director Dario Argento
I first encountered Dario Argento’s Phenomena as Creepers back in 1985 in the theater. Lucky me! I don’t recall my exact impression, though years later when I realized I’d viewed a compromised and hacked-up version, I wasn’t terribly surprised.
As a lot of folks have noted, Phenomena reuses several scenarios from Suspiria, which isn’t such a bad thing, but makes for a little confusion. And though I would agree with most that Phenomena doesn’t stand up quite as well as its predecessor, it’s still vivid, surreal, and in the final moments, a whole lot of bananas!
Actually, that ending that just won’t quit. I sensed a serious borrowing from the ending of Friday the 13th. You’ve got the girl on the raft on the lake, the mutant child attack, the finale with the mother on the shore and a beheading that comes out of nowhere.
I was a little more enchanted by the firefly scene than I was back in the day. I think even then I was cognizant of the slowed motion of the images tracking the animated light. This time through I found that quite nice.
Maybe the borrowed elements from Suspiria work against Phenomena only really in comparison. It’s an entertaining brew of its own, though probably not a masterpiece.
director Luigi Bazzoni
A Black Day for Aries (Giornata nera per l’ariete) is much more giallo title than The Fifth Cord, though apparently the latter is the title of the book from which it was adapted. By any other name, it still kicks off with a stylish title sequence
That style bursts out in spades in the tremendous cinematography by Vittorio Storaro who would go on to work on much more substantial cinema with directors like Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Ford Coppola, and Warren Beatty. Storaro’s camera obsesses over art, architecture, and physical space, and…oh, the story, too.
I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a giallo and not at some point wondered, “what’s going on again?”
Franco Nero is gorgeous but it’s all about the cinematography here. And that might just be enough.
director Sergio Bergonzelli
Sergio Bergonzelli quotes Sigmund Freud, suggesting that the title, In the Folds of the Flesh, is straight-up Freud. And if you’re going to name drop Freud, you better be prepared to go full-on-gonzo Freud.
And Bergonzelli does not disappoint.
The film jumps out from the get-go with a decapitated head. It’s the result of incestuous rape and a handy sword hanging on the wall. And when mom helps bury dad and sends his boat off to make it look like a drowning, a local criminal catches on. Years later, blackmail will ensue on the traumatized clan, but of course, they are crazier and far more dangerous than any old criminals.
It’s bizarre and laugh out loud funny in its absurdity (and that could just be describing the outfits). Grown up brother and sister go at it like sex maniacs. Don’t even think about touching the daughter’s wig, or shooting the pet vultures. Or triggering mom’s memory of surviving a Nazi death camp(? – in the film’s most bizarre aside).
It’s lunacy. Sheer lunacy. And when the return of the repressed comes around (in plot twists that are mind-bendingly hard to fathom), well,…the film doesn’t finish as strongly as it starts.
Still, this is bizarre and fun stuff.
director Sergio Martino
It’s easy to see why Sergio Martino’s Torso is so notable a giallo and proto-slasher. Interestingly, it’s not so much the gore but rather the way that the violence is played out, setting up ideas that would transform into the slasher tropes, while in its own way keeping a foot very firmly on the traditional giallo landscape.
It’s a world of mass misogyny, though it would take a closer reading of the film for me to glean exactly where Martino falls in his agreement or disgust with such a thing. The open sexuality of the post-1960’s has given license to perverts to leer and grope, expectant that all women are there for the taking…and if not: hack ’em up! The misogyny of the backstory of the killer is so bizarre and absurd that it’s almost inherent parody.
Sergio Martino’s films I’ve seen have ranged broadly in quality. Torso seems the most complete and significant. Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) was also good, but The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978) and Island of the Fishmen (1979) were much less so. Maybe more of his gialli were worth seeing. I guess I’m still constructing a sense of him as director.
And Perugia, Italy? Amazing city.
director Lucio Fulci
Lucio Fulci takes giallo to New York and finds it a city full of perversity. Sex is on sale on every corner, live sex acts are applauded like great theater, open marriage is a license for the licentious, and even the cops shack up with prostitutes. If you think you aren’t full of smut, you’re probably repressing something.
It’s in this landscape, the still very gritty New York City of the very early 1980’s, that a serial killer who talks like Donald Duck takes to great extremes of sexual violence, like the unleashed Id of a sick society.
It’s a filthy, gritty giallo with primo gore effects to make even the least squeamish to grimace or cringe. It’s also Fulci at the top of his game, delving into the depths of sleaze to come up with a gruesome classic.
It also seems to take a cue from perhaps Paul Schrader’s Hardcore (1979) or even William Friedkin’s Cruising (1980), delving in the darkness of the city and the openness of lurid sexuality. God knows this is our lost New York.
The New York Ripper lives up to its reputation.
director Sergio Martino
I think I have a new bar pick-up line in Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.
Sergio Martino’s giallo riff on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” is an intriguing if at times distasteful (racist and sexist) affair. It stars the amazingly lovely Edwige Fenech and Anita Strindberg. And for a giallo, though I don’t know you can necessarily see the plot twists coming, they seem a little more grounded and not so far out of left field as they often are.
A nasty writer is implicated in a series of murders of women he’s slept with,…only who is the real killer? A classic giallo trope if there ever was one.
Lots of nudity and a black cat named Satan who gets his eye gouged out. Pretty good stuff.
director Dino Tavella
Marketed in the States as a horror film, The Embalmer is better seen through the lens of what it is: a mash-up of sorts of crime and giallo, set in the canals of Venice.
Though it features a scuba-diving killer abducting women and then embalming them in a collection, a killer who is a rock-n-roller by day, who dons a robe and skull mask for his embalming, the setting may actually be the film’s greatest asset. Venice is an almost inherently intriguing and mysterious place, especially by night. I have to wonder what kind of gunk that scuba diver was encountering on his missions.
It’s an oddity, not entirely lacking merit.
director Dario Argento
In introducing my 15 year old son to Dario Argento and the giallo, we watched the classic, Tenebrae, which I myself had never seen. But as the body count rose and he started to try to solve the murders, I noted to him that in my experience, gialli narratives tend toward the baroque, convoluted and confusing, and that ultimately the cohesiveness of the logic really often is unimportant.
Maybe this isn’t the greatest advice on the genre, but for now I’m sticking with it.
Marked with Argento’s keen aesthetics and style, Tenebrae is a giallo among gialli. Bloodier and bit more visually violent than some of its brethren, the mystery dances along the lines of its contemporary slasher films as well.
In reading up on the film, post-viewing, it’s rather remarkable the amount of influence and impact Tenebrae has effected. And a lot of analysis. Definitely suggesting a further viewing of the movie.
I’ve a sense that this is a film that is still working its way through my psyche and that further thoughts will come. Very interesting indeed.
director Andrea Bianchi
I added Strip Nude for Your Killer to my queue as part of my giallo exploration. I’d poked around ye olde internets for recommendations in the genre. It must have been on somebody’s list of worthwhile gialli.
Further reading seems the show that Strip Nude for Your Killer isn’t anybody’s favorite giallo. It opens on a botched abortion, hued in blue light. The patient dies and is dumped and then the story turns to high style fashion photography. A killer, clad as a motorcycle racer, starts killing and mutilating employees of an agency.
It’s pretty clear the early scene is going to tie back to the story, but the characters are so poorly sketched that after all the interesting ones have been killed, I really didn’t care whodunnit in the end.
There is a lot of nudity and that really awkward final scene.
director Lucio Fulci
Giallo isn’t Lucio Fulci’s #1 genre, but his efforts in the field have proven interesting. The Psychic isn’t as good as Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) and maybe less lurid than A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971), but it’s got its merits.
The rich color palette could have been lifted from fellow Italian auteur Mario Bava, but the version that Fandor has available wasn’t in nearly as good of shape as some. It really looks like it could use a restoration. Something is working against cinematographer Sergio Salvati’s aims and the print itself could be of issue.
Titular psychic Jennifer O’Neill first witnesses her mother’s suicide as a child and then envisions another murder, which leads her to a walled-up corpse, but is this a vision of the past, present,…or future?
Not utterly riveting. But a nice poster.