Torso (1973)


Curious as to what the original title of Torso means, I ran it through Google Translate, as I am not going to trust the five or six words in Italian I picked up from watching The Godfather.  I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale came out as "The Bodies Show Traces of Rape".  I was expecting just a straight translation of "carnal violence," but I guess that would really be the same thing.  The thing is that, for everything that is in this movie, the title doesn't fit because of the glaring absence of rape.  Since this is pretty much a softcore porn film combined with a giallo, and being from the early 1970s, I was quite surprised that there wasn't any, which is a bit of a relief when it comes to European films of the time. 

Torso isn't necessarily a more descriptive name, but it is one that works better, even though, again, the killer is not necessarily collecting torsos.  However, people tend to be quite protective of their own, wanting to keep everything that is attached to them in place and preferably not having them used to decorate someone's living room.  Just the word alone can sometimes make one uncomfortable, since no one really mentions a torso as an independent object outside of a medical book.  Also, although the movie was butchered worse than any of the killer's victims in the movie when it got to the U.S., the American movie poster was better done than the original Italian one.

Jane (Suzy Kendall) is an American art historian attending the University of Perugia.  She soon becomes attracted to her professor Franz (John Richardson), but is distracted by a sudden spate of murders of her classmates, beginning with Flo (Patrizia Adiutori) and Carol (Conchita Airoldi).  It is right before the murder of the second that Jane's friend Daniela (Tina Aumont) catches a brief glimpse of the killer's face. 

The killer realizes this and begins threatening Daniela.  Believing it is her already-known stalker Stefano (Robert Bisacco), she decides to retreat to her uncle's villa for the weekend to get away from everything that's happening.  Traveling with her friends Ursula (Carla Brait) and Katia (Angela Covello), they arrive at the villa, with Jane showing up slightly later.  Stefano follows them with the intention of pursuing Daniela.  Jane wakes up the next morning, however, to find all three of her friends murdered, and the killer still in the house and unaware of her presence.  Her only chance of survival is to keep it that way and escape once the killer is done cleaning up. 

The reason I say this is almost a softcore film is because practically every woman involved gets undressed.  The very first scenes are an unknown man having a threesome with two women, and pretty much as it goes on everyone except Jane takes their top off at some point.  Surprisingly there is no full-frontal, or none really to speak of, despite there also being a bit of a lesbian scene between Ursula and Katia.  The reason I mention this is, for a giallo, this takes up quite a bit more time than the killing actually does.  

For that, there is the beginning of the film, with Flo, her boyfriend, Carol and then someone who tries to blackmail the killer.  There are red herrings everywhere, which is usual in one of these movies.  Daniela is threatened, a few other things happen that further the plot, but in large part nothing occurs for the longest time.  Guys make cat-calls at the girls, talk about how sexy they are, make wide-eyed double-takes when they are sunbathing naked, and we get to watch Daniela's own uncle undress her with his eyes.  Otherwise, a whole lot of nothing as the film slows to an interminable crawl.  It is only after Jane wakes up that things get interesting, and that is because instead of the typical cat-and-mouse chase we are rooting for Jane to stay under the killer's radar. 

I know that Sergio Martino, who directed and co-wrote the film with Ernesto Gastaldi, thought he had muddied the waters enough to keep the audience guessing, but unfortunately he is no Mario Bava or Dario Argento.  I pretty much picked up on who the killer was, not by a trail of clues, but by their general absence throughout a good portion of the film.  The killer's motives, once revealed, are pretty stupid, and it's at that point where the movie comes to the usual end.  Also, I wouldn't say the kills are that great in this, as it doesn't appear Martino had the budget to do more of what he wanted.  That doesn't necessarily matter because, if he had spent more time on the story than on showing a bevy of breasts, the whole movie could have been like the last third.  

Torso (1973)
Time: 92 minutes
Starring: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Robert Bisacco, John Richardson
Director: Sergio Martino



 

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