Death Laid an Egg (1968)

*. I like it. But is it giallo?
*. That’s the first label that critics have reached for, and it’s an obvious enough fit. From someone — is it a killer? — putting on some black gloves in the opening montage, to the strange style notes of zooms and fast cuts, the convoluted plot involving perverse psychological hang-ups, and even the weirdness of the title itself. We’re breathing the heady atmosphere of yellow trash here, all of it pushed to the limit.
*. But pushed too far? Take the title (in Italian: La morte ha fatto l’uovo). That’s not just weird on the order of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Don’t Torture a Duckling, The Black Belly of the Tarantula, or Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye, but laughable. Surely it indicates that what’s to come is meant as a joke. Then there’s the score by Bruno Maderna. How to describe it? Psychedelic? And I already mentioned the camera tricks, which are so overworked they become ridiculous.
*. After that opening montage we’re whisked away to what looks to be a fashion shoot with the three leads. Marco (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is taking pictures of his beautiful wife Anna (Gina Lollabrigida) and Anna’s cousin Gabri (Ewa Aulin). But while it seems like a fashion shoot, it’s taking place inside a high-tech chicken farm. Anna even holds up a plucked chicken at one point. What the hell is going on? Is it part of an advertising campaign? For chickens? Eggs? Clothing?
*. It’s tempting to call it a giallo parody, though in 1968 that would be pretty early. But I’m sure some kind of satire is what was intended. “Satire” is a word that has etymological roots relating to a stew, and that’s the overall sense I had of Death Laid an Egg. It just skips along, tossing little bits and pieces of everything into the pot. It’s sexy, with girls in lingerie and bikinis (bras and panties, Gabri explains to Anna, are just as important as what’s underneath). It jumps from place to place without any apparent logic (where does that corn field come from?). There are strange story elements that don’t seem to have any function, like the breeding of the Frankenchickens or the displaced workers.
*. What it’s not, however, is gory or suspenseful. Which is why I hesitated at calling it giallo. In fact, the mystery here turns out to be quite pedestrian, neither interesting nor unexpected and with a crudely introduced visual clue. What director Giulio Questi seems more interested in is some kind of social commentary, whether with regard to the impact of technology on farming or about the loose morals in the upper-class party with its strange romance room. This latter makes us feel like we’re entering Buñuel territory, the Italian bourgeoisie being puppets to their perversities. Though Marco’s fetish, once it gets explained, seems kind of humdrum.
*. Well, like I said, I enjoyed it most of the way through. The ending has a cute little twist but overall the final act is a letdown. It’s a spirited good time for fans of the bizarre that avoids, just, slipping into total chaos.

2 thoughts on “Death Laid an Egg (1968)

  1. tensecondsfromnow

    Death dechlorinates a chicken would be a better title based on that image? Seen all the other giallo you mention, but this one passed me by. I’m not mad on the violence in these films, but I love the goofy dialogue….

    Reply
    1. Alex Good Post author

      Even if you’re not a giallo fan you might find this interesting, as it really is an odd mix of elements. They don’t all fit together, but that’s part of its charm.

      Reply

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