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?”
The watery red of the blood is just one of the fading colors in Blue Underground's pedestrian transfer, which, judging from a few compositions, may also have been incorrectly cropped. The mono sound is similarly faded in both the English and Italian versions.
A couple of theatrical trailers (with the film called Carnal Violence in the international preview) are good for anybody looking for a brisk drinking game (take a shot every time Voiceover Guy growls "psychosexual!").
Though not without voyeuristic subtext and sleazy kicks, Torso makes for a pretty anemic bloodfest.