Tuesday, October 20, 2015

31 Nights of GIALLOWEEN: Torso (1973)


Let's talk about...Carnal Violence.

More commonly known as Torso, this 1973 film will mark the second time we discuss a Sergio Martino film this GIALLOWEEN season...and for good reason. Torso  is one HELL of a film...let alone a great example of giallo filmmaking that stars the likes of Tina Aumont, Suzy Kendall, Carla Brait, Angela Covello and Luc Merenda. So many elements work together in this film to create such an enigmatic atmosphere...while keeping things simple...if that makes any sense. There are more levels at work here than one might imagine. Not to mention...this is a film that many genre fans look to as a sort of precursor to the slasher film. Personally...that's a "whatever" element for me...as I would much rather view it as the psycho-sexual giallo that it is. 

Martino employed many tricks to this film. Perhaps the most common one that has been reported from the set...was that he didn't tell any of the cast members who the killer was going to be during the making of the film. Except for, of course...John Richardson. Such a fun little trick to assure the audience that the performers would remain genuine to their roles. Another unique element he used in the film was creating the actual look of the killer. So chilling in contrast to previous incarnations of the "giallo killer"...as far as the design. A ski mask made to look as if the holes were cut out using dull scissors. Black leather driving gloves with knuckle holes that evoked a sense of higher style. And speaking of style, how could we forget the black and red scarf the killer wears throughout most of the film. I say most of the film because he does make use of the scarf by strangling a victim, or two, with it. Perhaps my most favorite of all the giallo killers. While previous gialli displayed more of an iconic look for the antagonist...Torso  revealed more of a striking look that, as mentioned earlier, went on to inspire the design for later slasher films. Such an influential film in its own right.


The story begins in a sleazy bedroom during a hot ménage à trois in which a doll's eyes are brutally poked the fuck out. A rather jarring scene considering the lurid nature of the action. I do have to make mention that the visual of the nylon material sliding off of the blonde's body...revealing her sumptuous breasts have always remained in my fiber. One of those things you see in a film very early in life that pretty much becomes a part of you. It's such a tiny thing...but, I felt the need to disclose that little detail.  Then, suddenly...and without warning...we are placed in a university classroom in which a very charismatic teacher is giving a lesson in art history. The female students fawn at the teacher and admire him outside of the classroom...and it is here that we learn who our main players are. A group of sexy young student friends who hang out and buy scarves together. I jest, of course. But, I just want to illustrate how absolutely insignificant the characters feel. Rather wooden and hollow. Still...that doesn't take away from the film...as much as it creates a bit of lag in between the activity.

So, the story pushes itself along, introducing more red herrings than your local seafood restaurant and enough sex to make the viewer hot under the collar. And, yet...the design feels so perfect and the music touches you in places not felt before. I mean...there's a goddamn flute playing as the killer stalks his prey. It all collides in a perfect ballet of violent horror and psycho-sexual maddening imagery that never escapes the psyche...ultimately delivering one of the most effective climaxes ever to be shot on film. I maintain...that the final third of Torso  is among the very best cinematic experiences ever.


I won't reveal to you the crazy twist ending that comes off a little cheap...I will say that you kind of knew it all along...but, you didn't want to admit it. It is one of those reveals that isn't necessarily earned...and feels a tad forced...but, somehow...it never takes away from the film. Is that the mark of a master filmmaker? Why...yes. Could the film have been much better had said master filmmaker cared to flesh out a better narrative. Perhaps. But, lest not forget, friends...this isn't necessarily masterpiece theater we are watching here. Trust me...I'm not trying to create excuses for a genre that forgoes masterful narratives in favor of masterful style...because I'm baffled as to how much I love this film, too. I'm merely pointing out that one does not watch a giallo film for the story alone. We watch these films for the thrilling music and the tangible elegant style. These films are almost always much more entertaining than your average genre film...and Torso  is a perfect representation of that. 

I will agree with you if you ever decide to argue your case that Torso  is not Martino's best work. It is certainly one of his most influential films. And yet...there's so much craziness going on at odd moments. There's a fucking bonkers scene, for instance, where a beautiful girl (the stunning Airoldi Conchita) is at this hippie stoner party (complete with folk musicians and a stripper) and her male friends begin to molest her...as she sits seemingly catatonic...until, of course, she burns one of the creeper hippies with a joint and proceeds to run off into the murky wet woods, where she meets the stalker of the film. It is a scene that at once uses brilliant camera work to downright terrifying effect...while also extracting odd performances from the players in the film...all done to a jarring soundtrack (did I mention a fucking flute?). There is truly genius stuff here, folks. 

Listen...Torso  is a film that I love more and more with each viewing. I can't tell you the exact reason why. It is often odd and awkward. It is a violently rich film full of next level stuff that hasn't been seen prior. Not too many films feel like Torso. And the last 20 minutes of the film will certainly suffocate you with thrills. It really is that good. And that trailer!






Thanks for reading,

Peter Neal




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