Sergio Martino is a director that I’ve barely started to get familiar with over the last year or so. I talked about this when I reviewed All the Colors of the Dark. He’s a name I’ve known and he’s been on my radar but it’s taken me a while to dive into his catalogue. Fortunately Shameless Films has been doing their best to make sure I get real familiar, real quick. Their latest Martino release is Torso.
Torso is about a serial killer on the loose in a college town in Italy. It starts with one girl at first and quickly builds to another and another before there is a full on manhunt for this mad man. What makes this particular killer interesting is that his weapon of choice is a red and black scarf that he uses to strangles his victims.
Having the scarf as their only clue to work off, the police release this information to students of the local college in an effort to help track down the responsible party. One student recognizes the scarf and begins to backtrack her steps to remember where she saw it. The killer, catching wind of this, makes this girl his next target.
There’s a lot to like about Torso. The murder weapon being a scarf is an interesting and memorable choice because it’s certainly isn’t what you’d expect. And it’s not that other weapons aren’t used, they are, but the primary instrument of death is a scarf. Which sounds silly, but Martino uses it a way that seems entirely plausible.
It’s also important to me that gialli films contain a real murder mystery. I like clues to be dropped throughout with some detective work to piece it together. And when it’s all finally resolved I want it to make sense. Thankfully, Torso does a good job of that. Not that it’s a movie where everything is painstakingly pieced together, but once you arrive at the finish line and the killer is revealed it all makes sense.
My one complaint with Torso is that it’s not as sleazy or gruesome as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of gore and nudity, but for some reason, and I’m not sure why, I had built Torso up in my mind like it was going to be extremely, over-the-top graphic movie and it’s really not. In fact, it’s fairly tame when compared to some other Italian horror entries. That’s not really a fault of the film I guess, but more of an observation that caught me off guard. Whatever, its my review so I’m calling it a complaint.
The Shameless Blu-ray release features a brand new interview with Sergio Martino. Martino is a fascinating man to listen to and always has some interesting story to tells and this interview features some notable insight into the inspiration behind Torso. Apparently Martino saw a news story, or read in the paper, about a man that killed his in-laws and every few days he would visit their house, shop off body parts and then put them in a plastic bag and go dump them in a river. Just with that information the story is crazy, but the real kicker is that he would bring his son with him every time and just buy him some ice cream and keep him waiting outside. Martino was fascinated by the idea that this man could be a brutal killer but also still be a good father and was determined to use that in a film and thus Torso was made.
Another cool thing about this release, which is all region, is that it features inserts of small pieces of footage long thought to be lost. This little inserts feature text on the screen that reveal important narrative details. These are now in English while previously they had only been available in Italian.
The Blu-ray also features reversible cover art and a Shameless Trailer Park.
Torso is one of the most popular works from the career of Sergio Martino. Both Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino have both sited it as an influence. I don’t feel as highly about the film as those two, I’ve seen better from Martino, but that’s no slight to the film itself. Torso is a solid giallo with a real mystery on hand. Fans of Italian horror will surely like this (if they don’t already).