Twilight's New Hue: Giallo
Italian cinema has given us master filmmakers like Fellini, Bertolucci, Antonioni, Visconti, De Sica and Leone but that list can also expand to include Mario Bava, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. The latter three were masters of a particular genre known as giallo (translated as “yellow,” the cover of mystery paperbacks published in Italy by offshore and later native crime fiction novelists in the 1920s and 1930s). Giallo movies, which thrived most heartily in the 1960s and 1970s before the “slasher” element of these veered off into a more graphic subgenre, always contained signature elements like masked killers wearing black gloves, dishy damsels in distress, shiny knives and generous bloodshed. Although the genre’s roots were literary, the movies that fell into this category aimed for more visceral, visual thrills that, as their devotees observed, concentrated more on climactic shocks than common sense. Bava (Blood and Black Lace, Kill, Baby, Kill), Argento (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Deep Red) and Fulci (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Don’t Torture a Duckling) got the focus of most of the critical attention brought to the genre, but many other moviemakers invaded the territory, even American Brian De Palma with this New York-set Dressed to Kill. Twilight Time ventures into this sinister domain with the first of several films from the library of Italian distributor Rewind Film, a rarely seen and rather woolly stew of madness, murder and mayhem called La Bambola di Satana aka The Doll of Satan (1969), directed by one-timer Ferruccio Casapinta. Set in a gloomily gothic castle in an otherwise beautiful countryside, it concerns a lovely young woman (Erna Schurer) whose rights to a family inheritance are questioned by her scheming relatives, including one among them not afraid to resort to serious torture and serial killing. According to K.H. Brown of the web blog Giallo Fever, its 90 minutes cover family nightmares, predatory ghosts and “just about every gothic horror and giallo motif the filmmakers could think of in a plot that’s half-Agatha Christie and half-Scooby-Doo.” It’s a Twilight zone that’s new to this label but which should please thriller diehards and more adventurous movie aficionados when TT unsheaths its new widescreen hi-def Blu-ray on February 16, complemented by a detailed, giallo-colored and entertainingly demented Audio Commentary by genre experts David Del Valle and Derek Botelho. Preorders open February 3.