• Howl, The



    Released by: Cult Epics
    Released : July 28, 2009.
    Director: Tinto Brass
    Cast: Tina Aumont, Luigi Prioetti, Nino Segurini, German Longo
    Year: 1969
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    The Movie:

    While Tinto Brass is probably best known to film fans for Caligula and the softcore erotica he’d churn out in the seventies and eighties, the man dabbled in quite a few genres before settling comfortably into the sex film genre. With Yankee he tried his hand at the spaghetti western, with Deadly Sweet he made a murder mystery, and with 1969’s The Howl, he took a stab at surrealism – and it was a pretty successful stab at that.


    Stunningly beautiful genre favorite Tina Aumont plays a woman named Anita who, after getting arrested at a student protest and being raped in prison, becomes tired of the conventions and restrictions that society has placed upon her. Although she’s engaged, Anita leaves her boring and conventional husband to be (Nino Segurini) in the middle of their strange wedding ceremony to take off with a complete stranger named Coso (played by a famed Italian clown named Luigi Prioetti) on a journey of self discovery and sensory awakening.


    After taking a bus, the pair arrive in what may or may not be another plane where classic style Keystone cops are arsonist fiends, where perverts of all kinds can find whatever they want in a local hotel, where a cannibal becomes a philosophical genius, where a woman cannot stop crying and where escaped lunatics and naked hippies may have more in common than just poor hygiene. Of course, it all comes full circle and when the tour Coso takes her on comes to its inevitable conclusion, Anita must come to terms with what she’s seen and how it has changed her.


    Often and somewhat justifiably compared to Jodorowsky’s El Topo, The Howl is a pretty fascinating film that isn’t quite as inapproachable as its surrealist label might imply. There’s very definitely a loose plot to the picture that carries it from one eye opening set piece to the next and which does manage to ground the picture with a certain approachability that similar content from the likes of Jodorowsky and Panic Movement brother-in-arms Fernando Arrabal can’t always claim. Filling the film with all manner of extreme images including some fairly strong violence and plenty of full frontal nudity, Brass crafts a collage of sorts. Utilizing some rapid cutting and a few different types of film stock, the picture can transition from one scene to the next with often times jarring effect but so much the better as it suits the film and its different sequences perfectly.


    At the center of all of this somewhat controlled chaos is Tina Aumont. Probably better known for her association with Fellini than for the Brass picture’s she appeared in, she’s a great choice for the part of Anita. Having a certain sultry innocence to her striking beauty, she an effective lead here who is as convincing as she is easy on the eyes. She’s also periodically the subject of Brass’ obsession with the female form and it’s obvious that his camera loves her as much as the director appreciates her beauty. She’s a striking subject to say the least and she’s excellent in this film.


    Complimented by an interesting score that comes courtesy of composer Fiorenzo Carpi, which the packaging touts not entirely inaccurately as ‘punk rock music well before its time’ The Howl should be considered an essential addition for any self respecting cult film fan’s collection. It’s Brass at his most creative, his most audacious and his most politically daring and it really is a fascinating and entertaining picture.


    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Howl debuts on DVD in an anamorphic 1.85.1 widescreen transfer. It’s interlaced and quality varies throughout playback, the black and white scenes looking sharper and more detailed than the color ones for some reason. The packaging states that the transfer was taken from Brass’ personal print and it’s very possible that there just simply aren’t any better elements available for this film. There’s some noticeable print damage throughout playback and some color fading and while this is far from a great transfer (it’s pretty inconsistent though how much of that is a problem with the source material is hard to say), it is at least apparently the full, uncut version of the film.

    The sole audio track on this disc is an Italian language Dolby Digital Mono mix that comes with optional English subtitles. As far as older mono mixes go, there’s nothing to complain about here. The dialogue is clean and clear and the subtitles are easy enough to read. There aren’t any noticeable hiss or distortion issues to complain about and the levels are properly balanced.


    The main extra on this release is an audio commentary with Brass, who speaks in English about his work on this picture. It would have been ideal to have him speak in Italian with English subtitles as although his English is pretty good, his accent is fairly thick. That said, Brass is pretty talkative here and this was obviously an interesting project for him to make. He tells quite a few interesting stories about working with the cast and crew, referring to Tina Aumont as the most beautiful woman he has ever met, and explaining some of the more unusual and surreal elements seen in the picture. It’s a pretty solid track, with Brass rarely at a loss for words, which does a fine job of bridging technical information with some equally interesting anecdotal stories. He does periodically break into narrating the film and simply telling us what is happening on the screen but this isn’t a constant and the bulk of this track is very engaging.


    Rounding out the extras are trailers for Brass’ Deadly Sweet and Attraction, and a collection of twenty-five promotional stills in color and black and white. Menus and chapter stops are also included.


    The Final Word:

    Those with a taste for surrealism or who appreciate experimental, avant-garde filmmaking owe it to themselves to give Brass’ The Howl a look. It’s a funny, fascinating and completely bizarre picture with a great performance from the eternally beautiful Aumont and despite its complexity, it’s incredibly well made.