In the mood for a little seventies-style horror? You have probably seen all the Me-Gen classics like The Exorcist, The Tenant, and Carrie 1,000 times already. So, what's left? The giallo genre, of course. Like hybrid of film noir and the slasher, giallo is intrinsically Italian in origin and always features at least one shocking and inventive murder scene.
Here are three gialli that are technically in the genre, but don't quite fit the mold (looking for the classics? Rent: Deep Red, The Bird With A Crystal Plumage, Five Dolls For an August Moon, The Fifth Cord, or Short Night of the Glass Dolls).
Autopsy ("Macchie solari") - 1973
Directed by: Armando Crispino
Starring: Mimsy Farmer and Barry Primus
Also Known As: Tarot, Sunspots, Tension, or The Victim
Simona (Mimsy Farmer) is a pathology med student who starts to get suspicious when a number of suicides show up on the slabs. At first, the epidemic is attributed to sunspots, but Simona doesn't believe it and her dubiousness is bolstered by a persistent priest (Barry Primus) who tells her that these are indeed murders.
Autopsy doesn't feature too many actual human dissections, but there are some — the story is more nutty, nonsensical giallo than anything else, complete with most of the genre's hallmarks: women in disguise, gratuitous nudity, exploitative death scenes, a priest, car-racing, freaky hallucination scenes, drugging, daggers, insistently ringing telephones, etc. It's compulsively watchable, and the brain-busting Ennio Marcionne score is to die for.
The Stendhal Syndrome ("Sindrome di Stendhal, La") - 1996
Directed by: Dario Argento
Starring: Asia Argento and Thomas Kretschmann
Although this movie came out far past the golden era of the giallo, it's directed by master filmmaker Dario Argento and carries many of the hallmarks: most notably voyeurism, sexual perversion, and paranoia. It also has a 70s tone and pace to it.
Anna (Asia Argento) is a policewoman who finds herself stricken with a mental disorder that's prompted by looking at paintings — she finds out that she's got The Stendhal Syndrome while tracking a serial rapist through the great museums of Florence. Hobbled by her disease and temporarily insane, Anna becomes a target for the crazed misogynist known as Grossi (Thomas Kretschmann).
This strange and suspenseful movie, shot by Fellini favorite Giuseppe Rotunno, looks absolutely gorgeous and features some luscious, fantastical hallucination sequences juxtaposed with brutal rapes and murders. The score, by Ennio Morricone, employs an odd musical gymnastic from the 16th century, in which the notes can be read the same backward and forward.
The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh ("Strano vizio della Signora Wardh, Lo") - 1971
Directed by: Sergio Martino
Starring: Edwige Fenech and George Hilton
Also Known As: Blade of the Ripper, Next Victim, or Next!
Julie Wardh (Edwige Fenech) is newly married, but she is no blushing bride. In fact, she has a dark past, which includes a sexual history steeped in blood. Julie's ex-lover, Jean (Ivan Rassimov), is insanely jealous of her domestic bliss and he does everything he can to disturb her… could his cries for attention also include the razor-slashing killings of several local women?
The Italian locations and authentic interiors are breathtaking — and giggle-inducing at the same time (take a Dramamine for the wallpaper!) — and the sumptuous cinematography (by Emilio Foriscot and Floriano Trenker) takes full advantage using both tight close-ups and sweeping masters.
The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is slower moving than most thrillers of this era and ilk, but it's every bit as kooky and confounding (in the most wonderful ways) as you can hope — and Fenech, arguably the queen the gialli, smolders in every single scene.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson