Often credited as Janna Ryan (or Ryann) or Geretta Giancarlo, the eternally striking Geretta Geretta lit up numerous over-the-top European horror and post-apocalyptic epics like MURDER-ROCK, RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR and WARRIORS OF THE LOST WORLD. Of course, this eclectic wonder, who is a writer and director in her own right, is best known for her aggressive portrayal of Rosemary, the first victim who turns into a dazzling, drooling creature, in the cult classic DEMONS. Ingeniously detailing what happens when a group of movie-goers are attacked and turned into zombie-like creatures, mirroring the action of the film they are viewing, DEMONS, created by the combined efforts of director Lamberto Bava and producer Dario Argento, will be shown at Chicago’s annual 24 hour THE MASSACRE (details below), on Saturday, October 17th, with Geretta in attendance. In anticipation of that event, this charming, well traveled performer talked to me about her work in the Euro scene of the 80s and about her co-stars in everyone’s favorite over-the-top monster fest.
BGHF: Your roles always seem to rely on an intense physicality. Do you approach every role that you play with the character’s physical qualities in mind or is it more of an emotional connection?
GERETTA GERETTA: Thanks for noticing. Keep in mind during a lot of that I was between the ages of 19 and 26 so I could jump, fall and run like the wind. I grew up in Oregon, basically a tomboy with a pretty face. I just didn’t know any better! I gotta lot of shit in Italy too cause they weren’t used to girls being so…well, Sporty Spice! This was like a decade earlier! I didn’t care! They’d shove a machine gun in my hand and say “Run! Shoot!” I just did it! My first film in Italy, I don’t even think I have lines. I’m in a Raquel Welch-like fur bikini bottom. Guys are raping girls, left and right, in some post apocalyptic nightmare-doomsday and I’m shot in the chest… after just running through several scenes, in high heeled boots, shooting people. Who knew!? I just did it!
BGHF: You were often credited as Janna Ryan on those early films.
GERETTA: Director David Worth had changed it to Janna Ryan on WARRIORS OF THE LOST WORLD because he said Geretta Giancarlo made the film sound too Italian! Bahahah!
BGHF: You have talked about DEMONS being a well funded production. Was it the highest budgeted project that you had worked on at that point in time?
GERETTA: Yes. I believe the budget was 1 million. Keep in mind, back then even Fellini only got six!
GERETTA: Actually, every single of us young’uns pretty much had a claim to fame. Urbano Barberini (George) was… (Laughs) well, read a history book! They used to like be kings and he’s a direct descendant! Natasha Hovey (Cheryl) was about the most famous ingénue in Italy. She had just come off a huge financial and artistic hit film called DA GRANDE which, loosely translated, was BIG, using the same storyline that they did with Tom Hanks a few years later. Karl Zinny’s (Ken) aunt was a hugely famous actress. Paolo Cozzo (Kathy), who played the dark haired best friend, was the daughter of the cinematographer. Let’s see…That young blonde crawling under the chairs? That was Fiore Argento, Dario’s older daughter. The dark haired guy that reads the book in the movie within the movie? That’s Marcello Modungo, the son of Domenico Modungo who recorded Volare. It’s like The Girl from Ipanema, one of those world famous international classic songs! The red head usher, Nicoletta Elmi – she was a famous model and child actress…I could go on and on. We were…I dunno…the Roma Brat Pack? Yeah…why not?!? For that summer, we were the she-it! (Laughs)
BGHF: So, were there any hi-jinks with your co-stars, on set, during the filming of DEMONS?
GERETTA: You know? You have to be a lot more famous to do hi-jinks on set! They take up time and well, no one ever talks about the ones that don’t come off well.
BGHF: How long did your iconic make-up take to put on in DEMONS? Was it an arduous process?
GERETTA: My memory now says about seven hours; four for the hands and three for the face…all those veins were hand painted on, then the lashes and contact lens, and then all that stinking yogurt in my hair! Then once the bubble bursts that scar had to match….I only did about three or four hours a night on the actual shooting… and even then that’s about 15 minutes at a time. It ain’t all glam and hi-jinks! Movies are a lot of hurry up and wait!
BGHF: Rosemary as a demon has been immortalized with her own bobble head doll from Cult Collectibles. How did it feel to receive such an honor?
GERETTA: I was shocked as shit and very, very humbled! Thanks Mark Murray! Thanks Mary Murray! I met them during my “Italian Invasion Tour” during Chiller. They asked me then.
BGHF: Does the continued legacy of your Euro cult films like DEMONS, RATS, and SHOCKING DARK surprise you?
GERETTA: Hell yeah! But, still not as much as America voting in a black president -twice! That’s when I KNEW the apocalypse is nigh! (Laughing)
Be sure to come meet Geretta at The Massacre, 24 hours of horror film madness, on October 27th at the historic Patio Theatre in Chicago. She will be joined by original DAWN OF THE DEAD co-star SCOTT REINIGER. There will be free autographs and photos, numerous horror related vendors and auctions to benefit Vital Bridges, a non-for-profit devoted to helping those with AIDS related illnesses. More information can be gathered at https://www.facebook.com/events/1638259179791251/1661548034129032/