The Mondo Esoterica Guide to:

Adolfo Celi

  About Adolfo Celi:

Born July 1922 in Italy, Celi was considered to be the renaissance man of theatre and cinema. Making some early appearances in Italian films during the 1940s, he found opportunities limited and went on to spend two decades working on the stage in South America where he directed two films. In 1964 he appeared in the Italian produced spy film That Man from Rio (1964) which brought him back to the attention of European cinema producers. The next year he went on to star in a triple bill of American produced films shot in Europe - WW2 actioner Von Ryan's Express (1965), Charlton Heston historical semi-epic The Agony and the Ecstacy (1965) and culminating most famously as the chief villian in James Bond thriller Thunderball (1965). However Celi was unable to make the break into Hollywood, his English although good was very heavily accented and had to be dubbed - something commonplace in European cinema, but unpopular in the USA, hence this was to be his peak of his mainstream cinematic fame. The next year saw supporting roles in the massive scale Grand Prix (1966) and the curious art-house film King of Hearts (1966), and by 1967, Celi was firmly lodged in the Euro-cinema realm, appearing in a self-parody role in James Bond spoof OK Connery (1967) and playing the first of many 'Mafia Boss' roles in Grand Slam (1967). His heavy build, and dignified air was perfectly suited to this role and he would repeat similar roles in Mario Bava's crazy Diabolik (1968) and Fernando Di Leo's crime films La Mala Ordina (1972) and Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976). He also appeared in a variety of giallo and horror films as well as a Spaghetti Western, the near-surrealist Death Sentence (1967). By the 1980s, euro-cinema was in decline, and Celi made the switch to television, appearing in a few European shows before his death in 1986.

Adolfo Celi is one of many actors with a big filmography, known to the world for a single role - in this case Emile Largo in Thunderball (1965). However, after his short-lived Hollywood sucess, he found a suitable niché playing clergy and mafia bosses in dozens of movies that have since become cult favourites.

   DVD Reviews: Films starring Adolfo Celi
Danger: Diabolik (1968)
USA Paramount Region 1 DVD
Bava's masterly direction brings a true comic-book air to this well directed and scored film. Celi plays a typical Mafia Don role.
Death Sentence (1968)
German Koch Media Region 2 DVD
Celi gets a small but important role in this strange and original film with unique soundtrack and direction plus a decent script.
Recommended to fans who have 'seen it all'.
Grand Slam (1967)
Blue Underground USA Region 0 DVD
Celi has a brief role as a mafia boss in this slow paced, rather dull heist film alongside Klaus Kinski and Janet Leigh.
Not recommended.


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All text in this site written by Timothy Young - March 2006.
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