Severin Films // 1970 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // October 28th, 2008
"I watched you spin your web of sex and death!"
Sometimes, "bad" just doesn't cover it.
Picture it: Italy, 1970.
Sergio Bergonzelli, writer, director, but really just a snot-nosed 50-year-old kid with a dream: to make a far-out murder mystery with touches of incest, multiple identities, and Nazi death camp flashbacks. Trippy thrillers were already dotting the exploitation landscape and showcasing past-their-prime actresses, such as Elizabeth Taylor in Secret Ceremony, and Lana Turner in The Big Cube. Since Bergonzelli didn't have much of a budget, he settled for one-time James Dean squeeze Pier "Love Died in a Porsche" Angeli. Lest anyone think of this as a legitimate comeback for the tragic beauty and former Mrs. Vic Damone, the 38-year-old was cast as a character nearly two decades younger and forced to wear a blonde wig that made her look five years older.
In the Folds of the Flesh is barely a movie; it's a series of "shocking" scenes tied together with virtually no cohesive narrative and an ending so preposterous that it makes the old "it was all a dream" cop-out seem revolutionary.
The story, near as I could figure: At some point in Confusing Prologue Land, there is a murder involving a man, a woman, and some children. Maybe. It's witnessed by an escaped convict. Or not. The murder victim is the father of one or more of the children. Perhaps. He's buried on the estate. Or on a boat. If he's dead at all.
Flash forward 13 years or so. The woman, Lucille (Eleonora Rossi Drago, Camille 2000), hasn't changed a bit, but the blond-haired boy has grown into a dark-haired man who looks to be the same age as Lucille -- who, it turns out, is his mother. Then there's another woman (Pier Angeli, listed here by her birth name, Anna Maria Pierangeli) who looks to be older than Lucille and her son but is actually supposed to be around 20. They are all living in a decaying villa.
During the course of the film, various men visit the decaying villa. The men already know these people, so they drop in, make a little small talk, then try to seduce (or rape, your call) one or both of the women and get killed for their efforts. Then, mother and son whip up some chemicals to melt the remains while Pier Angeli pretends she doesn't know what's going on. Or maybe she's not pretending.
At one point, Lucille shares her memory of almost taking a cyanide shower in a concentration camp but is spared at the last minute because some guards decide to gang rape her. If you think that sounds tasteless wait until you see it acted out, complete with a "death chamber" that looks like it was shot in a high school cafeteria.
Eventually, some guy we've never seen shows up and starts rattling off all kinds of "secrets" that we hadn't thought about before. As yawn-inducing revelation after yawn-inducing revelation is exposed, it all becomes too much for one character, who up and commits suicide in one of those "only in a terrible movie" ironic ways. The survivors cry and the credits roll.
Look, I'm usually a big fan of these '70's era Euro-kink-'n'-gore monstrosities, but even my taste-deprived sensibilities were chafed by In the Folds of the Flesh. There is just no cohesion here. I had no idea I was even watching a mystery until the dude showed up at the end to unravel it. This is just a bad, bad movie that tosses out nonsense about incest and Nazis to cloak its ineptitude in a guise of controversy.
The disc, from Severin, is workaday: crappy 1.85 Anamorphic transfer, stereo audio (for its bad English dub track), no subtitles (an annoying omission), and a trailer as the lone extra.
In the Folds of the Flesh is as guilty and gross as its title.
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated