05 February, 2010

PETER MARTELL (1938-2010)

See Peter Martell as "Peter Martell" in Miles Deem's SAVAGE GUNS!


...to the video world of Jess Franco

Pietro Martellanza aka Peter Martell appeared in at least 40 films from 1963 to 2009, including two directed by Jess Franco. The ruggedly handsome ex-stuntman played Barnaby in THE BLOODY JUDGE (1970) and Dracula in KILLER BARBYS VS DRACULA (2002). One has to note how his appearance, beyond aging factors, transforms between those two markers. He obviously lived through hard times. Martell's ilfe took a downward spiral after appearing in numerous Spaghetti Westerns from the mid 60s to the mid 1970s. When the genre died he faded into obscurity and ended up living as a recluse in a van near his Alpine hometown, Bolzano, where he died Feb. 4. He reportedly attempted suicide before Jess Franco gave him a comeback role in his colorful horror-musical. He appeared in a few more films before his death at age 72.

Martell could have been a contender but his personal problems seemed to hold him back. He was finally given an apartment by the Bolzano town council as a shelter in which to live out his days.

He was an intense presence, especially as the frenetic, sleazy fall-guy in THE FRENCH SEX MURDERS and in some of his Spaghetti Western roles. He has an amusing walk-on as himself, alongside Gordon Mitchell, in a surreal moment in Demofilo Fidani's SAVAGE GUNS (1971).

A personal favorite role was as the impulsive astronaut who gives space station Captain Rod Jackson (Giacomo Rossi Stuart) a hard time in Antonio Margheriti's GAMMA ONE episode, PLANET ON THE PROWL. That was made in 1964. In 1965 he made an easy-to-miss appearance as another astronaut in Mario Bava's PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES. He's seen on the spaceship's video screen communicating with Barry Sullivan early on. He jokes with the actor playing Sullivan's younger brother. He doesn't appear in the rest of the film, strangely enough. He seems to have either quit or was replaced for some reason.

Martell had a striking, vivid onscreen persona.

Thanks to Westerns All'Italiana blog and Nzoog for additional information.


Tom B. said...

Good obit Robert. It was always a pleasure to see Martell in a film as he always gave a good performance. Next to Gianni Garko he was probably my favorite Italian Spaghetti western actor. Sad how his life turned out but I was glad to see Franco give him a few good roles before his death. Still 72 is not really old these days.

dfordoom said...

Now I'm going to have to find a copy of Gamma One. I love Antonio Margheriti's space operas!

I still haven't seen Killer Barbys vs Dracula. Is it worth tracking down? So far I haven't ventured beyond the 80s in Franco's filmography.

Robert Monell said...

ood obit Robert. It was always a pleasure to see Martell in a film as he always gave a good performance.

Thanks, Tom. Yes, he always gave 100% in whatever roles he had. At least he had some help toward the end of his life. I want to see more of his westerns.

Robert Monell said...

a. Is it worth tracking down

Very much so. It's one of his better 21st Century films, along with VAMPIRE JUNCTION and SNAKEWOMAN.

y of Gamma One

See the entire quartet. My favorites are WILD WILD PLANET and PLANET ON THE PROWL, but they're all supreme fun and visually dazzling.

dfordoom said...

I've seen Wild, Wild Planet and absolutely loved it.