of all the things we would have missed without him.
We might never have heard Arnold Schwarzenegger explain that what is best in life is “to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”
We might never have gotten to see a greasy underfed Sting prance around in his speedo and menace others with pointy weapons.
We might never have seen Bruce Campbell fight the Army of Darkness.
We might never have gotten to see a greasy underfed Grace Jones prance around in her speedo and menace others with pointy weapons. (Or was that just Sting again in blackface? I’m not really sure.)
We might never have seen Gary Busey get his butt kicked by a priest turned werewolf.
We might never have gotten to see a not so greasy, not at all underfed Brian Blessed prance around in his speedo (and a pair of goofy looking wings) and menace others with pointy weapons.
We might never have seen Barbarella. (Okay, I don’t know if that would have been a good or a bad thing, but at any rate, we never would have seen it.)
All I’m saying is that guys like De Laurentiis understood the universality of film. He knew there was space on the shelf for Federico Fellini’s La Strada and for Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive, so he got them both made. The way Dino De Laurentis “indiscriminately mixed the high-minded with the schlock” was considered a limitation by critics like The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, but for obvious reasons, we consider it a strength around these parts. God bless you, Mr. De Laurentiis, and may He grant you eternal rest and let perpetual light shine upon you.