Director: Sergio Martino
Shriek Show/Media Blasters

Glancing at the track record of Media Blasters' Eurocult/horror label, Shriek Show, fans will find a mixed bag of releases. Beginning with the extras-packed JUNGLE HOLOCAUST (which some fans griped about due to its two-tone matting), the company has put out its fair share of damaged goods in-between some very worthy discs (WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO SOLANGE?, EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD). Rest assured, however, that the long-awaited disc of ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK is a perfect release. Shriek Show has gotten everything right with this disc, including the gorgeous cover art. Wary consumers can pick this up with no fears of imperfections or screw-ups. It also helps that the film at hand is one of the best-kept secrets of Italian giallo cinema.

Striking Algerian beauty Edwige Fenech stars as Jane, a troubled young woman who just miscarried her unborn baby in a car accident which her doctor boyfriend Richard blames himself for. She begins having strange surrealistic nightmares, featuring cackling toothless women in baby bonnets, a knife-wielding killer with piercing blue eyes and screaming nude women stabbed to death in their beds. Visits to her sister's psychiatrist do no good, and the medicine Richard prescribes to her intensifies her fear. To make matters worse, the blue-eyed killer from her dreams begins appearing in her reality as well, following her on the subway, through the park and stalking her in her apartment building. Help comes in the form of her neighbor, Mary, who introduces her to a black magic cult which she promises will cure her of her troubles by performing a black sabbath. However, the terrifying experience only leaves Jane even more fragile and haunted than she was before. Is there no end to the terror that plagues her?

As far as gialli go, ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK is one of the very best. From the get-go, with a quietly terrifying fade to black view of an isolated river cutting to a disorienting nightmare which makes not one lick of sense, the viewer is made to feel just as unsure of their sanity as the heroine! The film does a superb job of identifying with Jane, throwing her into a whirlwind of horrific imagery which she doesn't understand. The black sabbath sequence still stands up today, with a dog's throat being slit and Edwige being forced to drink the blood from a chalice before being gang-banged by the black-robed Satan worshippers...only to awaken in the arms of George Hilton! Huh? If this sounds like ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968), it's because Polanski's film was an acknowledged influence on this one. But Martino's film still manages to carry itself on its own merits: superb cinematography, a chilling score, accomplished editing techniques, believable performances and an overwhelming sense of dread. Judging by the clichés of the genre, ALL THE COLORS isn't even a standard example of its ilk. It is more in tune with a supernatural thriller than a man-with-black-gloves slasher film. The only really obvious elements are the shadowy figure (played menacingly well by the late Ivan Rassimov) and a great score by Bruno Nicolai, but the psychedelic nightmares, elements of Satanism and black magic and dreamlike pacing were never used by the Argento's or the Lenzi's of the same time period. It is these marked differences that make this a rich, rewarding viewing experience.

Edwige Fenech starred in a number of Italian horror films, beginning with Mario Bava's FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON (1970) and continuing through the gialli Golden Age, before really hitting it big with a series of sex comedies where she played sexy nurses, schoolteachers, policewomen and a variety of other uniformed women who drop their drawers to get the job done. Currently a big-time TV producer in Italy, Fenech has aged gracefully...however the question of whether plastic surgery was used is a good one....? Edwige turns in a brave performance as a perpetually confused victim, which is probably her strongest genre role outside of Martino's GENTLY BEFORE SHE DIES (1972). And she has a quite memorable clothed shower sequence.... George Hilton is usually a bland performer in his horror films, and he isn't given much to do here until the surprising climax. Same goes for the sultry Nieves Navarro (aka Susan Scott) as Edwige's sister, who only really figures into the twist ending. Marina Malfatti, who would contribute a memorable performance as an early victim in Lenzi's SEVEN BLOODSTAINED ORCHIDS (1972), is just great as the mysterious neighbor who draws Edwige into the world of the occult.

The 2.35:1 framing of the anamorphic letterboxed transfer is perfect, and displays the beautiful cinematography beautifully. In comparison to the Marketing Films DVD release, the image's color palette is much crisper and sharper, and there is not a speck of grain to be found anywhere. This ranks with SOLANGE as one of Shriek Show's best transfers. The English mono is unfortunately quite underwhelming; you really have to crank it to hear both music and dialogue. On the other hand, the original Italian track is much better, with clear dialogue and music. Viewers would be best served viewing the film for the first time in its original Italian with English subtitles, which Shriek Show has thoughtfully included here. Unfortunately, some of the subtitles are missing over the Italian dialogue, most of it negligible (the couple down the hall, for example).

It is unfortunate that with the departure of Kit Gavin and Mike Baronas in the extras department, interviews with Edwige Fenech, Marina Malfatti and Nieves Navarro could not be included. But new supplements producer Paolo Zelati still has provided good video interviews with star George Hilton and director Sergio Martino. Hilton remembers his regular appearances in westerns kept him branching out into many other genres, so he was grateful to have appeared in a number of gialli and still be recognized from them today. He also recalls first meeting Edwige and their lifelong friendship; the duo made six films together, three of which were gialli. Martino (who has still not really been given his due as a genre director) discusses the film being ahead of its time in terms of plot structure, scouting locations for the film in London and audience confusion over the dream sequences vs. the reality. Not too many nuggets of info discussing the shooting of the film and working with Edwige (who he frequently cast in his gialli), but an interesting interview nonetheless.

Completing the package are the Italian trailer (under the title TUTTI I COLORI DEL BUIO), the U.S. drive-in trailer (under the title THEY'RE COMING TO GET YOU!), two U.S. radio spots, an incredibly comprehensive photo gallery with an abundance of continuity photos and publicity stills, international posters, soundtrack covers, lobby cards and video sleeves (also, strangely, a locandina for WHAT ARE THOSE STRANGE DROPS OF BLOOD ON JENNIFER?), and the quite good U.S. opening title sequence prepared by Sam Sherman's Independent-International. Trailers are also included for Shriek Show releases SLAUGHTER HOTEL, NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT, 2019 AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK and excitedly enough the upcoming release of Lenzi's crime classic SYNDICATE SADISTS!

This is a top-notch disc from the usually troubled Media Blasters clan and here's hoping they manage to release Martino's two other collaborations with Edwige Fenech: BLADE OF THE RIPPER and GENTLY BEFORE SHE DIES. And while on the topic of Edwige, maybe her sexploitation classick THE SEDUCERS, co-starring Rosalba Neri! ***Casey's Choice: Top 10 Disc of 2004*** (Casey Scott)