The 1968 Giulio Questi film, Death Laid An Egg, has seen two Blu-ray releases in the past few years, with a Nucleus Films disc in 2018 preceded by a DVD/Blu combo from Cult Epics in 2017. This new version from Cult Epics features the 2K scans from the Nucleus disc, but available for the first time in a Region-free edition.
“Cult Epics is proud to present DEATH LAID AN EGG (1968), directed by auteur filmmaker Giulio Questi (DJANGO KILL!, ARCANA) and starring legendary leading man Jean-Louis Trintignant (THE CONFORMIST) as a married man and suspected serial killer, Gina Lollobrigida (BEAT THE DEVIL) as his delectable yet overly domineering careerist wife, and Swedish blonde bombshell Ewa Aulin (CANDY) as his murderous double-crossing mistress in this mystery thriller.
DEATH LAID AN EGG is an avant-garde giallo that is more pertinent today than when it was first released in terms of its quite modern depiction of the battle of the sexes and the perils of technology.”
The strange thing about Questi’s film is that, while usually categorized as a giallo, and definitely containing elements thereof — I see you, black leather gloves and massive red herrings — Death Laid An Egg has more in common with ’60s psychedelic freakout films than most of the gialli which were to become so prevalent in the next decade. If anything, it has more in common with the likes of Phase IV and Blue Sunshine, presenting elements of lysergic sci-fi which are the real hook to keep the viewer guessing. The startling imagery of the viscous interior of a hen’s egg being fertilized and growing presented under the opening titles bears no small resemblance to the oil light shows prevalent behind contemporaneous concert performances from Pink Floyd or the Grateful Dead, something which was surely intentional.
While the plot summary above gives hint as to what Death Laid An Egg is about, the intersecting plots and various character elements result in a cinematic experience, as opposed to a film in which the plot is the focus. Again, it’s a reference to those psychedelic concerts, which were as much experiential “happenings” as they were musical events. Sure, it’s fun to try to see exactly how the whole “murdering prostitutes” angle works out, in terms of discovery, but the angles involving chicken breeding are far more bizarre than any black-gloved killer aspects which might pull in fans of Italian genre cinema.
The Blu-ray on offer here is something akin to a special edition, with a gorgeous slipcase. As Cult Epics’ Nico B puts it, “The previous Blu-ray/DVD combo release stays a stand-alone release of itself, with a different edit and other bonus features, and can be seen as a companion piece to this new Special Edition.” The special features include an excellent commentary track from Troy Howarth (Author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films vol. 1-3) and Nathaniel Thompson (Author of DVD Delirium and founder of Mondo Digital), which really digs into every aspect of the film, including the way in which Death Laid An Egg factors into the filmography of everyone involved.
An essay by critic Antonio Bruschini discusses the various cuts made to create the American “plucked” version, and makes the point that you can see how the work of David Lynch would come from films such as Death Laid An Egg. The essay’s translation from Italian to English is a little off, but it’s insightful nonetheless.
An interview, “Giulio Questi: The Outsider,” conducted in 2009, was the final interview conducted with the director prior to his death in 2014, and sees the director holding forth on his views on cinema and overall career. The fact that Questi says that he sees cinema as pop art goes a long way to explaining Death Laid An Egg. While the cinematography of the interview includes a lot of unnecessary zooms, what Questi has to say about his art, and how this film changed from its originally-shot version to the 90-minute “plucked” edition is rather fascinating.
The included short film, “Doctor Schizo and Mister Phrenic,” is interesting, I guess? Shot on video, with a lot of still images used, it looks less as though it was made in 2002, and more as though it were crafted in 1992. The way it features the repeated use of Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana as the main character is portrayed reading Borges feels as though it’s an attempt at high art. Overall, however, the short is more an artifact of historical interest than of any real film entertainment value.
This is a legit package for Giulio Questi’s Death Laid An Egg. Fans of experiential cinema, proto-gialli, and the like would do well to snag this version from Cult Epics. Conveniently, Cult Epics has a Black Friday sale going on right now, with 50% off and free US shipping! There’s also combined shipping available worldwide. It ends at midnight PST on Cyber Monday, November 30.