Torso (AKA Carnal Violence) is one of many Giallo films from Sergio Martino, an Italian director who created a plethora of exploitation films over a long career, spanning from 1969 to 2012. However, what makes Torso stand out amongst his repertoire, what makes it stand out from other Giallo films in fact, is that Torso blends Giallo cinema styling with the conventions of a sleazy slasher movie by having a story based around young women being stalked by a fashionable psychopath which includes a hefty amount of sexualized imagery, nudity, drug use, and ‘splatter’ style scenes of blood and gore. Because this film was released in 1973, a long time before the genre of sleazy slasher movies even existed, it’s safe to say that Torso was way ahead of it’s time. It’s was more raw, more visceral, more bloodthirsty than it’s contemporaries such as What Have You Done To Solange?, The Cat O’ Nine Tails, and Don’t Torture A Duckling. As a result, Torso has garnered a small cult following over the years thanks to it’s crude subject matter, and it was also very influential on sleaze cinema and the creation of the slasher genre.
That being said, however, Torso is a very primitive Giallo film. Unlike the mysterious, evolving plots of it’s contemporaries, the plot of Torso mainly consists of non sequiturs. A lot of scenes in the film don’t follow a standard plot thread, instead they feel like excuses to show a hefty amount of tantalizing nudity, in especially in the first and second acts of the film. The first and second act of Torso doesn’t really follow a coherent plot, instead, the film decides to show scene after scene of sex and violence until the third act, an act which actually has conflict, suspense and a focused plot thread. Despite this, the first two acts of Torso are incredibly dumb with barely any mystery, suspense or character development. The characters themselves feel like they were only created to be stripped and killed because they are bland, forgettable stereotypes. There’s absolutely nothing that makes them stand out from one another nor anything that makes them empathetic or relatable.
The worst aspect of Torso, however, is the film’s special effects. Torso is a film which contains plenty of gory kills, but the gore effects themselves are laughably cheap and unconvincing. It’s very obvious when an actor has been replaced with a stupid-looking rubber dummy, or a badly modeled exploding torso. Overall, the shocking scenes of mutilation that were meant to make Torso exciting are shockingly poor. I’ve seen independent horror movies from the 1980’s with more convincing special effects than Torso.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. As I stated earlier, the third act is very entertaining to experience and it makes up for the flaws that plague the film’s first and second acts. However, Torso also has some fantastic cinematography. At times, Torso is a very beautiful film to watch due to the creative cinematography that highlights both the beauty of the actresses and their naked bodies, and the beauty of the Italian landscape. The film’s outdoor shots are simply breathtaking thanks to the magnificent background of 1970’s rural Italy. Even the film’s indoor shots are creative, well structured, well paced and beautifully lit. Thus, although the film’s content isn’t anything outstanding, the aesthetic quality of Torso is absolutely stunning.
Torso is a film that’s not great Watching Torso almost felt like watching artsy soft-core pornography, because of the amount of nudity and sexualized imagery included in the film, but the problem was that it was trying to be a Giallo film, not soft-core pornography. As a Giallo film, Torso is quite underwhelming as the first couple of acts were incredibly flawed and it’s just not as clever, or as powerful as its Giallo contemporaries. That being said though, I actually enjoyed my experience with Torso. It’s gratuitously sleazy, but it felt like the director knew what he was doing when it came to the film’s production qualities, as he displays a great understanding of pacing, framing and outstanding cinematography. In conclusion, I’d actually recommend watching Torso because, after all is said and done, not only was it quite entertaining, it was also way ahead of it’s time and very influential on exploitation cinema.