TORSO (1973) (Blu-ray)
Director: Sergio Martino
Blue Underground

Originally released in Europe as I CORPI PRESENTANO TRACCE DI VIOLANZA CARNALE (THE BODIES BEAR TRACES OF CARNAL VIOLENCE), this absorbing and sleazy giallo showed up in America in 1975 as TORSO when distributed by Joseph Brenner. Brenner's releasing company trimmed some of the film's potent dialog, gore and nudity, including the highly erotic Ménage à trois opening credit sequence, which was eliminated altogether. First released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2000, TORSO now makes its way onto Blu-ray with two different cuts of the film, one being the full-length Italian version never before seen on home video in the States.

The film centers on an international University in Italy where many of the cast's attractive cuties attend. Two girls are found viciously murdered; one has her chest mutilated after making love in a parked car and the other has her eyes gouged out in the muddy woods after cock-teasing a couple of guys who dually grope her at a love-in. The police discover a scarf — the garment that the ski-masked killer uses to strangle his victims before marring them — at the scene of the second murder. After the police lecture the students on the grisly happenings, Daniela (Tina Aumont, LIFESPAN) recognizes the scarf, but she just can't seem to place it. After getting a threatening phone call from the assumed madman, she goes on holiday to her uncle's giant isolated villa with three other girls.

When they arrive at the villa, it appears that they were tracked down by the killer, who then goes on a rampage of bloodshed. Aumont and two other girls are attacked and subsequently hacksawed up into pieces. The final third of the film has the surviving "good girl" (Suzy Kendall of BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE) trying to outwit the clever killer while suffering a sprained ankle. Kendall is excellent and this acting showcase really demonstrates why she has a cult following.

TORSO is a very entertaining murder mystery/sleaze/Euro trash pic nicely put together in a 93-minute package which pre-dates the late 1970s slasher craze by some years. Director and co-writer Sergio Martino shies away from the fatiguing giallo plot elements that only Mario Bava and Dario Argento seem to get away with, most of the time. Instead, he treats us to a standard, yet very apt "killer on the loose" yarn with about half a dozen suspects (perverts or horny men seen ogling young ladies), most who are killed off by the third act. When the killer is revealed, his sadistic behavior is tied to a traumatic childhood experience, which is a common giallo ingredient. Martino's film is a visual treat, full of pleasing Perugia locations complimented by striking camera work.

One of the film's best attributes is the nice selection of beautiful women on hand. TORSO makes up what it lacks in terms of plot by granting us unnecessary (but welcomed) nudity. The females are often seen teasing men who gawk and salivate as if they'd just got out of prison. It's this kind of perverse nature that makes this film so enjoyable. An interracial lesbian sequence (with peeping toms and all) is also thrown in for good measure. There are a number of gory slayings (the mutilating of the girls, a head being crushed by an automobile, a throat slashing) that are very effectively exposed as quickly edited shots on screen. Brit actor and former Hammer Films regular John Richardson (by this time in his career, spending a lot of time in Italy) and French star Luc Merenda (who was in several other vehicles for Martino) are the male leads, while Angela Covello, Carla Brait, Conchita Airoldi and striking blonde Patrizia Adiutori all contribute to the film’s high quota of exposed flesh.

Two cuts of TORSO are presented here, both identical in quality and in a 1.66:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The film has been freshly transferred in High Definition, with excellent 1080p resolution and amazing detail that sticks out in many scenes, such as the outdoor university crowd shots. Colors are, as expected, deep and distinct and detail is amazingly sharp. Grain is minimal and more apparent during some of the night scenes, but overall, the new HD transfer is fantastic. The Italian version (which runs 93 minutes) can be played in English (with subtitles popping up for the few scenes which are only in Italian) or you can play it in its entirety in Italian, with optional English subtitles. This longer Italian cut includes extra footage during the opening university lecture scene which wasn’t present at all in Anchor Bay’s original DVD (as well as Blue Underground’s subsequent 2009 re-release). The English version (90 minutes) is an International cut with English opening and closing credits, and omits several dialog scenes only meant for the longer Italian cut (the American theatrical version was much shorter, running about 85 minutes long). The English DTS-HD mono and Italian DTS-HD mono tracks both replicate the original sound clearly and sufficiently, and optional Spanish, French and English SDH subtitles are provided for the English version.

“Murders in Perugi” is a new 11-minute interview with Sergio Martino, presented in HD. Martino discusses the film’s original title (and its simpler American one), co-writing the film with Ernesto Gastaldi, approaching Carlo Ponti to produce it, as well as an anecdote about some mischief among the cast that went on during the location shooting in Perugia. The alternate U.S. theatrical opening credits are provided (from a well-worn 35mm print source) as is the original U.S. trailer (which over emphasizes hard guitar feedback in favor of Maurizio De Angelis' seductive original score), and the psychedelic English international and Italian trailers (both, presented in HD, are identical except of course for their language). Two different American TV spots, a long radio spot and a poster and still gallery (which displays a number of video and DVD covers from around the globe) are also included. Director Eli Roth does a brief on-screen introduction, expressing his love for the film and that he was able to persuade its star, Luc Merenda, to come out of retirement to appear in his own HOSTEL: PART II. (George R. Reis)