Release Date(s)1973 (October 30, 2018)
Studio(s)Compagnia Cinematografica Champion/Joseph Brenner Associates (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
Sergio Martino’s Torso (AKA Carnal Violence and I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale) is a film with a categorical bent towards the giallo, primarily due to having a masked, gloved, knife-wielding antagonist whose identity isn’t revealed until the film’s finale. Even so, it’s not a traditional giallo in that it isn’t about a detective, author, or artist of some kind attempting to discover a murderer’s identity. It has elements of that for a majority of its running time, but once its final half hour begins, it becomes much more of a slasher film, and an effective one at that.
The story of Torso is fairly straightforward in that an unknown killer is stalking and murdering women, mutilating their corpses after strangling them with a red scarf, a key item which links to more than one suspect. Feeling overwhelmed by all of the violence around them, four women decide to take off for a villa in the hills in order to get away from it all. However, their holiday home is no safe haven as the killer isn’t far behind and will soon be paying them a visit.
What’s interesting to me about Torso is that its first half is fairly generic. It’s pretty standard stalk ’n’ slash material with little to no substance and an abundance of nudity (lovely though it might be). It’s sort of lurid with no clear direction, but at the same time, it’s impeccably well-made, even setting up for scenes that will take place later on. That final sequence of events at the villa are quite gripping, seemingly given more careful consideration as they’re far more effective than anything that comes before them. Needless to say, it’s a suspense-driven series of set pieces that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Sergio Martino’s work spans a number of Italian suspense greats, such as The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, All the Colors of the Dark, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, and The Suspicious Death of a Minor, all with plenty of their own strengths and weaknesses. Featuring Suzy Kendall from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Tales That Witness Madness, Torso falls right into line with those types of films, almost leading the pack upon name recognition alone... and if for nothing else, a memorably nail-biting final act.
Torso is presented by Arrow Video in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 from a 2K restoration of the film’s original 35mm camera negative. There are four versions to choose from via seamless branching: the original Italian version, a hybrid English/Italian version, an English version with the title Carnal Violence, and another English version with the title Torso. Both the Italian and Hybrid versions are 94 minutes in length, while the Carnal Violence and Torso versions are 90 minutes in length, the latter utilizing low grade VHS tape and print materials to recreate its opening sequence, which is unique to this version (and also identical to one of the film’s U.S. theatrical trailers). The primary source for all of these versions is the new restoration, aside from the Torso version’s opening. It’s a sharp-looking transfer overall, with excellent grain management and amazing depth and detail. Everything is stable and clean with strong color reproduction and perfect contrast. Black levels are deep with nice shadow detail and there are next to no instances of leftover damage.
For the audio, there are Italian and English mono LPCM tracks that go with their corresponding audio languages. In the English/Italian hybrid, some scenes were either not recorded in English or the materials have been lost. In those cases, the Italian audio is instituted with subtitles in English SDH (an option for all versions). The Italian audio is clean and clear with plenty of presence. Dialogue is perfectly discernable, although a bit loose due to the dubbing, but sound effects and score have good separation. The English audio is from an obviously much lower source as it’s far too quiet and narrow, but it’s nice to have its inclusion nonetheless.
Extras for this release include an audio commentary by Kat Ellinger; All Colors of Terror, a new 34-minute interview with co-writer and director Sergio Martino; The Discreet Charm of the Genre, a new 35-minute interview with actor Luc Merenda; Dial S for Suspense, a new 30-minute interview with co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi; Women in Blood, a new 25-minute interview with Federica Martino, filmmaker and daughter of Sergio Martino; Saturating the Screen, a new 25-minute interview with author Mikel J. Koven, who goes over the film and giallo films in detail (I personally wouldn’t have minded an accompanying audio commentary on the film by him); Sergio Martino Live, a 47-minute Q&A with the director at the 2017 Abertoir International Horror Festival; the Italian theatrical trailer; an English theatrical trailer under the title Carnal Violence; and a 32-page insert booklet with the essays “Violence Really Brings in the Bucks”: Joseph Brenner, the Forgotten Hero of 42nd Street by Adrian Smith and Songs for Europe: The Music of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis by Howard Hughes, as well as restoration details.
Torso is also one of those films that’s been released on DVD and Blu-ray several times in different territories. As such, there’s plenty missing from the extras on this new Blu-ray release. Missing from the Blue Underground Blu-ray is an an 11-minute interview with Sergio Martino; Eli Roth’s introduction to the film; the fantastic U.S. theatrical trailer; 2 TV spots; a radio spot; and a poster and still gallery. Missing from the Shameless Blu-ray is Dismembering Torso, a 23-minute interview with Sergio Martino. Missing from the X-Rated Region B German Blu-ray is an alternative sequence without tinting and 2 German video openings. And last but not least, missing from the Alan Young Pictures Region 0 DVD is an audio commentary with Sergio Martino and critic Giona Nazzaro, as well as an introduction by Sergio Martino. It’s a shame that none of this material could be included, specifically the commentary, TV spots, and U.S. theatrical trailer, so fans may want to hold onto those releases if they want everything.
To my knowledge, this is the first time all of the various versions of Torso have been featured in one package. If it had been a 2-Disc release with many of the missing extras included as well, it would have been perfect. As is, it’s still pretty damned good, and the A/V upgrade is certainly not to be overlooked. Highly recommended to giallo and slasher fans alike!
– Tim Salmons