After the likes of Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, the directors acclaimed for their work in the giallo genre are a less famous lot. The most well known of them is probably Sergio Martino, who was responsible for some of the finest examples of the slicing, dicing and copious flesh that this Italian variant on the thriller could offer. As a director, Martino was versatile as he was responsible for sex comedies, spaghetti westerns, a cannibal film, crime epics, monster movies and a rather good sci-fi movie in 2019: After the Fall of New York. Working frequently with his producer brother, Luciano Martino, Sergio's career is a familiar tale of following the trends in exploitation before the Italian film industry dried up and only TV remained. However, he is currently listed as working on another feature with Lino Banfi so perhaps a motion picture resurgence is around the corner.
His third movie from 1973 and his fourth Giallo, they didn't hang around in those days, is the splendidly titled Torso aka Carnal Violence. The project brings together stalwarts of the genre such as Bird with the Crystal Plumage's Suzy Kendall, a young Luc Merenda, John Richardson(Eyeball) and the writer Ernesto Gastaldi(The Whip and The Body, Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, and Death Walks on High Heels). The film was one of three Martino made for producer Carlo Ponti and had a fine score from the ever reliable De Angelis brothers, and it seeks to give enough nudity and nastiness to satisfy all but the most twisted fan.
Starting in Rome we are introduced to the lives of some fine art students, in particularly a gang of four young women. We learn about their romances with professors, older men and each other, and the world of promiscuity and free love that they live in. Into their lives comes a set of murders of fellow female students where the women have their eyes poked out and their chest hacked open. The police gain a clue when a friend of theirs is killed with a red scarf and soon the women are trying to remember which one of the shady men they know has such an item of clothing. They decide to holiday in the country at a villa in order to leave the city behind but the maniac follows them until a knock on the door in the middle of the night heralds an orgy of violence and hacksaws. Will anyone survive long enough to discover the killer's identity?
Torso is a film that has brilliant component parts and a couple of the best set pieces of the type in this genre. The opening murder of a snogging couple in a car, and the second murder in the forest are truly brilliant with an energy and mood that matches anything that Argento ever did in terms of ferocity and obscenity. The forest murder has a dreamlike quality and a superb setting that is fully utilized by a terrific pounding score and superb framing and rhythmic editing. As well as these fine executions, there is a powerful and revolting sequence when the maniac cleans up after a massacre unaware that one victim has escaped him and we get to share her perspective as bodies are carved up in front of her eyes.
Still, great moments abound, beautiful women get naked and there is a surprisingly graphic amount of gore. Torso is nowhere near as successful as the director's best giallo The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, but there are plentiful commiserations for this lack of coherence in its cheerful depravity and glorious exploitation. Torso is very effective, entertaining but erratic. Forgive this fault and there are a lot of kicks to be got.
Shameless give Torso an anamorphic transfer which is halfway between the OAR of 1.66:1 and the 1.78:1 treatment advertised here but cropping of the image is not noticeable. The quality of the image is not perfect but it is a definite improvement on the old Anchor bay disc. Colours are strong and the acres of flesh on show here are faithfully represented by the skintones in the picture, the contrast is well calibrated and the image is sharp overall. Bar a little shimmering, this is a decent job visually from a print with a few scratches and marks. The re-inserted scenes in Italian jar a little in terms of quality but it's good to have this film through the censors uncut for the first time. I have not seen the Alan Young pictures release so I don't know if the extra opening scene included in that release is different to the presentation here.
The trailers for other Shameless films included are Baba Yaga, Killer Nun, Phantom of Death, Black Cat, Venus in Furs and New York Ripper, along with the theatrical trailer for this movie as well. The menus on the disc continue the giallo theme of the packaging and use poster art as a frame for scenes from the film.
This is a really enjoyable guilty pleasure of a film with a good video treatment let down by some poor audio. It is cheap and it is fun so fans of blood and babes will not be risking much with a purchase, existing owners of other releases may want to exercise caution.