Torso
Director: Sergio Martino

Cast: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda
Review by Brian M. Sammons

This was a rare treat for me, I got to review a new Blu-ray release of a horror movie (ok, to be precise, a giallo film) that I’ve never seen before. Do you know how rare that is for me? So I was absolutely giddy when I popped this disc into my player. Was I still giddy when the credits rolled, or did I say to myself, “so that’s why I never bothered to watch this flick?” Well grab your hacksaw and your Italian to English dictionary and let’s find out.

First let’s talk about the title; Torso is not only silly, but worse, a misleading title. I can live with silly titles, hell with giallos they are almost par for the course. Don’t believe me? Yeah, you’re right, Naked You Die, The Iguana With The Tongue Of Fire, and my personal favorite, Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key, are all perfectly sensible titles. However here, with Torso … well I’ll tell you that the only link between this title and the film is that way late in the flick someone is murdered and the killer uses a hacksaw to dismember the corpse. That’s it, that’s all the explanation you get for the title and the cover image of the saw. So yeah, wasn’t a fan of it’s name sort of felt like a bait and switch to me, but a rose by any other name and all that, so on we go.

Now if you’re not familiar with Italian giallos, then think of a Hitchcockian murder mystery, but with the gore and sensibilities of a slasher flick. That’s a crude definition, to be sure, but it will suffice. In this film you have lovely, usually nude, ladies getting bumped off one by one. The motive and identity of the killer are both mysterious, although there are plenty of suspects to choose from, including one red herring so obvious that it all but rules him out as a suspect. Sorry to rain on that parade, but it’s true.

Anyway, some coeds from a college in Perugia look to get away from it all, and that includes the killings, by getting together in a cliff side villa is a small Italian town. Unfortunately for them, the murderer follows.

Now what follows are some SPOILERS. I won’t give away the identity of the psycho, but if you want maximum surprise when seeing this film for the first time, perhaps skip this paragraph and continue on with the one following it. Still here? Ok, you were warned. So the girls go to the small town and this is the real highlight of the movie. Not only is the town absolutely beautiful to look at, and as someone who has never been to Italy, I’ll settle for vicarious “ohhhs” and “ahhhs” if I must, but the four lovely ladies seem to have a pathological aversion to clothing, which also provides plenty of natural beauty, but of a different sort. In addition to great amounts of girlie ogling, there is a wonderful third act to this movie when the killer invades the villa one night and kills three of the girls, but not the forth lady who arrived late, and largely undetected the night before. That woman had broken her ankle only that day and was drugged out on pain meds in a room upstairs, thus she was not disturbed by the mayhem happening in the rest of the building. When she awakes the next day she finds all her friends dead, is forced to silently witness their mutilation with the aforementioned hacksaw or else give herself away, and try to escape from the fortress-like villa. That last bit won’t be easy, as not only is she hobbled, but the windows all have bars on them and the killer keeps all the doors locked as he disposes of the mess he made. So the last third or so of this film has this poor woman limping around the place, hiding in closets and under beds every time the psychopath draws near, and trying to figure out a way to either escape the house or alert the far away town to her plight. This part of the movie is really good and suspenseful and more than makes up for the lackluster motivations of the killer once they are revealed in the climax. Sadly, that is the case for many giallos, so I really don’t hold it against this film.

As for extras on this disc, this Blu-ray has a few. First and foremost, there are two versions of this film here, an uncut English version and a director’s cut Italian version, with the much better name of Carnal Violence that runs three minutes longer. The Italian cut is, surprise, surprise, in Italian, but thankfully there are English subtitles for it. In addition to the two cuts of this film, there is an introduction to the movie by Eli Roth (the director of Cabin Fever and Hostel), an interview with director Sergio Martino, and the usual collection of trailers, TV and radio spots, and posters and behind the scenes photos. So the actual extras aren’t that great, but the real stars of this show are the two versions of the film, uncut for the first time ever. Those alone are easily worth the price of admission.

Torso has a nice mystery that chugs along at a brisk pace, some pretty bloody kills for the gorehounds like me, lots of naked females for the perverts like me, capable acting, more than capable direction, and beautifully shot scenes set in gorgeous locations. While this film doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything, it is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, and I can easily recommend it to anyone who is a fan of bloody murder movies as only the Italians can make them.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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