Salo, Or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) – Retro Review

When I realized that this was the 45th anniversary of the Paris Film Festival release of Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom on November 22, 1975, I couldn’t wait to snatch up the opportunity to write a article about it. For years, this film has been one of my top favorites. Rather than focus on the infamous negative aspects, I am going to go broader in celebration of it, and perhaps remind people that the Marquis De Sade did have a method to his madness.

Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom is a 1975 art horror film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. It was based on the 1745 book written by the Marquis De Sade, otherwise known as The 120 Days of Sodom. It was also the last film he released before the director’s murder. The movie came out three weeks later, and there was much controversy because of it.

There is a wide array of cast members such as Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Umberto P. Quintavalle and Aldo Valletti. Although many of them aren’t well known, they all play their roles to the full extreme that the story required.


When discussing controversial films, Salo still holds a top spot in my general list for so many reasons. It still has the same effect that it will for years to come when it comes to debauchery, pain, and the illustration of perverted human cravings. It is no secret that the film’s storyline is controversial, and the acts depicted are quite vulgar and shameless. Almost everyone who has watched Salo will say the same thing: “I won’t ever watch it again.”

For me, however, I see a different side to this film, one which is accepted by society but yet still held back. Whether the reason is because of fear or morality, we will never know. That is something to be discussed and pondered. There will probably never be an answer when it comes down to the right and wrong aspects of this film, because there are so many wrongs.

As a society, we don’t take lightly to nonconsensual, abhorrent, sexual torture and rightfully so, but that is where Salo is a fascinating piece of work. With the amount of unwilling acts, there are moments when we question why someone would ever consent to that type of life to begin with. That is where we, as society and horror film lovers, become absorbed with the question: “What is the fine line between pleasure and pain?” This movie has a heavy focus on all things perverse, and because of that, Salo will never fall out of grace in that area.

The movie focuses on four wealthy libertines in the fascist republic of Salo. They kidnap eighteen teenagers and submit them to four months of violence, sadism, and sexual and psychological torture. The libertines consist of Masters and Storytellers who enact any sexual fantasy at any whim. This consists of male and female rape, frequent sexual molestation, excrement eating, and torture. If the victims attempt to escape, they are killed. The stories told by the Storytellers are deliberately sexually charged and explicit designed to arouse the Masters into performing these sadistic sexual acts for their pleasure.

So, why do I enjoy this film? I myself have asked that question many times. I think it is because because there is more to it than just shock for shock’s sake. There is a method to the madness behind the film, showing the depravity of humans, how deep it can go, and how far humans can take that depravity if we fall victim to our most natural desires. Are the acts depicted good? Of course not, especially the rapes and other more questionable acts, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist in this world. Again, this is something that society didn’t accept until just recently. The acts exist, and Salo is a prime example of the psychological aspects of why, which you come to find out through the stories told. Monsters make monsters, and this film is a masterful walkthrough into that mindset.


With that being said, happy 45th anniversary to one of the controversial films of our time!

About HorrorVision

I am a 35 old avid horror fan with a passion for writing and old movies. I love discussing and viewing movies old and new, everything horror fascinates me its a wonderful work of art that is underestimated by many.

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