Italian postcard by Playboy Edizione Italiana, no. 2. Photo: Fabrizio Livio.
Dalila Di Lazzaro was born in Udine in the Po valley in 1953. Her father Attilio was a former heavy-weight and artisan and her mother Rosalia was a seamstress. Her youth was difficult and reportedly she was raped several times, since she was only 5 years old.
At 16, she ran away from home with her fiancé Franco Cosetta. They had a child, Christian, born in 1969. She started to work as a fashion model and a few weeks later, she was already on the cover of Vogue magazine. In time, she became the subject of famous photographers such as Andy Warhol.
Soon the Italian film industry also spotted her. Credited as Dalila Di Lamar, she made her debut in the Spaghetti Western Si può fare... amigo/It Can Be Done Amigo (Maurizio Lucidi, 1972) starring Bud Spencer and Jack Palance.
She had her first female lead – now credited as Dalila Parker - in the horror film Frankenstein 80 (Mario Mancini, 1972) starring bodybuilder Gordon Mitchell as the mad doctor. Fred Beldin at AllMovie: “Frankenstein '80 is stupid, sickening, and obscene, but seekers of psychotronic cinema will have a field day with this ridiculous Italian exploitation product. Despite a repetitious pace and poor cinematography (which sometimes renders the action incomprehensible), Frankenstein '80 never gets boring and manages to outrage consistently throughout its screen time.”
Di Lazzaro was the only female cast member who was not stripped and disembowelled, but that did happen to her the next year in Flesh for Frankenstein/Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (Paul Morrissey, 1973). In this Italian-French horror film produced by Andy Warhol, Andrew Braunsberg, Louis Peraino and Carlo Ponti, Di Lazzaro played the female monster. Udo Kier portrayed Baron Frankenstein, Monique van Vooren his wife and Joe Dallessandro was the hunky stable boy Nicholas.
Carlo Ponti wanted to make star out of Di Lazzaro and she appeared next in two other Ponti productions, the comedies Il bestione/The Beast (Sergio Corbucci, 1973) with Michel Constantin and Giancarlo Giannini, and La pupa del gangster/Sex Pot (Giorgio Capitani, 1975) with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. During the shooting of this film the tabloid press went wild about the supposed rivalry between Di Lazzaro and the older Sophia Loren, who was married to Ponti.
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.
Between the mid-1970s and the early 1980s Di Lazzaro worked in some interesting films with notable directors. Carlo Ponti helped her to get the title role in Alberto Lattuada’s comedy-drama Oh, Serafina! (1976). It was her breakthrough.
She appeared in two films by Luigi Comencini, first opposite Ugo Tognazzi and Mariangela Melato in the giallo-comedy Il gatto/The Cat (Luigi Comencini, 1977), and then in the drama Voltati Eugenio/Eugenio (Luigi Comencini, 1980) with Bernard Blier. In France, she starred opposite Alain Delon in Jacques Deray’s crime film Trois hommes à abattre/Three Men to Kill (1980). It was a huge box office hit.
Another success was Dario Argento’s horror film Phenomena/Creepers (1985), starring 14-year-old Jennifer Connelly as a sleepwalker who has a bizarre telepathic bond with insects. She uses them to pursue a serial killer who is butchering young women at and around her school. Di Lazzaro played the head mistress.
In 1983 she refused the role of Domino, later played by Kim Basinger, in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (Irvin Kershner, 1983). From the mid 1980s on, she focused primarily on television. TV series with her include Aeroporto internazionale/International Airport (1985) with Aldolfo Celi, and the romantic miniseries Disperatamente Giulia/Julia Forever (Enrico Maria Salerno, 1989) with Tahnee Welch and Fabio Testi.
Her later feature films include the drama Diceria dell'untore/The Plague Sowers (Beppe Cino, 1990) with Franco Nero, and the action film Power Force (Godfrey Ho, 1991). In 1991, her 22-year-old son Christian died in a road accident. Di Lazzaro was devastated and suffered a stroke. She retired for some time from public life and from 2006 on, she wrote five books, dedicated to her son.
In 1997 she played in the drama Un bel dì vedremo/One beautiful day (Tonino Valerii, 1997) with Giuliano Gemma. Her last film appearance was in the comedy-drama L'Ultima ruota del carro/The Fifth Wheel (Giovanni Veronesi, 2013), and her most recent TV role was in the Miniseries Rodolfo Valentino - La leggenda/Rudolph Valentino – the Legend (Alessio Inturri, 2013) featuring Gabriel Garko as the silent film idol. Dalila Di Lazzaro lives with her family at the Cote d’Azur and in Milan.
Digital restoration of rare trailer for Flesh for Frankenstein/Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (1973). Source: Pendulum House (YouTube).
Trailer for Trois hommes à abattre/Three Men to Kill (1980). Source: Zerone190 (YouTube).
Trailer for Phenomena/Creepers (1985). Source: Massacre SlutDoom (YouTube).
Sources: Fred Beldin (AllMovie), Celine Colassin (D’autres étoiles vilantes – French), Corriere della Sera (Italian), Wikipedia and IMDb.