"Torso: It Saturates the Screen with Terror!"
The marketing for this Italian import boldly promises nonstop bloodletting and titillation, but the final product remains stuck in neutral. Director Sergio Martino is a giallo legend, but Torso lacks the suspense of superior genre efforts. There is plenty of flesh on display, but the film never makes good on its promise to explore the annals of the psychosexual mind. Without suspense or much in the way of plot, Torso is a fleeting bore.
Several brutal murders rock a college campus in Perugia, where a group of Americans has come to study alongside the Italians. The majority of the victims are young, attractive females from the university, and their bodies show signs of sexual manipulation. Torso, which was filmed as The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence in Italy, begins in true giallo fashion amid a flesh-heavy group sexual encounter, and easily fulfills its quota of expected nudity in the first few reels. The early scenes of violence and sex are appropriately mysterious, but as Torso plows forward it becomes less interesting.
When the bodies of their friends start piling up, a group of girls retreats to an isolated country home to escape the rampaging madman. Among the girls is American exchange student Jane (giallo princess Suzy Kendall), who is accompanied by friends Daniela (Tina Aumont), Katia (Angela Covello) and Ursula (Carla Brait). The girls interact with a host of possibly sinister gentlemen, including professor Franz (John Richardson), doctor Roberto (Luc Merenda) and unhinged Stefano (Roberto Bisacco). In their free time, the girls enjoy lesbian sex, spending their afternoons at the pool and leaving all the doors and windows unlocked.
Compared with superior genre efforts by master director Dario Argento like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Suspiria, Torso feels like amateur hour. The film drops hints to the killer's identity early on, including a certain scarf used in the murders, but is rather sloppy at concealing the killer's identity. After the girls reach the countryside, Torso rolls through a long stretch with little exciting happening on screen save the frequent disrobing, and what bloodshed there is rarely follows any suspense.
Torso's greatest strength is its final act, which finds Jane trapped in the mansion as the killer picks off and dismembers her friends. Having the heroine fight to survive the horror in such close quarters to the killer is something unique and exciting. Unfortunately, Torso generally lacks suspense and creative kills, and it never rivals the atmosphere of Martino's better films. Pretty girls running in terror can only carry Torso so far, and it's easy to forget the film after the credits roll.
Blue Underground's 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for Torso is certainly decent considering its subject. The print used is largely free of any anomalies, and dirt, scratches and warping are never a problem. Detail is generally good, although a few outdoor sequences are noticeably softer. Grain remains in the image, but it is never distracting. Colors are surprisingly bold in spots, and skin tones are natural. I did notice some heavy motion blur during nighttime action scenes, which detracts slightly from the viewing experience.
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo/Mono mix is effective if somewhat flat. Ambient effects don't make much of an impression, but the dialogue is always clean and easy to understand. The score is appropriately balanced with the dialogue. English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are available.
This is the "Uncensored English Version" of Torso, and it clocks in at 90 minutes, which is three minutes shorter than the Italian version. The soundtrack is dubbed in English, and this DVD does not allow viewers to watch the film with the original Italian dialogue. The best extra is Murders in Perugia - Interview with Co-Writer/Director Sergio Martino (10:43), which features amusing remarks from the director about creating Torso. Also included are the U.S. Opening Credits (1:17), Italian, American and international theatrical trailers, several TV and radio spots and a poster and stills gallery.
Torso is a lesser work for director Sergio Martino, and it does not rival better giallo thrillers. Early scenes provide the pulpy violence and sex expected of such films, but Torso grinds to a halt when its central female characters flee to the countryside to avoid a psychosexual killer. An interesting climax somewhat redeems the film, but Torso is uneven entertainment. Rent It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.