Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

salo or the 120 days of sodom poster 1975 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Horrific, total art house, debatable, insane, unlike any other movie

Unwatchable for many, a lot left up for the viewer to determine and judge with

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

Studio:  Produzioni Europee Associati

Genre(s):  Drama/Horror

Release Date(s): November 23, 1975 (Premiere)/January 10, 1976 (Italy)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

salo or the 120 days of sodom torture ending duke paolo bonacelli

Do you like to watch?

In Salò, four of the top leaders in Italy have gathered.   The Duke (Paolo Bonacelli), the Bishop (Giorgio Cataldi), the Magistrate (Umberto Paolo Quintavalle), and the President (Aldo Valletti) have collected teens for their own deprived games.  With plans to explore sexuality and sadism, the men are going to push the limits of taste and pleasure…and they intend to use their power and strength have their way.

Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma) is a dramatic horror satire.  The film was censored and banned in many countries upon its release (and still banned in some), and it divided critics.  The Criterion Collection put out a remastered release of the film (Criterion #17) that was temporarily out of print for a number of years.

salo or the 120 days of sodom libertines paolo bonacelli giorgio cataldi umberto paolo quintavalle-aldo valletti

Let the games begin!

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom is one of those movies I wanted to see.  It wasn’t because I knew if I’d particularly like it or not, but because I could see it when many others were told “no” over the years by their countries and governments.  It’s a great example of free speech, the debate of art-vs-pornography, and a counter-culture spin that wasn’t seen at the time.  Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (like it or hate it) is a movie like you’ve never seen.

The first criticism of the film is that it is erotic pornography.  There is tons of nudity and sex, but it isn’t pornography because it is not erotic at all.  The sex scenes are shot stark, cold, and dirty.  They are abusive and often fetishized.  The whole concept is the movie is about power and control.  These are men who are rulers whose “kingdom” is falling with World War II in Italy.  It is there last hurrah and they are flexing their control over weak people…they can tell them what to do and how to do it.  No one can say no to them and they’re participation in their own depravity.

salo or the 120 days of sodom crossdressing paolo bonacelli umberto paolo quintavalle aldo valletti

Wow…this is pretty minor the grand scheme of things…

The movie doesn’t really let you identify with any of the victims (now it would be a movie about one of the people trying to survive), and much of the movie is about the abusers.  The abusers however are almost parodies of themselves.  They’re sadism is goofy and it is almost an effort to upstage each other at points.

The movie is visually as shocking as the story is.  Scenes like the poop eating scene are stomach turning and the degradation is palpable for the victims.  It is done with oddly wide shots and this is another reason critics say it is more of a commentary on pornography which generally deals with close-ups on graphic scenes…the audience is more of an uncomfortable voyeur for the horrors.

salo or the 120 days of sodom poop eating coprophagia umberto paolo quintavelle


Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom is one of the roughest movies you’ll see.  It is a hard movie to classify since it doesn’t really seem to fit in any traditional categories.  It does feel like an important movie and when compared to something like Caligula, it appears to be more of a critically thinking movie instead of just sensationalism.  The movie isn’t for everyone and you have to steel yourself to watch it…but if you think you can stomach it, watch it for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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