6WH: Week 4.5 – Sergio Martino

A few years ago, I did a series of weeks themed around “Obscure Horror Auteurs” and one of the candidates for that year was Italian filmmaker Sergio Martino. I’d heard lots of great things about his Giallo movies, but alas, many were not readily available at the time. A few years later and a couple of them pop up on Amazon Prime, so I figured I’d finally point my eyes in their direction:

  • Torso – Spooked by a few gruesome murders around town, a group of teen women seek safety in a remote country villa. Naturally, the killer follows them. This movie is basically just sex and murder, and well, I guess that’s effective? There’s not a whole lot to it, but Martino knows his way around the camera and manages to craft some memorable sequences and visuals. I suppose there’s some typically confusing Giallo nonsense plot points featuring red and black scarves (or are they bland and red scarves?!), but that’s almost part of the charm of these movies.
    Torso

    There are a couple of really effective sequences, and I must admit to a pretty big surprise when a bunch of folks wind up murdered offscreen. As a proto-slasher, this hits a few of the tropes pretty well. The killer wears a ski-mask (echoes of The Toolbox Murders), there’s some POV shots, a half-baked whodunit, and so on. Still, it’s pretty well executed for what it is, and some moments are really fantastic. In particular, the scene where the final girl attempts to escape a locked room using the whole newspaper/key retrieval trick is spot on (I also appreciate how she tries to throw the killer off by hiding all hints as to her existence as well.) It’s ultimately a lurid, trashy, comfort-food giallo. It’s not doing a whole lot new, but it’s generally well executed and entertaining. (The title “Torso” is fine and all, but the original title is ever so much more Giallo: “The Bodies Present Traces of Carnal Violence”) **1/2

  • Blood and Black Lace (trailer)
  • Deep Red (trailer)
  • King in the Box (short)
  • Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key – Great title or greatest title? Even amongst Giallo films, which are known for their elaborate, baroque titles, this is a doozy. A burned out writer lives on a big estate, holds bacchanalian parties where he indulges in hedonism whilst humiliating his wife. Later, when the crowds have left, he beats and rapes his wife. A real pleasant fellow. Then he’s implicated in a murder and I started to fear that the movie would ask us to sympathize with him, as it’s clearly heading towards a twist where it’s revealed that he was framed. I won’t spoil it, but there’s more going on here than just that, in a typically convoluted Giallo way.
    Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key

    There’s a nice little pre-Shining typewriter gag (if a bit less creative – the killer just types “Vendetta” over and over again with varying typeography, but it fits well enough). Some nice shots here too: a woman runs away from the killer and the camera follows, a body slides down the steps, an advertisement featuring a white heart splattered with blood. The ending is a nice bit of business, a series of twists that even makes sense (a rarity for this type of film), and a final wrinkle seals the deal nicely… It’s fantastic, but does it make up for the first thee quarters of the movie? I’m not sure about that, but it does redeem the film enough that I’m glad I watched it, and it left me on a high note that is making the movie stick around in my mind better than it probably should. **1/2

Ah, it’s always nice to catch up with the cinema of my people. Anywho, stay tuned, on Sunday I’ll have a post up featuring movies from that venerable streaming service, Shudder.

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