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Torso - Blu-ray Review

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Torso - Blu-ray Review

4 stars

The murder mystery format turns sleazy in this exploitation offering from genre-hopping director Sergio Martino.  The Italians have always had an eye for exposing skin and mixing beauty with handfuls of slasher-type sadism – especially in the horror genre – and somehow making it all stick.  From Mario Bava to Dario Argento to Lucio Fulci, Italy has been the cornerstone in keeping the subgenre alive from 1960 until the early 1980s when America took over the reigns of slasher films.  While others have dabbled with the exploitative horror medium, few Italians – outside of Martino (and the holy trinity listed above) – have actually pulled it off.  Torso is, pardon the pun, simply a cut above the rest and the ultimate godparent to films like Friday the 13th, Black Christmas, and Halloween.

Written by Ernesto Gastaldi and Martino, Torso is the perfect example of a less-is-more type of slasher storyline that actually works.  It’s a paranoid sucker than provides more than ounce of tasty “what the hell?” moments of shock and schlock.  Quite suddenly, a shocking series of sex-related murders sweep through a college campus and into its neighboring town.  Not everyone can cope.  The cops can’t successfully bring the masked killer to justice and the college co-eds just want to release their fear through some free love and drug use.  Not the best combination for a killer who gets his kick as a knife-wielding Peeping Tom.  Starring Suzy Kendall and Tina Aumont as two students who simply can’t take the pressure and leave the town for a spell in the countryside, Torso explains that sometimes evil will follow you into the places where you feel the safest.

Yes, the horror staples are all present: nudity, sex, silly teenagers, and gore galore fill the screen with a certain degree of familiarity.  A closer examination of everything we have come to take for granted in these types of films (circa 2011) will confirm just how well and how critical the scenes are executed as they build toward the film’s stunning and wordless 20-minute climax.  The voyeurism is there, but note how Martino shoots every single male in the area; any one of them, at any time, could be guilty of the killings.  As the audience, the trick is in never letting us know who the killer actually is.  Thus, suspense and paranoia builds in us through the clever use of camera angles and unique murder setpieces.  Through in some traumatic childhood memories and there you have it; the recipe for the slasher genre that would be followed for years and years to come.

Of course, the film isn’t without its flaws.  The pacing is, at times, a mood killer as is the acting and the film is filled with a bit too much lingering shots over female body parts and other gratuitous sex acts.  Nonsense, you say?  While I genuinely agree, the problem is - with a wicked film like Torso - all those additional shots of gore and skin threaten to undo the psychological tension that it works so hard to create as seen through the eyes of its Peeping Tom killer.

Parody and imitation in legitimate horror films is something to be avoided and, because Hollywood still hasn’t learned this, there is a line that can be crossed that will wreck everything the film builds in its audience’s minds.  Wisely, Martino doesn’t cross it.  He gets really close, but then reveals some intelligence in carefully designed moody kill sequences that pull us back in to what some sick-minded individuals (and genuine horror film fanatics) hail as the slickest and thickest Torso around.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Torso - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: Not rated by the MPAA.
Director
: Sergio Martino
Writer
: Ernesto Gastaldi, Sergio Martino
Cast: Suzy Kendall; Tina Aumont; Luc Merenda; John Richardson; Roberto Bisacco
Genre: Horror | Mystery | Thriller
Tagline:
To preserve the surprise ending, no one will be admitted during the last ten minutes.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I've called you here today for a good reason"
Distributor:
Joseph Brenner Associates (JBA)
Release Date: November 1973
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 27, 2011

Synopsis: A series of sex murders shock a college campus, and four beautiful young girlfriends head for the safety of an isolated country villa. But as they succumb to their own erotic desires, their weekend of pleasure becomes a vacation of dismemberment at the hands – and blade – of a lecherous maniac.

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Torso - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - September 27, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

The 1080p transfer is the best the film has ever looked before.  Mined from pristine original elements, the disc offers the original Italian version of the film and the recut American version.  Both offerings are crisp with color and fine detail.  For a film from 1973, the fact that only a couple of scenes (one being in a swamp) are soupy and murky speaks volumes about the source material.  Skin tones are perfectly natural throughout and contrast, as well as its DTS-HD Mono audio track, is super clean, tight, and uber groovy.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Blue Underground, after rescuing Torso from Anchor Bay, has provided a number of additional materials that fans of the movie will be happy about.  One of the most pleasing is an introduction to the film by writer/director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) in which he waxes poetic about Martino’s film and the influence it has upon him as a director.  There is also an 11-minute interview with Martino about his directing styles, choices, and the filming of Torso.  The full-length Italian cut of the film and its unedited American release are also included in the set, as well as, galleries and trailers.

  • Murders in Perugia: Interview with Co-Writer/Director Sergio Martino (11 min)
  • U.S. Opening Credits (3 min)
  • Eli Roth Introduction (5 min)
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV & Radio Spots
  • Poster Gallery
  • Still Gallery

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