Old dogs and new tricks, that’s me, as I’ve never seen a Sergio Martino film until now. If Torso is to be my first, so be it; a fun giallo with copious amounts of strictly gratuitous nudity is nothing to scoff at, and UK boutique label Shameless Films lovingly stabs their way onto your video shelf.
I certainly know of Martino’s work; as I delve deeper into Italian horror I hear of All the Colors of the Dark and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (both from ’72), mostly due to the vibrant titles and his even more vibrant leading lady, Edwige Fenech, whose stunning visage graces my eyeballs on a regular basis. (Gratzi, Sarah.) But beyond that, I really knew little before taking my first trip into Martinoville. And thanks to Shameless, I plan to pop in more often.
Here’s our setting, story, and all the players within: Rome, a university, a popular professor (John Richardson – Black Sunday), some fetching students including Suzy Kendall (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage) and Tina Aumont (Fellini’s Casanova), a ski mask-wearing killer who loves to use a red and black scarf, red herrings galore, eye gouging, body mutilation, more nudity, and a thrilling finale at a beautiful villa. If it seems like I’ve skipped the story, just string the above list together and you’re there. The plot is virtually identical to every other giallo in existence; traumatic childhood event triggers psychopathic behavior down the line, police are inept, killer reveals him/herself to the hero(ine), a climactic battle and presto, we’re out of here.
If this seems like a dismissal, it isn’t; Torso still works because Martino offers up a fast pace with muscular direction, even when the story hits some static lulls. There really is only so much naked frolicking one can take (so I’ve heard), and repetitiveness does kick in after a while. But… something miraculous happens in the third act. When the action moves to the villa on the outskirts of town, Martino crafts a nearly silent sequence as the killer disposes of his bodies while our heroine hides behind walls and curtains, shivering in fear. It’s very suspenseful, and it makes me want to believe that other Martino efforts hold the same filmmaking promise. I say promise because there really isn’t a strong sense of style or imagery on display (save for a chase in the forest), which are mainly what I’m drawn to with Italian horror. But there’s definitely enough here for me to venture further afield in his filmography.
Region-free, Torso comes in eye-popping yellow packaging (giallo, get it?) and this is the most complete version of the film at 93 minutes, even more so than Blue Underground’s previous Blu-ray release. There are separate audio tracks in Italian and English dub, but the latter has a bit of extended footage where those dubs were lost in time, and are subbed in Italian with English subtitles. The picture quality is very good for an almost 45-year-old film, with normal grain present for one of this vintage. In other words, it retains a nice grindhouse-y feel, but you can actually see through the windows.
As for special goodies, Shameless presents “Dismembering Torso”, a great, informative 23-minute interview with Martino that goes deep on the production and its roots. I always find it fascinating that some creators of the most ferocious material come across as the gentlest of souls. Martino does not disappoint.
As a newcomer to the works of Martino, I found Torso quite intriguing, and I hope, promising as I head down the road of (fingers crossed) further debauchery and mayhem. Regardless of the results, I’m glad that a company such as Shameless Films is around to preserve them in all their perverse glory.
Movie Score: 3/5, Disc Score: 3.5/5