Written by: George Pacheco on October 3rd, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: France, 1976
Director: Nikos Papatakis
Writer: Nikos Papatakis
Cast: Olga Karlatos, Roland Bertin, Philippe Adrien
DVD Release Date: October 8th, 2013
Approximate Running Time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: One Seven Movies
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
In Hell is a dark, dreary and difficult film to watch. The motives here from director Nikos Papatakis clearly seem to be part allegory—torture, pain and the horrors of war, particularly during the fight for Algeria’s independence—and part performance art film, all hinging upon a riveting performance from Greek actress Olga Karlatos.
Zombie and Purple Rain star plays Galai, an emotionally troubled actress who lands a role in violent and torturous film of Hamdias, a ruthless producer with a penchant for sadism, abuse and ultra-violent. The relationship between the two hinges upon the sado-masochistic archetype of debasement and torture, and when Hamdias disappears, Galai becomes obsessed with finishing his project.
To be honest, the narrative structure and story of In Hell—originally released in 1976 as Gloria Mundi—is scattershot and difficult to follow. If anything, the film works almost as an endurance test; a primal precursor to such divisive fare as A Serbian Film while serving perhaps as a contemporary piece to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s controversial Salo, or 120 Days in Sodom. The entire film as a whole is Karlatos’ show; her face and physical performance is frankly riveting and Galai is afflicted with nearly every conceivable punishment and torture.
The film is rambling and incoherent at times; a cacophonous barrage of screaming, caterwauling and unabashed sobbing while images of disturbing violence engage in an almost incessant attack upon the screen. Papatakis captures grime and filth on the lens, while the dark and morbid musical score from Barbaud Brown Klein and Nico Fidenco simply add insult to injury upon an already tiring assault to the senses.
In Hell is recommended only to those with a strong constitution against what, in essence, is the unmitigated humiliation of Olga Karlatos. The actress’ incredible performance doesn’t make her celluloid snuff film any more difficult to take, yet fans who appreciated her work in Zombie owe it to themselves to attempt and sit through In Hell for a real test of what it takes to truly suffer for one’s art.
One Seven Movies presents In Hell in a 16×9 widescreen presentation from a deeply damaged and dirty print. The disc is certainly watchable, however, with the added layers of dirt, grime and filth actually adding to the total experience of sitting through In Hell. The audio track is clear enough, without any drop outs, although the english subtitles do contain a number of errors. Extras are limited only to a poster gallery, yet—given the rarity and still shocking value of this film—In Hell still exists as a recommended purchase from One Seven Movies.