Torso (1973)
By: Julian on May 10, 2010  | 
Blue Underground | All Regions, NTSC | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | Italian DD 2.0 | 92 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Sergio Martino
Starring: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda, John Richardson, Angela Covello, Carla Brait
Screenplay: Ernesto Gastaldi, Sergio Martino
Country: Italy
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As a director of fine Italian exploitation, I rate Sergio Martino very highly. His career has covered a broad spectrum in the genre, from the cannibal gut-muncher (Mountain of the Cannibal God) to the spaghetti Western (A Man Called Blade). However, Martino's niche was in gialli and Torso is his best one. Released when gialli were making their boom, and around about the time genre-best examples were being made by Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, Torso stands easily alongside the cream of the crop. It has aged particularly well, the red herrings and MacGuffins don't seem as forced as other movies in the genre and the film's tone is especially grimy.

Retitled Carnal Violence for some releases, deriving from the film's Italian title The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence, Torso is set in Perugia, the beautiful central Italian town and the country's artistic hub, where a balaclava-clad nutter is slaughtering the local university's prettiest students with a red scarf. Suzy Kendall plays Jane, an American exchange student whose circle of friends is slowly being offed. Things come to a head when Jane and her fast diminishing clique decide to make an escape to the countryside, but the killer is not far behind.

The weak links in Torso are the performances. They're bland and strained, but this is a characteristic common to many Italian exploitation movies; lead Suzy Kendall, who played a not insignificant part in Dario Argento's brilliant The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, is limp, with every shocked scream more inauthentic than the last. The best turn, though, is by the sinister Ernesto Colli, whose career spanned about fifty films in his native Italy including collaborations with Joe D'Amato and Armando Crispino.

But Torso's shortcomings rarely go beyond the performances. Sergio Martino's direction is career-best, and with his cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando, a prolific exploitation DP and serial Martino collaborator, he evokes a tremendously tense atmosphere. The film's mood, powered by an overbearing sleaziness and some particularly noteworthy Bavaesque Gothica, rarely lets up and its helped, not hindered, by an aversion to the flashy excesses that detracted from some of Torso's contemporaries. Martino and Ernesto (Scorpion with Two Tails, The Suspicious Death of a Minor) Gastaldi's screenplay is intelligent and well-constructed and ultimately it's this cogence that makes Torso. Gialli are often befouled by the prodigious addition of red herrings and illogical twists and turns and the screenwriters shy away from that here: the giallo template is still applied, but it's a few shades more understated than the norm.

There are three versions of Torso doing the rounds on DVD: the original Italian cut, an English-language export cut and the US theatrical cut. The version here is the English-language export cut, with Italian-language inserts that are presented with subtitles. The R4 Shock DVD is the US theatrical cut and is edited quite incomprehensibly.

Martino's Torso is an immensely stylish film, aided and abetted by top-notch direction, sweeping and technically superior cinematography and a tight screenplay. I never cease to be impressed by Torso and, as the sort of supremely arrogant reviewer who prescribes his readers an opinion, you should be mightily impressed too.
Blue Underground has ported the earlier Anchor Bay release of Torso. The picture is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 and it is reasonably good for a film of its age. From online comparisons, the colours in the R2 Shameless release look more vibrant, but the picture is presented in 1.70:1.
English and Italian audio are both presented in Dolby 2.0. It sounds fine. Prolific Italian composers Guido and Maurizio de Angelis (Caligula 2, Mountain of the Cannibal God) are on scoring duties.
Extra Features
Bare minimum: the US and international trailers. If you understand Italian, Alan Young Pictures have put out a top release in the film's native country, with a commentary and introduction by Martino, a 5-minute featurette on Torso's lighting, photo galleries and cast and crew biographies. Second-best might be the Scandinavian AWE release, by virtue of a 12-page text interview with Martino. Shop around!
The Verdict
This is a particularly impressive giallo, and one this reviewer speaks of in the same breath as Argento's Deep Red and Fulci's The New York Ripper. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you do so immediately.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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