D. SERGIO MARTINO
Incredibly stylish Giallo thriller that was clearly inspired by the world wide smash of Dario Argento's BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE just a little over a year previous. But where Argento's movie is very mechanical in its presentation (though artful in it's beauty) Martino sets out from the get go to infuse his film with as much sex and titillation as humanly possible. When the opening credits are running over shots of two teen lesbians lovingly groping each other as the shots shift in and out of focus, there is very little question about were the director's intentions lie. In the next ten minutes the viewer is blessed with more nipples through silk shirts, hookers doffing their tops, and bursting cleavage than most censorship boards would allow. By the time the first kill scene happens to a teen couple getting busy in the back of their car (eagle eyed viewers will notice this scene more or less recreated in Eli Roth's quite funny THANKSGIVING faux trailer in GRINDHOUSE) we've almost forgotten we are watching a thriller at all thanks to all the perfectly scooped boobs.Then an expertly timed and shot slash sequence jumps out and really grabs our senses, banging them into place. Soon this is followed by another young lady named Clair being stalked and killed after she breaks up with an older man she was having an affair with.
In a fit of reckless depression, she leaves with the local dope heads a
nd almost ends up the centerpiece of their orgy, only to find herself wandering stoned into the swamp as she is stalked by a masked killer who eventually strangles and dismembers her. He takes a loving long time to of course admire her nude mud and blood flecked breasts, All the while having flashbacks to his youth and some weird incident involving poking the eyes out of a doll. The remaining four girls are naturally scared, so they head up to one of their uncle's cabins to get away. Add to that the local town obsessive-compulsive is stalking one of them and she wants away from him too. Unfortunately, the town where the cabin is located is not unlike the town in DELIVERANCE: full of uneducated, sub-level humans who are all more than likely inbred on purpose, The towns folk talk endlessly about fucking the four girls, making us fear a gang rape might be coming any minute, Thankfully that is avoided, because the actual killer arrives and does some cleaning up of his own at the villa. Seems he doesn't like lesbians much at all, Which leads to the reveal of the killer that is not all that shocking, but still reasonably suspenseful. We also get to see the rest of that flashback that has a freaking hilarious shot of a little kid falling off a cliff.
Reaching for dolls in exchange to see down a girl's panties always leads to trouble. Kids, make note of this.
Okay, it's not supposed to be funny, but there's something seriously wrong with me. Hey, it's clearly a dummy that looks like a little kid with child like screams dubbed over it. It's a cheesy moment in an otherwise impeccably made film.
The movie starts off really well with those two very effective back to back stalk and slash scenes that are more or less iconic. The woods/swamp scene is especially effective and gut churning stuff. Once we are up to the summer villa, things slow down considerably with some of the tighter writing from earlier becoming lax before becoming taut again with the final scenes with the killer, using the directorial flare that Martino has built from his years of making action oriented movies.
The cinematography in TORSO is stunning. Maybe not as acrobatic or eye assaulting as we have come to expect in some of the other Italian thrillers from the period, but aesthetically is very beautiful. With tight composition, and always creatively placed and framed. Not to mention incredible camera moves and fantastic editing. There is a lot of shifting focus and impressive depth of field work that reveals and hides details within a given shot.
TORSO has a good reputation, but is not really mentioned in the same breath as some of Argento's or Fulci's work, which to me is a shame. In fact it is much, much better than the later era work of either of those great talents. It wipes the floor of anything Argento has produced since THE STENDHAL SYNDROME and most of Fulci's movies from the 90's. TORSO is a movie that deserves a much better place on the shelves of horror fans in my estimation.
Reviews © Andy Copp