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The Howl (1970) – DVD Review

The Howl DVD cover

Original Italian Title: L’Urlo


Written by: Tinto Brass, Franco Longo, Giancarlo Fusco, and Luigi Proietti
Directed by: Tinto Brass
Starring: Tina Aumont, Gigi Proietti, Nino Segurini


  • Trailers
  • Gallery
  • Commentary by director Brass

Released by: Cult Epics
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Skip It

Anita (Aument) is about to marry her bourgeoisie boyfriend Berto (Segurini) but a the last moment, she runs off with the proletariat jester Coso (Proietti). They go on a journey from the Establishment with its war and religion and rules. They encounter a family of cannibal philosophers, a city at war goaded by a wind-up Napoleon, and an asylum where the inmates and the guards are interchangeable. There is also plenty of nudity, stock newsreel footage, and more symbolism than you can shake a stick at. And that is not an euphemism.

[ad#longpost]You have to give The Howl credit for being both incomprehensible and obvious. It’s incomprehensible since there is no real plot. The couple simply wander through each diorama of weirdness spewing nonsense on the situation. And there are no characters, just actors there to react to whatever strangeness comes their way. But it is also obvious. There is no subtlety in Brass’ symbolism. For instance, the fiancee is also the warden of the asylum and all the inmates are hippies. The couple meet a philosopher who is also a cannibal. I wonder what he could be saying about the self-referential nature of the discipline. I felt like Tinto Brass was grabbing me by my shirt and screaming in my face, “THE ESTABLISHMENT IS BAD! WAR, RELIGION, AND THE STATE IS BAD! NATURE, PEACE AND NAKED HIPPIE CHICKS ARE GOOD!” I understand Brass wanting to expand the language of film and get across the promise and perils of 1968. But this surrealistic mess follows the artistic bandwagon and doesn’t give us any new or interesting.

The only major feature on this disc is a commentary by Brass. First off, Brass is not a native English speaker and has a thick Italian accent. This makes it rather hard to understand him at times. Of course, he has nothing but praise for his beautiful star, Tina Aumont. But his commentary does confirm some things about the film. He talks about how his approach to the film was very improvisational. Sometimes he would film a scene in black and white for artistic reasons, other times because he didn’t have the money for color. He would would just add scenes on a fancy or a whim. This didn’t please the backers of the film so he moved the entire film to England to retain control. Frankly, I can’t blame them. This is a psychedelic mess of a film and I wouldn’t bother with it.

Tina Aumont in The Howl
Help! I'm screaming for no good reason!

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