Saturday, January 29, 2022

TORSO (1973) Blu-ray review

Torso (1973) d. Sergio Martino (Italy) (93 min)

The female populace of an international Italian university is slowly being picked off by a ski-masked killer, beginning with two of the three subjects of a nude photo shoot, Flo (Patrizia Adiutori) and Carol (Cristina Airoldi). When fragments of a red-and-black scarf are found under the fingernails of one of the victims, their classmate Daniela (Tina Aumont) recalls that she recently saw someone wearing just such a scarf… but who was it? Was it Franz (John Richardson) the art professor? Stefano (Roberto Bisacco), the love-starved co-ed? The handsome local doctor Roberto (Luc Merenda), the creepy scarf vendor Gianni (Ernesto Colli), and the half-witted delivery boy (Enrico DiMarco) are equally likely candidates, as is Daniela’s overly friendly uncle Nino (Carlo Alighiero), who offers up his secluded villa as a place for his niece and her three friends to get away for the weekend after the killer calls and tells the frightened student that she’d better keep her mouth shut. Sure enough, as soon as the quartet settles in, the battle of wits begins, with the wily sex murderer seeking to have all loose women, er, ends silenced forever.

With rampant nudity and a considerable body count, Torso (aka The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence) continued Martino’s reign in the world of the Italian thriller known as the giallo. Having already delivered a string of memorable entries (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale, All the Colors of the Dark, and Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) in the early 1970s, this proved to be the director’s penultimate entry, serving as a “greatest hits” of his previous efforts, amping up the sex and gore quotients, as well as a plethora of red herrings and a wingding climactic fight scene to shore up viewer interest.

From the opening credits featuring naked writhing bodies to a hippie hangout to an extended bedroom scene of Sapphic lovers Ursula (Carla Brait) and Katia (Angela Covello) delicately doling out mutual pleasure, the first half is a certifiable softcore smutfest, the nudity so gratuitous it becomes a parody of eroticism. However, there is a splendid twist of expectations mid-film, where a suspenseful stalk-and-seek sequence sees the female star of Dario Argento’s breakout The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Suzy Kendall, assuming center stage as a resourceful art student.

Torso is quite rightly credited with helping inspire the slasher boom of the late 1970s, although this could be more a matter of timing than content. While released in its homeland in 1973, it didn’t reach American drive-ins until years later, where the flashy blend of flesh and blood (and lesbians!) proved a winning combination for an audience whose appetites had been whetted by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and its many imitators. With no illusions of grandeur (such as reserved for the likes of Argento), Oscar-winning producer Carlo Ponti and distributor Joseph Brenner Associates pitched Martino’s brainchild to the lowest common denominator, with winning box office returns to follow.

On a personal note, I distinctly recall sitting in my mom’s blue Toyota Corolla in 1977 at our local Bay Area drive-in, watching the trailers for coming attractions ahead of the Henry Winkler/Sally Field comedy/drama Heroes. One was for Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl. The other was for TORSO!” a title repeated ad infinitum by the baritone announcer (“It saturates the screen with terror!”), with numerous allusions to “a psycho-sexual killer.” I’m fairly confident that this was the first time I had ever seen onscreen nudity (in a trailer, no less!) and it was absolutely the first time I had ever even entertained the idea of two women being sexually intimate. My poor little 9-year-old mind nearly exploded. I’m not sure why my mom allowed me to keep watching – my only explanation is that she must have gone to the snack bar for those particular three minutes. Or maybe it was just the ’70s.

While perhaps not the greatest giallo ever made (or even the best from Martino), this is an innately watchable slice of easy, breezy, sleazy slashing with heaping dollops of female nudity, all served up with an incredible score by the team of Guido and Maurizio de Angelis (Killer Fish) and shot by legendary cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando (Troll 2). Kudos to Arrow Video for their supplement-packed Blu-ray release!


New audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author of All the Colours of Sergio Martino
New video interview with co-writer/director Sergio Martino
New video interview with actor Luc Merenda
New video interview with co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi
New video interview with filmmaker Federica Martino, daughter of Sergio Martino
New video interview with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film
2017 Abertoir International Horror Festival Q&A with Sergio Martino
Italian and English theatrical trailers
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais


Jon Kitley (Kitley's Krypt), Bryan Martinez (The Giallo Room), and AC sit down with Ian Simmons of Kicking the Seat for another round of ACCADEMIA GIALLO, our ongoing series exploring the sexiest, scariest, and sleaziest that Italy (and other purveyors of Euro-horror) have to offer.

Torso is available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video and can be ordered HERE:

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