Have you ever remembered a specific scene you watched long ago but not been able to recall what it was from? This happens to me quite a lot. After viewing thousands of horror films, certain scenes get separated from their title somewhere in the vast crevices of my brain. For a long while, I had vivid memories of watching some movie during my teen years where someone held up a foam-covered severed head while laughing manically. For years, I had no clue what the origin of this strange scene was until a year ago when I had the pleasure of viewing In the Folds of the Flesh. Though I vaguely recalled seeing this movie previously, when I saw the soapy head, a light bulb went off and the rest of the film came rushing back like an acid trip…which is very suitable for this psychotropic film!
Director Sergio Bergonzelli had a long career of B-movies mostly centered in the erotic and western realms. In the Folds definitely veers well into the erotic zone but somehow gets cock-blocked in a wave of trippy flashbacks and a plot so convoluted I need a flow chart to thoroughly explain it.
Ok, this one is a bit hard to explain. Lucille was a housekeeper but now manages a dysfunctional family consisting of her son and the original family’s daughter, Falesse (who is also her own sister Esther, but does not realize it). Falesse has visions that she was raped by her own father at a young age and now has a habit of decapitating all the men she sleeps with. Falesse and her “king of the mods” son clean up the messes and either boil down the corpses or feed them to the family’s pet vultures. One day, a fat and greasy ex-con shows up declaring he saw the group burying a corpse in the garden. He demands at gunpoint they all wait on him and sex him up. There are also endless flashbacks to rapes, murders, dismembering bodies, and Lucille’s memories of being in a Nazi concentration camp. And this barely scratches the plot’s surface. But if you are a weird movie or giallo fan, In the Folds of the Flesh is a MUST SEE!
It’s no wonder that my brain separated the rest of the film from the visual elements. This film is a banquet of trippy and psychedelic imagery. The plot (as you may have gathered from the lengthy synopsis above) is convoluted, confusing, and at times just bat-shit crazy with more twists and turns than most psyches can keep up with. But the visuals are… ok, they are equally bat-shit crazy, but also remarkably vivid and lasting. Colors swirl. Bodies melt. Everyone has sex and not the pleasant type. This is much more of the gang rapey, incestuous type. Pictures are fractured and repeated over and over again. And yes, heads are given a soapy liquefying acid bath.
Though this movie sounds completely out in left field, all the traits that make it strange are staples of 1970’s Euro-trash. The Italian films were all stuffed full of awkward and often icky mixes of sex and violence, accentuated with psychedelic filming styles, luxuriously rich textures and sets, and some absolutely amazing musical scores. In the Folds of the Flesh stands out because it does all of these things to a molten lava explosion of extremity, all in a very unapologetic and unrepentant style.
For years, Euro-sleaze fans begged and pleaded for this film to get a DVD release. It finally did when Severin released a version which, though it looks beautiful, it is sorely lacking in any special features that would give possible insight into the masters, or more likely madmen behind this sleazy hot mess of sex and psychedelia. In the Folds of the Flesh still remains relatively unknown to many horror fans. It is not for everyone. But on some night when you happen to be feeling daring or having a Timothy Leary-style evening of recreational products, I recommend putting on this flick and letting your mind try to make sense of the chaos. Oh yeah- and there are Nazis. Enjoy!