The Man Who Didn’t Want to Die (Lamberto Bava, 1988)

The man who didn’t want to die / L’uomo che non voleva morire/ (1988)
Directed by: Lamberto Bava. Produced by: Andrea Piazzesi, Lamberto Bava
Cast: Gino Concari, Martine Brochard, Keith Van Hoven, Peter Pitsch, Lino Salemme.

Opening on a wordless montage full of suggestive fadeouts, THE MAN WHO DIDN’T WANT TO DIE reaches its low point early on as the already enfeebled narrative grinds to a halt for a senseless rape scene* (needless to say, this tasteless, perfunctory and lazily filmed sequence adds nothing to the story). It turns out the frenzied rapist is our protagonist. Talk about unlikeable characters.

Giannetto, a small-time crook, ends up in a semi-comatose state when a robbery of a luxurious goes badly wrong. His buddies stripped him naked and leave to bleed by the roadside while they get away with the loot, a valuable art collection. Giannetto eventually regains consciousness and swears revenge on his former buddies.

Even in the cheapest of Lamberto Bava’s films (for the very nadir of his career, see IL TORTURATORE / THE TORTURER, produced by Luciano Martino) have consistently shown a firm grasp of visual storytelling. The roman director’s innate sense of framing and style are evident throughout his work. It is also true, however, that Lamberto Bava’s output is frequently marred by indifferent direction of actors and risible dialogue – not to mention frequent scenes of mistreatment of women. THE MAN WHO DIDN’T WANT TO DIE is one of Lamberto Bava’s more frustrating efforts, where solid craftsmanship and technical prowess clash with hackneyed writing** and lousy acting.

The Cast

The flawed, thin screenplay centres around a hateful protagonist and packs several redundant subplots (the chocolate-obsessed mother, the rich art collector, the rapist’s love interest). Gino Concari’s crap performance further sinks the film. It’s good to see Lamberto Bava regulars Lino Salemme (DEMONS, DEMONS 2, DELIRIUM), who gets the most epic death of all) and Peter Pitsch (who doesn’t get to do much) as the robbers but they’re both overacting madly. The talented Martine Brochard (THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS) is there merely to show off some chic outfits.

The wonderful Simon Boswell provides a discreetly pleasing synth score in the vein of his other work for Lamberto Bava. The atmospheric music cues, coupled with Gianfranco Transunto’s able cinematography, greatly help to carry the film over the spots where writing and acting fail.

Filmed on location in the Liguria region of Italy (we get glimpses of Portofino and Genova along the way), THE MAN WHO DIDN’T WANT TO DIE cannot boast the incredible set design seen in Bava’s other Reteitalia productions (DINNER WITH A VAMPIRE / A CENA COL VAMPIRO, GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE / UNA NOTTE AL CIMITERO). Yet, despite its obvious cheapness, abundance of clichés and overall vulgarity, THE MAN WHO DIDN’T WANT TO DIE does conjure up some suspense.

Lamberto Bava should have kept his workmanlike hands off Giorgio Scerbanenko’s source short story. According to actor Peter Pitsch (DEMONS, MIDNIGHT RIPPER), THE MAN WHO DIDN’T WANT TO DIE was shelved without receiving a TV premiere in Italy. To a forgiving Eurocult fan, THE MAN WHO DIDN’T WANT TO DIE makes for a bearable 90 minutes on a rainy afternoon. Just don’t expect a lost gem.

Reviewed by Alex Bakshaev

*A tendency to include at least one scene of a woman getting sexually molested or otherwise mistreated spreads is evident in several Lamberto Bava’s TV films: the titular creature in THE OGRE/ LA CASA DELL’ORCO gropes the young babysitter, a gang of hideous clowns stalk and molest an underage girl in Il GIOKO/SCHOOL OF FEAR. Rape (this time off-screen) and resulting trauma are also the catalyst of misogynistic violence in Lamberto Bava’s stylish MIDNIGHT RIPPER.

**Italian dialogue is credited to Fiamma Maglione, known for her bit parts in Lenzi’s cannibal epics.