Review Index


Here’s one for fans of late sixties cinematic self-indulgence, of which this film stands as a particularly outrageous example: a whacked out time capsule that amply demonstrates just how unbelievably nutty some movies were back then.  It also features quite an attractive cast. 

The Package 
     DEATH LAID AN EGG (LA MORTE HS FATTO L’UOVO) was a “dream project” for Italian director/madman Giulio Questi, made in the wake of his bizarre Spaghetti Western pastiche DJANGO KILL...IF YOU LIVE SHOOT!  For this subsequent film he managed to attract established stars like France’s Jean-Louis Trintignant (THE CONFORMIST, TRANS-EUROPE EXRESS), Ewa Aulin (who played the title role in CANDY a year later) and the veteran Italian sexpot Gina Lollobrigida (who here looks as alluring as ever).
     In the years since its 1967 release it seems to have disappeared into the “Eurotrash” ghetto, thus placing it out of reach of most high profile critics; if the Village Voice/Film Comment crowd only knew about DEATH LAID AN EGG, I’m certain it would merit the same attention granted highly respected late sixties/early seventies Euro classics like WEEKEND, PETULIA or WALKABOUT.  Questi’s film is silly and outrageously self-indulgent, certainly, but so are those other, supposedly “better”, movies.  At least it has the distinction of inspiring Craig Ledbetter, editor of the late lamented European Trash Cinema, who devoted an entire issue to this film. 

The Story 
     Marco is the owner of a successful poultry farm and husband to the gorgeous Anna.  He has some strange habits, however, which include murdering prostitutes at a posh hotel.  When the pretty young Gabrielle moves in with them in the wake of her parents’ untimely deaths, Marco forsakes his wife in favor of Gabrielle’s “charms”.  These two plot to kill off Anna and take over the poultry farm, but quite a few unexpected complications intervene. 
     It seems there are suspicious genetic experiments afoot in the poultry farm, which results in a strain of mutant chickens with no wings…or heads!  Freaked out, Marco promptly kills the creatures, which gets him in trouble with his superiors, who were hoping to use the mutations to maximize their profit margin.  Meanwhile, Anna has found out about her husband’s philandering ways and decides to dress herself up as a prostitute and catch him in the act.  It all comes to a head when Marco totes his latest victim home to be ground up in the chicken feed processor.  The police have caught onto his activities and are in hot pursuit.  But there’s at least one surprise in store for everybody… 

The Direction
     Where to start?  Giulio Questi had already amply demonstrated his affinity for the bizarre and grotesque in DJANGO KILL (and would go on to do so in 1972’s ARCANA), and it’s safe to say that he goes mad here with his fluid camerawork, non-linear editing, obscure symbolism and outrageous plot twists.  There are exhilarating sequences herein, most notably a flashback montage intercut with the marks on the freeway seen from a speeding car’s POV.  But then, there are also plain ridiculous bits like a lengthy conversation in which with every shot is focused entirely on the backs of the participants’ heads.  And dig that party scene, in which the guests remove all the furniture from a room in order to “liberate ourselves from the tyranny of objects.”
     Much of it, believe it or not, is authentically disturbing, with some fairly potent gore--most notably in a climactic murder scene replayed several times in quick succession--and a jangling, discordant music score guaranteed to drive sensitive viewers up the nearest wall.  Clearly, this film was very much a product of its time.  At its best DEATH LAID AN EGG ranks with the finest work of the late Donald Cammell (director of boldly experimental psycho thrillers like PERFORMANCE and WHITE OF THE EYE); at its worst it typifies all that was most obnoxious about late sixties filmmaking.

Vital Statistics

Cine Azimut 

Director: Giulio Questi
Screenplay: Franco Arcalli, Giulio Questi
Cinematography: Dario Di Palma
Editor: Franco Arcalli
Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Gina Lollobrigida, Ewa Aulin, Jean Sobieski, Renato Romano, Giulio Donnini, Cleofe Del Cile, Vittorio Andre, Biagio Pelligra, Monica Millesi, Ugo Adinolfi, Conrad Andersen, Aldo Bonamano, Rina De Filippo, Livio Ferraro

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