Uccidete il vitello grasso e arrostitelo (1970) Poster

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Samperi's overlooked masterpiece
lor_24 May 2011
Salvatore Samperi has ranked among my favorite Italian directors ever since I saw his hit MALIZIA in the early '70s, and this earlier work is simply brilliant. It covers his basic theme of the perversion and destruction of the family unit, here delivered in uncompromisingly bleak fashion.

Casting coup is choosing young Maurizio Degli Esposti as the protagonist, featured in virtually every scene and through whose eyes the story unfolds. He's terrific - a handsome but strange thesp who made very few films and thereby is not distracting or bringing any movie star baggage to the role. His father has just died under mysterious circumstances, and his quest is to find out what happened and to take charge of his life.

His older siblings, Jean Sorel (old enough to be his dad) and the strikingly sinister beauty Marilu Tolo seem to be responsible for the patriarch's death, or are they? A constant tone of paranoia makes the viewer wonder whether Enrico (Degli Esposti's role) is really sane, or is he a victim of his family's hereditary insanity? His mother committed suicide 10 years ago, and the boy has a fetishistic (her shoes and clothing all dressed up mannequin-style) shrine to her, as he listens endlessly to her voice on a tape recorder. The family's housekeeper Talia has also been committed (by the siblings) to an insane asylum and is crazy as a loon.

Titled KILL THE FATTED CALF AND ROAST IT, picture opens with cows being taken to the slaughterhouse and in the final reel the Biblical parable from Luke of the Prodigal Son is quoted to explain the relevance of this ominous and highly uncommercial movie moniker.

En route to a thoroughly downbeat conclusion, Samperi pours on the strangeness, with sexy Tolo clearly representing his favorite incest theme, as both brothers desire her (and probably have gone further). Enrico's closeness to his mother is really more infantile than a case of incest, as represented in a key scene where he is about to suckle at Tolo's breast (as present-day substitute) but is interrupted by the arrival of Sorel.

Set in Padua, but given a Gothic atmosphere, film suggest the kind of Poe or Lovecraft tales like "The Fall of the House of Usher" but is not directed in horror film idiom beyond the suggestion of a family curse. Samperi is a master of eroticism, and (other than his various anarchic and lightweight comedy assignments) is unparalleled in creating a morbid mood of dread mixed with sensuality. The filmmaker I most like in this vein is Sweden's Arne Mattsson, but Samperi has gone much further (in the realm of soft porn) than he ever did.

Degli Esposti's career is an enigma for me: I have seen him in three avant garde movies of high quality, this one by Samperi, followed by Giulio Questi's absurdist ARCANA and finally SIMONA, based on a novel by Georges Bataille. All these films are about madness and in each Degli Esposti is paired with an ultra-sexy (and sinister) older woman, including such legends as Lucia Bose and Laura Antonelli. Did he burn out and go crazy in real life?

Ennio Morricone's musical score exceeds even his high standards of the period, and I was blown away -enjoying it (first time around at least) as much as his INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN and MADDALENA soundtracks from the outset of the '70s. Using various keyboards ranging from piano & organ to harpsichord playing in syncopated, rondo fashion, it sets a hypnotic mood that drives home the feeling of dread and an impossibility of escaping (spider web of sound) that is incomparable. Don't miss this if you're a Morricone fan.

Other technical credits are top-notch, including 'scope photography by the wonderful Franco Di Giacomo and editing by the unsung genius of Italian cinema Franco Arcalli (any film with his name in the credits is worth watching, period).

The one misstep in this otherwise purist exercise is a false ending which I won't spoil. It's one of those lame-duck "surprise twists" tacked on after the film proper has concluded, the sort popularized if my memory serves by Brian De Palma's gimmicky CARRIE finish. I hated it, but FATTED CALF plays extraordinarily well without it, so I'll just pretend the movie quit while it was ahead.
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The things these rich folk get up to
Bezenby22 August 2017
Good title, eh? I thought this would turn out to be some sort of obscure classic like Il Demonia or Spider Labyrinth, but it turns out to be some sort of obscure snore fest with a great soundtrack. And there's plenty of soundtrack, as quite a lot of this film involves people standing around staring at stuff. Oh, and symbolism. Lots and lots of symbolism.

Our film begins symbolically with our protagonist Enrico arriving at the family home sharing a truck with cows being led to the slaughter. Enrico's your typical young man, up to the usual hi-jinks - listening to tapes of his mother gibbering on, spying on his sister and brother, shooting at a dead dog floating in a pond. To be fair, the entire family were involved in that bit.

Enrico's dad has died mysteriously under mysterious circumstances,mysteriously, just like Enrico's mysterious mum who mysteriously killed herself, adding to the mysterious legend of the curse of Enrico's family, where one member of the family dies every ten years (which isn't really that bad of a mortality rate - I lost five last year!). Like all super rich families, everyone's soulless and burned out and indulging in things they shouldn't really be indulging in.

Take sister Verde for instance. It looked to me like she was bumping uglies with both Enrico and angry brother Ceaser (Sorel), and was she also pretending to be her own mum while Enrico built a replica mum, surrounded himself with pictures of her, and no doubt chugged out an arm breaker?

There is a plot by the way. Turns out Enrico suspects that his dad was murdered by his brother and perhaps Verde and it's all about him either discovering the truth or being insane - you know the drill. The only problem is nothing exciting happens and the film kind of rolls downhill like a dead dog towards the downbeat ending with a very slight twist.

Good music and good looking film though.
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