Part 1 of 13, excerpted from an essay entitled “Disturbo 13: The Most Disturbing Horror Films Ever Made” by Stanley Wiater.
The last film from controversial Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salo is a well-mounted adaptation of the infamous work by the Marquis de Sade. Updated to World War II when the Fascists have overtaken Italy, this movie is almost unwatchable because it makes a heartfelt attempt to be as disgusting cinematically as de Sade (the man who gave sadism its very name) was in print.
The plot line has a group of adolescents being used as human fodder to satisfy the perverted desires of a band of Fascists who have occupied a castle in war-torn Italy. The Fascists are also using the spoken memoirs of several prostitutes to ignite their already sick imaginations—as then they endeavor to carry out the most perverse scenarios the human mind can devise.
What Pasolini supposedly was attempting to de here was concoct a parallel between the depravity of de Sade with the depravity of the Fascist state which was Italy in World War II. However, Pasolini seems to relish staging the obscene tableaus in all their loathsomeness far more than condemning them. Beyond the numerous rapes (both heterosexual and homosexual) and sexual perversions, we are shown extremely realistic scenes of young people being forced to dine on a meal of cooked shit, people urinating or shitting on one another, or choking on broken glass hidden in apparently edible food.
Whatever the moral intentions may have been, Pasolini wallows so deeply in the filth that it’s impossible to do anything but have an automatic gag reflex to the entire motion picture.