Documentary Reveals Disturbing, Never-Seen Images of Mussolini's Swollen, Bullet-Ridden Corpse

Mussolini Portrait - P 2011
Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Mussolini Portrait - P 2011

Directed by Roman helmer Fabrizio Laurentini, the film examines Italy's fascination with the fascist dictator.

A controversial new documentary exploring the path of the corpse of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini is attracting criticisms from the Italy’s press for some of the gruesome images it portrays while forcing Italians to examine the country’s fascination with the strong-armed leader.

Unlike Hilter in Germany or Franco in Spain, Italy has never completely come to terms with Mussolini, who remains an esteemed and iconic figure to many.

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The documentary, Il Corpo del Duce (The Duce’s Body), examines some aspects of the country’s fixation with Mussolini in part by following the path of Mussolini’s corpse from when he was captured and killed by a partisan mob as he tried to flee to Switzerland. The film chronicles the corpse form the lamppost where his body hung by its feet in Milan to an anonymous grave and then to a refrigerated police warehouse. The path ends at a tomb near his birthplace in northern Italy, which still draws tens of thousands of visitors each year.

Il Corpo del Duce premiered at the Turin Film Festival last month.

The film, which features many never-before-seen images of the man known to Italians as “Il Duce,” is directed by Roman director Fabrizio Laurentini, who is no stranger to Mussolini: six years ago, he directed Il Segrety di Mussolini (Mussolini’s Secret), a documentary that focuses on the life of Isa Dalser, who historians say may have been Mussolini’s first wife.

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Many of the images in the film are strong, including shots that focus on Mussolini’s morbidly swollen face taken days after he was hung upside down, stoned, and shot, and others that show his bullet-ridden corpse curled up and stiff after ten years in a crate in the police warehouse where it was placed after supporters dug him up from his anonymous gravesite outside Milan.

Laurentini is best known for his work in the horror genre, and in Il Corpo del Duce it shows: he has drawn criticism from the left for showing Mussolini’s brutal treatment by anti-fascists, and from the right for his disrespectful treatment of Mussolini.

“The Duce’s Body: Mussolini becomes a horror film,” the center-left newspaper La Repubblica reported. “Shock becomes the main attraction,” a cinema blog stated. The financial daily Il Sole/24 Ore said, “The Duce’s Body Still Lives.” Consumer groups have called for the DVD of the film to carry a warning label to alert possible purchasers about its horrifying contents.

The documentary is based on a book by Sergio Luzzato and will be broadcast by Mediaset's Rete 4 next year.