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Sunday, February 8, 2009

In the Folds of the Flesh (1970) review


Eleonora Rossi Drago (Lucille Radiguet), Anna Maria Pierangeli (Falez/Ester), Alfredo Mayo (Colin), Fernando Sancho (Paschal), Luciano Catenacci (Antoine), Victor Alcazar (Derek/Alex)

Directed by Sergio Bergonzelli

"You have a little fun and then...all of a sudden, they all wind up dead. It's a regular ritual. You create the problem...and our job is the final solution. We're experts at to help us out?"

***WARNING! This review contains pics of nudity and graphic violence***

A criminal escapes from prison leading the police on a high speed chase towards a castle by the sea. The convict makes it to the grounds of the chateau and spies a woman burying a corpse, the decapitated body of her husband, Andre. Startled, the escaped prisoner is recaptured by the police and hauled away. The castle itself is occupied by a demented family of psychopaths and thirteen years later, various family members and acquaintances make their way to the ominous abode for assorted nefarious reasons and all meet their doom at the hands of the crazies.

Not long after, the prisoner, Paschal, has gotten out and makes his way back to the citadel to blackmail the terrible triumvirate for the time he spent incarcerated without telling what he saw thirteen years prior. After sexually violating the women, Paschal is soon dispatched as well. A short time later, another visitor shows up at the bloody bastion, this time claiming to be the real Andre, a mobster who specialized in blackmail. Claiming to have altered his looks via cosmetic surgery, the presence of Andre sends the insane trio spiraling further into madness.

Exploitation director Bergonzelli directs this totally bizarre and maddeningly psychedelic trip into the world of a demented family of psycho sexual maniacs. Insanity and carnal depravity are the order of the day. Released right at the time when the burgeoning giallo thrillers were about to grab audiences by the throat, it accomplishes it's fitfully disturbing agenda without utilizing what would become the genre mainstay...the black gloved killer.

From the outset, it's no secret just who has committed a ghastly murder, or who else is involved. What isn't readily apparent is why this family of homicidal killers are the way they are. Over the course of Bergonzelli's movie, various flashbacks told from different perspectives reveal bits and pieces of information. It isn't until the last 15 minutes that the film takes on a dizzying amount of plot twists thrust upon the audience making a first viewing a confusing ordeal.

The film is haphazardly directed, but then the totally insane nature of the whole affair makes it all work in its favor. Perhaps all the zany zooms and chaotic editing was intentional. Not only that, but there's a good amount of experimental filmmaking on display featuring black and white photography, still photos that rapidly propels plot elements and sometimes are seen as pages from a book. There is also some swirling kaleidoscopic effects for some shots that help drive home the frenzied atmosphere of the picture.

Some of the weird and wild excesses found in Bergonzelli's movie include incest, animal murder, decapitations, flesh eating vultures in cages, acid bath revenge and numerous scenes of sexual lunatics at play. The crazy family unit also keep a good deal of human bones kept about the house. Chalked up to Etruscan discoveries, the method by which the sadists dispose of their victims tells a possibly different story. There's an uncomfortable scene of animal violence here. The close up strangulation of a dog that has sniffed out the location of a buried body is rather excruciating to watch. Hopefully, it wasn't real, but it adds a grim quality to an already unhinged movie. There's even a stopover to a loony bin to meet a character that figures later on in the plot.

One of the most over the top sequences and the most distasteful is a Nazi death camp flashback that's shot totally in black and white detailing an occurrence involving one of the main characters. A flood of completely nude women are herded into a gas chamber and killed. One of them is kept from this agonizing death by one of the officers and must stand by and watch her mother,sister and friends choke to death in front of her. This sequence has little relevance aside from adding one more sadistic layer to the debauched and sadistic nature of this European platter of immorality.

There's also a hint of some European crime film elements inherent in the movie. The escaped prisoner (played by the burly Fernando Sancho), the mention of the castle owner, Andre (whom is a mobster), a brief shoot out seen in one of the many flashbacks, the presence of crime movie actor, Luciano Catenacci and the roughing up of a captive by two thugs whilst a young girl watches swinging on a swingset all point to another genre that would soon be coming into vogue at the Italian cinemas.

The final 15 minutes is a cavalcade of twists and reveals that will cause even the most attentive viewer to lose track. Andre comes back home, revealing to his wife, Lucille, that he has changed his face with surgery so as to throw off the police and is curious where his other daughter, Ester is. Lucille, unsure if Andre is who he says he is, explains that she is dead, but Andre demands to see her body for consolement. Mere minutes later, viewers are assaulted with even more flashbacks that divulge everything you have seen up to this point as nothing more than lies.

A good cast with the most lively addition being the presence of spaghetti western player, Fernando Sancho. He looks as if he has just stepped off the set of a dusty Euroater playing a typical bad guy only this time in modern dress. His section in the film is one of the best and anybody that has ever wanted to see Sancho naked, you see his backside briefly in one of the more gross scenes in the movie. What's funny is that when Sancho steps into the tub, he is completely shorn of clothes, yet when the camera is in the front of him, he is clearly bathing with underwear on.

The aforementioned Luciano Catenacci will be instantly recognizable to Italian genre fans as he played many villain roles in the Italian crime genre such as ALMOST HUMAN (1974) and SYNDICATE SADISTS (1975). Also recognizable to fans of Paul Naschy, is the presence of Victor Alcazar (Vic Winner) as a doomed visitor to the castle who meets a bloody end at the hands of one of the insane females. He is onscreen briefly in this Italian-Spanish co-production.

Truly a long hidden and obscure genre gem, it is now available in a colorful DVD from Severin Films. It definitely offers up an incredible amount of sleazy and salacious charms for Italian genre buffs and giallo fans alike. Just don't go into this film expecting a blood bath. While it features a lot of severed heads, it never becomes overly gory resigning itself to just being unsettling and disturbing with its scenes of sexual deviancy and assorted other unpleasantries.

This review is representative of the region 1 Severin DVD.

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