Eleonora Rossi Drago
Emilio Gutiérrez Caba
Very odd giallo
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In the Folds of the Flesh (1970)
31st Oct 09
Murder. Incest. Nazi death camps. Acid baths. Cyanide. Decapitations. Vultures. Etruscan tombs. All good clean fun.
Nothing can really prepare you for the madness that is In the Folds of the Flesh, but if you would like me to give it a go, I'm more than happy to oblige. It's only another giallo, right? Just one more entry in the black-gloved-killer-chasing-scantily-clad-ladies-tradition, and let me guess - you've seen it all before. Not exactly. You see, exploration of this sexy subgenre rewards the hungry viewer with some really unusual entries once you have exhausted all that Argento and Martino could offer. Look at the crazed, poultry-themed genius of Death Laid an Egg, the rural peril of Fulci's Don't Torture a Duckling, or even the watery filth of Giallo a Venezia. There is so much fun to be had.
We see a man's decapitated head, and a raven-haired woman standing above it. Outside, police cars pursue a criminal on a motorcycle, before he ditches it to hide in the grounds of a castle. He witnesses the woman, Lucille, run onto the jetty and start the engine of a boat, sending it out to sea with no-one aboard. But soon the police arrive and apprehend the 'dangerous' convict, named Pascal. Roll trippy opening credits and a Freud quote (“What has been remains imbedded in the brain nestled in the folds of the flesh distorted it conditions and subconsciously impels….”). Eh?
Thirteen years later, we are introduced to the castle's inhabitants, and it is implied that either Lucille or stepdaughter Falesse is guilty of the murder, and that it was Falisse's father who was the victim, but of course he is believed to have been drowned at sea accidentally, thanks to Lucille's cunning plan. Lucille's son Colin (who witnessed the murder aged 8) has now grown up and seems to have developed a personality problem, not to mention a seriously alarming fashion sense. Soon, a man named Michel arrives, stating he is a family cousin, and proceeds to poke around in Falesse's room, so she stabs him to death, as you do. Cue the first of many prismatic rape flashbacks, indicating Falesse to be the original murderer, and after what we just witnessed, it seems a reasonable assumption.
Next to arrive is Michel's friend Alex, a self-confessed 'Don Juan' who seems to have his "own technique" for everything, which he seems keen to demonstrate to Falesse until these crazy fuckers chop his head off too. Cue more mental flashbacks. Can you see a pattern here? Pascal (the criminal from the beginning) is next to arrive, and he wants money and lots of sex to keep his dirty mouth closed about what he witnessed on the castle grounds 13 years ago.
I'd happily take you through everything that happens in this movie, step-by-step, but it would get tedious, and the word count would be absurd. Almost as absurd as this movie. In case you're wondering, Pascal is not the last person who pitches up to the chopping zone - this is one of those gialli where new characters just keep appearing, trying to shag someone who may or may not be a relative, getting decapitated/poisoned/stabbed, dissolved in a big bath of acid, with any other remains being fed to the family vultures. Yes, they keep vultures in a cage outside. Weirdos.
There's a lot of information going on here; it sometimes feels like director Sergio Bergonzelli is trying to cram as much outrageousness as possible into one film, in case he never got another chance. It almost plays like a series of bizarre episodes with varying degrees of fun and smut, but when Pascal turns up, I was having a great time. That may be because Pascal is one of those great burly villain characters who looks like he's stumbled in from the set of a Spaghetti Western, cackling at everything he says, before falling victim to a creative murder plan involving a WW2 death camp flashback, cyanide tablets, a cuckoo clock and a bath. You've really got to see the rest for yourself.
On the fashion stakes, this one is off the scale. Colin is the main culprit; like a walking, talking, breathing, murdering kaleidoscope of retina-insulting shirt/shorts combinations, not to mention those hideous cravats that couldn't clash more with his shirts (if you can call them shirts) if they tried. That's him there in the picture below, standing with big-eyed Falesse, who looks like she's borrowed one of Colin's outfits for the day. Notice how he also looks a bit like that creepy man-child from Andrea Bianchi's Burial Ground. Yuk. Imagine that welcoming you at the gate!
One of the many elements that separates this from other gialli is the lack of primary focus on the identity the murderer - it's more a case of 'who the hell are these people anyway?' One character later in the film summed it up when he asks, ”What is going on here? I want an explanation.” Why does Falesse wear a blond wig to cover her dark hair? And who the fuck is Antoine? Where did he appear from?! When this movie reaches the running time of 1.14, you may feel the need for a drink, or maybe some hard drugs to get you through the rest of it without losing your mind completely. My brain hurts just thinking about it.
It's a sleazy little film, no mistake, but there isn't a great deal of flesh on show here (or the folding of flesh, if that's what you're after!). It also manages to be gruesome without being overly gory; the tradition for 'decaps' isn't backed up by decent special effects, but rather with crudely manufactured crap fake heads that you never actually see leaving the torso, only dropping onto the floor. The acid bath was a macabre delight though, it’s great to see Colin trying to break down the bodies with his big stick, but whose are those skulls lying everywhere? Yes, just in case there isn’t enough going on, the castle happens to be an archaeological site for Etruscan tombs!
One can understand why a great many people don’t appreciate this exercise in madness. It is shamelessly psychedelic, sleazy, ridiculous, and overly convoluted to the extreme, but any movie featuring this many wayward and seemingly random tangents and ideas gets my vote any day, especially if it’s well paced and entertaining, which this certainly is.
Severin Films' Region 1 release of In the Folds of the Flesh is a most welcome one – the 1.85 anamorphic transfer looks mostly beautiful except perhaps for the night scenes, but unfortunately there isn’t much in the way of bonus material, just a trailer.