**** Out of 5
Tagline- Enter If You Dare the Bizarre World of the Psychosexual Mind
Release Date- January 4th, 1973
Running Time- 90-Minutes
Screenplay- Ernesto Gastaldi & Sergio Martino
Director- Sergio Martino
Starring- Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Roberto Bisacco, Angela Covello, Carla Brait, Conchita Airoldi and Luc Merenda
Released in 1973 Torso directed by Sergio Martino is prime example of how truly great 70s Italian cinema was; it was back in 2006 is when I first discovered the films of Sergio Martino and while he has a large cult following I’m also surprised at how little even the most hardcore fans seem to know of his work at times. After seeing The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail I was on a mission to seek out more of his work and the films Martino made in the 70s were as good as any other Italian filmmaker and while he may not be as well known as Argento, Mario Bava and Fulci I would rate him just as highly as those filmmakers. In the 80s Martino would sadly become a knockoff director making films that while fun in no way showcased the talent he showed in the 70s and Torso is considered by many of his fans to be his best work and I’m not quite sure if Torso would be my favorite, but it would easily make my top 3 films by Sergio Martino and one of my favorite Giallos.
Torso is a really great example of 70s European cinema; it’s got violence some sleaze, but underneath all that Torso is amazingly suspenseful with the final act of the movie being on the most tense films I’ve ever seen. The 70s were my favorite time for cinema and Torso features a lot of why I think the 70s were the best era for filmmaking; as I stated before Martino may not have the popularity of filmmakers like Dario Argento, but quite honestly I think his work is just as good.
The screenplay by Ernesto Gastaldi & Sergio Martino is actually fairly strong and while the characters may not have the most depth they are however strong enough to carry the movie in-between the death scenes. The plot has a killer on the loose killing coeds around town, but the killer than follows a group of students to a secluded Villa where the bloodshed continues to flow until only Jane (Kendall) is the last one left alive, besides a red and black scarf found at one of the crime scenes the police are totally clueless on the identity of the killer.
As well written as Torso was it does feature a few flaws such as besides the female characters nobody else really serves a purpose other than to be a suspect and then killed off, but with that said Torso does make for a nice mystery on the identity of the killer, but I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t the obvious choices as that would be too easy. The one thing I really loved about the script is Jane isn’t the typical character found in these movies that often always make stupid mistakes; Jane is one of the smartest characters and makes smart choices and while she does make a few mistakes rather than be annoying it makes sense and is logical and my only complaint is that it should have been Jane that stopped the killer after how smart she was on surviving, but while women may have dominated European cinema it was always the men who saved the day in the end and in other movies that is perfectly fine, but Jane for being not just a well-written character, but a smart one as well deserved to be the one who stops the killer. The only complaint I really have is I didn’t really care for the motivation of the killer, but despite that problem I have it in no way takes away from the script or movie.
Like I sometimes state in other reviews horror doesn’t always feature smart writing and Italian horror at least in the 80s despite how entertaining them were I don’t think can be cited for the screenplays, but 70s Italian horror was quite different and didn’t feature some of the silly dialogue found later in the 80s and Torso is very well written and Ernesto Gastaldi who wrote a lot of fantastic screenplays in the 70s (including writing other movies for Martino) is one of the sadly forgotten writers of the horror genre.
As director Sergio Martino delivers an excellent and creepy movie; the first half of the movie is well-paced with a lot of suspense, but the middle sections the pacing can become a little sluggish, but Martino still manages to keep the movie interesting, but what makes Torso so memorable at least for me is the final act. After all of Jane’s friends are killed, which happen off-screen, which some people say they felt cheated, but I thought it worked brilliantly, but Jane is left alone in the house with the killer who at the time is unaware she’s there and the final act features very little dialogue and it’s all about the suspense and tension and you’ll be hard pressed to find something more tense than this.
While Torso has a large cult following it does deserve to be far better known that it is; the first half of the movie there is plenty of suspense and sleaze and even though as mentioned the middle sections can be a little slow it never gets boring and I really cannot stress how truly suspense and tension filled the final act was; I would urge anyone that wants to be a horror filmmaker to pay close attention to the final act as its prime example on how to build suspense and tension. Torso is also often cited for its violence and nudity and while there is no shortage of beautiful women naked it’s not nearly as sleazy as its reputation and while Torso does feature a good sized body count the movie doesn’t focus on the death scenes, which is a good thing since the F/X weren’t very good in fairness make up F/X were still developing, but even for its time they were a bit sub-par. Regardless the death scenes are staged great and even if they F/X weren’t all that great the set up on the death scenes are filled with suspense.
Overall Torso is one of the very best Giallos of the 70s and one of the very best in general. The writing is strong with interesting characters and the film is loaded with suspense with one of the all-time great final acts. While Sergio Martino may not be the most known name in the horror genre he is truly an excellent filmmaker that deserves far more credit than he gets.