Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Celluoid Ramblings: ALL THE COLORS OF GIALLO

by JB
Boy, did Lucio Fulci hate Dario Argento!

Though released in early February, Severin Films’ new Blu-ray release, All the Colors of Giallo, vaults to my list of “2019 Discs of the Year” for its information value, its sheer ambition, and for just how much goddamn fun the whole thing is. Not content with simply releasing a bang-up documentary about the Italian giallo phenomenon of the 1960s and ’70s, Severin has packed this release with enough special features to keep crazy cinephiles busy for those endless hours when we are not trying to guess the identity of a black-clad killer or, indeed, committing multiple knife murders ourselves.
The documentary is very well done and contains interviews with many giants of the disreputable genre: directors Dario Argento, Umberto Lenzi, Lamberto Bava, Lucio Fulci (in audio form), Luciano Ercoli, and Sergio Martino; screenwriters Ernesto Gastaldi, Biagio Proietti, and Dardano Sacchetti; and actors Edwige Fenech, George Hilton, Daria Nicolodi, Nieves Navarro, and Barbara Bouchet, who questions Lucio Fulci’s sanity. The whole thing is held together with helpful history lessons from film historian Fabio Melelli. Some highlights include: Lucio Fulci raving about the superiority of his films over Argento’s and claiming that every important element of gialli was in fact pioneered by… Lucio Fulci; Argento telling the story of the studio head absolutely hating his first film, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, until it became a runaway international hit, after which the chastened studio head claimed he always knew it would be a hit… and demanded that Argento begin his follow-up film immediately; and all of the interviews with the screenwriters in which they delve into the structural uniqueness and narrative conventions of giallo screenplays. It is quite fascinating.
ONE QUIBBLE: Because everyone interviewed is Italian and because interviews take up a majority of the running time, there is, conservative estimate, three times more subtitles in this documentary than in a “standard” foreign film. I don’t mind the subtitles; I like to hear each participant’s actual voice. Plus, I do not think any dubbing actor alive could do justice to Fulci’s preposterous, raving tone. Just know going in that watching this doc is more akin to reading a novel than watching a movie!

The first disc, containing the documentary, also features a 20-minute interview with John Martin, editor of the fan magazine The Giallo Pages, and the main supplementary attraction, a “Giallo-Thon,” a chronological collection of no fewer than 82 giallo trailers: The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Blood and Black Lace, Libido, The Embalmer, The Murder Clinic, Deadly Sweet, Death Laid an Egg, Naked You Die, The Sweet Body of Deborah, A Black Veil for Lisa, Deadly Inheritance, Paranoia, One on Top of the Other, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Five Dolls for an August Moon, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Bloody Day of Frogs and Toads, Death Occurred Last Night, The Weekend Murders, The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The Cat O’ Nine Tails, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (AKA Schizoid), Cold Eyes of Fear (AKA Desperate Moments), The Designated Victim, In the Eye of the Hurricane, Slaughter Hotel, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, The Fifth Cord, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire, The Black Belly of the Tarantula, The Bloodstained Butterfly, Short Night of Glass Dolls, Death Stalks on High Heels, The Devil with Seven Faces, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, The Dead Are Alive, My Dear Killer, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, All the Colors of the Dark, What Have You Done to Solange?, Amuck, Who Saw Her Die?, The French Sex Murders, The Case of the Bloody Iris, The Crimes of the Black Cat, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, Knife of Ice, Don’t Torture a Duckling, Tropic of Cancer, The Killer is on the Phone, A White Dress for MarialĂ©, Torso (AKA Carnal Violence), Death Carries Massive Student Debt, Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye, Spasmo, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats, The Girl in Room 2A, What Have They Done to Your Daughters?, Puzzle, Death Will Have Your Eyes, The Killer Must Kill Again, Autopsy, Eyeball, Deep Red (AKA Profondo Rosso), Strip Nude for Your Killer, Elbow!, The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance, Strange Shadows in an Empty Room, The House of the Laughing Windows, Nine Guests for a Crime, Watch Me When I Kill(AKA The Cat’s Victims), The Psychic, The Pajama Girl Case, Hotel Fear, Enigma Rosso (AKA Rings of Fear), The Sister of Ursula, The Bloodstained Shadow, Killer Nun, Giallo in Venice, The New York Ripper, Tenebre, and A Blade in the Dark. These incredible trailers can be viewed with their original soundtracks or accompanied by a marathon commentary track by Kat Ellinger. Whew!

TANGENT: Just for fun, I have added three films to the above list that don’t really exist. Can YOU spot them?
The second disc contains a 24-minute interview with Marcus Stiglegger, titled "The Case of the Krimi," which explores the influence of that literary and film genre on Italian giallo novels and films. This is followed by Kriminal!, an additional ninety minute compilation of German and Italian krimi trailers.

The package is rounded out with a third disc, a CD titled The Strange Sounds of the Blood Stained Films, a 20-track compilation of the best and most unusual music from famous giallo films. I’m listening to it right now. This music makes me feel as if I’m enjoying a refreshing Limoncello while staring across a darkened palazzo as a scantily-clad Italian beauty nervously locks the door to a mysterious shop, when suddenly a half-crazed puppet boy enters the scene and advances on me in a quite menacing fashion. I smash his smirking little porcelain face. I begin to feel that the Italian beauty or I will probably be murdered soon, in a sensationally… stabby kind of way.
Severin Films even offered a gift set that included the Blu-ray set, a giallo t-shirt, two pins, and a pair of black gloves. That set, sadly, has sold out. This gives me hope that there may still be room in the world for those of us who love our serial meat hook slayings, Italiano-style!
I am just coming up for air after my first deep dive into the Giallo-thon. This is one of the better bargains of the year—on par with Severin Films’ 2015 Nightmare Castle release, which included a Barbara Steele audio commentary, a Barbara Steele interview, two featurettes, and two bonus Barbara Steele films as supplementary material: Castle of Blood and Terror Creatures from the Grave. All hail Severin films! Grab your black fedora, facemask, trench coat, straight razor, and nondescript shoes, and RUN, DON’T WALK, TO BUY THIS RELEASE.

10 comments:

  1. No way Death Carries Massive Student Debt is a real film. The others all sound plausible to me.

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  2. I agree, but Elbow! can't be real, and my next best guess is Bloody Day Of Frogs And Toads or The Bloodsucker Leads The Dance.

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  3. Well, you two cannot be fooled. Bloodsucker Leads the Dance, though, is REAL.

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    1. And quite tedious, if my memory is correct. Still, it does have Femi Benussi in one her rare leading roles.

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  4. Can we talk about Barbara Bouchet's film presence? #whoa

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    1. I cannot imagine a film like The Red Queen Kills Seven Times without Barbara Bouchet.

      Bouchet does seem to be get overlooked, but she was in as many gialli as Edwige Fenech. In any case, each of them brought something unique to the genre.

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  5. Not before we talk about the unique charms of Edwige Fenech. #doublewhoa

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    1. Oh totally. I just feel like she gets all the attention! A fun way to pass a few minutes is to google both their names, click on images, and lose yourself! #whoaaaaa

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  6. We watched TENEBRAE last night in honor of its USA release anniversary - and just because we wanted to. It's sooooo great. And the music is TOPS!

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  7. Ah, Giallo... Undoubtedly the favorite genre I have explored over the past decade. What probably draws me to it is the distinct combination of style and sleaze.

    This set looks terrific, J.B. When I got into these films around 2009, I felt like I was discovering a forgotten realm of cinema. Tracking down titles on Netflix often required a little bit of research, and there was not much being written about giallo online. With this set and the great releases through companies like Arrow, the recognition of the genre seems almost complete.

    By the way, I have the Nightmare Castle blu-ray. It is as terrific as you say it is.

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