Gialli Dreams in Yellow will be a series of articles, essays and reviews of my favorite horror sub genre, Giallo. Giallo is the Italian word for YELLOW, but is also used to describe the whole sub-genre of horror films that weave elements of mystery, thriller and horror all into one narrative... sprinkle in over the top violence alongside some gratuitous nudity and you got yourself a GIALLO! Here are my thoughts on the genre... I hope to infuse some new opinions & views into what I consider the most diverse sub-genre in horror movie history.
First up, a personal favorite: Torso (1973) by Sergio Martino
Title: Torso or I Corpi Presentano Tracce Di Violenza Carnale (1973)
Director: Sergio Martino
Producer/Distributor: Carlo Ponti/Compagnia Cinematografica Champion
Starring: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda, John Richardson, Angela Covello
Students at a local university seem to be falling victim to the same killer, who uses a scarf to strangle the victims. Can the killer remain at large once people start putting together who it may be?
I picked this film to start my review series off because I think it is as perfect an example of Giallo as I could imagine. Is it the BEST Giallo ever? That is not for me to say. But it certainly hits all the beats of what I used to expect from a Giallo film, and after watching it has developed the standard by which I judge most Gialli films by ever since. Saying it greatly impressed me is downplaying it as much as possible. Torso is really fantastic on so many levels.
Martino outperforms what seems to have been his capabilities both up until this point and after. Having cut his teeth working alongside the father of the genre Mario Bava, Martino may have the best body of overall Gialli films out of the usual suspects (Bava, Argento, etc) and Torso is the crown jewel. He puts it all together in this film: a great story idea, brutal kills and a true mystery that unravels at a perfect pace.
The highlight for me of the film has to be the simplistic yet menacing mask of the killer. Unlike many other Gialli we actually see the killers whole face, not just their gloved hands from their POV. And what a sight it is... the only way to properly describe it is a dirty tube sock that has a face and mouth cut out of it. But what truly makes it terrifying is the defined NOSE of the mask. If it was a just a sock, it would just be simple nostril holes or nothing at all. But the killers nose is so pronounced in the mask it makes it seem sculpted in some way. For a blank white mask this infuses a great deal of personality into the killer. It sticks with you long after the credit role.
At the end of the day a Giallo is usually judged by the quality of the kills on screen, and this is where Martino truly hits a grand slam. Our masked killer seems to be proficient at many styles of killing. We get a little bit of everything here: some strangulation, stabbings, dismemberment and even a good old fashion vehicular homicide! Martino certainly didn't hold back, with no one killing/murder really outshining the others like most Giallo movies usually have. There is no SIGNATURE kill per se. They all work properly to further the story in a way that is quite unique and satisfying.
A must watch for all Giallo fans and also the Slasher sub-genre, because that sub-genre also owes Torso & Martino a great deal.