Salo is an Italian film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini - a man mysteriously murdered shortly before its release. The story takes place during World War II in a portion of Italy run by Fascists. The film is based on the book The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade - a controversial French aristocrat and novelist from the late 1700's who depicted sexually depraved themes of violence and blasphemy in some of his works. I've often drawn parallels to Clive Barker's material, particularly that of Hellraiser, to the Marquis's demented sense of fantasy.
The plot concerns 4 libertines who capture a group of young boys and girls and subject them to sexual humiliation, graphic violence, and sadism. Even though this was released in 1975, the outcome of this film is a brutal one - you cannot group this into the same sub-genre as the watered down Hollywood portrayal of acceptable violence. Everything is shown in graphic detail and no stone is left unturned: sodomy, urination, eye-gouging, and scalping are only a few things portrayed in this film.
There's a great deal of insight involved when considering Salo - especially that of its director. Pasolini was an artist and a poet. To understand the message of this film requires one to delve deeper into his life. Pasolini personally witnessed cruel acts at the hands of Fascist individuals during his time in the Republic of Salo.
Unfortunately, for someone who is unaware of the trials and tribulations of Pasolini's life, this film ends up being a terrific mess. Its whole purpose is to invoke human emotion and sympathy from the viewer. Although I don't rate this highly, I do commend it for its bravery. Its message is rendered ineffective on me because I cannot imagine what Fascist Italy was like during the 1940's. Also, I did not know Pasolini on a personal level to understand his torment. Salo is still banned outright in many countries, and although getting on in its years, still visually powerful. I will give credit where it's due but I refuse to be goaded into fanboyism based on the film's notoriety.