Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)

Well…We’ve done it! Season 7 is in the can and there isnt a damn thing any one of you can do to take that away from me! Seriously; this seasons been an absolute blast to work on and i’ve got to hang around with some super cool people and make some really nice things…It’s just a shame that this is the movie the seasons going out on.

Yes “Return to Sleepaway Camp” a movie so painful and irritating to sit through I liken it to repeatedly smacking yourself in the clitoris or balls with a housebrick. all the charm is gone, all the nice plot twists and one liners; gone. this is an irrideamable piece of trash in my opinion. EASILY the worst film of this season hands down by a country mile. I will NEVER watch this film again willingly. and if you guys have any sense, neither will you. such a sad way to end what was ultimately a pretty alright franchise. I really hope at some point it gets another crack at the whip to try and right this travesty…because at this point? I wouldnt even put this in the same leage as latter day full moon features…and their movies…holy shit.

Anyway! Im done! go get some sunshine, go eat ice cream, enjoy your summer! I’ll be back in september with some more fun and games (Plus there’ll be plenty of goodies going up in the interim…dont think im leaving my channel barren) and i’ll see all you hot dogs and cool cats in the autumn

Take Care!

Dan

(FUCKING AWFUL POSTER DO NOT WANT.)

“Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland” (1989) AND “Sleepaway Camp 4: The Survivor” (1992)

So! a bit or a rarity! this week we’re doing double bubble! it’s been a VERY long time since I covered 2 movies in one review. in fact the last time was way back in Season 2 when I covered both versions of the “Night of the Living Dead” movies.

And todays is extra special because we’re not only covering 2 movies in one review! we’re covering 2 movies, 1 of which has never had a proper “PROPER” official release. Yes yes; there has been a cobbled together fan edit that attempts to complete it…but honestly? it’s a bit limp. I have to tread extra carefully around movies that never got completed as copyright law is slightly different for “Unifinished” works than completed ones.

Even so; I really did feel a bit like I was short changing you guys with my review of Sleepaway Camp 3 with this one. “It’s basically Sleepaway camp 2 again” is hardly the most inspired take for this one. and I was left in a bit of a dilemma as to; A: whether there was enough material to even MAKE a full length review for Sleepaway Camp 4 and B: Whether a trunkated review for sleepaway camp 3 would fly. As such it became quite apparent that the best thing to do with 2 stubby reviews that dont quite meet the usual goals and standards would be to push them together into a not so stubby double feature and treat SC4 as a bit of an addendum and ending to the production company “Double Helix films”.

Honestly?; While theres nothing inherently wrong with sleepaway camp 3, the fact that it’s basically more of the same always makes it difficult for me to appreciate this movie in the same way I do the original or Sleepaway camp 2. and Sleepaway camp 4 is missing so much information, that quite honestly? I feel bad for even talking about it. im only really doing it for completionist sake and because next week?…well it’s the season finale…and…oh god….even thinking about it’s making the space behind my eyes itch.

(In the UK sleepaway camp 3’s poster is basically Sleepaway Camp 4’s poster but cropped in exclusively to the cleavage area and with a title change…I dont care much for the US poster of 3…and the full length poster for Sleepaway Camp 4 just looks like the weirdest glamour shoot I’ve ever seen…these are not great posters…)

Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers (Nightmare Vacation 2) (1988)

I enjoy Sleepaway Camp 2 for almost the exact polar opposite reasons I enjoyed the first Sleepaway camp movie. Where that film relied on subtlety masked by some bombastic performances and a BIG TWIST ENDING that has come to pretty much define the movie altogether. This films loud, stupid, garish, blatant and critically; NOT to be taken seriously by any stretch of the imagination. It feels like a film that would exist inside another film, Like; I could see this movie easily playing in the background of a scene in Robocop or “The Last Action Hero” or something of that ilk. it doesnt feel like a real movie…and yet here we are.

Because of it’s total outlandishness I really warmed to this movie. It was the first sleepaway camp film I saw via “The Horror Channel” in the UK around the turn of the millenium and I’d honestly put this one joint first with the original for my most loved sleepaway camp movie. in the context of the slasher genre this is awful! but for a macarbre horror comedy with gore and gallows humour. I totally dig it!

With 2 weeks left to go now until the season finishes, I hope you’ll join us next week as we take a deep dive into “Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland” and “Sleepaway Camp 4: The Survivor”!

 

(This poster always confused me. Why have all the slasher references?, why shoot some random actress just because Pamela Springstein was unavaialble on the shoot day?…why continue to call it nightmare vacation in the UK?…its a messy poster…iconic…but messy)

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

So! It’s summertime and i’ve finally worked up the stones to pull the trigger on a series of films I’ve wanted to talk about LITERALLY FOR YEARS! Seriously I’d been planning on doing a series on the Sleepaway camp movies since season 2 at least! which is nearly 3 years ago! I love *Most* of these films and having done a few summer seasons now I thought it would be the perfect time to finally settle in and get these added to the vault.

The first “Sleepaway Camp” movie is notoriously hard to source in the UK…I believe it’s mainly down to licensing issues. But the long and short of it is; apart from the Pre-cert VHS release that came out in 1983/84 and a DVD release that was cut to shit and dumped on an overpriced boxset (Which is now EVEN MORE overpriced as it’s out of print) Short of importing; if your british. you aint seeing this movie. That astounded some of my American co-critics when I told them, as to them. This movies a pretty regular staple of TV broadcasting and is pretty easy to find via online streaming. the idea that it hasnt been released uncut over here yet made there jaws fall firmly to the floor.

It’s a real shame that thats the case honestly as I think the first film is a definite gold standard contender in the slasher genre. it’s a good solid summer camp slasher movie with twists and turns that are generally unexpected but become clearer on repeat watches and I love this film for that.

I had to import my bluray copy of this film from Spain where it’s known as “Campamento Sangriento” (Or literally translated “Bloody Camp”) my version has no extras, no commentaries, English and Spanish Languages only and English Subs only. The Picture quality is on par with the Scream factory release thats been out for years…but this is a totally barebones release. Nontheless; if the choice is spend £10 and own it in this format, Spend £200 on going Bluray multiregion and importing a copy, or not owning it…Well I think you can guess why I went the way I went.

Over the next 4 weeks I’ll be covering ALL of the other official Sleepaway Camp Movies as a big push to see the season out in style! so I hope you join us next week when we take a look at “Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers!”

(The poster for this movie is SO. FUCKING. GOOD. seriously; it says everything and nothing about this film in one iconic image. I’d LOVE to own an original theatre copy to hang in my house)

Celia (1989)

I dont really have a tremendous amount to say about this movie. Thats not me skimping out on juicy gossip about my “Amazing” history with this film. Rather; everything I really had to say about this movie is in the review and my opinions on it (at the time of writing this at least) havent changed a dot.

I originally got this in a haul of tapes, I thought it looked good and originally I intended to cover it back in Season Six But for time constraints I just couldnt fit it in. and Honestly? having finally watched it…Im kind of glad it didnt go in that season. I think It would have put me in a foul mood for the rest of the writing season to be honest…This was another one of the last scripts that I worked on (I believe this was 3rd to last…with the final one being the last episodes of this season) and I spent a good chunk of the credits swearing and pacing up and down because I couldnt quite believe what I’d just sat through.

As a Drama it’s middling and not really worth your time. As a Horror it’s downright awful. Dont bother with this movie. Next week…well; we get to have a LOT of fun 🙂

(All the posters for this movie are either SUUUUUUPER misleading or way too arty for what this film actually is…)

The “From Russia With Love” Comedy Dining Experience (1963)

So! it’s been a month! We’ve all learnt how to read (Im assured) And so we’ve arrived on the 2nd entry into our long LOOOOONG trip through every Bond movie ever made ever! Due to the lockdown unfotunately while we’ve recorded some new episodes. it’s been at least a couple of months (Mainly due to poor internet connections) since we last recorded one. hopefully the situation will improve slightly and we’ll be able to pick back up again.

At this point; we’ve almost done the whole rest of this year (Barring 2 months or so) so im keeping hopeful we’ll be able to see the year out in style!

Anyway! Here’s From Russia with love! and im sure you guys know what to expect by now 😉

(I REALLY love this poster style…I need to get a portrait done in this style at some point)

Vampire Hookers (Twice Bitten) (1978)

So; Vampire Hookers, the 2nd part of our “Drive in movie” specials which started with “Death Force” a couple of weeks previously. This to me; is the weaker of the two ventures. While it is better in some regards (The Cine is a definite bump up in quality and the soundtracks about even with Death Forces…) it’s just so poor in terms of scripting, acting (Not to mention all the Homophobia, mild racism and mysoginy peppered throughout) it’s just a not particularly nice film to sit through.

As I mention in the review; I first picked this movie up independently of this set on VHS when it was under it’s UK title of “Twice Bitten” and the UK release manages to be somehow even worse than the US version as what little horror and eroticism IS in this movie is missing from the UK version. Twice bitten has a hell of a VHS cover though (As seen in the introduction to this video) and that was what initially sold me…had I known it was “Vampire Hookers” in disguise I wouldnt have bought it…

This one was planned as part of last years themed month on Vampires. But when I found out how awful the quality was, and how little Vampires actually even factored into the plot I decided to hold off on reviewing it. My thinking was to maybe include it in a “Vampires 2” themed month if I ever got round to it…but then I found out it’s US title, I realised it was already part of this drive in set and I figured it was too shit to showcase as a prime Halloween watch. And well; Here we are!

(The posters not bad for this…but it could be so much better…I mean; the whole thing could be so much better…but still…)

The Warriors (1979)

So! We return to the “Drive in double features” next week, but in between we have ourselves a brief intermission. I was definitely a latecomer to “The Warriors” considering most people i’ve spoken too seemingly grew up with it, it was only in 2019 that I finally sat myself down and gave the theatrical cut of this a spin. And I more or less fell in love with it. While the “Directors Cut” is definitely a significant step down in my opinion, The Theatrical cut is a version I’ll happily sit through again and again, and the fact I do have the option to own this digitally in the correct cut is at least some concillation from the fact that I cant own it physically (Without great expense).

This was the first review I wrote for this season WAAAAAY back in early October 2019. it was going to be the season opener right up until the second to last minute when I decided “Hercules 1983” definitely had more pull as a solid opener. it then quickly slipped from episode 1, to 5, to 10. I always feel the further into the production I get writing wise the stronger the episodes come out, but I also feel that it’s very distinctly a bit of a bell curve, with my early works being a bit scattershot, the stuff in the middle being my best pieces and the stuff towards the end feeling a touch rushed as I race to the finish line. So while im not saying this is a shit review for this movie, I do feel in hindsight I could have maybe been a touch more concise…but then; Im my own worst critic at times. we live and learn, and thats the important thing.

So; here it is! “The Warriors”, if you only read this brief lead in and nothing more. All I can say to you is, go watch “The Warriors”. it’s a campy, solid little picture that when taken at just the right headspace will probably become a firm favourite!

(Modern iterations of this poster lose the white border and just have the films logo in red at the top of the artwork…I personally find that version much more palletable. This versions the origianl though and it was so high res I simply couldnt say no!)

Death Force (1978)

So i’ve slowly been accumulating a large number of Vinegar Syndromes “Drive in” double features range. Generally being based in the UK, if Im ordering from VS I have to do it in bulk because of rediculous shipping and customs charges. So when my baskets heaving with goodies both hardcore and otherwise I’ll usually either chuck a couple of there drive in movie sets or there peep show sets in…mainly for the lol’s because they seem like reasonable value for money.

but with us now in the midst of a lockdown of sorts I decided to use my time to both work through my “To watch” pile (Which; seriously…it was out of control before this Corona bollocks all kicked off) and to work on writing episodes of my show for you guys. This and it’s B-picture counter part (Coming VERY soon) were some of the last episodes I wrote. Originally this season was supposed to be 14 episodes long. But then I realised that would mean the newest season would end at the end of May and leave 2-3 months gap before the next season started…so I bumped the episode count up to 18 (19 if a collaboration I was working on Pre-lockdown ever gets released) and this double feature film was one of the last ones to make the cut (I believe I’ve only written 2 scripts after this to complete the block).

These particular movies wernt great. This was definitely the better of the 2 pictures. but it’s definitely got me interested to do something similar again in future. I have another 4 of these to get through at some point so I look forward to seeing what the future holds!

(This is an example of a poster looking FAR FAR FARRR!!! better than the movie in question…)

Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

So you might think this was something put together “Spur of the moment” or made as a filler episode…quite the opposite. I spent nearly a year and a half planning the perfect way to tackle “Salo” and I feel that my musical rendition was the best possible response I could have made. Given that Passolini’s entire filmography was dedicated to challenging authoritarianism and facism in all it’s thoughts and flavours, it seems actually quite offensive to constructively deconstruct Salo in my usual “Media” led style. so I decided here to tackle absurdism with absurdism. I’ve no regrets. as I mention in my youtube description for this review; “I’ve been doing this now for nearly 3 years…Let me have just one week where I have a bit of ‘Off the beat and path’ fun.” Normal service resumes next week. But if your ABSOLUTELY desperate for my full thoughts/feelings and a deconstruction of this film, well…here’s my thoughts structured a bit more thoughtfully…

1975’s “Salo (The 120 Days of Sodom)” is a truly Nihilistic picture. The kind of film that only really comes around once in a generation of filmmaking. This film revels in its own filth and perversion and gleefully explores violence, mutilation and the class structure in such a way that feels surprisingly fresh for a film that was made in the mid 1970’s about events taking place in the mid 1940’s. A lot has been written and spoken about regarding this picture. Some dismiss it as simply exploitation cinema dressed up as a pretentious art film. Others; choose to see more meaning in it’s themes and within the morality of it’s main characters. I could regurgitate other peoples opinions on the subject of this film ad-verbatim. But Im     sure you’ve all seen at least a couple of reviews about this movie in the past, So im just going to do it my way.

The film is set in late 1944/ early 1945 in fascist occupied northern Italy. It’s nearing the end of world war two and most of this film is focussed on a small village that is on the verge of being captured by the allies. This is bad news for the fascists who are highly likely to be executed for the crimes they have committed during the war. As such they decide not to go quietly into the abyss. But rather 4 of the wars larger offenders (Here known as: “The Duke”, “The Bishop”, “The Magistrate” and “The President”) decide to hold one last impulse fuelled bingefest before there inevitable demise. They all agree to marry each others daughters in order to protect their assets going forwards and then; using a mixture of soldiers and hired militia, they head into a nearby village and kidnap as many teenage boys and girls as they can find (Quite often murdering their families in the process) these teenagers are then assessed and based on their appearance and “Assets” 9 teenage boys and 9 teenage girls are chosen. These teens are then transferred to well out into the countryside (One of the teenage boys is shot to death trying to escape while being transported) to a stately manor alongside a few Madam’s from local brothels and a skeleton serving staff.

It’s here where the bulk of the films events will take place. The rules are simple: anything is permitted to the “Big 4” they can do what they want, say what they want and literally get away with murder if they want. No one is coming to save the teens and they make it clear that it’s at the big 4’s discretion as to whether they live or die. They list Incest, Adultery and Sodomy as just a handful of the things that they would be interested in getting away with. If the teens refuse to co-operate, are found to be enjoying themselves or having sex with other teens, or if they mention religion in any way shape or form. they’ll be put on a punishment list (To be dished out on the final day of the events) Killed, or raped and tortured to death. A basic schedule is put together with the day starting at 6am with the Madams telling the filthiest and most perverse stories they can to help turn the “Big 4” on and enflame their imagination to help get the sex and violence going. Then Lunch is served at 12pm at which point everything post 12pm is basically orgies, dirty parlour games and violence until bed time…and even then it doesn’t necessarily stop.

Basically; what we’re watching here is an hour and 56 minutes of 18 teenagers slowly getting murdered and fucked to death split into 3 acts (Known as circles)that encapsulates either 120 days or 3(Ish) days (Depending on how you look at this movie; I personally don’t think 18 already breadline level teenagers could survive the conditions laid out in this movies T’s & C’s for 120 days solid…and a 3 day non stop orgy bender sounds way cooler than 120 days of tepid torture. Happy to be wrong though on that one. What separates this movie from the other exploitation films that have similar themes however. Is, in setting up this act structure we’re granted deeper access to our characters, their motivations, what drives them and fascism in general. Salo is designed to make you uncomfortable because it challenges a fundamental societal rule which is the idea that you just cant do what you want. We’re raised to accept that there are consequences for our actions and that via social constructs there is somehow a moralistic requirement to protect the innocent and not cause distress. We’re taught that this is a respectable trait. In my opinion; Salo sets out to ask the question “Why?” and it does so by using Fascism as a “Launchpad to debauchery.”

The Films Writer and Director Pier Paolo Pasolini was a staunch anti-fascist and was quite active in challenging fascism, destroying it where possible and it’s heavily rumoured to this day that his murder in 1975 was at the hands of multiple fascist groups. Indeed the basic idea of fascism is that there are a select few who are effectively in total control of the majority of the public. They attempt total control as a means to guide and shape society into the image they want, often at the omission of facts or evidence. They don’t deal well with opposition because why live with opposition when it’s easier to just remove them from the frame all together? With Salo; Pasolini shows the descent into self-indulgent madness that comes from giving already highly entitled right wing authoritarians the unlimited freedom and control to do whatever they want within an environment that is entirely malleable and controllable to their own twisted and ruthless requirements. And it’s barbaric.

He’s basically created a Terarium-esq experiment In which the 17 teenagers represent the proletariat and these 4 men are the leaders of their own controllable world based within the walls of the mansion house. With a hired militia in place to help keep the peace and ensure their visions and wants are fulfilled, they strong arm their way through the 3 days we see with a sense of arrogance, entitlement and unfiltered nastiness. You witness the cruelness of man’s inhumanity to man through the eyes of right wing fascism. Each act within Salo reveals a deeper level of depravity and relentlessness that; at times, is genuinely harrowing to watch.

Act 1: The Circle of Mania’s shows the fascists testing their new found freedom. Teenagers are beaten and kicked, molested and raped within hours of the day’s commencement. The teens are shown to be replaceable and they’re also shown that the Big 4 will not hesitate to kill them if they don’t comply. This breaks the teen’s spirits and makes them compliant to the plans that are unfolding, Because; If the only way to get out is to comply, well…they’re going to have to comply. Punishments are dished out on the whims of the big 4 throughout the day. An example being when one of the young teenage boys is added to the punishment list because he pulled away when one of the fascists forced him to give a blowjob, but he pulled away just before the fascist “came”. Thus ruining the orgasm. Its horrific. But in this world, the rights to what are punishable acts and what aren’t fall entirely to the fascists.

If the teens don’t comply then of course there must be a punishment. And they will all be judged equally. It also becomes quite apparent in these opening hours that the teens have no idea how to do half of the things that are expected of them by the big 4, so the brothel owner offers to teach the girls at least, how to correctly “Play” with a penis and how to have sex. There’s a lot of talk at this point about vaginal, penile and anal virginity (Here referred to as deflowering) and there’s a tremendous emphasis from the big 4 that deflowering is a “delicacy” and furthermore that the whole point these youths were selected was because they are “Pure” and their defilement is a commodity that these fascists relish. They quite literally get off on the idea that they are going to defile and corrupt the innocence of youth. And this is a strong theme which runs throughout the film right up until the end credits. Quite frequently there are scenes in which one of the big 4 will just run out into a hallway and gratuitously grope 4 or 5 teenage boys and girls in one go. It all adds to the gluttonous themes of binging that are present throughout and the themes of hopelessness and nihilism that hang over this film in an almost smothering fashion.

All of this before I even get into the legalities around that time. this film was set in the 1940’s when Homosexuality in Italy was punishable by death, marriage was the highest level of sanctimony and the long and short of it was that you were a corrupt individual unless you followed the basic nuclear family model of heterosexuality. In the 1970’s homosexuality (And particularly Anal Sex) was highly illegal in Italy and was punishable with imprisonment. It was treated very similarly to Paedophilia and it wasn’t until the 1990’s that the laws would relax on the issue. To this day Italy still has a quite severe problems with Homophobia and Transphobia and the reason lies highly within it’s successive string of right wing governments and silencing and stigmatizing of Gay, trans and minority groups. This film was released in 1975 and was seen as absolutely irreprehensible. Sodomy is highly prominent throughout the film. moreso the image of men enjoying both sodomy and sodomising. The fact that these are people in powerful positions taking advantage of youth caused uproar. Probably one of the films most controversial sequences involves 2 of the teenagers being forced into marriage, they’re deflowered by a brothel madam and a militia soldier respectively and upon the marriage being completed they’re asked to “Consummate” the arrangement. The teens begin to arouse each other at which point the big 4 swoop in  and seize the “Consummation” for there own satisfaction. Tarnishing what I suppose is supposed to be a sweet moment of love and denying both teens there “Consummation”. It devalues their marriage and the facists “Get off” at the idea of cuckoldry and Bigamy that has just occurred.

The First act concludes with the teens literally reduced to that of wild and hungry dogs. Stripped naked and forced on leashes into a main hall to eat slices of meat and chunks of bread from the floor, the fascists end the first act by stripping the teens of their humanity. Reducing them to nothing more than animals and commodities there to be exploited, used and disposed of. While desperation will bring back some elements of the teen’s more human qualities. By the close of the circle of manias; They’re broken, compliant and almost entirely defeated.

Act 2 opens the circle of shit, and from here the film descends quite rapidly into abuse and degradation. It transpires that the teenage girls were fed meat during the dog sessions that were specifically tainted. They were instructed to not use the toilets until the next day and then to relieve themselves into a communal sized basin. This shit is then served for lunch during day 2. The “Shit eating banquet” is arguably one of the most memorable scenes in Salo and could be inferred to be a comment on humanity as a race being predisposed to accept lies (In this case represented by the shit) that promise the answers they want to hear over the truth which may not be what they want despite its accuracy. Throughout the scene the fascists repeatedly refuse to acknowledge that they’re eating shit instead referring to it as a “Delicacy” and a “rare item”. Not only this, but they expect the teens to respond in an equal manner. Equally they go to extended lengths to degrade and humiliate the women in particular during this banquet, repeatedly referring to how such beautiful vessels could produce such foul offerings. In essence this is the fascists attempting to further demoralise and undermine the girls. Making them feel dirty, less pure or otherwise trying to break their sense of worth, (Which by extension the fascists would then be able to use to force the girls into further and further destructive and perverse situations.)

Throughout the 2nd circle the girls are repeatedly beaten, abused or forced into embarrassing situations. Golden showers feature as a centre piece of one of the fascists indulgencies and as much as you could infer this to be a submissive request from the fascists as it is the fascists that are being urinated on. Anything that is done to them as a submissive act has been forced by the fascists initially. In many ways making these acts significantly more dominating. When one of the teens sodomises one of the fascists, It could initially be seen as a submissive act on behalf of the fascists until you realise that they’re the ones in control. They’ve requested to be penetrated and they’ll kill the teens if they don’t cooperate. With this in mind, it quickly becomes apparent that the fascists main indulgences are predominantly driven not by base carnal urges but rather through the control and management of the teens they’re abusing specifically. They get a sick kick out of knowing that they have ultimate control over individuals to the point that they can put themselves in a submissive situation and STILL be the dominant force. It’s really quite an extraordinary situation.

Act 3 is the Circle of Blood and acts as this films closing. Another faux wedding is staged as the fascists (In full female wedding regalia) take husbands. This leads to an evening of sodomy in which a tipping point presents itself. One of the teens offers to rat out one of his fellow captives in exchange for leniency or freedom. Intrigued one of the fascists follows the trail and ultimately unveils half a dozen of the teens are breaking rules ranging from practicing Catholicism, to lesbianism, to interracial relationships. This sets up the closing moments of the film. Almost all of the teens are now on the punishment list for misdemeanours of one kind or another. They have all been violated, deflowered and spiritually broken, and as punishment for their crimes they are placed in and around the communal Shit bucket to wallow in their own filth. They’re no longer human. They’re shells of their humanity. With a final cry of anguish from one of the teens the final punishment begins. Each of the fascists has been semi-responsible for a handful of the teenagers since their arrival at the mansion and now those same groups are sent to the garden. Here the teens are mutilated. Branded, burnt, castrated, gang raped, hung, sodomised and brutalised until death. Used and discarded by both Fascists and Militia alike. Their fun is done they revel in the ultimate pleasure of the death not only of the teens but of their secret shame. Knowing that outside of themselves and a handful of the militia that no one will truly know what happened here. They are soon to die too. But ultimately they’ve won in terms of their own pleasures. No one survives Salo ultimately. But that’s no comfort to an audience who has had to sit through it.

What is interesting and definitely worth noting is that this film does dabble quite frequently in absurdism. Actors performances are quite often over the top, melodramatic or highly animated. The brothel owners regularly dance, move their hands in strange ways and in one instance fall back on old cabaret routines to please the fascists. The Big 4 themselves often drift into over the top and almost comedic performances (of particular note is “The President” who decides during one of the lunch sequences while one of the serving girls is being raped, to run around the lunch hall showing his backside and demanding one of the soldiers sodomises him as soon as possible) that’s not to say that these are comedic characters mind. The fascists are distinctly malicious and evil characters. Rather that they delight in their own malice to the point that they feel free to exercise their ultimate power in whatever way they feel. It creates a deeply unsettling quality throughout the film as you can never quite tell if the next strange and odd moment that manifests itself is going to end either in a round of laughter or an atrocity. In fact the only characters that aren’t allowed the indulgence of absurdism are the teens themselves. Though I believe Pasolini did this to further emphasise the gulf in power and control that is created within the mansion. The teens have no power, no control. And the film wants to make it clear that they cannot afford to be jovial or silly. The fascists hold all the cards and as such can afford such luxuries. And this gulf helps to impress further the idea of suffering that these teens are under to the audience.

Even within the cine Pasolini creates a hostile and cold environment. Wide shots and ultra-wide shots are here in abundance. To help create a sense of disconnect, helplessness and isolation for the audience. The idea being that because we as the audience are so far away from the teens visually we feel like we cannot help them, nor can anyone within the film. It’s now a classic technique to help set a sense of hopelessness but for the time it was quite revolutionary. The only times close-ups are used really are in moments of revulsion (Such as the shit eating banquet) or for moments of significance (Such as the torturing scenes or the sequence in which the teens are selected). The madam’s brothel stories tend to also be shot using a mixture of mids and wides. Though this is predominantly due to these sequences foreshadowing events that will be done to the teens later in the film. So I suppose that’s to create a mixture of cold distance while also visually telling the audience that these stories will be important and to pay attention.

Another point to clarify is that the soundtrack is almost entirely diegetic. Barring the films introductory credits, any and all music is played either via stereograms, radio or the mansions pianist (Which usually underpins the madams stories) in general though, there is very little music in this film. Instead it prefers to utilise the cold silence of the countryside estate. There’s no cars, no public walking by, the atrocities committed in this film are usually done in room tone only silence. And as such it’s so much more impactful. Especially with the wide shot visuals. If shooting wide makes this film cold, then shooting it with no soundtrack is positively freezer like. It’s so powerful in creating an uncomfortable atmosphere that it’s almost overwhelming at times.

The only sound that is quite present and I will say is used VERY effectively is that sometimes if you listen very closely you can hear the low drone of airplane engines in the background of some shots. This is a nice psychological tactic on the behalf of the director as it works two fold. It reminds the audience that this is set during wartime and more crucially at the end of the war, and it also indirectly gives the audience a sense of subliminal hope. As we are aware that fascism was defeated in the second world war and those engines remind the audience that that’s imminent. However it’s a double bluff on the part of the director as he’s aware that no one is going to survive this movie. it leads the audience to feel like there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Which makes the torture finale all the more crushing in terms of its reveal.

Salos release history is incredibly patchy to say the least. It was premiered in 1975 and almost immediately banned in most European countries thereafter. In the UK the film was refused a certificate in 1976 and would only be permitted to be screened upon special written request. Famously an art house film club in Soho screened the film and was raided by the London metropolitan police. The film remained banned in the UK until 2000 when it was finally given a certificate to be released uncut. More recently in 2011 the BFI released Salo in a highly comprehensive 3 disc Bluray set which shows the film in it’s best possible quality with a detailed set of extra features (This set was repackaged into a 2 disc set released in September 2019). In the US it was released with no problems and premiered in 1977 to little or no fanfare. It then dropped off the radar almost completely until it’s home video release 2000’s.

Salo to me is a masterpiece, a film that dances the line between abject disgust and nihilism and a sense of border absurdity. Its not something you watch regularly, it requires a very specific mind-set. But it’s carefully crafted nature should not be underestimated. This has been carefully orchestrated to cause the maximum amount of offense to the exact people Pasolini would have wanted to offend. In that sense it’s an absolute success. This definitely isn’t a film for everyone. But if you can get over the grimmer elements on display in this film. you will be rewarded 10 fold for your perseverance. An astounding art film and a terrifically underrated counter culture movie.

(All the posters and art would have got me thrown off youtube…this was the best I had. It’s alright…but still doesnt really capture the true “Vibe” of Salo.)