TORSO UK pre-cert video cover- Iver Films
4 stars


directed by: Sergio Martino
starring: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda, John Richardson, Angela Covello, Carla Brait, Cristiana Airoldi, Patrizia Adiutori, Roberto Bisacco

(back of video blurb):

       "Stunning scenery and even more stunning girls are the background for six bloody murders. Some of the victims seperated piece by piece with a variety of saws etc.

       Their is little in the way of clues as to who is behind the murders and the motive is hard to find until near the end of the film when all the loose ends pull together.

       The beauty of the girls in the case is something to behold and British Actress Suzy Kendall steals the acting honours."

choice dialogue:

"Don't look at me like that!... I had to do it. I had to Jane... I had to... They were only dolls- stupid dolls, made out of flesh and blood!"

slash with panache?

       A masked, hacksaw wielding killer is preying on female students at an Italian University in this deliriously sleazy, but surprisingly classy giallo from Sergio Martino.

       Two girls are killed (in separate occurrences), one of whom has her eyes poked out by the killer- (the only really graphic bit of gore in the English language version, mirroring a flash insert, which is regularly shown, of a doll’s eyes being pushed into their sockets by the hands of a small child.) The campus, where the Worried co-eds...girls studied, slowly falls into the grip of terror as the other female students; which include Suzy Kendal (Jane) and Tina Aumont (Daniella), begin to wonder who might be next on the killer’s hit list. Daniella starts to believe she is even more at risk because she recalls seeing someone wearing the same red and black scarf the killer used to strangle one of the victims. And although she can’t quite remember exactly who was wearing the scarf for the time being, it is only a matter of time before she finally does recall his face. A fact that does not escape the killer’s notice. Daniella starts to receive threatening phone calls, telling her to keep quiet. Her lecherous Uncle suggests she escape the city- "’ll soon get over your fright. All you need is some good fresh air!", she takes his advice and quickly arranges a trip to the country with two of her friends Ursula (Carla Brait) and Katia (Angela Covello); Jane following a day later. They hole up in an isolated mountain top villa that has had all the windows barred- so to deter burglars; which overlooks a sleepy, picturesque town below. Daniella and the girls start to forget their worries, de-stressing with nude sunbathing; skinny dipping; soft-core lesbian rompings and other leisure pursuits that don’t require very many clothes! Unfortunately, the masked killer has followed them to their remote retreat and, hacksaw in hand, is intent on making sure his identity remains secret once and for all...

       There is nothing subtle about Martino’s film, the title alone- TORSO, is just about as blunt as you can get, setting the tone from the start. It is truly ‘reductio ad absurdum’. Variety summed up the film, in keeping with this tone, describing it the killer prepares to go to work...simply as "GORE & GAL" . Although, the translation of the films’ Italian title- (I CORPO PRESENTANO TRACCE DI VIOLENZA CARNALE)- ‘THE BODIES SHOW EVIDENCE OF CARNAL VIOLENCE’, is an even more depraved (!)- can you imagine a film with that title playing in your local multiplex today?! Martino, who had made a name for himself with three earlier gialli LO STRANO VIZIO DELLA SIGNORA WARDH (BLADE OF THE RIPPER) (1970), TUTTI I COLORI DEL BUIO (ALL THE COLOURS OF DARKNESS) (1972) and IL TUO VIZIO E UNA STANZA CHIUSA E SOLO IO NE HO LA CHIAVE (GENTLY BEFORE SHE DIES) (1972), may not be a Mario Bava or Dario Argento, but he’s no hack (if you’ll excuse the pun!), either. TORSO is, like many gialli, a bit of a guilty pleasure. The mixture of beautiful women and slash-happy maniac may be as old as the hills, but rarely are the two elements so accentuated as they are in the Italian giallo- and in the case of Martino’s film they are taken to almost absurdist levels. The women are, for the most part, incredibly beautiful- Kendal and Aumount are especially stunning. The violence is, in complete opposite, and for want of a better word- crude. The victims are molested before being killed and, finally, dismembered. It is not, however, particularly graphic, in-so-much you do not actually see many of the wounds, but oblique views of a juddering hacksaw and the sounds of bone a beautifully arranged shot from Martino's, surprisingly, lush film...splintering leave little up to the imagination. The dismemberment theme extends to the women even before they meet their fate, Martino using the camera frame to ‘cut-up’ live, and usually naked, flesh.

       What is surprising is that TORSO is actually a very good thriller. It is also, again counter balancing the crudeness of the violence and subject matter, a very beautifully shot and visually rich film. On the downside the first twenty minutes are pretty muddled, with so many characters being introduced that it is difficult to remember who is who. But once the plot comes together it works very well. What is also interesting is the amount of elements here that would turn up in later American, post- HALLOWEEN slasher films. You have the masked killer for a start, who (in two separate scenes), stalks victims through the woods (to screen captures of this scene...) and preys on teenage lovers in a car- both times employing the (killer’s) point-of-view shot, which quickly became a mandatory element in the slasher movie. There is the theme of a past crime- in this case the death of a child, for which retribution is the motive for the killing in the present. There are also the ubiquitous teenagers- who here, at the tail end of the Hippy/Counterculture movement, smoke dope; enjoy pre-marital sex and give authority the ol’ two-fingered salute. And, perhaps most interestingly, there is the singling out of a ‘final-girl’-(Kendal); who’s best protection is that the killer believes she is ‘pure’. Who discovers all her friends murdered and, in the film’s Suzy Kendall gets a shock in, and cruellest, scene is forced to watch them being dismembered; or risk being spotted by the killer.... If FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980), was a loose remake of Mario Bava’s seminal L’ECOLOGIA DEL DELITTO (BLOOD BATH) (1971), then Martino’s TORSO, is ,thematically at least, very similar to HALLOWEEN. And it may come as no great surprise to find that both these Italian films were big hits on the U.S. drive-in circuits during the early-to-mid 1970’s. Coincidences aside though, TORSO is still very much a giallo and although the film does have a ‘final-girl’, in Kendal, she is only allowed to do so much to protect herself . Her ultimate survival still depending on the intervention of a male ‘hero’.

       All-in-all this is a lavish, cruel film; cloaked in an appealing early-70’s near surreal ambience. Sleaze has never looked better.

       (note): The version of the film that was released in the States, played the drive-ins minus some choice bits of graphic violence- cuts that were made by distributor Joseph Brenner. It was also this R-rated version which appeared on the pre-cert video release in Britain and it is this version that the above review deals with. Exactly how much was excised is a bit of a mystery and, as far as I know there isn’t an complete English language version. If anyone knows any different let me know!

to poster

Click on the thumbnail to see an enlarged version of this wonderful poster
for the Japanese release of TORSO.

BODYCOUNT 11   bodycount! female:5 / male:6

       1) Female teen strangled and then stabbed
       2) Make teen found with throat slit
       3) Female teen strangled, drowned- eyes poked out  to screen captures of this scene...
       4) Male crushed to death with car
       5) Male has throat slit
       6) Male strangled
7,8 & 9) Three female teens found butchered and then individually dismembered
      10) Pre-pubescent male falls to his death from a cliff (flashback)
      11) Male Male falls to his death from cliff

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