In the Folds of the Flesh Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: January 10, 2023 (website exclusive LE September 20, 2022)
Audio: English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Run Time: 92:23
Director: Sergio Bergonzelli
Night-time, a peal of thunder, a castle by the sea, a severed head rolls across a carpeted floor, a blood-stained sword lies next to it… Meanwhile, police are in hot pursuit of a criminal who is evading capture on a speeding motorbike. He takes refuge in the overgrown castle grounds and he sees a dark-haired woman burying a corpse in a shallow grave. 13 years later, after being recaptured and serving his sentence, the man returns to the castle, intent on blackmail, and maybe a few other things. (From Mondo Macabro’s official synopsis)
In the period between Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (Italian: 6 donne per l'assassino, 1964) and Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italian: L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo, 1970), the giallo scene was a Wild West of ideas and possibilities. Massimo Dallamano’s A Black Veil for Lisa (Italian: La morte non ha sesso, 1968) stuck to a tried and true police procedural formula, Umberto Lenzi’s Orgasmo (aka: Paranoia, 1968) reinvented the Italian psychosexual drama, Luigi Bazzoni & Franco Rossellini’s The Possessed (Italian: La donna del lago, 1965) took an arthouse noir approach, and Giulio Questi made a politically-charged dark comedy called Death Laid an Egg (Italian: La morte ha fatto l'uovo, 1968). Released about a month before Argento’s film, Sergio Bergonzelli’s In the Folds of the Flesh (Italian: Nelle pieghe della carne, 1970) was the kitchen sink giallo of the era, shoveling as much exploitation movie madness as physically allowed into its swift, 92-minute runtime.
Essentially a macabre Gothic soap opera of never-ending climaxes, In the Folds of the Flesh features all matter of insanity, including incest, homicidal Electra complexes, baffling police detective plots, brainwashing, pet vultures, Etruscan tombs, sharply dressed mental patients, cuckoo clock cyanide traps, and black & white flashbacks to concentration camp gas chambers. The Nazi angle, which comes out of nowhere, is particularly astonishing, because Nazisploitation movies weren’t yet a fad in 1970. Luchino Visconti’s The Damned (1969) and Lee Frost’s Love Camp 7 (1969) – both of the key sources of the Nazisploitation genre – had barely hit theaters and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Italian: Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodom, 1975) was still five years away. It’s also exceptional, because, after an hour of lunacy, the gas chamber reveal is so sobering. As far as on-screen violence is concerned, it’s all a bit harmless by modern standards, but there are four somewhat convincing beheadings and two separate acid bath scenes (looks more like bubble bath, but still), so conceptually it would’ve been a lot for audiences in 1970.
In the Folds of the Flesh’s extreme convolution is by design, of course. Not only is there an excess of bewildering plots and subplots, but events are further obfuscated by sudden flashbacks, the context of which won’t be exposed until later in the film. Furthermore, some of the flashbacks are false memories. Paired with the extreme content, this deliberately nonsensical approach to storytelling plays out like a spoof of giallo’s silliest conventions, which is fascinating, because, as I mentioned, In the Folds of the Flesh was released before the genre peaked. It took Argento until 1982’s Tenebrae (aka: Tenebre and Unsane) to really start poking fun at his own filmmaking habits and other giallo spoofs, like Sergio Corbucci’s Giallo Napoletano (aka: Atrocious Tales of Love and Death, 1979) and Mario Gariazzo’s dreadful Play Motel (also 1979), didn’t pop up until the very end of the decade, when general audiences had begun to move on.
Bergonzelli wasn’t as acclaimed or famous as Argento or Lenzi, but as a writer, director, producer, and, initially, actor, his contributions to Italian cult cinema are considerable. His second movie as director was The Last Gun (Italian: Jim il primo, 1964), a western released one month after Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari, 1964) and one month before Sergio Corbucci’s Minnesota Clay (1964), with which it shares star Cameron Mitchell. He continued making C-list westerns and Eurospy movies, then found his niche making erotic dramas and comedies. In the Folds of the Flesh was released during this period and remains his only giallo, though he did make a giallo-esque slasher called Blood Delirium (Italian: Delirio di sangue) in 1988. That film isn’t as over-the-top as In the Folds of the Flesh, but it is almost as strange, as it follows a necrophilic madman who believes that he is Vincent Van Gogh reincarnated. It’s sort of a late ‘80s combination of Joe D’Amato’s Beyond the Darkness (Italian: Buio Omega, 1979) and Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Color Me Blood Red (1965). Co-writer Mario Caiano (credited as having the idea) continued working the Nazisploitation angle in Nazi Love Camp 27 (Italian: La svastica nel ventre, 1977), which he also directed.
La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film by Mikel J. Koven (Scarecrow Press, 2006)
Anatomy of the Irrational: An Attempt to Explain In the Folds of the Flesh by Joseph E. Dwyer (Diabolique Magazine, 2016)
According to the imdb.com company credits section, US distributor Cinefear released In the Folds of the Flesh on stateside VHS, but I was only able to find evidence of a UK PAL tape from Salvation/Redemption Films, and that one was released in 2000, only eight years before the film premiered on US DVD via Severin Films. That disc ended up being the majority of American fans’ introduction to the film. Mondo Macabro’s Blu-ray debut was initially released as a red box, limited edition site exclusive back in September of 2022, followed by this January 2023 standard issue disc. The 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer was digitally restored from a new 2K scan of the original film negative and it is a sizable upgrade over the DVD. Cinematographer Mario Pacheco’s photography isn’t outrageously stylish, but there’s a lot going on in every frame, from busy, cluttered sets to bright, colorful costumes. The scan has a minor issue with telecine noise bulking up the grain and, if you look really close, creating a bit of posterization, but the overall texture is pretty natural, the shapes are nicely broken up, and colors pop without too much bleeding. The day-for-night scenes at the beginning of the movie are quite dark, as they were on the DVD, so I assume it’s an original material issue.
In the Folds of the Flesh is presented with English and Italian dub options, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. I’ll remind the reader that the Italian films of this era were filmed without sound and with international casts that were known to sometimes speak their native languages on set. There is no official language track and all tracks were dubbed. I believe this is the first time the Italian dub has been available and, surprisingly, it differs a lot from the English dub. Both tracks share generally the same music and effects, but the volume levels rarely match. Overall, the English track favors composer Jesus Villa Rojo’s score, while the Italian one pushes effects to the forefront. Neither track is particularly distorted or scratchy (the English dub is a little bit hissy), so the choice comes down to taste.
Commentary with Samm Deighan – The cohost of the Daughters of Darkness podcast (with Kat Elinger) and editor of Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin (Spectacular Optical, 2017) does her best to contextualize this un-contextualizable film, discussing its various genre signifiers and subversions, and the careers of the cast & crew, all with real affection for the material.
In the Folds of Sergio Bergonzelli (22:03, SD) – This archival extra (it is labeled as being produced by Nocturno) features interviews with three Bergonzelli collaborators, screenwriter Mario Caiano, director Corrado Colombo, and producer Attilio Perillo.
English and Italian trailers
Mondo Macabro trailer reel
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.