Director: Sergio Bergonzelli
Severin Films

The Italian giallo genre is legendary for its copious bloodletting, abundant nudity and convoluted plots. Equally familiar to the genre is the theme of insanity or psychosis, with many of the genres best offerings lending a lasting sense of paranoia or phobia. IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH attempts to stake such a pedigree but proves to be too complex for its own good. While the title certainly titillates, the film simply has too much going on at one time and suffers from one too many attempts at explaining itself and its characters' actions. The settings are attractive, as is the female cast but the films final 15 minutes are so brain rattling that you’ll be left checking the medicine cabinet in hopes that you remembered to refill your Thorazine.

While running from the police, a gruff pudgy convict (Fernando Sancho, RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD) abandons his motorbike, finding recess on a seemingly quite stretch of coastal property. Working his way closer to a nearby seaside castle, the crook witnesses a dark haired woman (Eleonora Rossi Drago, CAMILLE 2000) burying a body in the backyard, an unexpected and strange sight that stalls the criminal long enough to be picked up by the local authorities. A decade later the man returns, determined to blackmail the homeowner for the time he spent in jail with his mouth shut, but has no idea of what he is about to get himself into. The woman he witnesses that night was Lucille and the body she was burying was that of her late husband, having been killed in a violent fit of rage and retribution. Left alone to take care of the estate, her son (Alfredo Mayo, MY DEAR KILLER) and her daughter (Pier Angeli, SODOM AND GOMORRAH), Lucille has kept herself busy over the years, tending to the pet vultures, collecting skulls from the garden (as the property was built on an Etruscan burial ground) and disposing of the many random suitors her daughter murders by dissolving them in a vat of acid in the basement. Add in a Nazi concentration camp flashback, a half dozen decapitations and a strangled dog and you have yourself one fruity giallo.

Released just as the gialli was about to pick up steam under the direction of Dario Argento, Sergio Martino and Umberto Lenzi, IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH, an Italian/Spanish co-production, didn’t bother with the black gloved, phallic knife wielding, killer on the lose template commonplace to the genre. Instead, the film sought to exploit its other well known commodity, the random and often too convenient twist. Where your typical giallo might have anywhere from two to four dramatic and sudden leaps in logic that help draw the picture to a unexpected, yet dramatic conclusion, IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH breaks records by displaying a rapid deluge of plot twists and character turns that will have head spinning (off). Therein lies the film greatest weakness. You can’t keep slapping your audience across the face with twist after twist and not expect them to eventually stop paying attention altogether. Just look at M. Night Shyamalan’s career. The twists, which mainly occur in the film's final act, also drastically throw off the pacing. Starting off as a thriller, the film slows down once Fernando Sancho arrives, settling the picture into home invasion scenario that plays quite well. However, just as you are about to get comfortable it begins to peel "shocking" revelations away like an onion until all you're left with is a foul odor and teary eyes.

Despite the onslaught of multiple “shock” endings, IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH does have a number of ridiculously enjoyable set ups and psychedelic visuals. The opening credits feature a Sigmund Freud-ish quotation over a spirograph of whirling paint that sets a trippy tone that is carried throughout picture. If repeated patterns trigger migraine headaches and blurred vision, stay far away from this one, as Alfredo Mayo's entire wardrobe will send you into a coma. Constantly tending to his pet vultures, whose annoying squawking is so overplayed you’ll find yourself clapping when one of them gets shot, Mayo's character feels equal parts juvenile and sleazy. It’s hard to take him seriously as a threat, particularly when decked head to toe in paisleys, but it is positively creepy the way he swoons over her sister. Pier Angeli, who plays numerous roles in the film, would find herself at the end of her carrier with IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH, dieing a year later of an apparent drug overdose. Her performance is often effective; that of a girl driven mad after witnessing the apparent decapitation of father, but a number of crazy-eyed close ups induce more laughs than thrills. She also wears a blonde wig for the majority of the picture that greatly takes away from her natural beauty and adds about a decade to her character, making her appearance more that of Eleonora Rossi’s sister than daughter.

Presented fully uncut and uncensored, restored from original Italian vault elements, THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH is on hand in 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The print source holds up well with a number scenes peppered with blemishes but none that are overly distracting. Colors are firm and appear accurate, with numerous late 1960s fashions and accessories contrasted nicely against the more monotone castle surroundings. The mono Dolby Digital English audio track is clean and clear with no obvious pops or crackles. The only extra is the film’s theatrical trailer which whirls through the action, making good use of the many bug eyed, multi lens effects. (Jason McElreath)