Now let’s get into the thick of it. Giallo’s hey-day was about a decade long with its most prolific period being from 1971 to 1975, where 96 movies were produced. Now I don’t have the time to watch that many gialli, and my eyes would go cross at some point, but I tried to pick some highlights from this era.
The only film I really wanted to watch, and was unable to, was A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. I’m hoping it will pop up on streaming soon!
1 Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971)
D. by Aldo Lado
2 The Fifth Cord (1971)
D. by Luigi Bazzoni
3 Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)
D. by Sergio Martino
4 Torso (1973)
D. by Sergio Martino
5 The Perfume of the Lady In Black (1974)
D. by Francesco Barilli
6 Deep Red (1975)
D. by Dario Argento
All of these movies were a fun time but I want to dive deeper into three of them. I do want to note that while I liked Short Night of Glass Dolls and The Perfume of the Lady in Black, I think it’s a stretch to call them giallo.
Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key
Sleazy Poe indeed. Loosely based on the Poe short story The Black Cat this giallo is something else. I love seeing directors/writers getting creative with the tropes of giallo. The movie starts down one path, I think I know where we are heading, and then at the halfway point everything turns on its head. The back half is pure high-octane family drama, where everyone is getting their revenge.
Even a black cat named Satan.
Even if you know the short story it doesn’t really come into play until the end. I knew the story but I didn’t feel like it ruined the movie for me. If anything it made me more excited once I saw all the pieces fall into place at the end.
Big warning: This movie is pushing the boundaries with the audience, as not only is the husband a drunk piece of shit who’s racist/sexist, but also beats and rapes his wife. There’s also incest, which took me aback. So walk in knowing that this will be an intense ride. One I found worthwhile but I know for many it might not be worth it.
When we talk about movies that are the proto-types for the slasher genre, the giallo Bay of Blood gets mentioned a lot. For my money I think slasher fans should watch Torso over Bay of Blood. Overall I thought this was a much better movie, in quality and story. I went into my complaints with Bay of Blood in my intro post but overall I thought it was a hot mess.
Torso’s story, while having the general craziness of a giallo, was pretty straightforward. In most gialli the killer usually targets beautiful women, and this one is no different, but this movie does a great job of making every male feel like they could be the killer. Even the guy who ends up saving the day has a slight creepy stare. I didn’t trust him until the last second.
I think capturing that feeling, even when the characters don’t, is crucial. Even if they aren’t the killer that doesn’t mean the men surrounding these ladies should be trusted. That uneasiness is felt throughout and the kills are devastating. There’s one ‘bloodbath’ sequence that I was surprised the director let happen off-screen, as most slashers would have relished in it. Martino instead decides to show the aftermath through the protagonist’s eyes and the shock of what she witnesses. The restraint for a bigger payoff was a good choice and I think one that more filmmakers should consider.
The movie begins with a professor holding a parapsychology panel, in a beautiful red theater, to highlight the abilities of medium Helga Ulmann. Helga can read the minds of the people in the audience and, unfortunately for her, one of the members is a murderer with the will to kill again.
Like, what else can I say that hasn’t been discussed about Deep Red. I personally loved it and thought the movie brought together all the giallo elements that I really enjoy. Argento has got style for days and his use of color and set design is one of a kind. This was also the first time Argento worked with the music group Goblin and it really adds another great layer of enjoyment to the experience.
The aspect that Argento didn’t add to the movie was sexual violence, and honestly I appreciate the break. I know psychosexual motives and kills are a part of the genre, and I don’t need giallo to be sanitized, but after watching a few back-to-back it’s nice to see some variety. Just one character says some pretty awful things, but that’s about it (tame for a giallo).
There’s one scene (the dummy) that made me scream ‘What the fuck?!’ out loud and it’s just never explained. It just is and I kinda appreciate the zero need to justify something so batshit. Just a weirdo killer doing weirdo theatrical stunts. (Love a stunt queen.)
If you want to read my introduction to giallo you can go here.
Edit: Deleted sentence.