Director – Sergio Martino
Cast – Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda, John Richardson, Roberto Bisacco, Ernesto Colli, Angela Covello, Carla Brait
Release Year – 1973
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Torso holds a special place in my heart because it was not only the first film I ever saw at the infamous Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Austin, Tx (5th & Colorado), but it was the first classic horror film I ever saw on the big screen, and a giallo film at that. For fans of the giallo sub-genre this effort needs no explanation, and that is thanks to its awesome mystery slasher element, loads of sensual exploitation, and Sergio Martino’s fantastic direction that results in one of the most tension-filled Italian horror films of all time.
In the town of Perugia, a sadistic masked killer is stalking women attending a local university. When American exchange student Jane and a few of her friends travel to a villa up in the country, they find their enjoyable weekend away from the town’s violence to be a weekend of blood-soaked terror when the killer joins them.
I mentioned that Torso needs no explanation for fans of the giallo sub-genre, but despite that I must sadly state that this lesser (by comparison to his other films) Sergio Martino effort remains underrated and under-appreciated. We get the usual mystery storyline here, but with a few unique elements that keep things interested besides an otherwise paper-thin plot, which is the film’s biggest detractor. The first half of the story is a bit bland, and while we get a few kills thrown in here and there the story did not engage me as much as I expected it to, even with its numerous “red herrings” that keep the viewer in limbo over who the killer is. Now, one reason the film did not suffer much from its paper-thin plot is due to the high amounts of exploitation written into the film, namely its usage of beautiful women doing….beautiful things. Unless your girlfriend is a real knock-out (like mine), you’d best stay away from using this as a date movie, just saying. The second half of the film, where the young women travel to the villa, is where things really pick up and brings us the horror that I wanted to see from the beginning. We are subjected to numerous gory murders and dismemberments as the killer stalks his prey one by one and has his dementedly perverted way with them, much to the dismay of Jane, who remained alive during the attacks. The final sequences are phenomenal as we are given a slow-building cat-and-mouse game between Jane and the killer, bringing us to a twist ending that was not as special as I expected, but positive nonetheless.
Sergio Martino(The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, Blade of the Ripper, All The Colors of the Dark, The Mountain of the Cannibal God) does an awesome job executing his story (co-written with two other writers), and much like his storyline he saves his best work for the latter half of the piece. His sets and atmosphere are great, a staple of this giallo sub-genre, and his execution of the horror involved was what sold this piece to me and made up for the faults of the plot. While the sleaze did not reign as high as it does in other Martino efforts, we are given plenty of naked women doing what sexy naked women do, which made this much more than the usual giallo effort due to the sensuality involved at the hand of Sergio’s no-holds-barred execution of the exploitation element. The kills are enjoyable thanks to good gore and a full-frontal approach to the filming of them, and Martino proves his directing prominence with the heavily drawn-out final sequence in which Jane tries desperately to hide from her unknowing attacker. Some may say that the scene dragged a bit, but I heavily disagree as Martino kept me engaged throughout thanks to his execution that kept what could have been straight boredom to high-intensity horror that I will never forget.
Overall, Torso is an underrated and under-appreciated giallo effort that gives us everything that is great about the sub-genre in great kills, tons of exploitation, beautiful sets, and great horror overall. The story comes with its faults and suffers at times, but the faults are quickly admonished when the second act kicks in and Sergio Martino does what he did best, making for a recommended effort suggested to all horror fans.