An adaptation of Petronius’ satire about the decadent life in ancient Rome. “If you like the Fellini version, you should definitely see this one, too. It’s every bit as good and in some ways better.”
Best Director-nominated Federico Fellini’s R-rated fantasy epic was a colorful, visually-rich, and bizarre depiction of pre-Christian, 1st Century Rome and its pagan debauchery and sexual decadence (based on a satirical, degenerate and bawdy work by Petronius). Events and individuals were depicted in a series of fragmented mythical tales. The opening image was of a wall covered with ancient Roman graffitti and crudely drawn naked women.
The visually-excessive story (told in a fractured series of episodes) was essentially the detailed homoerotic and contentious adventures of two young Roman men (who were students and roommates) – and both sexual rivals for their slave boy as they traveled across the Mediterranean (Roman Empire). The love triangle was composed of:
Encolpio (Martin Potter), blonde, blue-eyed – the film’s principal narrator
Ascilto (Hiram Keller)
Gitone (Max Born), comely, androgynous
As it turned out, Ascilto had sold Gitone to a famous actor named Vernacchio (Fanfulla) and his theater company, and Gitone was performing in a play titled “Emperor’s Miracle.” In the play, a real life slave had his hand cut off with an axe, fortunately replaced with a golden one.
The fragmentary film was filled with repulsive and often grotesque characters and images during Encolpio’s odyssey, including:
the public amputation of the hand of a slave, in Vernacchio’s staged play
after the reclaiming of Gitone by Encolpio, their stroll to their tenement building through a subterranean Roman brothel named the Lupanare, with many prostitutes selling wares, including an obese jiggly female
after arriving in the tenement, a scene of homosexual love-making between Encolpio and Gitone
the scene of an earthquake that destroyed the tenement
the excessive, debauched banquet feast at the villa of wealthy host and amateur poet Trimalchio (Mario Romagnoli) (and plagiarist) where revelers in unison jumped up and down naked in a bath (surrounded by candles), and the host suicidally enacted his own death in a ceremony (soon after followed by his dutiful wife)
after being imprisoned on a pirate-slave ship owned by evil slave trader Lica (Alain Cuny), Encolpio’s Greco-Roman wrestling match with Lica; then, the sequence of Encolpio’s mock same-sex marriage to Lica (dressed as a female) in an elaborate ship-board ceremony, blessed by Lica’s wife Trifena (Capucine)
the stabbing-suicide of teenaged, reclusive Roman Emperor (a woman in drag)
an eating binge, bath-wrestle, and sexual threesome romp in an abandoned villa – while served and waited upon by a receptive, topless Ethopian slave girl (Hylette Adolphe), but then followed by homosexual love-making between the two lads Encolpio and Alcilto
the scene of Ascilto partnering up with a sickly, crazed and sexually-insatiable nymphomaniac tied down and spread-eagled in a covered wagon by her distraught and forlorn husband wishing to placate her
the kidnapping of an albino, pallid-looking hermaphrodite (“He little girl, but boy too”), worshipped at the Temple of Ceres as a healing demi-god and fortune-teller; after the god was kidnapped, he/she died of thirst in the desert
Encolpio’s fight with a gladiator’s costumed and masked Minotaur during the festival of Momus, the God of Laughter; the crowd in the arena rewarded the pardoned Encolpio with the gift of copulation with a whore-priestess Ariadne on an altar
due to his punishment for the demi-god’s death, Encolpio became impotent and was unable to make love to the frustrated Ariadne on a large altar (“Hey, what are you doing? You might as well be dead?”); he was called a “squashed worm,” was kicked off and humiliated before spectators, and punished via the whipping of his buttocks
after drinking a potion and praying (“I have to succeed”), Encolpio was brought to a cursed young woman whose genitalia kindled fires; Encolpio was cured when he recovered his male sexual virility and became erect with her, and subsequently made love to the corpulent old Earth Mother black sorceress Oenothea (Donyale Luna), a sex therapist; triumphant, Encolpio walked off through a field with a giant stone phallus
The film’s last voice-over ended mid-sentence followed by a freeze-frame, and a pull-back shot to view frescoes-paintings of the film’s major figures on large vertical fragmented and crumbling slabs of rock.
Director: Gian Luigi Polidoro
Tags: Amerigo Tot, Corrado Olmi, Don Backy, Francesco Pau, Franco Fabrizi, Free movies 1969, Graziella Granata, Mario Carotenuto, Satyricon, Satyricon Online, Tina Aumont, Ugo Tognazzi, Valérie Lagrange