PUBLISHED IN KILTER MAGAZINE
"Dylan Dog" by Christopher Hoppe
I think that my first memory of the character of Dylan Dog and the film, Cemetery Man a.k.a. Dellamorte Dellamore was from the November 1994 Issue of Playboy from their annual “Sex in Cinema” article. It was a photo of the lovely Anna Falchi completely naked riding a top of Rupert Everett. The amorous couple was having sex on top of a gravestone. Instantly, I knew that this was the kind of movie I had to see. However, this was before great independent video companies like Blue Underground and Anchor Bay existed. There was no major video outlet for Euro Horror yet. There was mainly Gorgon Video, most famous for giving the world, Faces of Death, or Indie mail order companies like Sinister Cinema that had dubbed copies of the work of Italian Horror Directors like Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and Lucio Fulci. However, Sinister Cinema’s versions were usually horribly edited. So a complete legal version Cemetery Man was not to be viewed until 2006 when Anchor Bay released it to DVD.
Michele Soavi directed cemetery Man in 1993. The film is adapted by the Dylan Dog comic, which was created by Tiziano Sclavi. Cemetery Man’s synopsis: Dellamorte (Everett) is the cemetery caretaker of the village of Buffalora, Italy. It has the look and feel of a classic Universal Horror picture but shot in beautiful Technicolor. Dellamorte’s main duty is to keep the living dead, called ‘returners’ who rise from their graves 6 days to prey on the living, from doing just that. Solution: just shoot them in the head, or some other form of head trauma. (Thank you George A. Romero). The reason that the dead keep rising is not revealed. (In lots of Italo Horror, many tales are non-linear) We learn though this has happened for quite some time because Dellamorte is rather bored with his task. As well as dispatching the undead he likes to build a model that never seems to get finished, and read from the telephone book. Gnaghi, a mentally challenged gravedigger, who provides comic relief, assists him in his duty. In the picture, Dellamorte falls in love with a stunning widow, in the form of Italian model, Anna Falchi. That’s when all hell breaks loose, we are treated to a very atmospheric great film that has a surrealistic, erotic-poetic quality with elements of existintentialism, friendship and don’t forget zombies!!! I refuse to mention anymore about the film. One has to view it for himself.
Soavi was to have taken the mantle as the new king of Italian Horror from his mentor Dario Argento. His four films give him that title to some degree. Soavi’s pictures include The Church, The Sect aka Devil’s Daughter, and his debut, Stage Fright from 1987. I have to admit that Stage Fright aka Bloody Bird is bloody good fun with the killer wearing a huge Owl Mask killing off members of an acting troupe one by one in the classic ‘Giallo’ tradition. For the uninitiated, giallo are crime and mystery thrillers with very stylish camera work with lots of dubious sex and murderous violence. (In example: the good stuff.) Cemetery Man is considered the last great film of the golden age of Italo Horror.
Dylan Dog first appeared in October 1986 with a story called, L'alba dei morti viventi" ("Dawn of the Living Dead"). Luckily for those of us who don’t speak Italian, Dark Horse Comics has compiled some of his classic tales in one huge compendium that is about 700 pages back in 2009. This first came out in 1999 in six issues. Dylan Dog is a nightmare investigator in London. Sclavi named him after Dylan Thomas, the poet. Dylan Dog is actually the most popular comic in Italy. There have been over 56 million copies sold worldwide. Forty percent of the readers are also female too. Now they’re on issue 287. For a comparison the Dog is like more of a mature title along the lines of Vertigo from DC, like Sandman or Hellblazer. In fact, I notice similarities between both John Constantine and Dylan Dog; both deal with the paranormal and smoke like chimneys. The book itself features excellent black and white artwork. The stories are actually very well written, traditional detective tales with femme fatales, blood curdling demons, and other nasty beasties. Sclavi uses elements of the coolest influences like David Lynch, Romero, Hitchcock, Sherlock Holmes and classic fairy tales as well.
His back-story tells us that he was married and that he once was a detective for Scotland Yard. He is easily recognizable by his black jacket, red shirt, and blue jeans. He always wears the same clothes. He has 12 pairs of the same outfit. The book has a few re-occurring characters too. There is Groucho, his loyal assistant, who looks just like the famous Marx Brother and is mainly there for comic relief. For the Dark Horse version, Groucho was Felix, because The Groucho Marx estate would not allow his name likeness for the book. A hero has to have a villain; Dylan Dog’s is Xabaras, a demon and a sorcerer who may also be Dylan Dog’s father. He has had many romances as well. The guy is bit like Bond just as suave, except I would say that more of Dylan’s lovers die. One of the most well known of the bunch is Morgana, who was Dylan’s Mother, did I mention that she is dead. Man this guy must have some major issues not only Oedipal but Necrophilia as well. Francesco Dellamorte and Gnaghi make an appearance in an issue titled Onno Nero, where Dylan goes to investigate at Dellamorte’s place of business. I have eagerly been waiting word from Dark Horse on when they plan on releasing more English versions of Dylan Dog. So far nothing is on the horizon. One down side of the English versions is that we have no way of knowing if the cases are in order after #1. So I could either buy the Italian versions follow the stories by pictures or learn Italian. There is an upcoming film to be released called Dylan Dog, The Dead of Night.