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No Shame Films presents
Devil in the Flesh (1985)

"Give me a kiss, what'll it cost you?"
- Giulia (Maruschka Detmers)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: August 31, 2005

Stars: Maruschka Detmers, Federico Pitzalis, Anita Laurenzi
Other Stars: Alberto Di Stasio, Riccardo De Torrebruna, Claudio Botosso, Lidia Broccolino
Director: Marco Bellocchio

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (extreme sexual situations, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:54m:43s
Release Date: August 30, 2005
UPC: 882853001997
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- AAB+ B+

DVD Review

Erotic cinema just doesn't seem to exist anymore. Sure, every now and then we get a Basic Instinct, a film that has to mix an element of violence and suspense in to make it even remotely viable to mainstream audiences. So with this genre sorely lacking these days, we have no choice but to go back in time and revisit a classic Italian film.

The remarkable work in question is 1985's Devil in the Flesh. Director Marco Bellocchio (The Wet Nurse, Leap Into the Void) crafted a film that was extremely controversial, mostly as a result of the graphic nature of one specific scene. Bellocchio based his film on the 1923 novel, Le Diable au corps by Raymond Radiguet, but transplanted those characters to 1980s Italy. He did have the guts to bring that explicit scene to the screen, and by doing it in a tasteful way, really impressed critics around the world.

Giulia (Maruschka Detmers) is a young woman who has just experienced the loss of her father to a terrorist attack in Rome. Giulia has a boyfriend, Giacomo (Riccardo De Torrebruna), whom she learns might have had something to do with her father's demise. Their love is, obviously, put to the test by this revelation, and even more so when Giacomo decides to testify against his partners in crime.

Having confidence in his freedom, Giulia rents an apartment for the couple to live in after the trial. During this ordeal, Giulia meets a teenaged boy named Andrea (Federico Pitzalis), who first sees her as she is watching a woman who is about to jump off a roof. They eventually meet and start a lustful affair, but that is soon threatened by not only Giacomo, but by the revelation of how Andrea's father is tied to Giulia's past.

Devil in the Flesh basically had no chance to land a huge US audience, and even Bellocchio himself admits that American audiences didn't understand the political and cultural undertones that drive the story. The economy in Italy was in shambles when the film was made, and the terrorist element was a direct result of what was happening in the country. American audiences simply saw the film as pornographic junk; material that existed only to shock, when, in reality, Bellocchio and these actors had much more to say than that.

The aforementioned explicit scene involves Giulia performing felatio on Andrea, with Bellocchio and his camera leaving little to our imaginations. This was one of the first major films to show such a scene, so when "moral" people heard of this sequence, they blasted the film without ever actually seeing it. The actors involved in this scene (the gorgeous Detmers and her companion, De Torrebruna) handled it like strict professionals, obviously enamored with what their director was trying to accomplish by filming such a scene, that was, in fact, necessary to drive home the point of the harmful things that sexual obsession can do to people.

Despite such explicit sex, Devil in the Flesh is as much a hardcore film as Last Tango in Paris. This is far from being pornography, even though the amount of nudity (during a few scenes) is very high. This can be looked at as a precursor to the controversy that has surrounded Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny for the last few years. Those films, despite their very similar sex scene, differ greatly, in that while The Brown Bunny is a typical "personal" piece for a director, Devil in the Flesh delivers many important societal messages that were very valuable for Italians at the time of its release; that is what sets it apart from any of the erotic films that followed it.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The restoration work that has been done here is topnotch, resulting in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that is way beyond what we would expect from a low-budget, 1985 Italian film. The colors are so vibrant and bright, adding to the beauty that we initially notice in the crystal clear, detailed images. The contrast levels are nearly perfect, shifting flawlessly between light and dark sequences, while blacks are deep and solid. The age of the transfer does still bring about some grain, but this is seemingly unavoidable and never distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original Italian mono soundtrack is intact, and features dialogue that couldn't be much clearer, with no hissing or other distortion. The music and low-key sound effects work well with the dialogue and never threaten its clarity.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Documentaries
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Poster and Still Gallery
Extras Review: There aren't a whole lot of extras, but there are two lengthy interviews that are very informative, both about the film and about the political landscape surrounding the making of it. Stolen Years, Hidden Lives is a 26-minute segment, featuring interviews with former Red Brigaders Adriana Faranda and Mara Nanni. This pair discusses what it was like to belong to that socialist Italian militant group in great detail, including the casualties that were necessary for them to further their cause.

In Bellocchio's Flesh runs for 27 minutes, and is an interview with director Marco Bellocchio, where he talks about Devil in the Flesh and its impact on the history of cinema. He also goes into the political issues in the film, and focuses quite a bit on the notorious sexual content.

There's also the original theatrical trailer, as well as a poster and still gallery.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

While not for the timid, Devil in the Flesh is a powerful erotic drama whose themes and messages are just as poignant in 2005 as they were 20 years ago. No Shame's DVD release features an incredibly good video presentation, along with an almost equally impressive audio track, and some fine extras that really aid in resurrecting this forgotten classic.


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