Archive for Suzy Kendall

Torso (1973) Review by Dave Kaye

Posted in Torso with tags , , , , , on May 6, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

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TORSO

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Enter If You Dare the Bizarre World of the Psychosexual Mind

Release Date- January 4th, 1973

Running Time- 90-Minutes

Rating- NR

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.

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The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) Review by Dave Kaye

Posted in Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The with tags , , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Review by Dave Kaye

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THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE

**** Out of 5

Tagline- If You Think You Are Being Followed Home from This Movie, Keep Telling Yourself That It’s All in Your Mind

Release Date- February 19th, 1970

Running Time- 96-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Dario Argento

Starring- Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho

While The Bird with the Crystal Plumage may not be the best known Dario Argento movie it is legendary seeing as this was his directorial debut; prior to Plumage, Argento was a film critic and then began writing screenplays including a story credit on Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. With Plumage, Argento makes one of the best directorial debuts and watching the movie it comes across as a movie by a seasoned pro rather than a first time director. If you look at Craven’s debut with Last House on the Left and Romero with Night of the Living Dead these two are great films and a little rough around the edges, which only make the movies better, but you can tell they were early in their careers, but with Plumage if someone told me this was Argento’s 5th movie or so I’d believe it.

Mario Bava is the man credited with staring the Giallo and as great as Bava was it was Dario Argento who mastered the Giallo and he’s never been and never will be matched. I’m not sure where I’d rate The Bird with the Crystal Plumage in Argento’s career, but it is one of his strongest films in my opinion. Everything that made Argento such a force in the horror genre is on display here and again I’m not sure where I’d rate this, but a case can be made for this being Argento’s best film.

I think even the most loyal of Argento fans could agree his one weakness are the screenplays, which is odd since he got started as a writer, but in general his scripts can sometimes be weak with a plot that isn’t fully developed. I don’t think Dario Argento is a terrible writer by any means, but it’s his directing that made him such a legend in the horror genre and not the writing; Argento is such a brilliant director he was more than able to make up for any flaws with the scripts.

Sam Dalmas (Musante) is an American writer staying in Rome and on his way home he sees a woman Monica (Renzi) being attacked in an Art Gallery and as he tries to help he gets stuck between a double set of glass doors the woman survives and Sam ends up getting involved in the investigation and as he starts thinking back to the attack he feels something doesn’t add up and he soon becomes a target for the killer. This was a common theme in a few of Argento’s movies including Deep Red and Trauma, which you see something, but if it may not be so cut and dry. For the most part Plumage is well-written and cleverly plotted with some nice plot twists, but it is slightly brought down by scenes that aren’t explained in enough detail, which makes them sort of pointless. When Sam is attacked by an assassin no explanation is ever given though I suppose the audience can put two and two together, but that isn’t the point; also there is a scene in which Sam gets attacked while walking home and afterwards he plays it off like it wasn’t a big deal. These flaws with the script aren’t major, but they do slightly hurt the movie just a little bit.

The characters are fairly interesting and as a whole probably some of Argento’s better characters. Sam in my opinion is one Argento’s most interesting and likable characters. Overall Plumage is one of Argento’s better screenplays, but as I mentioned before certain elements aren’t explained enough, which can make them a bit confusing and later pointless; the script does focus more on the investigation rather than action and Argento does a fine job at keeping it interesting. Argento had some interesting characters, but I felt he never really had Iconic characters and while Sam and Julia (Kendall) may not be the best developed both characters work well enough for the viewer to become invested in them.

As director Argento does an excellent job at creating suspense and an eerie tone as well as even creating some light moments with a nice touch of comedy that never feel out of place or hurt the pacing of the movie. There are a few scenes that never really go anywhere, which has more to do with the writing and editing rather than the direction, but at least these scenes provide some light moments, but if removed such as the scene with Sam and the inmate and later on the painter I think Plumage would have moved at a much tighter pace; Argento makes these work, but they do slightly hinder the film, but besides these minor complaints the direction by Argento is top notch and like I said seems more like a film by a seasoned pro rather than first time filmmaker; there are only a couple of death scenes in Plumage and the only disappointing thing about that is the scenes with the killer are very suspense and tension filled and some of the best sequences Argento has ever filmed; the highlight comes around the 30-minute mark with one of the most memorable scenes in the movie or any Argento movie for that matter.

Dario Argento would be dubbed the Italian Hitchcock and there is good reason for that; everything that has made Argento such a brilliant filmmaker is on display in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and while as his career went on he would master these things, but Plumage shows why Argento was called The Italian Hitchcock and shows why this filmmaker has gone down as a legend in not only Italian cinema, but cinema around the world.

Overall The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was an excellent debut for Dario Argento with a strong plot and plenty of twist and turns and while this may not be Argento’s finest outing it can however be a contender.

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