Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 18
November 2, 1975
Who Killed Pasolini?

Pier Paolo Pasolini died on November 2, 1975. One of the century’s great artists, the Italian director, poet, writer and political thinker lived a complex and contradictory life, the details of which embody many of the era’s great social, religious and political debates. An atheist, he filmed what many consider to be the best film about Jesus ever made (The Gospel According to St. Matthew). His Mamma Roma, the 1962 story of a middle-age prostitute played by Anna Magnani, was a shocking depiction of street-level poverty in Italy that still, within the framework of a neorealist melodrama, expressed Pasolini’s interest in Christian iconography. A lifelong Communist who abhorred the fascist politics of his youth, Pasolini made his last film, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, by setting the Marquis de Sade’s novel of transgression and torture in a Nazi-controlled, Northern Italian town in 1944. It is widely considered the most controversial film ever made. Pasolini would die before its release, murdered when he was repeatedly struck and run over by his own automobile. A 17-year-old hustler confessed to the crime, but Pasolini’s murder has always been shrouded in mystery, with some theorizing that a conspiracy opposed to his political views caused his death. Others claim that he was killed in an extortion attempt related to stolen footage from Salo. And one person, Pasolini’s friend and painter Giuseppe Zigaina, argued that the director staged his own death. In 2005, Pasolini’s killer recanted his confession, claiming that he was forced to admit to the crime under threat to his family. The case was briefly reopened but the judicial inquiry led nowhere.


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Dec. 18, 1958
Boris Karloff's nephews found murdered

On December 18, 1958, Boris Karloff was struck by a personal tragedy more horrible than any event depicted in one of his movies when his two great-nephews were discovered with their throats slit.

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December 18, 1966
Antonioni’s Blowup Defines Cool

In New York, crowds of hip cinephiles lined up to see Michelangelo Antonioni’s first English-language film Blowup. The Italian director had already risen to the top of everyone’s must-see list with movies like L'avventura and L’eclisse. But in Blowup, Antonioni took hipness to a whole new level. The script, based on a short story by Argentinean writer Julio Cortázar (who gets a walk on role in the film as a homeless man), involves a callous fashion photographer (David Hemmings) who believes he may have photographed a murder by accident, but finds he can’t prove it one way or other. While Blowup’s existential murder mystery was indeed compelling, it was its backdrop of swinging mod London that captured the most attention. Many felt the main character was modeled on the real-life jet-setting photographer David Bailey, and actual models Jane Birkin and Veruschka wander in and out the film’s world. At the party scene, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page of The Yardbirds play on stage (as themselves), and local personalities like Michael Palin (later of Monty Python) pop up in the crowd. The whole mishmash captured the London scene like nothing else had. Andrew Sarris called the movie "a mod masterpiece.” Playboy’s Arthur Knight went further by suggesting that in the future Blowup will be as “as important and germinal a film as Citizen Kane, Open City and Hiroshima, Mon Amour – perhaps even more so."

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