The Oldenburg Film Festival, Germany’s leading independent film fest, will honor Ovidio Assonitis, the so-called “King of the Rip-Offs,” with its 2021 retrospective.
The Egyptian-born director, who grew up in Greece and began his career in Italy, is famous (some would say infamous) for B-movie classics, including Tentacles (1977) — a low-budget Jaws rip-off starring John Huston and Shelley Winters fighting a killer octopus, the Exorcist “inspired” Behind The Door (1974), and Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), another Jaws-style horror film featuring piranhas and best known as the feature debut of Titanic director James Cameron, who Assonitis famously fired early into the production, finishing the film himself, though Cameron’s name remained on the credits.
Oldenburg will screen Tentacles, Behind the Door, and Piranha II, along with Assonitis’ Who Saw Her Die (1972), The Visitor (1979), and Madhouse (1981) as part of its retrospective. Assonitis will attend Oldenburg in person. The 2021 festival runs Sept. 15-19.
Assonitis, whose work has been cited as an influence by the likes of Joe Dante and Quentin Tarantino, also famously won a legal battle with Warner Bros., who sued the filmmaker after the Behind the Door became a major commercial success in the U.S., grossing some $15 million. Warner claimed copyright infringement, citing obvious similarities between the supernatural horror tale and the studio’s The Exorcist. The court thought differently and Warner was forced to settle and agreed instead to a four-picture deal with Assonitis.
Assonitis’ last film as a director was the Out of Control (1992), a Fatal Attraction-esque erotic thriller, but the filmmaker continued to produce for several years, with credits on such features as American Ninja 5 (1993) and the 2003 horror title Red Riding Hood.