In The Folds Of The Flesh features a brief, stunning sequence set in a hospital for the mentally disturbed. Various gorgeous, goggle-eyed 20-something women in awesome '70s costume-like outfits, or draped in sheets, stagger about their ward. They clutch dolls or sparkly Christmas decorations, grimacing wildly. They pace around laughing hysterically or reciting beat poetry. It's one of many bits that projects Flesh far from the realm of gialli (as its marketed by Severin) - and movies in general, but it's a spot-on way to summarize the movie: ravishing, ridiculous, insane.
A deceptively tight plot travels through numerous disorienting folds as well, back and forward and back again, while its adult leads confusingly appear not to age. It's a more literal representation of a roller-coaster ride of a movie; my mind was clinging to the rails struggling to keep track of what was going on. Of course a huge percentage of the fun is wrangling with this prismatically fractured mess, so I'll refrain from really breaking down the plot. Roughly, Lucille (Eleonora Rossi Drago) lives in an amazing Spanish villa (looks like an historical tourist attraction - castle or fortress) with her two adult children. Someone was killed when they were younger. Their father is missing, or dead. A creep named Pascal takes them hostage, blackmailing them into digging up their grounds, looking for a body. Aside from this, things are severely whacked-out. Nearly everyone who enters the villa becomes decapitated, and the pet vultures feast.
However, violence isn't the raison d'etre, psychosexual shenanigans take center stage, with breezy, careless detachment and mania playing a close second. Raping seems popular, and it's never clear who's enjoying it. Incest, coupled with pent-up sexual frustration, forms a sleazoid magma-field constantly threatening to erupt. And yet nudity is hardly a factor, not until the fabled Nazi-flashback sequence, a motif of astoundingly questionable taste. As with the level of detail in on-screen violence, and the general go-for-broke lunacy of the movie, nothing in this scene is terribly graphic or disturbing. On the other hand, conceptually and in intent it's possibly the wrongest thing you've ever seen.
Though dubbed in English, performances are strong and totally appropriate to the material. After rapin' and corpse-exhumin' Pascal still has the presence of mind to demand Lucille to "whip up a soufflé. Half-a-dozen eggs," and later critique her work! Drago as Lucille is icily repressed and delicious, but top honors go to Anna Maria Pierangeli as totally unhinged daughter Falesse. In beauty and makeup she's an eerie representation of a mannequin, matching the detached insanity of her façade. Yet, when confronted with horror, presented with a bare neck and a sword, or called upon to make-out in a frenzy with her brother, her eyes bug out fabulously with a resounding splintering sound.
Director Bergonzelli fractures narrative and flashback sequences literally and figuratively, completing the package of frenzied dementia. He cranks his performers to a carefully controlled fever pitch, while treating this by-nature ridiculously over-the-top material with stylish reverence. Giallo fans looking for lots of blood, tension, stabbings and grim sexualized death will leave disappointed. Those wanting something different from their Euro-horror can't help but be thrilled by this light-hearted laundry list of perversions, unbelievably stupid but played completely straight. As this cinematic vehicle hurtles over the cliff, all hands selflessly grip the wheel.