Torso (1973)

Torso (1973)

One Day She Met a Man Who Loved Beautiful Women…But Not All in One Piece

Someone is strangling students in Perugia and the only clue that the puzzled police have is that the killer owns a black and red scarf. Some of the students decide to head to a villa in the country to get away from it all but the killer follows them to finish his murderous rampage.

 

I’ve never really gotten in the whole ‘giallo’ genre of cinema – stylish Italian thrillers (bordering on horror) made in the 60s and 70s. I’ve always heard a lot about them but having seen one or two of them in the past, I always thought they were a bit pretentious and were a lot of a style over substance. But with my current lack of interest in unoriginal modern horror, I’ve decided to go back in time and check out some films made during a time when films weren’t as desensitized and overblown as they are today. The giallos are categorised by their simple set ups and whilst not being entirely original (and many just following the same themes and ideas), they do allow their directors a bit of creative license. Like the slasher films of the 80s became showcases for the most original and graphic death scenes, the giallos became showcases for talented Italian directors to create dream-like pieces of art.

Made way before the Americans got their hands on many of the ingredients featured here, Torsocould well be considered one of the earliest slasher films. There’s the balaclava-wearing killer who strangles people and then mutilates their body (and always rips open the tops of his female victims for a quick grope before slicing their chest open). I love some of the shots of the killer stalking his victims, especially the chase through the swamp. Sergio Martino has framed the killer perfectly and there’s just the right amount of fog and light to make the scene chilling. Later in the film, he also gives us some P.O.V. shots from the killer which was another innovative idea at the time. The best part about the killer is that you don’t really know who it is until late in the film. There are a few red herrings but unlike recent slashers where you can pick out the culprit from the opening scene, this time you can’t quite put your finger on it.

Unfortunately a lot of the male cast look like each other so trying to distinguish who is who does get a bit difficult. They’ve all got character traits to make you think it’s them: the uncle who cares more about his niece’s long legs than her welfare, the town doctor who bought a red scarf from a market stall, the market vendor who sold him it wanting to blackmail someone, the mute town idiot and the prostitute-smacking weirdo with a penchant for violence. A nice group of chaps there, eh?

The gore isn’t excessive but it does look pretty fake and low budget. You can pinpoint the dummies used (watch the scene where the guy gets crushed by the car and you’ll see the worst mannequin ever going splat against the wall) but for 1973, I’d say it was pretty decent given that gore flicks weren’t all the rage and make-up effects were still crude. The victims are all stuck-up art students so you can guarantee that they look hot, they will do drugs and alcohol and most importantly, they will get naked. Actually judging by the frequency of their clothes being removed, I’d say they were studying for a degree in stripping. These women are incredibly hot and I’d say it one was one of the hottest casts I’ve ever seen, definitely not harmed by the fact they all have amazing bodies. Suzy Kendall is great in the ‘final girl’ role or at least in a prototype of what would become a genre cliché. The final third of the film as she tries to prevent the killer from finding out she’s hiding in the villa is pretty nerve-jangling, especially when she is forced to watch her friends being chopped up or else risk being caught.

There’s also a terrific music score which kicks in when the killer is homing down on his victims. If there’s one thing I’ve always admired about the Italians, it’s that their scores are always excellent and add to the atmosphere. It’s something that a lot of American and British directors should be looking to if they want to improve their films. The cinematography is also superb – quite irrelevant really for a horror film but it does add a lot to the ‘cultural’ feel of the film. It could almost double as a tourist guide to Italy (without the copious naked chicks and the balaclava-wearing killer I might add).

Unfortunately the problem for Torso is that if you’d have seen in back in 1973, you’d have thought it was the most brutal film ever. It would have been unpredictable, scary and genuinely disturbing. But if you watch this after you’ve seen a lot of modern flicks, you’ll just probably get a little bored with it. It can get slow in places and the dubbing isn’t the best. Plus there’s a big problem with these older films getting released on DVD and that’s the sound is never perfect so you get a lot of hissing in the background when the scene is supposed to be quiet. It’s not really a big issue but during some scenes where silence is key, it can put a bit of a damper on it.

 

Torso was a pleasant surprise to me. I wasn’t expecting a lot but I got way more than I bargained for. It’s stylish and tense yet sleazy and cheesy and the ingredients all add up nicely. If you’re looking to get into the giallo genre, then this is a great introduction to it.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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