Starting to appreciate the giallo

Ever since I first got into horror movies as a teenager, I’ve been told “oh you like that…you’ll love Argento…oh you saw that one…you should watch some Fulci” and so on…Umberto Lenzi, Mario Bava, Ruggero Deodato etc etc. Everyone around me seemed to love all these Italian films. And I tried, I bloody tried (pun initially not intended, but kept) but the films just didn’t do anything for me. Actually, it was mainly Argento that I kept being urged to watch. And I could see why people loved Suspiria, Tenebrae and Deep Red; they are beautiful movies, but they just bored me. I don’t know if it was the over-the-top melodrama or the heavily stylized cinematography. Perhaps, it’s somewhat telling that I was into Troma films at the time and directors that took their craft a tad more seriously than Lloyd Kaufman just bored me.

But now, a good fifteen years later I think I’m finally beginning “to get it”. I don’t even know where to start and maybe that’s the best way to go about this thing. There are a fuckload of giallo films to go through, so I’m doing the same old trick I use with wine and beer…and incidentally used to do with Troma films – if it has a cool name, it can’t be all bad…same goes with cover…good artwork, that’s half the film, right? Well, as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that this is not always true…so I do tend to take a little quick glance on the imdb page as well. If it’s rated over 5 and a cool name/poster then it feels pretty safe!

My tactic has been pretty successful so far, with films like What Have They Done To Your Daughters, Strip Nude For Your Killer, Don’t Torture A Duckling and Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key all impressing the hell out of me recently. I watched the latter last night and it completely blew my mind. It’s an absolutely stunning film from Sergio Martino, a director I know absolutely nothing about, but definitely will have to check out. Bursting with colour, beautiful people, beautiful landscapes, action, tension and nudity (of course) the film is just a joy to watch from frame one to FINE (for those of you with limited language skills, that’s Italian for THE END).

The story…well, it’s somewhat convoluted, but that’s the whole point (I think. Am I right?) You’re not really supposed to know what’s happening and the whole fun part is to keep guessing. Anyway, Oliviero is a writer suffering from severe writers block. He spends his days sleeping around or inviting youngsters to his mansion for parties/orgies. Oliviero is very keen on humiliating his wife Irina whenever the opportunity arises and he seems to blame her for his inability to write. He is also obsessed with the memory of his dead mother and this is making him act a little crazy. Yup, he’s one of those guys. Then he has cat called Satan, who hates Irina…and this hatred is very much mutual. So, some murders happen and he is immediately a suspect. After all, the victim was a young pretty girl and his Casanova antics are well known in town. He manages to convince his wife of his innocence, but she’s getting a bit freaked out at all the death around them, especially when their black maid is murdered in their house. Then, on top of all this drama, his niece decides to come over for a visit.

Floriana (played by the gorgeous Edwige Fenech)  really couldn’t have picked a worse time. She’s a bit of a seductress herself and it’s not long before she’s shared beds with both Oliviero and his wife…oh and the milk man. She bonds with Irina and seems to take her side against the abusive Oliviero. Doesn’t stop her from seducing him though. Then, when you think there’s going to be more murders, the killer is found! And we’re only half an hour into the movie!

Anyway, things are justa bout to get properly strange…

Oliviero is plotting to get rid of his wife, who is hoping to get rid of him. Floriana would quite like to get her hands on the dead mother’s jewels…and then there’s Satan, the cat…and let’s not forget the nosey rag and bone lady.

I’ll leave it there. Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key really is a must see. However,  I’m still very much a novice at this whole giallo thing and maybe it’s a mediocre compared to things I’ve yet to see. All I know is that it’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

I’m feeling rather excited by this whole giallo thing. Maybe I’m finally ready to give Argento another go.

4 thoughts on “Starting to appreciate the giallo

  1. Oh, Sergio Martino is awesome! He’s really one of the four greats of giallo–though really, all of his genre work is cool. 2019: After the Fall of New York is amazing.

    • Yeah, I’m hopelessly ignorant when it comes to giallo. Trying to catch up, tho! Who are the other three if I may ask? 2019 sounds ace! Will definitely have to check that one out.

      • Bava and Argento get the title maestro and the credit for really founding the genre, of course. Then usually Fulci is included as the third great, and sometimes Martino as a fourth. Then directors like Ercoli, Lado, and Lenzi get credit for consistently solid output in the genre (and out in the latter’s case).
        I only got into gialli a couple of years ago, and am still slowly working through them all myself. It’s a really fun habit.

  2. This pleases me. I was just reading about Sergio Martino’s ‘Island of the Fishmen’. Which I really hope lives up to the title. The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh is also a good one.

    You should also definitely check out ‘The Girl Who Knew Too Much’. It’s credited as being the first giallo film. It’s nowhere near as violent as later ones, but really nicely shot and really good fun.

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