Directed by Sergio Bergonzelli
Starring Pier Angeli, Eleonora Rossi-Drago, Fernando Sancho, Luciano Catenacci, Alfredo Majo
Severin Films (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Though the giallo subgenre of sexy, stylish Italian thrillers was only about seven years old in 1970, it had already neared the self-parody point with the release of In the Folds of the Flesh, a lurid, trashy, incredibly appealing slice of opulent excess designed for those who had already become tired of traditional black-gloved killer antics. This time out the obligatory, English-friendly lead actor is Pier Angeli (here billed as Maria Pierangeli), a briefly hot Hollywood starlet from Italy who failed to make it to the big time and retreated home, only to die of a presumably intentional drug overdose in 1971. Here she acquits herself well with a dual (or triple?) role that fits in perfectly with the film's recurring barrage of Freudian quotes and cockeyed psychoanalysis.
The convoluted tale begins when, after a bout of Roger Corman-style swirling psychedelia, escaped prisoner Pascal (spaghetti western regular Sancho) is apprehended by police right after witnessing a mysterious woman burying a corpse near a lake. Years later he returns to the site, where a bed and breakfaast is run by three decidedly unbalanced inhabitants: Lucille (Camille 2000's Rossi-Drago), her son (Mayo), and Falesse (Angeli). However, the buried body turns out to be a dead German Shepherd, strangled for sniffing around the scene of the crime. As it turns out, Lucille was a concentration camp survivor and has been left more than a little disturbed after watching her mother and daughter die in a gas chamber, and she conspires her two caregivers to off Pascal in an outrageous scene involving a full bathtub, a cuckoo clock, and a couple of cyanide tablets. Then a man shows up claiming to be Lucille's father, and the roster of murderers and dead bodis really starts to pile up.
Though several directors had already become solid giallo practitioners by this point (Mario Bava and Umberto Lenzi, most obviously), 1970 marked a period of huge change for the formula with the arrival of Dario Argento (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), Sergio Martino (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh), and Mario Bava's game-changing Bay of Blood), but In the Folds of the Flesh also breaks new ground by focusing entirely on a lunacy-driven exercise in style and indulgence for its own sake and a focus solely on jolting the viewer with everything from tasteless, black and white Nazi flashbacks to the aforementioned, thankfully simulated doggie killing. Director Sergio Bergonzelli had already cut his teeth on spaghetti westerns for the most part (except for the rarely seen erotic thriller Libido), but here he shows an affinity for turning a stagy, limited setting into a cesspool of deviant psyches. Definitely not one for the newcomers, this is one crazy-ass trip for any seasoned Euro-cultist.
Though it never really saw any exhibition in America, In the Folds of the Flesh became someting of an underground favorite due to its circulation on VHS swiped from Greece or a short-lived British tape from Redemption. Salvation's DVD quickly demonstrates the huge advances in video technology with a greatly improved, uncut presentation, packed with rich colors and dead-on framing. The hilarious, error-packed Freudian intertitles have never looked so vivid, either. Audio is presented in the original English mono, with some of the actors looped afterwards in the usual Italian tradition. The sole extra is the theatrical trailer, which might actually be even more delirious than the main feature.