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Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/27/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/17/2011, Updated 10/15/2018
If you ask me if I like Indian food, I would say yes. But, here's the catch -- the only Indian food that I've had is chicken tikka masala. I know that I love that dish, but what if I hated all other Indian food? So, can I still truthfully say that I like Indian? Now, ask me if I like giallos (gialli?). I would say yes. But, I've only seen a handful, and most of those were from Dario Argento. So, like the Indian food, is the sample size too small for me to make a judgment? Based on my reaction to Torso, it just might be.
Torso is set at an international university in Perugia, Italy. There, Jane (Suzy Kendall) and her friends -- Dani (Tina Aumont), Ursula (Carla Brait), Katia (Angela Covello) and Carol (Conchita Airoldi) -- enjoy taking art classes and chatting. There are also male students, such as Stefano (Roberto Bisacco). One night, a masked killer kills two students. Jane and her friends are very shaken up by this and it gets worse when someone close to them is killed. The only lead that the police have is the scarf which was used as the murder weapon. Dani's Uncle (Carlo Alighiero) lets the girl use his country villa and they go to the house to get away from the murders. However, the murderer follow them to the secluded location and the killing spree continues.
Released in 1973, Torso appeared near the beginning of the giallo cycle and contains all of the trademarks of the genre. We are treated to a bevy of women, bloody murders, red herrings, and a vague motive. Indulging in these various ingredients, the movie does get some things right. The use of the ancient locations in Perugia certainly lends the movie some clout. The murders are shot in an interesting manner (although one contains some special effects which look primitive even for 1973). I don't know this for a fact, but I would bet that the inclusion of an openly lesbian couple was unique for the time. The movie also gets some notice for playing like two distinct movies. Once the action shifts to the villa, the murder-mystery turns into a game of cat-and-mouse, as Jane becomes trapped in the house. Overall, Director Sergio Martino (who was very busy in the 70s and 80s, with movies like Screamers, The Great Alligator and 2019: After the Fall of New York) gives the movie a nice look, and he almost totally avoids using unmotivated zoom (a staple of the genre), and there's a very impressive shot involving a key.
However, Torso makes some mistakes as well. The first half of the film borders on being a confusing mess, as we are tossed a lot of characters and the murders feel random, even for a giallo. The pace shifts constantly during the movie, and the second half, where things should be picking up, contains two scenes which exists solely for T&A. The red herrings are used well here, but when the murderer is revealed, I honestly couldn't place them at first, and I had a sudden flashback to Scream 3. Not instantly recognizing the killer really hurts a film's credibility. I can only imagine that the movie was attempting to cash in on the popularity of martial arts films, like those featuring Bruce Lee, as the finale offers a very lame karate fight between two Italian dudes. And, even for a giallo, the killer's motivation is pretty flimsy.
So, like most giallos (gialli?), Torso is a mixed bag. The movie definitely improves in the second half when it switches focus from being a broad murder mystery to more of a suspense film. I can't help but wonder if the flashback sequences didn't influence Argento, as they are very reminiscent of moments from Deep Red and Tenebrae. Most mainstream audiences will find the movie boring, but giallo enthusiasts will love the purity of the work. Still, it's sad to see yet another Italian mannequin die a pointless death. (For another example of this, see the first act of Zombie Holocaust.)
(It should be noted that the Disc contains both the English and the English/Italian versions, the latter of which is three minutes longer. The Italian version bares the film's original title which translates to "The Bodies Show Signs of Carnal Violence". Wow.)
Torso made me question any police investigation when an ascot is the only evidence on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Blue Underground. The film has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 22 Mbps. Blue Underground is known for putting a lot of work into their transfers and this is no exception. OK, so this looks like an Italian film from 1973, but the image is very sharp and clear, showing only a few defects from the source material and trace amounts of grain. The colors, most notably reds, look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is very good, and while the image can be soft in some scenes, the level of detail is still acceptable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2-channel track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.9 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Like most films from this era, everything sounds dubbed and foleyed here, so we do get some overly loud sound effects at times. But, the dialogue is never muffled, the music sounds fine, and there are enough stereo effects to prove that this isn't a mono track.
The Torso Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with "Murders in Perugia" (11 minutes), an interview with Co-Writer/Director Sergio Martino, who discusses his career in film. From there, he talks about writing Torso, the casting, and the production. He also talks about what he would change if he made the movie today. The "U.S. Opening Credits" (77 seconds) are really weird, as they ruin two scenes from the movie. These were taken from a very old and damaged print. We get two THEATRICAL TRAILERS (International and Italian), two TV SPOTS, one RADIO SPOT, and a "Poster & Still Gallery".
On October 30, 2018, Arrow Video released a Torso on Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. Following a title sequence which shows some mild grain and some notable softness, the image is very sharp and clear, leaving the overt grain behind. The colors look good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth works quite well, as the actors are clearly separate from the backgrounds. The level of depth is good, sometimes uncomfortably good, as we can see the pores on the actor's faces. The Disc carries a Linear PCM Mono audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 2.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a Mono track, we don't get any dynamic audio effects here, but the music and effects don't drown out the dialogue and there's no hissing or popping on the track.
(The Disc contains four versions of the movie -- Original Italian Version, Hybrid English/Italian Version, English Version with "Carnal Violence" Titles, English Version with "Torso" Titles)
The new Torso Blu-ray Disc offers a wealth of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Diabolique Magazine Editor Kat Ellinger. "All Colors of Terror" (34 minutes) is a modern-day interview with Co-Writer/Director Sergio Martino in which he discusses his career and his approach to Torso. "The Discreet Charm of the Genre" (35 minutes) allows actor Luc Merenda to reminisce about his work in this film and others in his filmography. Co-Writer Ernesto Gastaldi is profiled in "Dial S For Suspense" (29 minutes), where he recounts his work with Martino. "Women in Blood" (25 minutes) allows Martino's daughter, Federica, puts forth her perspective on her dad's work. Author Mikel J. Koven discusses gialli film in "Saturating the Screen" (25 minutes). "Sergio Martino Live" (47 minutes) brings us a Q&A with the filmmaker recorded at the Abertoir International Horror Festival in 2017. The extras are rounded out by two TRAILERS, one English, the other Italian.
Review Copyright 2011/2018 by Mike Long