In regards to the dark, the world of giallo is still one that I’m fumbling around in, trying to navigate my way through countless films and directors. As I settle in, I’ve started to make out shapes and patterns; that is, until I saw Sergio Martino’s All the Colors of the Dark (1972), a trippy, surreal head trip beautifully restored in an overflowing Blu-ray from Severin Films. My eyes are still adjusting to what they’ve seen.
I’m still fumbling around with Martino, though; other than this, I’ve only seen Torso (’73) and Screamers (’79), and I enjoyed the latter’s high adventure/splattery mermen over the straight ahead straight razor-isms of the former (which admittedly, has a boffo back half). Colors is easily my favorite of the three, as it offers a heady mix of hallucinogenic horror with a giallo backbone, all done with ferocious style.
Pity poor Jane (Edwige Fenech – The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh); the film starts with her nightmare of an elderly drag queen, a pregnant and naked woman on a bed, and murder. As she awakens, we learn that she is recovering from a car crash in which she lost her unborn child. Attempting to be consoled by her pharmaceutical-selling boyfriend Richard (George Hilton, also Mrs. Wardh) with the latest vitamins, Jane instead turns to other sources to deal with her paranoia and lack of sex drive. First she turns to her sister Barbara (Nieves Navarro – Death Walks at Midnight), who sends her to her shrink to no avail. Jane’s delusions start to seep into her waking world, where she believes that she’s being pursued by a man with ice blue eyes (Ivan Rassimov – Eaten Alive!); when he ceases to stop she turns to her new neighbor Mary (Marina Malfatti – The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave), who suggests Jane join her at a Black Mass to clear her mind of delusions. You know, as one does.
So off Jane goes, and in that mass she drinks some sacrificial goat blood, has an orgy with the followers, and helps kill someone. And what do you know? It works! (Why wouldn’t these activities help her mental state?) Her love life with Richard improves dramatically, but she still has one problem: that pesky man is still around wanting and trying to kill her. With her tenuous grasp on reality quickly slipping, who can she trust to help her?
Martino himself has said that he was inspired by Rosemary’s Baby for All the Colors of the Dark, and it certainly shows; he uses the cult angle to push Jane’s paranoia front and center, and many of Polanski’s POV shots for that smothered feel during her delusions. Which isn’t to say Martino merely apes Polanski; he uses the delusions as the center point of his film, which, like Rosemary, puts Jane in the position of the Unreliable Narrator. But due to giallo’s sometimes questionable logic, Colors strays somewhat from reality for its entirety, hallucinations or not. This, coupled with sharp and exquisite cinematography from Miguel Fernandez Mila and Giancarlo Ferrando, gives the film a flu-fogged phantasmagoria that puts the viewer ill at ease.
The performances are quite good as well, with Fenech standing out due to her ethereal beauty, yes, but also vulnerability necessary to sell the role. Perhaps a little on the damsel in distress side, but that’s not her fault, she’s just written that way; there’s no question that Jane is a survivor in Fenech’s hands.
Having survived (and thrived with) Martino’s kaleidoscope, let’s look at the special features Severin Films has brought to this gorgeous 4K restoration:
In addition to the great 4K scan of the original negative, Severin has once again loaded the disc for those eager to find out everything about the production. Color My Nightmare is a terrific interview with the director, his intentions, and working with his cast; Last Of The Mohicans finds an engaging Gastaldi commenting on the project; and Giallo is the Color catches up with Hilton as he reminisces about working on several of Martino’s films. All informative and entertaining, and Kat Ellinger’s commentary is waiting for you the second time you watch it – don’t pass it up, as she literally wrote the book on Martino and offers up a fun and educational trip through this film and his work.
All the Colors of the Dark is not the film I was expecting at all; everything in giallo I’ve bumped into so far has more or less the same form and purpose. Thanks to Sergio Martino and Severin Films, my passageway now has more than enough light for continued discovery.
Movie Score: 4/5, Disc Score: 4.5/5