A psychosexual thriller.
Torso is an example of the Italian giallo genre; stylish suspense thrillers which flourished in the '60s and '70s, and paved the way for American films like Halloween and Friday the 13th. Directors like Mario Bava (Black Sunday) and producers like Carlo Ponti (Dr. Zhivago) are famed for this genre. Ponti teamed with director Sergio Martino (Screamers) for this tale of a killer targeting four nubile college coeds in a villa. If this sounds trite and overdone, remember that films like this are the ones that created the genre, and this one is surprisingly well done. The film crackles with suspense, especially during the last 30 minutes. The film also has the Euro attitude toward nudity, with plenty of nude beauties running around. Anchor Bay has done a stellar transfer of this film and has restored the film to its original European length as well.
I was glad to get my hands on this disc for several reasons. For one thing, after reviewing quite a few oh-so-serious works I wanted to just relax with a horror flick. Another reason was an opportunity to see what Anchor Bay was up to, since I've had little chance to review their stuff. I expected a fairly muddy release of a cheesy exploitation film, considering the film's age and limited audience, but I was wrong on both counts. Okay, I was wrong about Anchor Bay. Only partly wrong about the cheesy exploitation stuff. I mean, this in a good way though; I wanted something to grin at and eat too much popcorn with, and having a bunch of naked women running around didn't bother me in the least.
This film didn't disappoint in the latter area, from the first scene there are an abundance of naked Italian girls in the days before anyone could be a D cup. I was surprised though to find out how well the film worked in the suspense department. In some ways this film is a whodunit as well as a horror flick. Red herrings and a real wonderment of who the killer was kept me going throughout; even though I had it down to one of two possible killers by the end I still didn't know which one. The score, along with some excellent direction brought the suspense level to a high pitch by the last act, which is a very creepy cat-and-mouse game. American directors looking to cash in on the slasher genre could do well to learn from this one.
Like I said, I didn't expect a lot from Anchor Bay on this one. I figured the film quality alone would keep the beauty of the transfer down. But this is a great transfer, especially for an older film. The colors are bright and rich, the blacks are pitch black. There's no artifacting and little grain or other defects and Anchor Bay even went the extra mile by providing us with a brand new 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. I'm very impressed.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Lets continue on the disc before I get back to the film. There is a choice of 2 channel mono tracks in English or Italian. The dubbed English is very stilted and an obvious dub. Not that I was expecting any more than that, but it's still a bit harder to handle if you don't speak Italian. There is one true flaw with the English track though; part of it was lost or never recorded and the soundtrack reverts to Italian with English subtitles during those scenes. Keep your subtitles on since the only time they appear are when the English language goes back to Italian. This is no fault of Anchor Bay, but in the source materials. As you might expect, the mono track is pretty thin sounding. The dialogue level is quite low as well, requiring you to race to your volume knob.
I'm not really complaining, as I certainly didn't expect special edition treatment on this flick, but two trailers, one for the US version and one for the international version are the only extras. When you go to the extra content part of the menu, some very light elevator music accompanies the list, which is very incongruous to the content. Both trailers are definitely R rated rather than for general audiences. I should reiterate, though this is a positive, that the disc has the international version of the film, without cuts made to meet the MPAA R rating requirements.
Now for the film. As you might expect, there is plenty of cheese to go around in this picture. I can't say how well the parts were performed in Italian, but the dialogue is pretty wooden in dubbed English. The gore effects are relatively tame to our jaded 21st century senses, but they are also very cheesy. The gore makeup on the actors was fine, but when they had to do the slashing scenes they were cutting on the most obvious mannequins I've ever seen. I swear I saw plaster falling off of them as the killer cut. I'm not truly complaining; to me such cheese is unintended humor.
Anchor Bay proves they know how to take even an obscure Euro-horror film and give it a top-knot transfer. High marks to them. While not everyone will enjoy a film that is definitely a genre entry, fans of giallo films should run and pick this one up. Horror fans of all stripes should at least rent this one.
Anchor Bay and the makers of Torso are acquitted for a high quality work in a genre that doesn't imply high quality. Get out of my courtroom and bring on some more gore!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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