This product was provided by Arrow Video for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.
It’s no secret that one of my all-time favorite horror subgenres is the Italian giallo film of the ’70s, but with so many released in such a short amount of time, breaking into the genre for the first time can be a daunting task for those uninitiated. One title that I can recommend easily as a gateway into gialli is Sergio Martino’s Torso or The Body Presents Traces of Sexual Violence, as it was originally titled, from 1973.
Astoundingly ridiculous title aside, this is a film that slightly skews the typical gialli trappings and veers towards a slasher film, something that wasn’t yet defined during this period. The film begins in the city of Perugia, where an unknown assailant is targeting college students, killing and mutilating his victims. Fearing for their safety, a group of friends decides to leave school and take a holiday in the countryside to relax and hide out until the police catch the perpetrator. Unfortunately, it turns out the killer has followed them, and now their lives are even more at risk.
Torso begins as a standard giallo: an unknown killer (though likely from a long list of possible suspects) with a penchant for black gloves and ripping off women’s clothing is murdering people in an urban environment. It isn’t until the location changes that Martino breaks gialli conventions and morphs the film into something else entirely.
When the killer strikes, the murders happen offscreen, something rarely done in a giallo film, and the murder-mystery aspect is set aside in lieu of a deadly cat-and-mouse game played between the killer and one of the women, Jane (Suzy Kendall). This style, while not completely formulaic, falls closer in line to the slasher film that will become prevalent in the next few years with the releases of Black Christmas and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
With some utterly shocking and thrilling set pieces, Torso should be considered a giallo classic, and while it didn’t necessarily define the genre like the films of Argento, Bava or Fulci, it stands out as a highlight of an era where gialli were pouring into the cinema on a seemingly daily basis.
I had the opportunity to catch Torso on the big screen a few years ago here in New York, and it was a great theater-going experience, but I now know that the version we saw was the shortened North American version, with several scenes removed. The newly released Arrow Blu-ray contains this version as well as three other versions, including the original Italian release and a hybrid release of the North American version with the removed scenes re-added. As I’ve noted in previous giallo reviews, I prefer to watch these films in their dubbed form, so my recommendation would be the hybrid version, as this is the most complete experience and the run time is still a tight 94 minutes.
The Blu-ray features a new 2K restoration from the original camera negatives and looks nearly perfect, with the original lossless Italian and English mono soundtracks. Like most Arrow releases, the disc is jam-packed with bonus supplements as well, including a new commentary track with Kat Ellinger, author of All The Colours of Sergio Martino; a slew of new interviews, including Sergio Martino; a Q&A with Martino from 2017; the theatrical trailers; and more.
Arrow has once again proven its appreciation and attention to detail for genre film, and Torso is absolutely worth adding to your collection, especially if you’re a fan of classic giallo cinema.