The Criterion Collection Blu-ray: Salo 120 Days of Sodom

Salo 120 Days of Sodom

Company: Criterion Collection

Plot: Four fascist libertines round up 18 teenage boys and girls and subject them to 120 days of physical, mental and sexual torture.

Starring:  Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Umberto Paolo Quintavalle, Aldo Valletti, Caterina Boratto, Elsa De Giorgi, Helene Surgere, Sonia Saviange, Sergio Fascetti, Bruno Musso, Antonio Orlando, Franci Merli, Umberto Chessari

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]My Review and Thoughts:

Yes, there are many disturbing movies out there, but there are very few that resemble a sense of true reality and true depravity. Salo is one of the sickest, and yet smartest masterpieces of cinematic film. This is a tour-de-force, art house piece of cinema, that floors the viewer with its frank, crude images of sex and violence, yet that is not what this film is about.

Pier Paolo Pasolini has brought forth a lasting controversial Italian drama film, that few movies if any has ever reached its intensely graphic sadism, sexual violence, and depravity. So many movies come and go in the controversial market, fade away and become another, “oh at the time it was bad, but now whatever,” such as the masterpiece Midnight Cowboy being rated X when it first came out, and now it’s an R. Salo has never lost its segments of extreme violence, sadism and sexual mental torture.

120 days has always maintained its controversial beauty and will never fade into obscurity like many films do. 120 will always be that hush, hush film, that film that’s banned, that’s looked down upon and hidden in a drawer when friends or family come over.

The Ante-inferno, The Circle of Manias, The Circle of Shit and the Circle of Blood will always be a strong filmed reality that plays with the viewer. The abuse of power through rape and sexual perversion will never die in this film.

The story itself is set in the Republic of Salo, which is set in the year 1944 in Italy and the area is a Fascist controlled area. There are four human monsters that are depicted in this film. The story is based on the perverted and opened minded sexual desires of the Marquis de Sade, which the four segments are from the writing of Dante’s Inferno.

These human men, are four wealthy, corrupted fascist libertines which are on the out because of the coming fall of Benito Mussolini and Hitler. They are known as the Duke, the Bishop, the Magistrate and the President. These monsters kidnap 18 teenage boys and girls with the desire to torture them for four months in the vilest ways possible. The dark deep twisted sexual desires of horror running in the veins of these four is an eye-opening mind f***!

Most are going to go into this film and see only a violent disgusting film which they feel is only about torture and sex, calling it a pornographic film. That is not what this film is about. It’s about the abuse of power, and what one can do with the power. Control is part of power and to control others, to do to others what you wish is the abuse of power. It’s about destroying beauty and innocence through that abuse of power. That is why Pier uses young victims, young fresh innocent 14 to 18-year-old male and females. The idea of corruption. Causing the power to destroy the most innocent ideas and the most beautiful looking. If you can control and destroy beauty and innocence, the power creates a society filled with out rules, and filled with only those who control with the abuse of power.

Humans conform to their control and surroundings.

In the movie, you are showcased at the start of the film, before all the other young ones are taken and lined up, you see some young boys being led off by Nazi guards and later you witness those same young boys as guards who are under the control of the Duke, Bishop, Magistrate, and President.

Then later you witness some of the boys who were lined up and chosen conformed to the same ordeal. The reality of power is control and causing those, through that abuse of power, to conform to the ideas and the realities around them such as for example, Hitler and his Nazi’s, how whole countries and Nations followed in the same reality of that abuse of power.

Power causes the darkest in the human species.

Debauchery is on the menu. Four old whores tell erotic stories to the four human monsters and the 18 innocence which must listen and comply with any desire these monsters feel like doing, no matter how twisted. These four men are here to humiliate these young ones for their pleasure.

No matter the twisted desire of these four, you the viewer are showcased, anal rape, shit eating, orgies, golden showers, male on male rape, scalping, branding, tongue and eyes cut out and murder.

The atrocities are not held back as you the viewer showcase the violence and destruction of these young ones.

This movie is still banned in many countries. The reality of the graphic rapes, torture and murder turns the viewer away in many moments. The dinner table shot with the food being the feces of all the victims is something that is possibly one of the grossest filmed moments ever done in cinema.

No matter what one thinks of this film it is a marvel, a masterpiece of cinema that pushes the boundaries of cinema on what you should and should not do. Many master directors and cinema lovers praise this as an artistic film with much merit. Many diehard cinema buffs and cinematic lovers will know that this film is able to embrace the very foundations of filmed cinema, the very love of making a film that causes the viewer the many emotions that are displayed. A good movie is one that smacks the viewer into a whirlwind of emotions causing the viewer to be aroused with anger, hate, disgust and many other possible reactions.

You know a movie works when it creates a rift in the cinema world. Some love, some hate, but the ones that hate only hate it because of its vile reality. They don’t hate it because it’s a bad movie, they hate it because they think it’s disgusting. A movie should be judged on its basis of worth and its basis, if it’s a good film or not, through direction, acting, story. If you’re rating this movie on acting, directing, cinematography, plot, then this film is a masterpiece. If you rate this film on the images depicted, then it’s a worthless pile of garbage just to shock the viewer. Sadly, reviewers don’t review a movie they end up reviewing their own beliefs, their own dogma’s, and in doing that you are not capturing what true cinema is about. Your leaving the picture out and giving it a bad name because you don’t agree what’s on film, not if it’s filmed right or worthy of praise.

I for one believe it is one of the greatest films of the 20th century and one of the greatest type of films ever done, not because of its controversy, but because of its merit as film, it ‘s direction, acting, plot, the whole film flows with a slow burn reality at moments. Then it hit’s the viewer with images upon images of sadism, violence and true reality based horror through the idea of what, one can do through the action of power, which is control. This is a film that lingers and never lets up in its dark nature, sexual sadism and point of view on the idea of destroying innocence. The destruction of beauty to make human beings into what that person, in power wants.

There are many versions of this film. Many versions cut out moments. The one I am reviewing is the awesome amazing version by The Criterion Collection which I feel every movie lover, movie buff, film historian should own. This is a must see, must own film, I don’t say that lightly because it’s not for everyone. Yet if you are a film buff or film historian you must see it or own it. You can’t be a true film buff, or a know it all film historian, until you have seen Pier Paolo Pasolini’s shocking, nauseating masterpiece.

The Criterion Collection DVD comes with these special features:

Special Features High Definition digital restoration.
Salo: Yesterday and Today, a thirty-three-minute documentary featuring interviews with director Pier Paolo Pasolini, actor-filmmaker Jean-Claude Biette and Pasolini friend Ninetto Davoli.
Fade to Black a twenty-three-minute documentary featuring directors Nernardo Bertolucci, Catherine Breillat and John Maybury as well as scholar David Forgacs.
The End of Salo a forty-minute documentary about the film’s production.
Video interviews with set designer Dante Ferretti and director and film scholar Jean-Pierre Gorin
Optional English dubbed soundtrack
Plus: A booklet featuring essays by Neil Bartlett, Breilett, Naomi Greene, Sam Rohdie, Roberto Chiesi and Gary Indiana and excerpts from Gideon Bachman’s on set diary.

This is an amazing DVD/Blu-ray release. I truly feel is one of the greatest collection of special features for a release. 

This movie has always been on my mind because I first saw it when I was sixteen years old, I am 39 now, and so it left a shocking mark inside my brain.

I have always wanted to be rich and do a film documentary on this movie. I have wanted to track down all the kids and actors in this film that are still living and interview them and to see what their reactions are to it now and to it then. I have wanted to trace every aspect and just as a fan and historical retrospect from a basic film watcher and explore it’s every reality.

So where are they now, what are they doing, let’s explore a little:

Duke: played by Paolo Bonacelli. He is still acting today. He was born in 1939 in Italy. He started acting in 1964. After acting in 120 Days he went on to act in many more movies other movies I know him from and one’s that you might know him from are Caligula, Midnight Express, Henry IV, Dario Argento’s The Stendhal Syndrome, Mission Impossible 3, The American. He has acted in a total of 110 films. He is one of the biggest characters in 120 Days being in some of the most memorable moments, or should I say more of the shocking moments, such as the golden shower shot, the shitting on the floor and forcing the victim to eat it and the kissing of everyone at the marriage. Also, the final Circle of Blood moments by him is very memorable.

Bishop: Played by Giorgio Cataldi, sadly not much is known about him other than his only other acting role was in 1976 in The Best. He is the one having anal sex with one of the guards in his room right before he makes a bed check when all the victims try and save themselves by telling on all the others. He is the one that makes the deal during the best ass contest in which they are going to kill the one with the best ass. The winner of the contest is the male victim Franco. He orders the guards to hold Franco and to hold the gun to Franco’s head. Now an interesting rumor has it that Franco was so upset at this shot he almost lost it. The moment could not be filmed, he was so upset and scarred by it that they had to stop filming and console Franco that it was just another filmed moment and not real, put supposedly the part was so harsh that Franco got too far into the moment where he feared for his life.

Magistrate: Played by Umberto Paolo Quintavalle was born in 1926 in Italy and sadly passed away in 1997 in New York from a Heart Attack. Now 120 Days was his only acting role but he was famous as an Italian author, some of his famous works are La Festa and In Cerca Di Upamanyu. He is the father of Sirio Quintavalle who is the technical supervisor on special effects for many films. I think what needs to be noted is that this was his first and only role, he aced it with no acting experience what so ever. He is the one that marries Sergio during the Circle of Shit ordeal, Sergio is placed in a white wedding dress where he and the Magistrate are the center of the dining room setting when the feces is served. He is then in the graphic shot that causes the viewer a little stomach-turning reality when the Magistrate feeds Sergio the crap and, he kisses Sergio on the steps and there are feces all over both of their mouths.

The President: Played by Aldo Valletti. He passed away in 1992. His last acting role was in 1980. I remember him in the movie in the 1974 Italian movie The Perfume of the Lady in Black which is a horror thriller. Also in the Italian crime action film Shoot First, Die Later. He had been acting since 1956. You will know him from the memorable shots of him making the boys and girls look at his ass while dinner is going on. When Efizio one of the guards trips a naked waitress and rapes her in the anal, The President then pleads with Efizio to rape him where Efizio does. Also, he is the one with the weird eyes. He is known as the one that has the ass fetish and enjoys eating feces.

Caterina Boratto was born in 1915 and passed away in 2010. She played Signora Castelli in 120 Days. She had acted before 120 and after 120. She starred in more than 50 movies. She starred in such films as 8 ½, Danger Diabolik, Juliet of the Spirits, The House by the Edge of the Lake, Once upon a Crime. She is the last story teller before the Circle of Blood. She talks about a tall man being well endowed.

Elsa De Giorgi played Signora Maggi in 120 Days. She was born 1914 and passed in 1997. She had been acting since 1933. After her role in 120 Days she only acted in two other films, her last being in 1992. She is one of the most memorable females in the movie due to the fact she tells the stories in the Circle of Shit section.

Helene Surgere who plays Signora Vaccari in 120 Days. She had been acting since 1966 and acted her whole life up until her death. Her last role was in 2010. She was a prolific actress of television and cinema. You will remember her as being the first to begin the stories, in the Circle of Manias, how she told about being a young little girl pleasing older men.

Sonia Saviange who played The Pianist in 120 Days was born in 1923 and passed in 1987. She had been acting since 1962 and acted up until 1983.

Not much is known about the actors playing the victims themselves other than dates of birth and dates of death but a few went on to act in other things such as:

Sergio Fascetti who passed when he was only 33 years old from a drug overdose. He like all the other victims used his real name in the movie. He was the first to expose himself along with Franco at the start of the movie as the four monsters asked to see them naked as they were lined up. Sergio along with Franco I feel are the two main stars of this film due to the horrible violence and ordeals each go through, these two seemed to be picked on more due to their boyish beauty of innocence, as if they shall be destroyed more. Sergio can be remembered most as the male bride victim and the one to get his nipples burned off. This was his only movie.

Bruno Musso is another of the male victims this was his only role he acted in. He was the curly head victim who smiled a lot and seemed to enjoy the ordeal. He acted like he was in love with The Duke.

Antonio Orlando another male victim was an actor before this movie and acted up until 1987. He is the one crying at the first of the movie as the monsters are choosing their goods. He begs the Bishop “Sir, I beg you, Help me, please.” in the movie.

Franco Merli was the best known of the victims even before the movie. He was born in 1956 in Italy. You will know him as the male victim named Franco using his real name in the movie. The first shot of him is when he is told to strip while the four monsters are choosing their victims at the start. He is the victim that is chosen as best ass in the movie and the one that gets the mortal image on many of the posters and DVD covers of his tongue being pulled out and chopped off. He was an actor before this movie and acted up until 1979. Pier Paolo Pasolini discovered Merli in 1973 at 16 years old working at a gas station. He picked him to play the lead in his movie Arabian Nights (Il flore delle mille e una notte) due to his boyish good looks. This role was a success and shot him to some fame. From there Pier used him again and immortalized his face and nakedness in cinema history as forever being the image of torture for Salo. Sadly, it was this image that also ruined his career and caused him great frustration in life. Many played around and bullied him about his sexuality remarking about him being a homosexual and so on, which he was not. But he soon found the only roles he could get was displaying his nudity and his boyish good looks. The part displayed as Franco in 120 Days was forever a golden moment of a character and sadly that moment was also his downfall. He now lives in Rome and has two sons.

Umberto Chessari another male victim. This was his only acting role but he went on in 1988 to work behind the films being a gaffer under the name Bart Hessar in such b-movie horror classic's like Zombi 3 in 1988 and his last gaffer job was in 1990 for the movie Desire. You will recognize him as the one who conforms and that calls other boys faggots and plays like he is shooting them. His other famous moment is when The Duke calls him up, were he is sitting watching the torture from the window. There The Duke unzips Umberto’s pants and The Duke places his hand in Umberto’s pants touching his penis to see if he was ready.

Renata Moar was the female victim known as the one who had to eat the crap of The Duke in that graphic shot of horror and forced into marriage with Sergio. She acted before in one movie in 1974 and then acted in Nazi Love Camp 27 after Salo.

Antiniska Nemour one of the female victims using her real name in the movie. She acted before and after this film. Starring in many Italian cult classics. Most all her roles consisted of showing her body in many sex shots and nudity shots, she was known to use her body in most all her roles. She also in 1977 posed in the Italian Playboy which amazingly in the same issue had the amazing beautiful Edwige Fenech. Another famous role she did was in playing a Jewish girl in the Nazi exploitation film The Gestapo’s Last Orgy in 1977. Her last role was in 1983. You will remember her in 120 Days as the one having the lesbian sex in the movie and the one that tells on Ezio the guard having a secret relationship with the African slave girl. The African slay girl is played by Ines Pellegrini who played in Pier’s other movie Arabian Nights who also was a 70’s star in many other cult like films such as Eyeball (1975), 1974’s The Kiss of Death, 1976’s La madama, 1978’s War of the Robots, 1978’s Escape from Women’s Prison.

Sadly, this would be the master director Pier Paolo Pasolini last film. It is a great way to end a career but this master at the lens and story was sadly murdered in 1975 even before 120 was released. He is the master of many of my favorite films such as Teorema, The Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights and course Salo 120 Days. A master writer, a master director. What needs to be brought out is he was already famous before ever a film career, he was a published and admired poet at the young age of 19 years, also writing novels, essays and even his first screenplay. He had such a career in his 53 years of life from director, poet, writer, journalist, philosopher, playwright, newspaper and magazine columnist, actor, painter and most of all a political person and a powerful intellectual.

His films are very deep and dark and violent and graphic at times. His first movie Accattone in 1964 caused a major reaction due to violence in it. Most all his films cause reactions and causes the viewer to be stunned and floored. Each one of his films he did makes a statement.

His many trade marks in film can also be seen in 120 Days and that is Marxist ideas, using unknown actors and filming with natural light. Pier was a homosexual and in some of his movies there are mentions and images of this reality such as the classic Teorema and hints of it in Arabian Nights and course the 120 Days.

In his personal life, he met his lover a 15-year-old named Ninetto Davoli who both fell madly in love and Pier cast him in many of his films such as The Gospel According to St. Matthew, The Hawks and the Sparrows, Le Streghe, Capriccio all’Italiana, Oedipus Rex, Teorema, Pigsty, Amore e rabbia, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights.

They lived together up until his murder. Ninetto Davoli stated that Pier was his mentor and his friend and a constant companion.

The big mystery is Pier's murder. His homicide which has been solved or has it, or is it still an unsolved case filled with mystery. On Nov. 2nd, 1975 he was run over by his own car, repeatedly on a beach, near Rome shortly after the filming of 120 Days. At the time of the murder a 17-year-old hustler named Giuseppe Pelosi was arrested for the crime and confessed. Thirty years later he recanted the claim saying the police forced the confession through violence.

He said he knew that three others killed Pasolini because of his communist ways. If he did do it which the authorities said he did; what is more horrifying is that he only got nine years in prison for killing this master artist of film and word.

Also in 2005, there was evidence found stating that Pasolini had been murdered by an extortionist. I for one think there is more to the story then we know and I feel there are those who know the whole story.

My personal belief is that he was murdered because of this movie, a major part of his death was his movies and mainly 120 Days, I have no evidence or proof it’s just a hunch and a reality that I feel fits, he used 120 Days to make a statement and that statement was deep in going against the idea that government and those in power are corrupt and destroy everything through their power. During the time, this statement was made that was a bold reality to put on film in the country it was done Italy/France. Whatever the case is a master artist was taken away and left a stark beauty in the film 120 Days which might have led to his death in some way.

Looking at 120 Days for the third time after picking up this wonderful amazing Criterion Collection Blu-rayDVD I must say it still grows on you, it still shocks the shit out of you, it still lingers as a true artistic trip of depravity or better yet a living breathing nightmare come to life from the dark recesses of the human conscience.

This brings me to the closing act of the film. The amazing disturbing shots of death. It’s filmed from a far and in silence, you don’t hear the pain, you witness it, but your mind must see it, but your imagination must place the sounds upon the pain. The shot of The Duke looking through the binoculars in close and then turning the binoculars around to scan the whole image from afar is a disturbing shocking and artistic example of Pasolini’s mind.

I think the greatest shot in the whole film is after the Circle of Blood is over and the two young guards look at each other. The one young man turns the radio on and they look at each other and the one asks the other do you dance. While the music is playing and the two boys embrace in a waltz, while all along, out the window is torture, bloodshed, violence and sexual horrors. There is beauty of embrace and music trying to over cloud the violence as if the violence is not important, or as if it ‘s a normal reality that must be dealt with through the sexual actions, nightmares of power and control through the desire of the human mind.


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