Few producers in Hollywood history produced as many movies as Italian mini-mogul Dino De Laurentiis—who died at 91 after making more than 500 films—and few embraced genre storytelling with as much vigor.
Sometimes, you love the films you love for reasons that pass understanding. There's just something about them that stirs the soul, or tickles the fancy. Looking at De Laurentiis' massive list of credits, it seems like that was the star he followed during a career that began in prewar Italy—where he lured stars like Audrey Hepburn, Anthony Quinn, Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda to appear in his pictures—to New York City, and then to Hollywood. Along the way, he made Oscar winners (La Strada, Nights of Cabiria), classics (Serpico, Three Days of the Condor, Blue Velvet) and giant honking flops (Hannibal Rising, Maximum Overdrive).
But he also dug his teeth into science fiction, horror and fantasy like few others. He gave us the campy intergalactic sex romp Barbarella (1968), the spyrific Danger: Diabolik (1968), the first remake of King Kong (1978), the pulptastic Flash Gordon (1980), the muscletastic Conan the Barbarian (1982), David Lynch's ambitiously overblown Dune (1984) and the wondrously cheesy Army of Darkness (1992).
Dino partnered with horror writers like Stephen King and Thomas Harris—and turned out flicks like The Dead Zone, Cat's Eye and Silver Bullet from King, and Manhunter and Hannibal from Harris—even though he didn't get to put out the best films based on their novels: The Shining and Misery eluded him, as did The Silence of the Lambs.
Looking at his resume, it was clear that De Laurentiis had a love and a passion for "high" and "low" culture and was willing to swing for the fences in pursuit of both. He was, as much as anyone else in the history of motion pictures, a wizard at finding material that could make the inner child giddy with anticipation while making the outer adult sit up and take notice.