Orgy of the Dead

Color, 1991, 89 mins. 39 secs.
Directed by Marco Ferreri
Starring Sergio Castellitto, Francesca Dellera, Philippe Leotard, Farid, Chopel, Petra Reinhardt
Cult Epics (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.72:1) (16:9), JRB (DVD) (Spain R2 PAL), Rough Trade (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL)

One The Fleshof Italy's more provocative The Fleshfilmmakers, Marco Ferreri, still hasn't fully received his due among English-speaking movie buffs, largely due to the difficulty in seeing copies of the majority of his films. His most notorious film, La Grande Bouffe, has been treated well of course, while DVD boxes have highlighted a few other keys works enough to whet the appetite for the many other films still out there. His penultimate film, The Flesh (or La carne), finds his outrageous and surgically precise touch still in evidence, and his recurring theme of dysfunctional men perplexed and transformed by women who enter their lives receives perhaps its most direct and unorthodox treatment here.

Recently divorced lounge pianist Paolo (Castellitto) is an odd and emotionally upended fellow thanks to losing custody of his children and feeling little purpose in his life. That changes when his job brings him in contact with the voluptuous and magnetic Francesca (Dellera), who inspires him to retreat to a beach-side cottage where she inspires a number of physical and philosophical changes in him -- ranging from a seemingly unending erection to a desire to see Francesca as a god capable of controlling his will. Their relationship veers in some bizarre directions including a bout of blood drinking in the sand, but that's just a prelude for The Fleshwhat happens when it looks like their idyllic existence might be in jeopardy. The Flesh

As with most other Ferreri films, you can have a field day picking apart what he's trying to say about the relationship between men and women and the extreme lengths to which people will resort to find fulfillment. This one's especially effective due to the fearless performance by Castellito, still a very busy actor in Italy, who handles the tricky balance of comedy, pathos, and grotesqueness quite well. A legendary model who had earlier starred in Tinto Brass's Capriccio (which is still crying out for a special edition), Dellera isn't called upon to do much more than smolder on camera -- but she absolutely delivers with a highly charged, carnal screen presence that sells the concept behind the story. You will find some sex and nudity here, but interestingly, it isn't remotely as prevalent or as extreme as you might expect from the premise. Instead the button-pushing content is more from the story itself, especially the fairly startling closing minutes.

Despite its positive reception at Cannes, Ferreri's film barely traveled outside of Italy and a handful of other European countries and quickly became a much-traded title on the collector's gray market for weird art films The Fleshthroughout the '90s. The film's first home video release of any kind in the U.S. finally came in 2017 with Cult Epics' dual-format release, with the Blu-ray behind the way to go The Fleshif you have the capability compared to the DVD. The existing elements for the film had proven difficult to track down, with this release reportedly taken from the best 35mm Italian print available. Colors look good overall with nice detail, though it definitely looks like a print with some wear and tear, especially during the fairly scratchy second reel. It's easily the best this film has ever looked on home video (considering the competition includes a handful of PAL VHS releases and middling, non-English-friendly Italian and Spanish DVDs), so it's the optimal way to make the acquaintance of this highly memorable film if you've never seen it before. Audio choices include Italian DTS-HD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 or Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0, with optional English subtitles; the 5.1 is preferable as it's lossless and sounds fairly solid given the print source. A behind-the-scenes reel (5m14s) and an interview with the director and two leads (5m2s) are culled from the same basic material, with Ferreri offering some very Tinto Brassian observations about his cinematic state of mind and Dellera noting how the script was written for her, interspersed with some glimpses of the production in progress (especially the supermarket scene). Other video extras include the (somewhat squeezed) Italian trailer, a 44s snippet of footage of Dellera and Ferreri hitting the Cannes Film Festival red carpet in 1991, and a gallery (1m1s) of lobby cards. The first pressing comes in a limited edition slipcase with newly commissioned art by Gilles Vranckx.

Reviewed on September 20, 2017.