Thirteen years ago, a severed head lay on the floor of the bedroom in this Italian mansion, which posed a problem for the Governess, Falesse (Pier Angeli): how to get rid of that and the body it belonged to? The solution was to drag it outside wrapped in a rug and bury it in the grounds, but as she was digging the shallow grave, nearby on the roads a police chase was ensuing as the criminal Pascal Gorriot (Fernando Sancho) was making good his escape on a motorcycle. Seeing a chance to shake the cops off, he raced across a field and near to the beach where he spotted Falesse sending a powerboat into the sea without a driver; intrigued, he also witnessed her burying the body...
Pascal is captured soon enough, but he has remembered what he saw in the garden and will come back to haunt Feliisse and her family much in the same way the past returns to plague just about everyone in this film, its title - Nelle pieghe della carne in its native Italian - drawn from a quote of Sigmund Freud's which appears at the beginning to notably unenlightening effect. Simply trying to work out why any of this was going on was not helped by director Sergio Bergonzelli's insistence on sustaining a mood best described as feverish and restless which rendered the finer plot points somewhat difficult to pick up on, not much of an assistance when each ten minutes shook up the storyline with delirious effect.
Often you couldn't quite grasp what Bergonzelli was getting at, as he appeared to have something on his mind but translating that to the audience was obscured by the sheer weirdness of what they were expected to accept the characters were getting up to. Now in the present day (for 1970) we catch up Felisse and her two children, grown into Lucille (Eleonora Rossi Drago) and Colin (Emilio Gutiérrez Caba) who exist in this hothouse atmosphere to the extent that they have developed an incestuous obsession with one another. Indeed, should any man other than her sibling attempt to get close to Lucille she has the antisocial habit of stabbing them to death, a fact that is forgotten about by the grand finale which vomits up revelation after revelation.
Vomits because good taste was not on anyone's mind here, with the director (who also co-wrote the script) seeing fit to include such scenes as a pet dog being strangled to death or even more provocatively (if far less convincingly) a flashback to a Nazi concentration camp where women are being sent to the gas chamber, one which thoughtfully has a wall of windows so the guards can watch their demise. Quite what that was supposed to achieve in the field of entertainment was anyone's guess, but it didn't half put you off the movie unless psychosleaze was your genre of choice, and you can imagine for star Pier Angeli it wasn't to judge by the permanent look of abject despair on her once-beautiful features - she would commit suicide the following year.
Friends said she was appalled at the idea of turning forty and losing her looks, but it was clear they were already exhibiting the toll of her depression as she appeared drawn and troubled, at least ten years older than she was, being in her late thirties at the time. Yet another reason In the Folds of the Flesh was difficult to enjoy, though if you were a connoisseur of the offbeat, specifically in the giallo style of which this was a loose example, then you might well find this hard to turn down no matter how discomfitting most would regard it as. With so many outrageous elements, you really should have been chuckling all the way through at its silliness and overreaching to shock, but in effect there was a sickly feeling to the film, not quite a bad trip on psychedelics but along those lines as Pascal returns to blackmail Felisse, shooting Colin's pet vulture (!) in the process and Lucille discovers that the crime of decapitating her father she believed was her fault is... well, that would be telling, but the constant shifting of unreliable memory was a running theme only serving to disorient. Music by Jesús Villa Rojo.