Carnal Violence Edition
Directed by Sergio Martino
When two female university students friends turn up dead in two separate incidents, fellow student Daniela decides to retreat to her uncle’s country villa inviting her best friends Jane, Ursula and Katia along for company. But how long will it be before the killer catches up with them?
Babes, boobies and blood… Italian giallo film TORSO has it all! Playing up to the sleaze of the 70’s, director Sergio Martino knows how to play to the teen crowd, to scare and delight his viewers, as his horror who-dunnit centres on the young co-ed students of an Italian university, pitting the sexual tensions of the youngsters amidst a backdrop of sliced torsos and a makeshift tourniquet. It’s this strangulation method, a red and black neckerchief scarf, which becomes the sole clue to the identity of the culprit and is the point of focus for student Daniela, a young woman who’s lost friends to this mysterious killer on the loose and is paranoid that she might be next.
Like many slashers of this era, expect to see plenty of scenes of girls bonding, giggling about boys, and enjoying the company of the opposite sex which often results in a flash of a nipple and ripe flesh before the glint of a knife comes into the picture. And when that knife comes, it’s attached to the fingerless driving gloves of a masked antagonist; the pale grey/blue hood shielding the facial features, apart from the eyes and mouth, from the viewer. Our introduction to this mysterious fellow comes as a surprise as he’s out dogging… well, looking through a car window at a young romping couple. After being startled and chased away, he makes his move and the first of his victims are claimed, but who’ll be next? Nervous student Daniela (Tina Aumont), who’s staying with her uncle, is hoping to God it won’t be her. Inviting her stunning, lesbian friends Katia and Ursula, along with American exchange student Jane (Suzy Kendall), to the country, Daniela hopes the trip away will take their minds off the killings and keep them out of danger. A killer on campus won’t follow them out of town… right?
As with any true giallo, we don’t discover the culprit of the murders until the very end of the movie. Leading up to the big reveal, a number of suspects are on our list from art Professor Franz to the obsessive Stefano to the dashing Doctor Roberto, each one as suspicious as the next. However, I was a bit disappointed that we don’t get as many point of view shots as we’ve come to expect from films of this genre which means the gore impact, Carnal Violence cut or not, is severely lessened with very little carnage on display. Instead of a first person view through the eyes of the killer, we often spend our time with the surviving victim as she’s peeping round a corner or through the slit of a wardrobe. In some cases, we even take a traditional third person view watching both the potential victim and the killer from a distance. Where, I suppose, this plays into its strengths is towards the last third of the movie where character Jane comes across the killer. As the camera takes her point of view from behind furniture, her view of the killer is obscured by both the furniture and the partition wall. All we can see is glimpses of a hacksaw slicing up a victim just out of sight and in these moments, Jane has to decide if it’s safe to move from her location. I found my heart in my mouth at these scenes as the suspense and tension really rack up, moreso than any other part of the film which has essentially been a walk in the park up to this point. With only the sounds made by the murderer to aid her limited view, she has to try and escape her predicament whilst not getting herself killed but sometimes we only know as much as she does about the location of the masked madman. In a clever little camera reversal, we then switch to a third person view of the killer which gives us knowledge of his exact whereabouts which once again leaves us on the edge of our seat. I found myself screaming at the TV, telling Jane not to move, in the hope that somehow she’d hear. Such is the clever use of these various camera angles and set ups that, although the traditional giallo point-of-view kills take a backseat, the film manages to thrill the viewers with its alternate shooting style.
Shameless Entertainment have released the Carnal Violence edition in a Blu-Ray numbered release which reinstates some scenes previously cut from the movie. As it stands, Carnal Violence is the most complete cut of Torso out there with the additional footage limited to Italian language with English subtitles only thanks to these scenes being cut from the English release way back when, requiring no English dubbing. The rest of the movie, however, is dubbed in English. Even Suzy Kendall’s voice is dubbed albeit with an American accent for the British actress. In the original UK cut of the movie, most of the art lecture at the beginning of the movie was absent and it’s this which has been reinstated in the Carnal Violence edition. To add a bit of flavour to the release, Shameless have also included a neat reversible cover, Italian audio track with English subtitles and a 20+ minute interview with director Sergio Martino.
As sleazy, 70’s giallo horror go, TORSO is a weak effort. The set piece deaths just aren’t there and only a couple of murder scenes actually carry any weight with the film relying on creepy doll visuals and off-camera slice action to thrill. However, the film excels as a murder mystery with the killer slowly stalking his prey, leaving the viewer to constantly play detective, wondering where and when he’ll strike next. Like some kind of interactive experience, I found myself analysing every scene involving other characters than our main girls, trying to piece together who fit the profile of the killer. Its ingenius use of camera angles to develop the story and ramp up the tension in the latter end of the film is where TORSO really hits its high notes and deserves recognition.
Titillating and terrorising, TORSO is a body of work that might not be a leader in its genre but it is certainly a memorable one.