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The Howl

The Howl

Studio:Cult Epics
Director:Tinto Brass
Cast:Tina Aumont, Nino Segurini, Gigi Proietti
Release Date:2009

By Bret McCabe | Posted 8/5/2009

Cult Epics

THE MOVIE Triangulate this terrifically bonkers wide-screen 1970 flick somewhere between the arty abandon of Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, the political allegory of Pier Paolo Pasolini's Porcile, and the sincere outer limits of Dusan Makavejev's WR: Mysteries of the Organism and Sweet Movie, Alejandro Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain, and Jaromil Jires' Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. And while this early Tinto Brass movie has very little to say and is nowhere near as visually daring as those aforementioned late 1960s/early '70s benchmarks, it manages to be a great deal more fun.

For those moviegoers who don't have a soft spot for pretentious smut, since the 1980s Italian filmmaker Brass has done for the female derriere what Russ Meyer did for the female bosom. Prior to such gems as 1992' Così fan tutte and 1983's The Key, Brass was a bit more daring, helming 1976's Nazi brothel-set Salon Kitty--which, really, deserves the same sort of cult appreciation as Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter and Lina Wertmüller's Love and Anarchy--and the legendary train wreck that was 1979's Bob Guccione-produced Caligula, which remains the most preposterously listless not-even-pseudo-intellectual historical soft-core epic ever made.

The Howl is very much of its era, complete with revolutionary rhetoric, outlandish visuals, a surreal patina, gratuitous nudity, and a late-'60s goddess as the female lead. The kohl-eyed Tina Aumont (the daughter of actors Maria Montez and Jean-Pierre Aumont) stars as Anita, who is being released from police custody after having been picked up at a demonstration as the movie opens. The boyfriend who comes to get her, the clean-cut Berto Bertuccioli (Nino Segurini), proposes to her almost on the spot. Before the title card arrives and the pair can be wed, though, Anita spies the carefree Coso (Gigi Proietti) and the pair flee from the shackles of the bourgeois social institution and head out on an epic road adventure through a sexual hotel--where the artists are dubbed the "gloomy exhibitionists," of course--an actual below-ground underground gathering, conflict with the military, and taking up arms against, as far as two viewings have clarified, anybody doing anything that's not right to the planet. Or something like that.

En route, the couple runs afoul of: one severed thumb; one rollicking rock song with a sing-along chorus of "go, demons, go;" one actual duck decapitation; many fake human heads severed from their bodies; a philosophically reflective cannibal who wears a garter, loincloth, and powdered wig; excessive flatulence; an unfortunate talking mouse; a nude black woman dancing while holding a chicken; and one sincere rallying cry of "Long live vegetables." Extras include Brass' director's commentary but, really now, navigating this yourself is 75 percent of the fun here. Also included, the trailer for a 1969 Brass picture called The Artful Penetration of Barbara that includes that three-word stamp of quality: "Radley Metzger presents."

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