Color, 1979, 78m.
Directed by Bruno Mattei
Camera Obscura (DVD) (Austria R2 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
The opening titles give a slight indication of what to expect as the titles rattle off a litany of literary sources as the basis for the film including Sigmund Freud, the Marquis De Sade, Masters and Johnson, and Richard von Kraft-Ebing, among others. The accompaying sequence underneath the titles, easily the most poetic and subdued thing in the film, shows a man in a darkened salon with two beautiful, undraped women wearing eerie china doll masks, with lush romantic music (complete with Edda Del Orso-style vocalizing) surges on the soundtrack. After that it's a helter skelter journey through the darkest alleys of human sexuality as a male narrator at a desk guides us around the world. One guy enjoys having beautiful women grind their heels on his face and neck; an African tribe performs a (gory but mercifully unconvincing) castration on one of its taboo breakers; a "real-life" black transsexual in progress (with a huge and equally unconvincing endowment) talks about her kinkier male clients; and a sex change is shown in a stomach-churning mix of archival surgery footage and ridiculous prosthetics. Oh, but that's just the first 15 minutes, folks! A married woman can only turn on her bored husband by stripping in front of a German Shepherd police dog (still being led by its master); and yes, we get lots of canine reaction shots. A priest indulges his secret fondness for necrophilia, a narcissist only get excited watching himself in a mirror, the erotic appeal of pygmies is unveiled, water sports and fecal play get a more thorough workout than most viewers would probably appreciate (though at least the latter is, again, thankfully very fake), a couple who can only get aroused watching horses mate realize they can spice up their sex life by rutting in a barn, and in one of the freakiest scenes, the activities of a "sex killer" are depicted with a guy luring a pretty young thing into a (different) barn only to whack off her leg with a shovel.
Austrian-based Camera Obscura has put out some pretty brave titles during its still-young career including the infamous Vase de Noces, but it's no wonder this one was strong enough to force them to find a new replicator after the one under contract balked at the content. Though it's unlikely the special effects here would cause customs issues for most curious parties, it's still perverse enough that you'd never want any family members to see this lying around on a coffee table. The whole film is shot in a dark, shadowy style that makes the proceedings even more sickly, and all of the sexual encounters have an eerie, staged feeling with a frequent emphasis on disease and bloodshed. The sheer chutzpah of the whole project keeps it from feeling too grimy or depressing, though, and occasionally Mattei throws in a hilarious piece of narration or a wild montage involving flaming skeletons.
Considering this film hasn't really been available outside of a scarce German-language VHS release from the '80s, this will be a new viewing experience for all but the most die-hard Eurotrash completists. The main feature on the Region 2 DVD is the complete German version, with language options in either complete German or Italian with German filling in for the censored segments (which, obviously, means that it's still only about half in Italian). Optional German and English subtitles are available, which are essential given that the entire soundtrack consists of narration. Besides, your life wouldn't be complete unless you fully understood lines like "Her husband requires her to couple frequently with a sheepdog." The anamorphic transfer is, relatively speaking, very good; the film features some obvious use of stock footage and varies wildly at times in its appearance, with an opening reel in particular that's a bit more brown and desaturated than you might expect. However, given the rarity of the title, it's a stellar presentation all around. Making a case for its place in the European cinematic pantheon is an audio commentary by Christian Kessler and Ingo Strecker (in German with optional English subtitles) that's often very funny, points out most of the segments that were altered or replaced in Italy, and packed with terms like "forced defloration" and "he likes his roast cold." They also chat quite a bit about the mondo genre overall, including a segue into Jacopetti and Prosperi territory. You also get all of the aforementioned alternate Italian footage (which runs for a very long 38 minutes), a photo gallery, and an amusing 25-minute video interview called "Mondo Fragasso" with Mattei collaborator and Troll 2 helmer Claudio Fragasso, who talks about doing second unit work on the film and its sequel(!), Sesso perverso, mondo violento, which he wrote. Obviously that one needs a special edition as well, pronto!
Buy in the U.S. from Diabolik DVD