Sunday 4 January 2015

All The Colours Of The Dark (Sergio Martino, 1972) DVD Review

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“You don't understand, the dreams I have are like horror stories.” Could there be a better team in the history of the giallo film than Director Sergio Martino (Torso), Writer Ernesto Gastaldi (The Case of the Scorpion's Tail), and stars Edwige Fenech (The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh) and George Hilton (My Dear Killer)? Arguably not. Striking out during the most productive years for gialli, All The Colours of the Dark sidesteps traditional murder mystery territory in favour of kaleidoscopic psycho-sexual thrills, trading black leather for black magic, and outward terror for inner turmoil...

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“The one problem you might be fighting is loneliness, but do remember you're quite sane.” Beginning with a quiet and relaxed lakeside sunset scene, the birdsong and lapping water belies the nightmarish visions that follow. A toothless old hag laughing hysterically, an extremely pregnant woman with accusing eyes, and a bloodied victim are some of the curious sights within a strange world of black and white. An aged killer with exceptional blue eyes stalks among them, his movements fractured by … the warped logic of a dream.

“If you begin that therapy business you'll never stop.” Jane (Edwige Fenech) is suffering from the mental scars of a traumatic car accident that lead to a miscarriage, a tragedy not of her making, but one that she nevertheless feels guilty for. She's hopelessly trapped within her grief and habitually incapable of choosing a path to follow. Devoted to her distant workaholic husband Richard (George Hilton) and in thrall to the influences of her sister Barbara (Nieves Navarro, Death Walks At Midnight, as Susan Scott), she's torn between medicine and psychotherapy.

“Strange men have been following women since the stone age, Jane, or hadn't you realised?” The drugs don't work and, despite the childhood trauma of her mother being murdered, Dr Burton (George Rigaud, The Case of the Bloody Iris) can do little to soothe Jane's trouble with keeping dreams and reality separated. Everywhere she treads in this Autumnal London she sees the mysterious Mark Cogan (Ivan Rassimov, Super Bitch); in a waiting room, in the park, on the tube, outside her window … who is he? What does he want? Does he even exist? Mercifully, a third way presents itself in the form of new neighbour Mary (Marina Malfatti, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids) and a black magic ceremony that she assures will free Jane of her problems.

“These people don't like being questioned my dear, you've only to trust them and they'll do the rest.” Deep within the bowels of a gothic manor house, surrounded by robed cultists and under the gaze of their master (Julian Ugarte), Jane succumbs to the intimidating lure of blood sacrifice and orgiastic pleasure. Tumbling down the rabbit hole, with her perception fracturing, Jane finds herself lost within the murky world of black magic. Is she capable of killing? Can she trust those around her? Is any of this real and are is escape impossible?

“You have crossed every barrier to reality, you are beyond its limits, and you'll never see it again.” Inspired by Rosemary's Baby, Sergio Martino's delirious descent into a dream-like madness proves to be an elusive masterpiece. Defying strict classification, and with a plot (co-written by Sauro Scavolini, story by Santiago Moncada) mired in a pervasive lack of trust and a disrupted sense of reality, All The Colours Of The Dark is a bizarre slice of Italian cinema. Bruno (Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key) Nicolai's influential score combines beautiful dreams with unsettling nightmares, off-setting scatter gun visuals with soothing tones in one scene before diving into the grief-stricken soul of Fenech's Jane in the next. Using whip pans and wide angle lens photography to disorientate, Miguel Fernandez Mila and Giancarlo Fernando's cinematography goes hand-in-hand with Eugenio Alabiso's hair trigger editing. Mirrored reflections, image-shattering bars, skewed compositions, and hazy lighting combine to produce one of the most visually sensational works of the period.

“No, this can't be true, it's too disgusting.” Otherwise known as 'They're Coming To Get You', 'Day of the Maniac', and even 'The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh No.2', Martino's All The Colours Of The Dark is a strange and twisted highlight of 1970s Italian thrillers. Hilton and Fenech were the golden duo of gialli - handsome and gorgeous in equal measure - while the combination of Martino and Gastaldi were sure to produce thrills, chills, and satirical bite. Boasting some brilliantly tense sequences, boldly creative lighting, and a consistent sense of mystery, this is a prime example of the glorious cinematic heights of the genre. More psychedelic than psychotic, more bizarre than bloody, it stands as a profoundly unique film on the outskirts of the hugely popular giallo movement.

“Beauty should be shown, why hide yours under all this clothing?” Shriek Show's DVD presentation (from 2004, now out of print) provides solid widescreen visuals, but occasionally indistinct dialogue on the audio track. Extras wise there is an extensive picture gallery, alternative opening and closing credit sequences, various trailers and radio spots, previews for other features, and interviews with Sergio Martino (20 minutes) and George Hilton (6 minutes). On a personal note, I had been chasing a copy of this movie for at least two years until I finally got my mits on it, and I'm pleased to say it didn't disappoint.

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