I CORPI PRESENTANO TRACCE DI VIOLENZA CARNALE (Italy, 1973)
(Literal Translation: Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence)
also known as: TORSO (Us), CARNAL VIOLENCE

Directed by SERGIO MARTINO
Music by GUIDO E MAURIZIO DE ANGELIS

"One day she met a man who loved beautiful girls ...But not all in one piece!"



(Blue Underground, Zone All, 2011) www.blue-underground.com
Contained in this Blue Underground blu-ray disc is two versions of the film, the US cut titled "Carnal Violence" (with Torso super-imposed on the title card for this release) and a 3 minute longer italian cut "I Corpi Presentano Tracce di Violenza Carnale". English & Italian audio are available for both versions, plus english and even french subtitles (thanks Blue Underground) on the US version.
I'm favoring the italian cut though, the italian dubbing sounds better to me even though the cuts on the US Torso edit are pretty unimportant, the main shot missing is the opening college lecture which is actually nice looking introductory scene, sweeping camera movements and cool location. The US version is better if you recquire uninterrupted english language.

Picture quality is pretty awesome on this... Only the day-for-night color timing for the swamp scene looks really dark. (the scene without filters on the austrian dvd looked amazing!) As with a lot of Blue Underground blu-ray discs so far ("New York Ripper", "Django"...), the grain looks slightly unnatural if you look too closely, but the detail is still amazing to me, this is clearly the best and definitive version of "Torso"...

It also features a new interview with director Sergio Martino, the first time I hear this director answer completely in english language. His english is not perfect but still more understandable than a lot of other italian directors out there.
Nice stuff overall, although interviews with some of the actresses would have been a welcome addition too!
Great picture gallery too, most of the black and white pictures on this page I stole from this disc...

Blu-Ray Screenshots (full view on click):







(Digitmovies, 2008)

This is the first Sergio Martino giallo without Bruno Nicolai as a composer... It seems like the De Angelis brothers took over soundtracks duty in Martino's movies afterwards. I must admit finding their music sometimes overly syrupy and sweet, but the sultry love theme from this movie has been stuck in my head for days so it's certainly catchy stuff!
Torso is probably their soundtrack masterpiece, they're doing a great job at scoring suspenseful sequences, going for a minimalistic approach and simple piano pieces, only three repetitive notes manage to produce tremendous amounts of tension and atmosphere... and when the drums, organ and flutes start to kick in, usually when the blood starts to spill, things get epic, a real celebration of murder in crescendo!
As a soundtrack album this tends to get a little too repetitive, with different versions of just a few of the same themes over and over again, but these variations can be interesting at times, with some themes played again with an electric guitar, etc... The weird and dissonant melancholic flash-back music track is also really nice and creepy.
I surmise the rock sound on some of this stuff may have influenced Dario Argento to hire Goblin for the "Deep Red" soundtrack later. This soundtrack sounds very Goblin-esque before Goblin were around scoring films. The creepy piano pieces together with all the stalk and slash could very well be an influence on John Carpenter's "Halloween" too but maybe I'm just hallucinating.
Track list:1)I Corpi Delle Vittime (Titoli) (2:52) 2)Il Primo Omicidio (2:05) 3)Perugia (1:20) 4)Universita (2:46) 5)Macellazione (1:35) 6)Il Professore (2:36) 7)La Strage Ha Inizio (1:02) 8)Corpi Smembrati (2:28) 9)Ricordo Di Una Tragedia Lontana (2:43) 10)Raccapriccio (2:45) 11)Corpi Smembrati (#2) (2:01) 12)La Strage Ha Inizio (#2) (0:52) 13)Ricordo Di Una Tragedia Lontana (#2) (2:44) 14)Il Primo Omicidio (#2) (2:12) 15)Macellazione (#2) (1:40) 16)Perugia (#2) (1:42) 17)Raccapriccio (#2) (2:04) 18)Ritorno Alla Vita (3:02) 19)Il Primo Omicidio (#3) (1:46) 20)La Strage Ha Inizio (#3) (1:55) 21)Macellazione (#3) (1:58) 22)Raccapriccio (#3) (2:51) 23)Il Primo Omicidio (#4) (1:30) 24)La Strage Ha Inizio (#4) (1:44) 25)Macellazione (#4) (1:45) 26)Ricordo Di Una Tragedia Lontana (#3) (3:06) 27)Il Primo Omicidio (#5) (2:06) 28)Perugia (#3 – Versione Lunga) (2:26) 29)La Strage Ha Inizio (#5) (2:03) 30)Il Primo Omicidio (#6) (2:41) 31)Macellazione (#5) (1:51) 32)La Strage Ha Inizio (#6) (2:15) 33)Ritorno Alla Vita (Finale) (2:42)

1999 soundtrack (BMG) released together with Bruno Nicolai's Eyeball soundtrack:
-Bodies of Victim
-The First Victim
-Perugia
-University
-Slaughtering
-The Professor
-The Slaughter Begins
-Dismembered Bodies
-Memories of a Past Tragedy
-A Shuddering Sight
-Back to Life



L
ots of interesting poster designs for this movie but I especially like the italian "ripped from the headlines" style ad campaign, which fits the original movie title perfectly! Of course the US TORSO hacksaw ad campaign is even more effective! The Australian daybill poster (at the top this page) looks awesome reprising the hacksaw design in red with a powerful tag-line. Seeing TORSO on a double bill with THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE must have been intense!

The most obvious "Torso" reference in grind is EXHUMED (Us) who named a song after this movie, and sampled the hysterical teaser trailer as an intro. The song can be found on their Split Cd with Hemdale and also compiled on the "Platters of Splatter" anthology cd set. There's also a "Torso 2000" remake of that song.

GUT (Germany) also sampled parts of the trailer as intro a couple of times for their Ep's & Split Ep's. Back when they were using horror movie intros.

More bands out there used "Torso" as inspiration, I'll mention MACHETAZO (Spain) who also called one of their song "Torso" (on their first album "Carne de Cementerio"), also using the same trailer as intro.

"Enter... if you dare the bizarre world of the psychosexual mind."


A masked stalker lurks around a group of female university students in Italy, awaiting to strangle, enucleate, eviscerate them one by one! Which he eventually procedes to do...
The surviving bunch of girls decide to go on a trip to the countryside and get away from their troubles, but unbeknownst to them the psychosexual lunatic is still on their trail, itching to dismember their corpses with a hacksaw... Who's the maniac? Who will survive? And... what will be left of them?

MOVIE REVIEWS
Coming right after a brutal series of first rate giallo thrillers with bewildering titles such as "The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh" (1970), "The Case of the Scorpion's Tail" (1971), "All of the Colors of the Dark" (1972) and "Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key" (1972), director Sergio Martino struck one more time, harder than ever, with the 1973 seminal proto-slasher "Torso", the apotheosis of this director's incursion into the genre! It almost plays like an anthology to all these films.
Genius screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (also writer of "The Whip and the Body", "Almost Human"...) who also penned all of Martino's previous giallo outings is back too and delivers yet again on the nailbiting suspense, and well-conceived intrigues. Only Martino's usual starring lady and giallo queen Edwige Fenech is missing this time around but the bevy of babes in Torso more than makes up for her absence!
The events in this movie are supposedly inspired (very loosely) by a real case of a guy dismembering his victims (which took place in Italy). And the original movie title which translated as "Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence" has been changed to "Torso" in America, maybe trying to link it to the totally unrelated but very real "Cleveland Torso Murderer".

Despite flirting with horror, "Torso" still belongs to the giallo genre in essence, relying heavily on classic murder mystery elements & hitchockian suspense, which is what actually makes the film so riveting to watch and something more than standard slasher fare. The film pushes the envelope in terms of nudity and bloody violence (for a regular thriller of the time period, nowadays it looks tamer than any HBO tv show)... but Sergio Martino also demonstrates some subtlely in his direction at times, a lot of the more gruesome acts are often suggested or only shown as flashes of gore, usually really brief.
This is a tightly constructed, well-paced and well-edited thriller. The daring plot twists are really what make this movie! The film always feels fresh and surprising and almost seems to subvert the slasher conventions before they were even set.
Sergio Martino of course delves more into the exploitative aspects of the giallo genre in comparison to Dario Argento ("Deep Red", "Suspiria") which makes his movies a little more shallow thematically but a lot more entertaining just to experience! Martino throws in some titillating lesbian scenes and gets most of his actresses to fully undress (except for Suzy Kendall & Tina Aumont who unfortunately seemed to have an ironclad contract regarding this issue)
But on top of being quite sleazy and lurid, "Torso" is also damn stylish!

You know what you're getting into right away with this movie as the opening credits play over a threesome between 2 girls and an unidentified male... Photographs are being taken, intercut with intriguing shots of dolls... But what's seemingly a gratuitous (albeit blurry) sex scene actually plays into the killer's motives later! (Gotta pay attention to the plot too!)

The first segment of the film feels more like a vacationing trip and tour of beautiful italian locations, nice-looking churches, fine arts & all that crap...
It serves as an introduction to a whole lot of stupendous-looking fine art student type girls as well as a bunch of shifty-looking male protagonists! Most of them are made to look suspect. Clearly a very obvious device to confuse the viewer and produce as many red-herring characters as humanly possibly... You've got a limp-dicked/impotent/borderline stalker boyfriend, a creepy pervert scarf-seller, the weird uncle, a strangely quiet and mysterious doctor or a couple of creepy biker studs, and I must be forgetting a couple more... All viable suspects in our upcoming whodunnit! Often subjective camera shots are used to get across the maniac's point of view, and since he's a pervert the camera is basically leering alongside female curves for a large chunk of the movie!

 
MOVIE REVIEWS
 


Suzy Kendall
("Spasmo")


Tina Aumont
(Fellini's "Casanova")

Conchita Airoldi
("Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh")
 

Angela Covello
("So Sweet, So Dead")

Carla Brait
("Case of the Bloody Iris")

Patrizia Adiutori
Rosaria della Femmina
 

Luc Merenda
("Kidnap Syndicate")

Ernesto Colli
("Milano Calibro 9")

Roberto Bisacco

John Richardson
("Black Sunday")

Carlo Alighiero
("Cat O' Nine Tails")

Then bloody murders start happening! Our first slaughtering involves a couple seriously making out in their red mini-cooper at night... A peeping tom seems to be prowling around their love nest and the girl's boyfriend runs after him to investigate (bad idea!). It's the first time you get a glimpse at the masked killer... The tension rises as the scantily clad blonde is left alone. She's facing a surprise death by strangulation and her face is squeezed against the car's windshield glass...
Note that Sergio Martino is probably paying hommage to himself here as there is another death scene in the earlier "Case of the Scorpion's Tail" where a buxom red-headed woman's face is being pushed against a window pane in a similar manner while being slashed up (Sergio Martino seems to be proud of this scene according to interviews and possibly tried to repeat it)


"Torso"

"The Case of the Scorpion's Tail"

Despite the "Carnal Violence" in the title, there is no actual rape to be found in this movie. But it seems like Sergio Martino is maybe trying to take the Hitchcock motto of "filming love scenes like murder scenes, and murder scenes like love scenes" further... Only the murder scenes here are filmed like sex scenes and the love scenes are filmed like orgies...
The disturbing thing about Torso's killer is that he's really into fondling his victims after their passing and defiling their corpse, poking out their eyeballs and gutting them wide open. And of course stabbings in gialli (as in Hitchcock's "Psycho") is a very sexual act, almost like a penetration. The gory special effects are pretty shoddy and unrealistic, clearly a dummy is used for all the gruesome stuff, with the usual 70's unnaturally bright red blood splashes but who cares it's the thought that counts! It also kind of works within the killer's frame of mind who proclaims that the women he killed were just "dolls of flesh and blood"! The moments of "carnal violence" are actually interspersed with visions of dolls that the killer is experiencing! Perhaps a traumatising childhood event is driving his terrible actions?
It has to be said that the killer in "Torso" also wears some of the coolest gloves in the whole giallo genre! Although the scarf part is slightly effiminate-looking.

Next is the central setpiece in the movie... You have this girl wandering in a confused drugged up state of mind, entering fog-laden woods, dipping her bare feet in mud swamps... The hazy cinematography looks really great in this scene.
She feels the killer's phantom-like presence, stumbles and falls, seemingly trapped like a bird in a tar pit. The murderer slowly but surely moves towards her and again strangles his victim with his red and black scarf (important clue!) and even chokes her head first in mud! After yet again fondling her corpse he cuts her belly wide open using a nice-looking curve-bladed knife!
This scene also reminds me of a scene in Sergio Martino's first giallo "The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh" featuring the very same actress, also wandering alone in a park, and also getting violently killed!

So far the movie is an extremely enjoyable ride filled with exciting stalk and kill scenes, but once the remaining group of girls go about on their trip to a remote house in the countryside, the movie takes a definite turn for the best and the tension cranks up a notch. The less said about it the better, I'll just mention that the movie basically becomes a huge game of cat-and-mouse and the hacksaw so prominent in the posters finally gets some usage! A few of the plot twists in the final section of this movie are devilishly clever and blew my mind on my initial viewing.
There is a bold use of ellipsis too as one of the main characters blacks out after mixing champagne and sleeping pills. Once she wakes up the next morning, she's thrown into a really grim situation. What follows is a really terrific and suspenseful tour-de-force!

The movie definitely has also its share of camp of course. Some characters like the milk delivery boy almost seem to be borrowed from one of Sergio Martino's sex comedies of the time ("Sex with a Smile", etc...).
The whole mystery of red and black scarf is quite ridiculous, the identity of the killer is pretty insignificant (his motives are totally out of whack too!) and the ending is a little predictable... (It seems like gialli most always fall in line with the 1940's film noir kind of production code, where the bad guys always have to be punished in the end!)
But to me, all these aspects are part of the giallo charm. It's really an alternate universe filled with red herrings, hot babes, psychosexual maniacs and bloody murder, a real pulp fiction novel come to life! The breath-taking style and mastery of suspense for the largest bulk of the movie is still impressive today. Definitely a classic for me. And if you've never seen a giallo before, this is a good place to start.



Besides Martino's self-references mentioned earlier in my review... Obviously, Dario Argento is the main reason for this movie to exist, especially "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" which also starred the same actress, Suzy Kendall. In both films she finds herself trapped in a room unable to escape because of barred windows and a killer lurking around the house!

The heavy emphasis on horny teenagers getting slashed and diced seems to indicate an equal inspiration from Mario Bava's "Bay of Blood"... But Torso is its own entity and anticipates the US Slasher genre that came later in the 1980's.
It really is the first fully formed slasher prototype for all the "Friday the 13th" or "Slumber Party Massacre" type movies involving the winning formula of boobs and masked serial killers afflicted with a childhood trauma! The murderer's almost ghost-like appearance during some of the murder setpieces could easily have inspired John Carpenter when he created Micheal Myers' boogeyman persona for "Halloween".
And I also have a theory that this movie is the basis for "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" : it came out a full year before. Maybe the producers in the grindhouse circuit asked for something similar to Tobe Hooper, only with a chainsaw instead of a hacksaw, something they could push in the marketing campaign. Torso was even re-released as a double-bill with Texas Chainsaw Massacre later!

A KEY SCENE: This last one is maybe too obscure a reference... Regarding a stand-out scene where Suzy Kendall is locked in a room and trying to recover a key using a newspaper from under the door... I won't spoil it too much but this scene has a twist that I always thought was really awesome and darkly humorous! Watching an old movie though called "The Window" (1949) where a little kid is also stalked by a criminal, I found myself face to face with a strikingly similar scene/twist (with a hanger instead of a newspaper) that kind of put a damper on my favorite "Torso" scene! It's very probable that scriptwriter Ernesto Gastaldi knowing his classics, nicked the idea...


"Torso" (1973)

"The Window" (1949)