Torso (I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale) (1973) (92 minutes)
Directed by Sergio Martino.
aka Carnal Violence
Written by Ernesto Gastaldi and Sergio Martino.
Starring Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont and Luc Merenda.
I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale; literally translated as The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence, is an Italian giallo directed by Sergio Martino. Released in the United States as Torso in 1973, Martino’s artistic direction combined feverish sexuality and visually striking violence into a film that predates the American slasher subgenre. Perhaps then, the slasher owes a lot more to the Italian giallo than it is usually given credit for?
That is not to say that Torso is no more than a series of stalk-and-slash sequences. It is a far more stylish and exploitative effort.
The murder of multiple college students leads to a manhunt for the killer, and a series of red herrings that makes it difficult for the audience to deduce who that may be. After the initial slow burn, the suspense and tension unfolds, climaxing during a grueling and lengthy final act that is nothing short of brilliance.
When bodies start to show up just outside of campus, the University of Perugia is shaken up. The polizia only have one clue: a black-on-red cravat left at one of the crime scenes; used to strangle one of the victims. Daniela (Tina Aumont) is convinced that she recognises the cravat, but before she can say anything, she receives a threatening phone call from the black-gloved, ski-masked killer!
Unsure what to do, ‘Danni’ is convinced to flee with a few of her coeds (including Suzy Kendall) to the safety of an isolated country villa. But unbeknownst to these Italian beauties, someone is watching…and he has no intention of letting them leave alive!
“Enter… if you dare the bizarre world of the psychosexual mind.”
Let me get this out of the way now… Torso is relentlessly misogynistic. Not because of the nudity, which is to be expected from this era and this genre. Each female coed is characterised as highly erotic and disposable; the camera lingering over their naked bodies before they are punished for their sexual proclivity in gruesome fashion. Viewing women depicted in this way effectively makes us complicit to the onscreen mutilation that occurs; forcing us to see exactly as the killer does. Director Sergio Martino clearly wants us to view Torso in this way, not just for sexploitation, but so that we align with the mind of the killer; particularity after his motives are revealed to the audience. Just like the tagline for Torso, we must enter the bizarre world of the psychosexual mind.
After a tense, albeit slow, hour of murder and sexual perversions, the remaining thirty minutes unveil a cinematic assault on your senses. Torso has been light on gore (at least when compared with subsequent slashers/gialli) until this final act; when a bow saw is introduced. From then on Sergio Martino handles each highly stylized scene of extreme violence with expertise.
“To preserve the surprise ending, no one will be admitted during the last ten minutes.”
Shameless’ presentation of Torso on Blu-ray is uncut, and includes newly inserted footage (It’s Torso… Only more so than Shameless’ previous DVD release). With a 1.66:1 1080p transfer that videophiles will appreciate, and two LPCM 2.0 audio tracks in both English and Italian languages, this region-free release from Shameless is a delight to watch. It must be mentioned however, that the newly inserted footage is presented in Italian with English subtitles; regardless of which soundtrack you are listening to. Along with a reversible sleeve and signature yell’o Blu-ray case, Torso also includes an interview with Sergio Martino entitled Dismembering Torso; a continuation of the great director interviews featured on other recent Shameless releases, such as The Sect.
Amongst the carnal violence, Torso shows artistic flair and builds tension very effectively. Sergio Martino manages to keep audiences engaged, with numerous red herrings that keep you from deducing the identity of the killer. Indeed, I had no idea of the killer’s true identity until his reveal during the final act. Torso is a sleazy, violent, classic ‘whodunit’ done correctly; despite a few missteps with pacing. If you have never seen a giallo before, Torso is a good place to start… If you dare!
Sergio Martino’s Torso is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Shameless Screen Entertainment. Release date: 25th September 2017 (Blu-ray) / 26th November 2007 (DVD)