All the Colors of the Dark Review
Note: the ratings in the right-hand column correspond to the US release.
All the Colors of the Dark (Tutti i Colori del Buio) is probably the strangest film Sergio Martino ever directed. While not a giallo in the most traditional sense, it seems logical to apply the genre's framework when discussing it, given that it showcases many of the conventions associate with films of this type, and also because it falls bang in the middle of Martino's giallo period, produced in the wake of The Strange Vice of Signora Ward and Case Of The Scorpion's Tale, and preceding Gently Before She Dies and Torso. A brief glance at the film's credits reveals a wealth of giallo regulars. Apart from director Martino, we have screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, composer Bruno Nicolai, and a cast comprised of genre heavyweights, led by Edwige Fenech and George Hilton, often regarded as the giallo's "Golden Couple".
Obviously drawing heavily on the influence of Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, Martino and Gastaldi proceed to weave a web of horror, filled with disturbing imagery, supernatural terror and lapses between dreams and reality. The story centres around Jane (Fenech), a young Londoner who recently suffered a miscarriage after being involved in a car crash. Her relationship with her boyfriend Richard (Hilton) has taken a turn for the worse, as she suffers from twisted nightmares and behaves as if she is in another reality. Jane's sister Barbara (Nieves Navarro) takes her to visit psychiatrist Dr. Burton (Georges Rigaud), despite Richard's incredulity, but when the nightmares continue, and Jane is stalked by a terrifying blue-eyed man (Ivan Rassimov) from her dreams, she turns to next-door neighbour Mary (Marina Malfatti), who suggests that she accompany her to a Black Sabbath. Terrified by the bloodletting ritual and mass orgy that takes place, Jane resolves never to return, but the Satanists are determined that she won't get away so easily.
Where All the Colors of the Dark diverges from its giallo brethren is in its handling of the whodunit aspect of the plot. To put it simply, there isn't one, and although there are a handful of occasions in which the motives of certain secondary characters are called into question, they never seem to be particularly important. (There is one exception, where one secondary character's dodgy deeds are revealed in a beautifully lit denouement.) Everyone is ever so slightly unnerving, from the mysterious Mary with her piercing stare and quasi-sexual advances on Jane to the rather too reassuring Dr. Burton, but the question of their involvement in the goings-on is never to the forefront. Instead, Martino plays with the audience's perception of reality, shifting without any indication between dreams and reality, and on occasions playing the same moments out more than once to further disorient the viewer. In an interview on the US DVD release, Martino claims that audiences at the time, at least in Italy, were unprepared for such manipulations of reality and as a result felt confused and annoyed by the film. Certainly, modern-day audiences, even mainstream ones, who have experienced the likes of David Cronenberg's Videodrome and David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. are unlikely to be particularly taken aback by the blurred line between fantasy and reality in All the Colors of the Dark, which suggests that perhaps the film was indeed ahead of its time in this regard.
In some ways this is a very traditional piece of horror cinema, trotting out the usual personalities (the domineering sister, the predatory lesbian neighbour, the seemingly understanding psychiatrist) and offering the usual vices (drugs, group sex and the Occult), yet at times its handling of the subject matter is quite unique. Although the Satanic cult is definitely portrayed as a force of evil, it is at times suggested that their effect on Jane is not all bad. Certainly their arrival in her life seems to cure her frigidity (she has sex with Richard immediately after her first Sabbat), and it is frequently implied that the Satanists are, in their own misguided way, trying to do what is best for Jane (this seems to involve killing her, but what the hey!). Martino had already proven his interesting sense of style with his previous giallo, Case Of The Scorpion's Tale, and he continues to refine his technique here. Beginning with an artistic and thoroughly baffling introductory dream sequence, filled with bizarre images such as dead pregnant women, oversized clocks and cackling hags with black teeth, Martino keeps the audience constantly on its toes by continually making use of unusual editing patterns and exploiting the widescreen frame to its fullest potential. If there are any major stylistic errors they appear in the form of Bruno Nicolai's inappropriate use of a sitar during the Black Mass sequences. These scenes are already teetering on the brink of camp, but the clichéd music seals the deal.
Acting talent has never exactly been the genre's strongest point, with the performers and indeed characters frequently being broadly defined shells at best, wooden at worst. All the Colors of the Dark is not really any exception, populated by individuals whose personas are so vivid that one can hardly fail to guess their intended personality from the moment they appear. There are of course exceptions, and the character of Barbara, played by Nieves Navarro, is one of them. Navarro, a stunningly beautiful woman with striking features and a certain degree of acting ability, assumed the pseudonym of Susan Scott and had bit parts in a number of gialli throughout the 1970s. Although she did experience top billing in the likes of Death Carries a Cane and Death Walks at Midnight, she never enjoyed the same level of success as co-star Fenech - a shame, as she is, in my opinion, the better of the two both in terms of looks and of acting. Fenech is definitely at her Scream Queen best in this film, spending almost its entire running time looking hysterical, but Navarro outshines her in all their scenes together, as does Marina Malfatti, another Euro horror babe with a striking appearance and screen presence. Male support arrives in the form of the truly unnerving Ivan Rassimov, who dons blue contact lenses and terrifies the wits out of both Jane and the audience. Rassimov featured in a number of gialli, but was never as truly menacing as he is here. George Hilton lends his usual solid, almost-sleazy persona to the movie too, although to be honest, despite title billing, he is very much a secondary character. The film truly belongs to Fenech, and she relishes it, delivering a performance that has enough gusto to compensate for her somewhat ropey acting talents.
Despite the requisite wooden acting and baffling plot-holes (for example, Jane is quite adamant when discussing Richard with Dr. Burton that they are not married, but a few minutes later she refers to him as "my husband"... only for Richard to later state that they are not married yet), All the Colors of the Dark is an enjoyable piece of hokum that should please fans both of the giallo format and of supernatural horror. Packed with style, suspense and beautiful women, this Euro shocker is not to be missed.
All the Colors of the Dark initially showed up on a German DVD from Marketing-Film as Die Farben der Nacht. Its transfer, although non-anamorphic, was in its proper aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and, surprisingly, was completely uncut (apparent a first for the English-language version of the film). Reinstating many key scenes that had until recently only been available on grey-market Italian bootlegs, this version of the film, I am told, plays very differently to the cut versions, which are more baffling than anything. Unfortunately, the transfer is rather weak. Detail levels are acceptable, but the colours are overly yellow, the framing is slightly off, and the black level is very weak. 5/10
The October 2004 US release of the film, by Media Blasters/Shriek Show, benefits from being anamorphic, as well as more accurate colours and framing. Sadly, however, like all Media Blasters DVDs, it has been encoded interlaced, limiting the available detail and causing all sorts of unsightly motion artefacts for viewers with progressive scan equipment. There is also some noticeable aliasing brought about by edge enhancement. Overall this is a better transfer than the Marketing-Film version, but not by much. It's a shame Media Blasters chose to needlessly limit the quality of this release, because the print is in excellent condition and, like the German DVD, presents the English language version completely uncut. 6/10
Marketing-Film's German DVD features the film's English dub - the original mono version presented in Dolby 2.0 - as well as two German tracks, in mono 2.0 and remixed in 5.1 respectively. The quality of the English audio track is not very good: muffled and prone to break-up, the lack of subtitles does not help at all. The German tracks sound better, but are unlikely to be of much use to English speakers given the lack of subtitles. 4/10
The Media Blasters DVD features the English mono dub, again presented in Dolby 2.0, but sounding somewhat better than its counterpart on the German DVD. It still doesn't sound great, but it is certainly an improvement. Also featured is the Italian dub, also mono and presented in Dolby 2.0. The Italian track has slightly better quality, although it still suffers from somewhat poor fidelity. English subtitles are included - possibly a first for Media Blasters. These correspond to the Italian audio track rather than the English one, which is a good thing in my eyes, although it does mean that the deaf are going to be stuck with the Italian dialogue, which often differs quite substantially from the English, with entire conversations bearing practically no similarity to each other between the two tracks. The Italian dialogue is, in my opinion, quite a bit better than its English counterpart, although which track is the better one overall is less clear-cut, as the English dub affords the obvious benefit of having the dialogue synchronize (more or less) correctly with the actors' lip movements. It's a shame subtitles were not provided for both tracks, given the poor quality of the English audio, but the effort is appreciated nonetheless. 6/10
The Marketing-Film DVD has very little in the way of bonus materials: a theatrical trailer, devoid of narration of any kind, a brief slide-show of stills and poster concepts, filmographies (in German) for Martino, Rassimov and Fenech, and a large collection of bonus trailers for other Marketing-Film releases. 2/10
The Media Blasters line-up is infinitely more impressive, beginning with a 20-minute Sergio Martino interview. Although initially focusing on All the Colors of the Dark, with Martino discussing his influences and ambitions, the tepid audience reaction and the vicious censorship from which it suffered both internationally and in its native Italy, it soon moves on to Martino's other films, quickly homing in on a camp piece of schlock known as 2019: After the Fall of New York. Martino himself is not without a sense of humour and looks back fondly on his work. The interview is presented in Italian with burned-in English subtitles.
Next up is a 5-minute George Hilton interview. Hilton, who is in fact Uruguayan, not English, and whose real name is Jorge Hill, is in great shape for a man of 70. He is enthusiastic about his career in Italian cinema and looks back with fondness on a number of the films he worked on, including All the Colors of the Dark. He admits that, in retrospect, he is glad to have done these films, given how popular they have become in recent years, although he didn't take them seriously at the time. He also takes time out to praise co-star Edwige Fenech's beauty and intellect (it's too bad we don't get to hear from her or Nieves Navarro as well). The interview is in Italian with burned-in English subtitles.
A huge Photo gallery is also included, featuring numerous poster and video art concepts, stills (black & white and colour), and a number of photographs of George Hilton and Edwige Fenech in numerous films (with Fenech appearing in various degrees of undress). The gallery runs for slightly under 24 minutes, and unfortunately the image can't be skipped through. You simply have to sit back and wait for them to pass by in their own time (or fast-forward).
The cheesy and baffling US alternate title sequence is up next, bearing the title They're Coming To Get You, as well as what is listed as the alternative closing sequence, although it actually turns out to be exactly the same as the one featured in the film itself, apart from having poorer image quality (although, surprisingly, better audio quality) and using a slightly different font for the on-screen text. Rumours persist about an alternate English-language cut of the film that completely omits the final confrontation and in fact ends with Jane being stabbed to death by Ivan Rassimov's character in a park, although I have yet to actually meet anyone who has seen this version. (It is mentioned in this review, but given that it includes several other inaccuracies, the writer was perhaps mistaken.)
Trailers and radio spots round off the package, including the original Italian theatrical trailer (in Italian), an English-language version of the same trailer, the US theatrical trailer (under the title They're Coming To Get You), and two cheesy American radio spots. Bonus trailers for Slaughter Hotel, Nightmares Come at Night, 2019: After the Fall of New York and Syndicate Sadists are also included. 6/10
With All the Colors of the Dark, Media Blasters have added another high quality example of the giallo genre to their catalogue. However, as with every title released under their banner, they have done it a disservice by needlessly compromising its visual presentation. It's obvious that they care about their products - few other distributors would make the effort to track down high quality uncut source materials for these obscure titles, or to interview the often elusive individuals responsible for them - but until they begin releasing progressive scan capable versions of their titles, they will always be that one step behind their counterparts at Anchor Bay and Blue Underground.
7 out of 10
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