Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray) Severin (DVD)
Directed by Sergio Bergonzelli
Starring Pier Angeli, Eleonora Rossi-Drago, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba, Fernando Sancho, Luciano Catenacci, Alfredo Majo
Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Severin Films (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), Koch Media (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL), Cinekult (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Though the giallo strain 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 breakfast is run by three decidedly unbalanced inhabitants: Lucille (Camille 2000's Rossi-Drago), her son (La comunidad's Caba), 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 bodies 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) and Sergio Martino (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh), 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 by 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, but here he shows an affinity for turning a stagy, limited setting into a cesspool of deviant psychos as with his later shockers like Blood Delirium. Definitely not one for the giallo newcomers, this is one crazy trip for any seasoned Euro-cultist who wants to wade in the deepest, weirdest waters with other out-there films like Death Laid an Egg.
Though it never really saw any kind of exhibition in North America in the '70s, In the Folds of the Flesh became something of an underground favorite due to its circulation on VHS swiped from Greece or a short-lived British tape from Redemption (which, in their typical fashion, sported cover art focusing on the kinky Nazi elements). Severin's DVD from 2008 easily advanced past its predecessors with a greatly improved, uncut presentation, and the hilarious, error-packed Freudian intertitles had never looked so vivid. 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.
In 2022, Mondo Macabro debuted this shaggy beast on Blu-ray with a new 2K scan from the negative that makes for a really luscious viewing experiences. More image info is visible (especially at the bottom), colors look even punchier with the reds really bursting forth here, and detail is even better so you can savor all the insane wardrobe choices to the fullest. The English and Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono tracks are both included (with optional translated English subtitles) and sound solid with no significant issues. Samm Deighan provides an enjoyable new audio commentary parsing out the way the film handles its peculiar character dynamics, the conventions of the giallo at the time, the ties to other subgenres like poliziotteschi, the contributions required by the film's Italian-Spanish co-production status, the background of the major actors, and the subversive nature of the story structure that can really throw first-time viewers for a loop. The archival Nocturno featurette "In the Folds of Sergio Bergonzelli" (22m3s) from the 2011 Italian DVD offers a portrait of the filmmaker from colleagues Mario Caiano, Corrado Colombo, and Attilio Perillo sharing memories of his key films, his "particular" personality, and some colorful tales from the studio lot. The English and Italian trailers are also included.
Updated review on December 26, 2022
Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray)