The 1973 giallo, Torso, is the kind of movie I would have stayed up late to watch as a kid. My parents would not need to know about this viewing, but I would be talking about at school all the next day. Torso is designed, like most Italian horror films, to appeal to the prurient interests of its viewers. The movie’s original title was The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence, so that should be a clue as to what kind of movie you’re in for. There’s the feeling of spying something supremely nasty here, with images straightforward to the point of feeling artless. That isn’t the case, of course; there’s some fantastic filmmaking going on here. It’s only the performers that screw the thing up.
Torso is all about sex and violence. It’s a classy-looking drive-in movie. At least, North Americans think it is classy because it takes place in Italy. It is there that a bunch of university students find themselves on the business end of a bandanna. The killer in Torso is particularly fond of this style of neckwear. After strangling a promiscuous victim with the aforementioned red and black cloth, the killer proceeds to mutilate the bodies with a blade because, dammit, they’re just not dead enough.
A group of beautiful coeds head up to an isolated villa for a much-deserved weekend break. Unfortunately, one of the girls is on the cusp of figuring out who the murderer is. She has seen him, and the killer has seen her. That means that beautiful old house will be the setting for a slaughter as the killer goes after the young women, who are often naked. There is a problem, though: one of the girls, Jane (Suzy Kendall), has injured her ankle and was upstairs in her room during all that girl murdering. The killer has to go back to the house, find her, and get rid of her to properly complete the job.
There’s not a lot of acting to be done by the group of girls except to scream, cry, and be naked. It’s interesting to see people actually do that badly. There’s an interracial lesbian couple in the group, Katia (Angela Covello) and Ursula (Carla Brait). They are so bored. They stare at each other silently and have sex in the most dispassionate way possible. It’s comical. Mating snakes are more exciting to watch.
Kendall is fine, however, and once the other victims are out of the way, the movie becomes a great cat-and-mouse game. The mostly lame girl hiding from the determined black-gloved killer is an interesting conceit, and the final act of Torso pulls it off incredibly well.
The Arrow Video Blu-ray edition of Torso is crammed full of special features, including a new interview with director/writer Sergio Martino. He is an erudite fellow, and he speaks expansively about the film. Martino defends every creative decision he made, and it lends Torso an air of importance it didn’t have before. After all, it is an exploitation film. But as Mikel Koven explains on the supplemental feature, “Saturated in Blood,” Torso is one of the most important gialli, and one in which the roots of many modern horror tropes can be found.
The movie itself looks fantastic. Presented in a new 2K restoration from the original negative, Torso looks as crisp and clean as it ever has. Small details in the furnishings of the villa are apparent, flesh tones are spot on and the blood is quite red, indeed. It’s everything one could want from a 2K Blu-ray.
Torso wasn’t a big deal at the time of its release and has grown in importance through the years. There’s more to it than meets the eye, as the special features are happy to explain. But there is plenty of sex and violence, and a market for those things will always exist. Torso is a great example of early 70s horror, and the Arrow Video edition is as good as it gets. They couldn’t fix the acting though, which is mostly terrible, and that is a shame.
Torso is available through Arrow, Diabolik, Amazon, and wherever fine gialli are sold.