After bailing out his fiance, Anita, from prison, Berto Bertuccioli proceeds to schedule their wedding. Outdoors. In a demolished alleyway. During the ceremony, Anita dumps Berto for the much more exciting Coso, a stranger/clown/magician. From then on, Anita and Coso encounter strange situations such as a group of Keystone Kop-like English bobbies (who are really a raging band of arsonists), a sex hotel, a cannibalistic philosopher ruling over an invisible empire in the woods, and even a field full of hippies. I sh*t you not.
From the director of CALIGULA comes...this. L'URLO (THE HOWL) is Tinto Brass' response for turning down the chance to direct A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and depending on who you talk to (and after watching L'URLO), you'll either hear that it was a mistake on Brass' part to turn down the offer, or a godsend that he did. Needless to say, if he and John Waters were to ever team up for a comedy, who knows what would happen.
L'URLO is different. How different? Mixing comedy and violence is nothing new, but throwing in imagery and situations from out of nowhere as the basis for the following scene is, well, different. Take the multiple instances of gang rape and sex involving Anita (the very lovely Tina Aumont). Can you really call it rape if she enjoys it? No, I'm not trying to be funny. She really does enjoy it. Even with the regular sex, you have stuff like footage of a duck being decapitated that's interspersed throughout one such episode of lovemaking. Getting away from the sex, in another instance, you have two hitchhikers pissing on a bourgeois couple's windshield to clear away the mud. As you'd probably guess, the film truly is 'visually surreal'.
Stuff like this was part of Brass' attempts at social commentary (we get various clips of war atrocities and Hitler, as well as the then-recent anti-Vietnam protests), and the whole reveling in the comic possibilities of sexuality. At least, that's what I gather. That, and the fact that the production involved scenes being written based on Brass' feelings about the world on that particular day made this kind of hard to sit through and compute. Then again, that's probably part of why the film has a following, though I'm sure the various sex scenes had something to do with it.
The film's comedic zaniness would probably work for those who are geared towards the likes of PINK FLAMINGOS. As for me, while the visuals were 'interesting', I just never quite understood it's wacky workings. I have no doubt that it's art, but it's appeal is lost on me for some reason. For catching me offguard with its haphazardness (as well as the hefty amounts of sex), I have to give it a thumbs-up. As a movie that I'd recommend to my mom, I'd have to say 'no' and 'never talk about it again'.
Video: A mixed bag. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer isn't the greatest, even for a film from the late 60s and a cult film, at that. Some scenes fare better than others, but there are those that are incredibly scratched, and others are faded and soft. It's watchable, but don't expect to be able to watch it in HD anytime soon.
Audio: The sole track is the original Italian mono track, which despite frequent hissing, is okay (given the state of the film itself). For those that don't speak Italian, we get English subtitles.
First up is an English audio commentary by director Tinto Brass. The guy talks quite a bit about the production, and despite being into his 70s, remembers quite a lot. To go along with the bit about him being opposed to censorship, Brass pulls no punches when talking about his goals for the film. While it's a bummer that he only touches on how Paramount wanted him over Kubrick for A CLOCKWORK ORANGE at the very end of the film and never really elaborating on it, the track was an insightful one.
The only other extras are trailers for COL CUORE IN GOLA (DEADLY SWEET) and NEROSUBIANCO (ATTRACTION), both of which were written and directed by Brass.
It's hard to say whether this film is wonderful or just wonderfully bizarre. Dropkicking linear narrative logic and doing whatever it wants to, L'URLO (THE HOWL) would seem to have the ability to entertain on a variety of levels, be it sex, comedy or just being surrealist. While I enjoyed seeing Tina Aumont in various forms of undress, I can't say I thought the film was funny or thought-provoking. Tinto Brass' commentary was an interesting listen and far more accessible for myself, but overall, I would think his fans would appreciate this film more.