Tales of Ordinary Madness (Storie di ordinaria follia) (1981)

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Released 31-Jan-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-The Films Of Marco Ferreri
Trailer-Umbrella Trailers
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 97:02
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Marco Ferreri

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Ben Gazzara
Ornella Muti
Susan Tyrrell
Tanya Lopert
Roy Brocksmith
Katya Berger
Hope Cameron
Judith Drake
Patrick Hughes
Wendy Welles
Stratton Leopold
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Philippe Sarde

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     At the heart of Marco Ferreri's 1981 film, Tales Of Ordinary Madness (Storie di ordinaria follia ) is an obscure love story. This is a love that can never be fully realised, because it is blinded by incessant alcohol abuse and by moments of madness - this is love, Charles Bukowski style.

    Tales Of Ordinary Madness is based on Bukowski's 1972 book of short stories, Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness. These semi-autobiographical stories are portrayed through the eyes of a fictitious character, poet Charles Serkin (Ben Gazzara ). Serkin's life is a constant search for booze and sex (in that order), which seems to induce poetic inspiration.

    The narrative of the film is very episodic in nature and begins somewhere in America with Serkin in an auditorium reciting a monologue on "style". He then meets a very young runaway girl, who seduces him in order to steal his ticket back to Los Angeles. A couple of hidden fifty-dollar notes save Charles from being stranded and he still manages the journey home.

    On Venice Beach, Serkin's insatiable search for lust leads him to follow a woman onto a bus and then back to her apartment block. Vera (Susan Tyrrell) is very responsive to Charles' advances and even surprises him with her desire to be totally dominated sexually. When this encounter ends abruptly in the hands of police, he finds himself in a bar where he meets a troubled prostitute, Cass (Ornella Muti). She has many psychological issues, one of which is a compulsion for self-harm using a very large safety pin.

    Their affair is passionate and empathetic. In between his alcohol binges, Charles' emotions have gone beyond that of simple lust and he has fallen in love with Cass. A job offer in New York sees Charles leave LA, promising to send for Cass when things get settled. However, the destructive nature of their relationship is soon realised and all noble intentions are set on a course for ruin.

    As I mentioned in my review of La Grande Bouffe , the films of the late Marco Ferreri aren't generally suited to a mainstream audience. The sight of Ben Gazzara's character trying to re-enter the womb might have some scratching their heads while searching for the stop button. But for those with a passion for something a little different, they may just find some sanity amid all this madness.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer is very good and easily outstrips that old VHS copy.

    Tales Of Ordinary Madness is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. The correct aspect ratio for the film is 1.78:1.

    The film exhibits an excellent degree of sharpness and clarity, with just the occasional hint of film grain. Blacks were strong and clean, with shadows displaying nice detail.

    The colours of Dante Ferretti's seedy production design are beautifully balanced, with no over-saturation issues.

    There were no MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were kept in check and didn't present with anything of significance. Very minor film artefacts were occasionally evident in the form of small scratches. A few very brief reel change markings were also noticeable, but weren't problematic.

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles.

    This is a dual layer, DVD 9 disc. I could not locate the layer change either by viewing the disc or with the use of software.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is faithful to the original source.

    There is only one audio track available on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s).

    Dialogue quality was excellent throughout and audio sync appeared consistent.

    The music score is credited to Phillipe Sarde. It offered rich enhancement to the action on screen without being intrusive.

    The surround channels and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use




     The main menu is 16x9 enhanced, very basic, static and silent.

Featurette- The Films of Marco Ferreri (45:45)     

    This informative documentary was made in 2007 by Umbrella Entertainment especially for their exclusive Marco Ferreri DVD releases. This is basically a discussion with Rolando Caputo (Lecturer at La Trobe University, Melbourne and Editor of Senses of Cinema) about the life and films of Ferreri. The discussion is nicely balanced with scenes from many of Ferreri's films and provides excellent insight into the life of the man, unknown to many. Recommended viewing.

    Footnote: It's worth noting that this featurette is the same on each of the Umbrella DVD's in the Marco Ferreri series.

Umbrella Trailers

  • Jack Kerouac King Of The Beat (3:29)
  • Just A Gigolo (4:12)
  • La Notte (3:09)
  • Red Rock West (2:00)

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

        There is a US, all region edition of Tales Of Ordinary Madness, which was released by Image Entertainment in Feb 1999. It is a bare-bones release, with no extras.

        A better option appears to be an all region European edition, released in May 2006 by Nouveaux. This release has the bonus of an additional Ferreri film, Don't Touch The White Woman (1974). This film is yet to be released on DVD locally and is presented non-anamorphic in this European set.


        Admirers of Marco Ferreri's films will rejoice that Tales Of Ordinary Madness finally has a local DVD release. Hopefully Umbrella will continue pursuing the work of this under-rated Italian director.

        The video and audio transfers are both excellent.

        The documentary extra is relative and informative.


  • Ratings (out of 5)


    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Tuesday, March 04, 2008
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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