• Death Laid An Egg (Cult Epics) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Cult Epics
    Released on: November 10th, 2020.
    Director: Guilio Questi
    Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Ewa Aulin, Gina Lollobrigida, Jean Sobieski
    Year: 1968
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    Death Laid An Egg – Movie Review:

    Directed by Guilio Questi in 1968, Death Laid An Egg opens with a weird montage of sorts showing the perils of modern life in the big city, the most obvious example being a bit where a blonde prostitute is murdered, we think, by a fancy man named Marco (Jean-Louis Trintignant). Marco shouldn’t be messing about with ladies of the evening, however, as he’s married to lovely Anna (Gina Lollobrigida) and together they run a state of the art chicken farm on the outskirts of the city. In their employ is Gabrielle (Ewa Aulin), their foxy young secretary.

    As we get to know these characters, we realize that Anna is no more faithful to Marco than he is to her, which probably plays a big part in their respective increasingly paranoid behavior. Things take some strange turns when Marco and Gabrielle, clearly in cahoots with each other in more way than one, decide that it is time to take Anna out of the picture, permanently. Meanwhile, Mondaini (Jean Sobieski), the man in charge of advertising for the chicken farm, begins to act more and more strangely in their presence. It all comes to a boil in the last act of the film, where the already strange twists in the plot are outdone by even stranger events, some of which involve headless, wingless fowl.

    Death Laid An Egg is an utterly strange film and not likely to appease those looking for a conventional giallo. That said, if you’re into the weirder side of Italian genre pictures, it’s a pretty rewarding watch and a film that genuinely does keep you guessing as it plays out. Questi directs the film with some deliberate pacing but it never feels particularly slow, rather, it unfolds at a pace that feels right for the picture. Production values are pretty strong here, with the cinematography from Dario Di Palma doing a nice job of using some very unconventional framing techniques to keep the visuals are quirky and unusual as the story itself. Adding to this in a big way is a completely bizarre but somehow equally amazing score that comes courtesy of Bruno Moderna. It’s hard to explain how the music in this film can feel so right for the picture and so wrong for the picture at the same time, but it really does, it’s wild stuff.

    Performances are really good here. Jean-Louis Trintignant is as cool as ice and he not only plays his part really well but he looks right for the character too. He shares some interesting chemistry with the two female leads, both of whom are quite good here as well. Jean Sobieski brings his supporting part to life pretty effectively too, all involved clearly taking the occasionally absurd subject matter with the appropriate amount of deadly seriousness.

    Note that Cult Epics supplies two versions of the movie on this disc, the director’s cut which runs 1:44:26 and the ‘plucked’ giallo cut that comes in at 1:30:45. The differences are substantial as the ‘giallo’ cut pretty much entirely eliminates a character featured in the director’s cut. The director’s cut also includes a whole lot more dialogue about the specifics of the chicken embryo subplot and a lot of other little bits and pieces that flesh things out quite a bit more, making for a considerably better – though still flat out bizarre – film than the trimmed version. Having both versions, however, is always the best choice.

    Death Laid An Egg – Blu-ray Review:

    The director’s cut of the film is taken from a 2K transfer of the original 35mm negative and takes up 22.2GBs of space on the disc, presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. The ‘plucked’ version is taken from a 2K transfer of the original 35mm negative and takes up 17.6GBs of space on the disc, also framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Both versions look quite nice, showing good detail and strong color reproduction. Occasionally the encoding struggles just a bit in the darker scenes but this happens infrequently, and otherwise things shape up nicely here, and there are no problems with any edge enhancement or noise reduction issues.

    Both cuts get English and Italian language options in 24-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono. Subtitles are provided for both language options on the director’s cut and for the Italian language option only on the ‘plucked’ cut. Audio quality is pretty strong here, regardless of which track you go for, as the levels are nicely balanced, the dialogue clear and the score nice and strong without ever sounding boosted. The subtitles are easy to read and free of any noticeable typos. No problems here at all, though it’s worth noting that there are a few spots in the director’s cut where no English dub was created (during these scenes the disc will switch to the Italian audio with English subtitles).

    Extras start off with an audio commentary available over the Director's Cut by Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson that covers quite a bit of ground, including the unusual Bruno Moderna score and its importance to the film, the experimental editing on display throughout much of the film, how the picture compares to Autopsy and similarities and differences between the two pictures, how the movie ‘deliberately screws with you’ right from the start, when and where the filmmakers toy with genre conventions, the film’s surprising lack of salacious elements compared to other giallo pictures made around the same time, details on the different cast and crew members involved in the picture, Trintignant’s other giallo pictures, Questi’s directing style and relationships with his actors, differences between the director’s cut and the shorter version of the movie, some of the themes that the picture explores, the portrayal of Trintignant’s characters as a ‘harmless pervert,’ the debate as to whether or not the film should be watched in Italian or English and quite a bit more.

    From there, we get a five-minute review by Italian critic Antonio Bruschini who puts it into context alongside of some of Questi's other films, noting its strangeness, the extravagant plot of the film, the weirdness of the subplot about the chickens, the film's availability over the years, similarities to the cinema of David Lynch, and censorship issues that it ran into.

    Giulio Questi: The Outsider is the late director’s last interview, filmed in Florence 2009 and running thirteen-minutes. In this piece, he speaks about the adventurous side of Italian cinema during its boom years and the freedom that it allowed filmmakers, how his films have always been admired by cinema insiders but never made tons of money, the two different versions that exist for the movie and how they came to be, working in cinema without any limits, how the advent of camcorders and the like have really opened up the filmmaking arena, shooting himself and how he handled that, experimenting in film, his thoughts on contemporary Italian cinema and on documentary filmmaking.

    Doctor Schizo And Mister Phrenic is a fifteen-minute short film that Questi made in 2002. This was shot on video and is presented fullframe and it features Questi himself reading to himself in his head and then showing off some of the quirky decor in his home. As it continues, we see someone wearing a mask and black gloves come in and write 'OLD FOOL' no a notepad before then rummaging through the place, eventually coming across a bullet in a tin marked 'for someone special' and then looking at a book on suicide techniques. We'll leave it at that, as it's an interesting little giallo-esque short that fits in nicely with the director's work and style, even if it was clearly made as a one man show for very little money. The short is presented in Italian with English subtitles.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are English and Italian language trailers in HD, menus and chapter selection options.

    Cult Epics packages this release with some cool reversible sleeve art with original Italian language poster art on one side and an English version of it on the opposite side. Additionally, the first 2000 copies come with a slipcover that has been printed with fluorescent ink!

    Death Laid An Egg – The Final Word:

    Death Laid An Egg is a genuinely strange film, one of the most unusual giallo pictures to have come out of the genre’s heyday and a picture that makes great use of its solid cast. Add to that some impressive visuals and a great score and, well, if it certainly won’t be for all tastes it’ll definitely appeal to those with an appreciation for the stranger side of Italian cinema. Cult Epics’ Blu-ray release looks and sounds very good and has some nice extra features as well, making this a really strong release overall.

    Click on the images below for full sized Death Laid An Egg Director’s Cut Blu-ray screen caps!

    Click on the images below for full sized Death Laid An Egg ‘Plucked’ Giallo Cut Blu-ray screen caps!