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Even under its more colorful original Italian title (Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence), the infamous grindhouser Torso pales next to director Sergio Martino’s more inventive sleaze-thrillers (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, All the Colors of the Dark), to say nothing of the gruesome, delirious peaks of the Italian giallo genre. A string of murders shakes up the University of Perugia, which leads Daniela (Tina Aumont) and the other foxy coeds to take their art studies and skinny-dipping to a country cottage, hoping that no black-gloved, ski-masked, red-cravat-wearing maniac comes a-knocking. Light on gore until a bow saw is added to the festivities in the movie’s third act, Torso would play strictly as a lackadaisical whodunit if not for its intriguingly circular conflations of art, sex, and death: A lecture on Hellenistic sculpture in the opening credits is intercut with a soft-focus Sapphic threesome; the pursuit of pleasure at a somnambulist hippie bash segues into a cocktease being stabbed and having her eyeballs poked out; a frame enlargement of a bloody detail from the crime scene is projected in a university hall. (“What you have on this screen is not a product of expressionistic art,” a professor intones, as if commenting on the film’s mixture of antique beauty and modish carnage.) And Martino builds solid tension in the scenes with panicky final-girl Jane (Suzy Kendall), from the close-ups of the killer messily at work to a last, out-of-leftfield evocation of providence. Even these elements seem somewhat undercooked, however, and by the time the plot brings out proto-Deep Red macabre childhood memories involving dolls, giallo-philes may be wondering not who the culprit is, but “What would Dario have done with this?”

Joseph Brenner Associates
92 min
Sergio Martino
Ernesto Gastaldi, Sergio Martino
Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda, John Richardson, Roberto Bisacco, Ernesto Colli, Angela Covello, Carla Brait, Conchita Airoldi, Patrizia Bartoli

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