Tag Archives: Sergio Martino

Torso (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Strangler stalks college students.

Jane (Suzy Kendall) is a British student attending college in Italy where a rash of grisly murders amongst the female coeds is keeping everybody on edge. The killer’s modus operandi is a red and black scarf that he uses to strangle his victims. Jane’s friend Dani (Tina Aumont) fears that the maniac may be Stefano (Roberto Bisacco) a young man who’s been harassing her for a date and won’t seem to take ‘no’ for an answer. To get away from the terror Jane and her girlfriends decide to go to a villa in the countryside, but find that the killer strikes again, in their home, and with Jane hobbled with a sprained ankle, she’s unable to get away and must use her creative wits to escape.

Horror director Eli Roth has hailed this as being his favorite giallo and a major influence to his Hostel movies, but in retrospect it doesn’t have all that much to distinguish it. Despite its lurid title the emphasis is more on the mystery featuring a cast of lonely men who seem to lack quality social skills to go out with women and instead long for them from afar while also harboring dark violent sexual fantasies of what they’d like to do to them if they could, making this more than anything a forerunner to what’s become known as incels (involuntary celibate) today.

Director Sergio Martino captures Perugia, Italy and its many old and scary looking buildings nicely. The build-up to the murders where the victims find themselves alone in a dark,desolate area of the city, or in one instance an isolated forest, are some of the film’s best moments and could’ve been played-up more.

The deaths themselves though are uninteresting. The average time for a person to die from strangulation is 3 minutes and up to 7 to 14 seconds before they’ll pass-out, but the victim here falls over dead after the flimsy scarf is put around her neck for only 3-seconds, which all looks quite fake. The female victims never, ever fight back and just stand, or lie still and scream loudly, but do nothing else. Police will usually look for scratches on suspects as a sign that the victim fought for their life and there will be defensive wounds on the victim’s arms and hands too, so for the victims here not to attempt any physical defense looks rather pathetic. Some may say that back in this era it was considered more ‘tasteful’ to have the killing get over with quickly and watching someone try to fight-off the attacker would be prolonging it too much, but I wondered if this was also an attempt to feed-in to the male fantasy where once a man decides to make his move the females are virtually ‘helpless’ and must just passively accept their fate.

The special effects are threadbare as well. The close-ups of the knife cutting into the victim’s body has a lighter tone of skin color than the full-shots of the victim making it quite obvious that the close-ups are that of a mannequin. The scene where a car’s bumper crushes a man’s skull against a wall looks realistic enough, but then a few seconds later it cuts back to a shot of the victim and his skull is perfectly intact with only some blood running out of his nose even though the previous shot made it look like his head had been busted in half.

Spoiler Alert!

The third act in which Suzy Kendall sleeps through the murders of her friends downstairs and then awakens to find herself alone in the house with the killer still present is the only time it actually gets intense. Having her quietly observe him cutting-up her friend’s limbs is genuinely horrifying and watching her try to come-up with creative ways to escape is intriguing, but then having a male doctor swoop-in and fight-off the killer for her was disappointing as this was her story and she needed to be the one to find a way to take down the killer herself.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: January 4, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Sergio Martino

Studio: Interfilm

Available: DVD, Fandor, Tubi

All the Colors of the Dark (1972)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Haunted by her nightmares.

Jane (Edwige Fenech) is plagued by nightmares dealing with a blue-eyed man (Ivan Rassimov) chasing after her. She feels that the memories of the recent death of her child as well as the loss of her mother when she was younger may have something to do with it. Her sister Barbara (Susan Scott) has her see a psychiatrist (George Riguad) while her friend Mary (Marina Malfatti) suggests she attend a black mass, but neither helps and just makes things worse until she can no longer differentiate between her dreams and reality.

The film is a strong tie-in to Rosemary’s Baby and in many ways seems to be playing out the same essential plot, but doing it in a more vivid, graphic way. Instead of implying the horror like that one did this one goes straight to the stuff that was never shown or just briefly touched-on. For the most part I liked this approach as I always felt the Roman Polanski classic was too restrained and talky and could’ve gone farther cinematically with its intriguing premise than it did.

The visuals here are almost in-your-face particularly the surreal opening bit, which is the best moment in the movie. Director Sergio Martino keeps the viewer off-balance by constantly going back and forth between the present day and then to Jane’s nightmares until it becomes increasingly harder to tell the difference between them, which makes the viewer feel locked into Jane’s frightening dilemma right along with her.

Unfortunately rhe plot itself isn’t as creative and there were many times when I foresaw the twists long before they happened and could even predict when they’d come. The protagonist walks into too many traps that anyone else could’ve guessed was coming making her seem a bit dense while the cult-like mass segment had too many clichés making it campy while eroding from the rest of the film’s provocative style.

Fenech doesn’t look like the average housewife either, but more a magazine model and in fact all the women here have too much of that same appearance, which takes away from the authentic feel. Part of the reason why Rosemary’s Baby worked was because Mia Farrow came-off as fragile and vulnerable while Fenech has a detached look in her eyes that doesn’t allow her to emotionally connect with the viewer even though as the film progressed I softened on her more.

The on-going twisting of the dreams and reality eventually overstays their welcome becoming more annoying than intriguing particularly near the finish where too many false endings get played-out. Even though it never matches its first 10 minutes and isn’t as erotic as the film’s promotional poster suggests I was still glued to what was happening and it’s one of the more memorable Italian giallos of all-time.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: February 28, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated R

Director: Sergio Martino

Studio: Interfilm

Available: DVD