Blu-ray Review: Torso

Giallo and Gelato night is always good when Sergio Martino is calling the shots. Over the last few year Martino has found his legacy growing to the point where now his name is mentioned with Argento, Bava and Fulci when describing the cream of the Giallo genre. Why now? Because his six Giallo films (I count Suspicious Death of a Minor) are finally getting great releases on Blu-ray. Torso was his fifth entry and looks bloody good in its new transfer that you need three scoops of Talenti’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip gelato.

A masked killer is murdering female students at a university in Italy. He’s strangling them with a scarf. The first time he sneaks up on a car where the couple inside are looking for fun. The second strike comes when a party in the woods. As the fear builds, four female students accept a weekend at a country villa to get away from it all. But little do they know that the killer is on their trail so it’s not going to be a vacation.

I don’t want to give away too much, but Martino and his collaborators made a film that twists a few conventions normally found in Giallo. The biggest twist is that he backs away from showing a few deaths on camera. This is not the norm where the audience expects to see how the killer strikes. But the shift allows the audience to focus on what comes next. Another twist is that the amateur sleuth putting together the clues to identify the killer doesn’t end with her getting the usual outcome. He even loads up enough local suspects so you can believe that the female students are endangered by the creepy locals more than any serial killer. Torso‘s not formulaic.

One aspect of the film I’ve heard people complain about is the hippie scene. Having grown up in West Germany during this time (dad was stationed on bases), hippie kids popped up at random places. They randomly appear in our home movies. It was part of the fabric of the time. This should not bother viewers.

Torso is the weakest “title” of Martino’s films especially compared to All the Colors of the Dark and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have The Key. But that is not the fault of the director or producer. In Italy the film is titled, I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale which translates to The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence. In England, the film was shortened to Carnal Violence. But in America, the distributor slapped it with Torso which probably met with the approval of theater workers in charge of putting letters on the marquee.

There are four different cuts of the film provided on the Blu-ray. First is the original Italian version that lasts 93:36. Then there’s a Hybrid English/Italian version which is 93:02. This puts back scenes that were snipped from the English dub and has “Carnal Violence” as the title. The scenes missing from the dub are in Italian with subtitles. Then there’s the English “Carnal Violence” cut that was distributed internationally that’s 90:12. Finally there’s English Torso cut that used a vintage print and a VHS tape. It’s 89:33. The opening credits feature the saw and a flash forward in the action. Because this is an international cast, both the English and Italian tracks were created in Post-production. The beauty of owning the Blu-ray is getting enjoy the various cuts over the years. The Hybrid is probably the best for when you have company wanting to share in the joy of a Giallo and Gelato night.

A lot of people don’t consider Sergio Martino an auteur with his giallo films because he lacks his own signature style. I don’t get why this is considered a bad thing. His lack of overwhelming signature camera moves and inside visual jokes allows viewers to focus on the movie. His films work on their own without you having to understand the director and his “thing.” Torso is another reason Martino’s essential to collect when you’re building a Blu-ray library of Giallo.

The video is 1.66:1 anamorphic. The new transfer brings out the details of the Italian locations. The audio is DTS-HD MA mono for both the English and Italian tracks. The levels are proper enough to make things scary when the killer is tracking down his victims. The subtitles are in English.

Audio Commentary by Kat Ellinger, author of All the Colours of Sergio Martino gets deep into the film. She relates elements to Martino’s career.

All the Colors of Terror (34:02) sits down with Sergio Martino to find out how the film came together. He was inspired by Blind Terror. He had a story and quickly turned it into a script when producer Carlo Ponti wanted the project.

The Discreet Charm of the Genre (34:53) meets up with with actor Luc Merenda. He reflects on playing a suspected violent guy in all these films. He’s go on to play characters in a Martino’s poliziotteschi films including The Violent Professionals and Gambling City.

Dial S For Suspense (29:16) chats up co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi. The screenwriter tells a great story about Audrey Hepburn. He gets into his film education and relationship with the Martino brothers.

Women in Blood (24:59) is a new video interview with filmmaker Federica Martino, daughter of Sergio Martino. She talks of her early movie memories of her dad’s work. She only saw a little bit when she was younger.

Saturating the Screen (25:04) allows Mikel J. Koven (author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film ) to give the cultural context to Giallo movies during their heyday. He points out how the theaters in the heydays were considered the less prestigious movie house. These theaters were more like neighborhood bars where locals would hang out, smoke, drink and talk and occasionally focus on the film during the violent and sex scenes. In order to maintain this “social” aspect, the theaters would run the film one night so this is part of the reason why the Italian film business would make plenty of films within a genre.

2017 Abertoir International Horror Festival Q&A with Sergio Martino (47:00) has the director talking after a screening. He talks of his family’s history in cinema.

Theatrical Trailers for both Italian (3:08) and English (3:06) releases keep up the tension.

Arrow Video presents Torso. Directed by: Sergio Martino. Screenplay by: Ernesto Gastaldi & Sergio Martino. Starring:Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda and John Richardson. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 93 minutes. Released: October 30, 2018.

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