While it is not known if there was ever an actual obituary written for Luca Barbareschi, his story and that of the film Cannibal Holocaust is so weird I decided to include it in this list, because for a time, many actually believed Luca Barbareschi was dead.
The late 1970s and early 1980s was a great time for horror films. An American Werewolf in London, The Thing, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and so many more great horror films came out during this time period. But in 1980, one film came out that was so horrific, officials investigated to determine if the graphic gore in the film was a little too graphic. In fact, they wanted to know – was it real?
Well before The Blair Witch Project, Italian director Ruggero Deodato made Cannibal Holocaust. Cannibal Holocaust was supposed to be actual “recovered documentary footage.” In the film, supposed documentary film makers enter the Amazon jungle to film indigenous tribes, and go missing. Two months later, another crew find the “lost footage” which shows, among other things, people being impaled on stakes and lots of other super gory film action.
Ten days after it was released, director Deodato was arrested by police and charged with obscenity, and the film was banned in Italy, Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries. Even more startling, due to the rumors that the actors had actually been killed in the making of the film, Deodato was held on charges of murder. In 1981, a French magazine published an article questioning whether Cannibal Holocaust was a snuff film, or if the actors themselves had actually been murdered during the making of the film. While this may have been exactly what Deodato wanted in the way of press coverage for his film, he didn’t think people would actually believe he killed his actors. But they did. Deodato did not help matters because in order to give the public the impression that the main actors had been killed, he had the actors sign contracts ensuring they would not appear in TV, commercials, or films, for one year after the film’s release, in order to promote the idea that the film was truly the recovered footage of missing documentarians.
Luca Barbareschi was one of four actors whom the Italian police believed had been murdered while making the film. Deodato was eventually able to reach Barbareschi and the other actors, and voided the contracts so they would appear. He had all of them come onto an Italian television show to convince the authorities that they were, in fact, alive.
However, the authorities were not yet finished with Deodato. Although Deodato was exonerated for murder, the courts cited him for real animal cruelty law violations (multiple animals had been harmed and killed during the filming of Cannibal Holocaust). Deodato, the producers, screenwriter, and the studio representative each received a four-month suspended sentence after they were convicted of obscenity and violence. Deodato would fight in the courts for three additional years to get his film unbanned.