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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