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Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, War | 19 May 1976 (France)
In World War II Italy, our fascist libertines round up nine adolescent boys and girls and subject them to one hundred and twenty days of physical, mental and sexual torture.
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Cast overview, first billed only:
The Magistrate (as Umberto P. Quintavalle)
Signora Vaccari (as Helene Surgere)
Sergio Fascetti ...
Bruno Musso ...
Antonio Orlando ...
Claudio Cicchetti ...
Male Victim
Umberto Chessari ...
Lamberto Book ...


Nazi-Fascist Northern Italy, 1943-44. Four senior members of government, aided by henchmen and Nazi soldiers, kidnap a group of young men and women. They hold them for 120 days, subjecting them to all manner of torture, perversion and degradation. Written by grantss

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The final vision of a controversial filmmaker See more »


Drama | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






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Release Date:

19 May 1976 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Despite the grim subject throughout the film, in an interview on the second disc of the Criterion Collection box set, actress Hélène Surgère claimed the mood was actually rather jovial on the set and that none of the teenage actors were actually harmed or traumatized. She said the abundance of teenagers who had never acted before led the mood to be happy and at times, even fun, with the cast often playing practical jokes on each other. She also said that the movie was literally "made" in the editing room and the filmmakers had no idea how grim a movie it was until they saw the finished product at the premiere. See more »


In the beginning of the film a 1948 Fiat 500 B can be seen. See more »


[first lines]
[four men, sitting at a table, each sign a booklet]
The Duke: Your Excellency.
The Magistrate: Mr. President.
The President: My lord.
The Bishop: All's good if it's excessive.
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Crazy Credits

Essential Bibliography: Roland Barthes: 'Sade, Fourier, Loyola' (Editions du Seuil); Maurice Blanchot: "Lautréamont et Sade' (Editions de Minuit; in Italy Dedalo Libri); Simone de Beauvoir: 'Faut-il brûler Sade' (Editions Gaimard); Pierre Klossowski: 'Sade mon prochain, le philosophe scélérat' (Editions du Seuil; in Italy SugarCo Edizioni); Philippe Sollers: 'L'écriture et l'experience des limites' (Editions du Seuil) See more »


Inno a Roma
(torture scene)
Composed by Giacomo Puccini
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Pasolini and "Salò"

I saw "Salò" for the first of more than 10 times in 1975, when I was 24 years old and lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, one of the few places in the world where it was not banned upon its release. As I have often said, "Salò" is the movie that changed my relation with films, when I became conscious of one of cinema's most important characteristics, called "impression of reality", and learned how different film languages, with all their techniques, effects and punctuations, can manipulate people's emotions.

I believe that since Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote "Teorema" (the long poem), he was convinced that sex was the most effective weapon against bourgeoisie, as had been stated by people like Wilhelm Reich or indirectly by the Marquis de Sade, a bourgeois himself (please, correct me if I am wrong). "Salò" seemed to be his definite demonstration of such assumption, although I wonder how would have been his next film, "Porno-Teo-Kolossal", an erotic-theological super-spectacle he was preparing with playwright Eduardo de Filippo and actor Ninetto Davoli (notice a hint of the reverential in the frame's compositions of "Salò", which resemble religious tableaux.)

As a reaction to a consumerist society sunk in terrorism and political crisis as was Italy in the 1970s, Pasolini created this parable of power, using Brechtian techniques and taking full advantage of the depth of field, to shock audiences accostumed to –as he said- "cowboys and Indians and Sophia Loren" (who reportedly left the movie house in revulsion). It's not easy to grasp in a single viewing all the connotations of a film that was attacked by both right and left, a movie about ideological perversion, genocidal sadism, pandering masochism and the transformation of human bodies into objects, a motion picture that addresses the fascist we all have inside, and that - after so much pessimism - gives us an image of "hope" (sort of) in the final scene in which a young guard teaches another one to dance!

Impressed by a film that had an essential bibliography in its credits, I was in awe in 1975. In any case, I wrote a positive review in a Puerto Rican newspaper, and after a couple of months it resurfaced and had a second run in an art house. In 1977 I returned to Panamá, where I wrote film reviews in a local paper and where "Salò" had not been yet released. In the summer of 1981 I led a group of Latin Americans in Paris to catch a show of "Salò" at 9pm, after missing it twice due to our confusion with nights that seemed to be afternoons, so bright at 8pm. This time I was surprised to discover Pasolini's humor amidst the horror he described. Back in Panamá, the manager of United Artists brought a copy from Santo Domingo and asked me to help him to get an exhibition certificate for "Salò", which he feared would also be banned in Panamá. With a couple of special screenings (I even had an argument with a priest who arrived late to a projection and stopped it to give a little speech against Pasolini, but who ended defending the filmmaker when the film was over!) and articles by other film critics, "Salò" was finally released in Panamá. Unfortunately, it played in a cinema specialized in pornography. At that time, I was the program director of the University of Panamá cinema and I rescued the film, which was exhibited for a month in the campus.

A couple of years ago I heard a wise final word about Pasolini's masterpiece, from a friend, filmmaker Orlando Senna. He said (more or less) that it would take a long time before "Salò" were "assimilated by the mainstream". Maybe it will happen, as abstract expressionism was seized by the cultural elites and official ideologies, and devoid of its subversive charge. But judging from the reactions it still causes in 2003, that time still seems to be far away.

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