31 Screams in October, Vol. 4, #22: Torso (1973)

Posted: October 22, 2018 in Movie Review

22. Torso (1973)

Director: Sergio Martino

Starring: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, John Richardson, Luc Merenda

The definition of a giallo can differ depending on whether you’re talking about a movie or a novel. In the case of movies, this includes all types of murder mysteries/horror made in Italy or elsewhere. Some American and British films are considered as giallo, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” I’ve already reviewed at least one Italian giallo this October (1982’s “The New York Ripper”). The second, 1973’s “Torso,” was released at a curious time in horror history.

This was only a year before such films as “Black Christmas” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (pioneers of the American slasher) were to be released in the United States, so the slasher genre had not yet become a thing. And yet, “Torso” so clearly follows the formula that slasher films would come to adopt (up to a point) that it can’t help but be seen as an early entry. Labeling a horror film as a slasher almost seems like using a dirty word at this point, and that is unfair to a movie like “Torso,” a vastly entertaining film.

“Torso” begins with the obligatory opening kill scene, with college kids parked in a car in the middle of the night to have sex. The murder weapon is a red and black tie. The killer proves himself to be quite brutal towards the young woman in particular, taking a post-mortem trophy from her naked torso. The colors of the tie used in the murder become common knowledge and, when college student Daniela (Tina Aumont) becomes the killer’s latest target, she accepts an offer from her friend Jane (Suzy Kendall) to stay at an isolated villa where they’ll stay with two of their other friends, Katia (Angela Covello) and Ursula (Carla Brait).

During the course of the film, we’re introduced to two men who wear red and black scarves. One is a stalker who, while obsessively tailing one of the girls, has no murderous tendencies. He’s a red herring, and is dispatched by the real killer. The other scarf-wearing man is Jane’s art history teacher. He’s exempt from suspicion because the colors on his scarf are inverted from that of the murder weapon. At least, they are as long as you don’t check the tie’s underside…

Jane takes a nasty spill and breaks her ankle, which would leave her quite helpless should a masked killer happen to show up on the premises. When he does arrive while Jane is asleep, that’s when “Torso” pulls a “Psycho”/“Nightmare on Elm Street” type of swerve, as we’ve been led to believe up to this point that Daniela was the main character. But Daniela is brutally murdered along with Katia and Ursula. Jane only discovers the carnage after she wakes up, with the killer still inside the villa dismembering and disposing of the bodies.

While “Torso” is quite familiar in most respects, where it shows its age is in the finale after both the big swerve and the reveal of the killer’s identity. Because Jane is badly injured, she is unable to put up the kind of fight that modern horror audiences are used to seeing from a “final girl.” Jane requires the help of the only other surviving male character, or she too might have been eliminated. The killer’s motive is a pretty outlandish one, tracing its origin all the way back to a childhood incident involving the death of his brother, which left him prejudiced against all women forever. He’d have to be exceptionally psychotic (and he is) to use this particular motive.

The lame reveal aside, “Torso” works largely because of how stylish it is. It’s a very beautiful movie. In particular, the opening murder sequence and the scene where Jane is hiding from the killer trying not to make a sound are both shot to perfection. The cast of ill-fated young women are all quite beautiful as well. Always a plus! It’s been said that this movie is somewhat misogynistic. I get that, but consider that the killer himself is that way. The movie can do nothing but follow suit. If that’s not your cup of tea, “Torso” may not be for you. If you’re willing to look past all of that and if you’re thinking you’ve somehow exhausted your options for decent horror movies to watch, “Torso” could surprise you.

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Comments
  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Well done review. Sometimes we can forgive a lot of flaws when the casting and filming are worth a look, eh? On the subject of “misogyny in slasher films,” I suppose I, as a female, am not offended becuse I know that especially in all but the most modern films, women are not going to be put on a pedestal in these horror films. Au contraire: Most of the most avid viewers are going to be men and they expect and delight in this formula and the perils of the attractive and unwary young fem
    ales, n’est-ce pas? Likewise, females have their own set of fantasies when it comes to escapism in films amd other forms of entertainment! I mean, c’mon. Don’t watch if you don’t like it!

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