Giallo Essentials [Yellow Edition] Blu-ray Review: Masked Killers, Disrobed Victims

Arrow Video’s second box set collection of giallo classics is now available, arriving less than a month after the first collection. Unlike the first set, all three of the films presented here are more what one would consider true gialli, with seedy crime plots stuffed with sex and gore. All three films are presented in 1080p from recent 2K restorations of the original camera negatives, and have received such exhaustive restoration that they look and sound better than ever before, with all blemishes removed, highly consistent color and brightness levels, as well as lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks. Each film is housed in an individual full-size case with reversible cover art, with the three cases stored in a rigid box with windowed slipcover. The box color is a fun nod to the word giallo, which literally means yellow in Italian.

What Have They Done to Your Daughters gets off to an unintentionally laughable start when cops find a nude young lass hanging from the rafters in an attic, with the girl a poorly designed dummy that is so fake it’s impossible to suspend disbelief. A rumpled old chief inspector and a beguiling rookie assistant district attorney soon discover that the girl was part of a prostitution ring with clients in the highest class. Unfortunately, a mysterious helmeted motorcycle rider is also in on the action, seemingly killing all potential witnesses before the cops can find them. There’s plenty of action in this one, but the haphazard editing makes it hard to care about any of the characters, making this the weakest entry in the box set. Bonus features are on the paltry side, with a video essay by an unaffiliated author, interviews with the composer and editor, as well as unused hardcore footage shot for the film by director Massimo Dallamano, a perplexing addition considering that the actual film contains only a fairly modest amount of nudity.

On the surface, Torso appears to be a generic giallo with copious blood and skin, but co-writer/director Sergio Martino makes some interesting choices that help to elevate it above the norm. He plays bait and switch with the identity of the final girl, changing to a completely different character than the de facto lead for the final act. He sets the film in a port city that enables the incorporation of intriguing international cast members rather than a strictly Italian cast, while also showing the impact their presence has on the inbred locals. He delights in showing the masked killer’s carnage throughout the film, but pulls away for three crucial murders that occur offscreen, tweaking the formula as if to proclaim that the gore isn’t the point. He also changes the entire trajectory of the film for the final act, taking it from a wild killing spree throughout the town to a cloistered game of cat and mouse in a secluded villa as the true final girl tries to hide until the killer leaves. 

Torso is offered in both the 94-minute Italian cut and 90-minute English cut. Its extensive bonus features get a massive boost from a recent exclusive interview with Martino where he discusses his career and gives his candid insight about the film. He also appears in a lengthy Q&A recorded in conjunction with a 2017 horror festival screening. Actor Luc Merenda and co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi also provide interview segments. Interestingly, Martino’s daughter also appears in an exclusive interview, offering her highly informed thoughts on the film. It’s fascinating to see her studious breakdown of her father’s slasher skin flick, but she approaches it like the true work of art it is, not the genre trash it appears to be.

Strip Nude for Your Killer gets points for its lurid title, even though it has little to do with the actual plot. Another fully helmeted motorcycle killer is on the prowl, this time summarily dispatching the employees and models of a modeling studio. Before their murders, those subjects spend most of the film getting naked and hooking up. The lead photographer (Nino Castelnuevo) and his girlfriend/fellow photographer (Edwige Fenech) team up to figure out who the killer is before the clueless cops, hoping to save themselves in the process. It’s a well-executed, smartly edited film anchored by the luminous presence of Fenech, a textbook example of a classic giallo. Bonus features include an engaging video essay by a critic about the career of screen icon Fenech, an archival interview with Castelnuevo, a recent interview with actress Erna Schurer, and interviews with the assistant director and production manager. The disc also offers the choice of tinted or untinted versions of the opening scene.

While all three films can be purchased individually, they make for great companions in this convenient and lavishly produced box set.

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Steve Geise

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