"They love your books but they hate success."

American novelist Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) has arrived in Rome to promote his new crime thriller, "Tenebre" (the title translates as "Darkness"). Unfortunately, he is distressed to discover that someone has been killing women in the same manner as in his book. After each murder, Peter receives a cryptic note and a threatening phone call and as the killer gets closer, Peter must use his wits to unravel a mystery that has sprung from the pages of his own book. Could it be his agent, Bullmer (John Saxon)? The angry critic, Tilde (Mirella D'Angelo), or did his slightly unhinged ex, Jane (Veronica Lario) follow him to Rome?

After re-inventing the giallo with The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and then re-inventing it again with Susperia, Tenebre marks Dario Argento's return to classic giallo form, albeit with his own signature flourishes and unique visual style. I appreciate the touches of humor that Argento places judiciously throughout, like Bullmer's recurring vanity about his hat and ditzy Detective Altieri (Carola Stagnaro), who is this movie's Gracie Allen. I also love the fantastic score by electro-rock band Goblin.

  • Lamberto Bava (son of giallo pioneer Mario Bava) was Assistant Director on this film.
  • I feel like Dario Argento was responding to his critics by having a reviewer slam Peter's book for being sexist and violent towards women... and then brutally killing her off.
  • I met John Saxon once at a horror movie convention. He's a really nice guy.
  • Argento is often inspired by his own life, and Tenebre was reportedly conceived after an incident with a stalker.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

Who drops his bag at an airport to walk 20 feet away for a phone call? Why would you do that? And for that matter, who rides his bike down the middle of the highway to the airport? Before a trans-continental flight? He must have stunk up the whole cabin.

I love how the police draw their guns and just wave them around indiscriminately while chasing a suspect. They're like kids playing cops and robbers.

Fashion Moment

Pastels were big in '82.

Also, Peter's rented house. Is. Amazing.

Seven Blood Stained Orchids

Seven Blood Stained Orchids

"That is one thing you can always be sure of. All criminals are out of their minds."

A serial killer is murdering young women around Rome, leaving a silver crescent moon medallion at the scene of each crime as a trademark. His victims include a prostitute, an artist, a patient in a psych ward, a teacher, and a housewife – but are the killings random or are these women somehow linked? One victim, Giulia (Uschi Glas) manages to survive her attack and, with the help of her husband Mario (Antonio Sabato), she follows the clues to find the murderer. Their search leads them to a crumbling villa, a hippie drug den, and a tour of Rome's Christian churches. Can the couple unmask the killer before he finds Giulia and finishes the job?

If you've never seen a giallo or if you want to show someone what a giallo is, Seven Blood Stained Orchids (not to be confused with The Blood Stained Buterfly) is an excellent place to start. It has all the classic elements: beautiful women getting murdered in elaborate ways, stylized camera work, and the classic faceless giallo killer who wears a black coat, hat and gloves. It's sexy, suspenseful, and a little bit trashy. The story is easy to follow and has a satisfying resolution. This might be Umberto Lenzi's best work.
  • There are lots of little homages to Mario Bava's two greatest gialli. The harp in Kathy's apartment and the bathtub drowning scene are homages to Blood and  Black Lace and the scenes in the newspaper office and at the piazza di spagna recall The Girl Who Knew Too Much. Come to think of it, Uschi Glas looks a lot like Leticia Roman in this movie. 
  • Also, the poison milk may be a reference to Dario Argento's Cat O'Nine Tails.
  • Maria Tedeschi (whom you may remember from a cameo in The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and as Mrs. Moss in The Case of the Bloody Iris) shows up here as a patient in the psych ward.
  • You may also remember the improbably named Franco Fantasia (Lt. Renzi) from Knife of Ice.
  • Was the old woman in the opening scene murdered? It's never shown, but I think maybe she was, so I've listed her in the body count, above. The killer saw the photo of the woman he was really after on her nightstand and realized that he had the wrong woman. I suspect that he killed her to tie up loose ends, but didn't leave an amulet. That way, her murder wouldn't be connected to the case.
 What the Hell Am I Watching?

So Mario decides to keep the amulet that the killer sent to Guilia? Why? As a memento of the time she was nearly murdered? Not cool, man.

I love the scene where Elena (Rosella Falk) is screaming in her hospital room and we cut to the nurse, who just rolls her eyes and ignores it.

I also adore the fact that Mario (who is a fashion designer and presumably knows a thing or two about sketching) shows people what is essentially a stick figure and asks them if they recognize the guy.  I love it even more that several people can actually put an accurate name to his simple line drawing.

Apparently there's a law in Italy that if you have an awesome car, you can just park it anywhere.

Fashion Moment

This one belongs to Kathy Adams (Marina Malfatti) for her tiny sequined vest and harem pants.

The Case of the Bloody Iris

The Case of the Bloody Iris  

"Ill tear you like I tore the petals of the iris! You're an object and you belong to me!"

Jennifer Lansbury (Edwige Fenech) recently escaped from a naked hippie group-sex cult, led by her jealous "husband" Adam (Ben Cara) (it's not certain if their "celestial marriage" is legal) and is making a living in the city as a model. Her new boyfriend, architect Andrea Barto (George Hilton) is also her new landlord, but people in his building have a bad habit of getting murdered. Commissioner Enci (Giampiero Albertini) and his assistant Redi (Franco Agostini) are on the case. Adam is overtly stalking Jennifer, but is he the killer? Could it be the creepy old lady down the hall or even Andrea himself? And is the closeted lesbian next door somehow involved? Here's a hint: The answer to one of these question is "yes."

The Case of the Bloody Iris (not to be confused with Seven Blood Stained Orchids) is, without question, one of my favorite gialli for a number of reasons: the wonderful cast of crazy characters, the stylish direction, the sexy harpsichord music, and the fantastic, fast-moving script that keeps the mystery constantly moving and evolving.  But most of all, The Case of the Bloody Iris succeeds because it is scary, bloody, sexy, trashy, and suspenseful in the perfect proportions. While many gialli focus only on the scares, gore, or sex, this one has everything. Plus, it's funny! That's an element that most gialli ignore completely, but the supporting cast delivers much-needed comic relief between the scares and the bewbs. Clearly, director Anthony Ascott knows that above all else, movies are supposed to be fun.
  •  If you think Oreste Lionello ("Arthur" the photographer) looks like an Italian Woody Allen, that's no accident. Lionello was a successful voice-over actor and was the Italian voice of Woody Allen for years. He also dubbed Robin Williams, Gene Wilder, and Charlie Chaplin.
  • You may also recognize the "Italian Peter Lorrie," Luciano Pigozzi (from the classics Blood & Black Lace and Naked You Die) as the nightclub owner.
  • This marks the third collaboration of giallo's "Golden Couple," Edwige Fenech and George Hilton. They previously worked together in Blade of the Ripper (a.k.a. The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh) and All the Colors of the Dark (which, technically, is not a giallo).
  • Notice the harp in Sheila's room - an obvious homage to Blood and Black Lace.
  • In the background of one of the street scenes, look for a poster for the movie Dirty Harry, under it's Italian title: Ispettore Callaghan: il caso Scorpio รจ tuo
What the Hell Am I Watching?
Oh my god, take your pick of scenes. Model Mizar Harrington (Carla Brait) has an unusual nightclub act: she invites men from the audience to wrestle with her for three minutes and if they win... it's not clear what happens. Sexy times? A cash prize? The point is, no one ever wins.

After Mizar is murdered in her bathtub, Jennifer and Marilyn move into the apartment and Marilyin thinks it would be a fun, kooky prank to fake her own drowning. This does not go over well with Andrea and Jennifer. Andrea slaps the naked girl across the face and she just shrugs it off as if to say "Eh, I had it coming."

At one point, Jennifer gets back into her apartment and finds Adam waiting for her. He rips her clothes off and throws her on the couch. And that's where the scene ends. Seriously. Did he rape her? Did he just turn around and leave? Did she fight back? We'll never know.

At the police station, Jennifer meets with Commissioner Enci, who tells her to stay in the apartment to draw out the killer. Enci is clearly psychotic.

Fashion Moment
 There's a lot of crazy early-70's fashion in this film, but I love Sheila's masculine suits best. Notice that the first time we see Jennifer, she's topless (in body paint) and her wardrobe is very girly, but it becomes increasingly masculine as the film progresses, as she gets closer to Sheila, until she's wearing similar suits.

A Lizard in Woman's Skin

A Lizard In Woman's Skin

"They stabbed her three times... each one of the stabs fatal!"

Carol Hammond (Florina Bolkan) is a respectable wife and stepmother... who just happens to have frequent lesbian sex dreams about her nymphomaniac hippie neighbor, Julia (Anita Strinberg). One night, however, Carol dreams of stabbing Julia to death and later discovers that Julia was indeed murdered that very night, exactly like in the dream. Does Carol have a psychic link to the killer? Or is she schizophrenic? Is her cheating husband Frank (Jean Sorel) framing her for the murder? And are the two glassy-eyed hippies who witnessed the murder real or just part of the dream? With her senses betraying her, Carol must decide what's real and what's in her mind, before it's too late!

Lucio Fulci is best known for his visceral gore films, but his handful of gialli are some of his best work. This one is a fun, sleazy, acid-soaked psychedelic trip featuring naked orgies, lots of blood, and some fantastic surreal dream sequences. The use of forensic science in the investigation was probably inspired by Dario Argento's The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and the bat attack, when Carol hides out in a church attic, is an obvious shot-for-shot homage to Hitchcock's The Birds.

  • Here's another great score by Ennio Moricone, in turns funky, wild, and haunting.
  • The five animal deaths include one bat in the church attic scene and four dogs in the hospital.
  • If you suffer from vertigo, be warned that there are a ton of camera zooms in this movie. You'll find a few in just about any giallo, but Fulci was never known for restraint.
  • Let's hear it for giallo mainstay George Rigaud, who appears here as Dr. Kerr, Carol's psychiatrist.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

More about that dog scene: Running from an attacker in a hospital, Carol stumbles upon a room where four live dogs are strung up with their bellies slit open (we can see their beating hearts), and their blood is being drained through tubes. There's no indication what scientific benefit this serves, but it's still a very upsetting sight. In fact, Fulci was nearly charged with animal cruelty for that scene, until members of his crew testified that the dogs were all puppets and that no animals were harmed. This scene is omitted in some versions of the movie.

The dream sequences are absolutely crazy in this film. Naked limbs writhing around, a dinner party of bleeding corpses, and angry swans attacking from the clouds. Many of these images relate to artwork in the Hammond home... which is sort of ingenious in a Kaiser Soze way, if you're aware of the twist ending.

Fashion Moment

Miss Carol is working it in her wardrobe from the Carmen Sandiego collection. Check out those monochromatic wide-brimmed hats and cape coats in three different colors.



"This is Whiskey... and he's my best friend."

Eight months ago, Ted Walden (Luc Merenda) awoke from a car crash in London with amnesia and has been trying desperately to remember anything from his past. When Phillip (Manfred Freyberger) introduces himself as an old friend, Ted is hopeful – until Philip threatens him with a gun, starts making demands, and is taken down by a sniper. Seeking answers, Ted follows a lead to Portafino, Italy to find his wife, Sara (Senta Berger), who has understandably begun to move on with her life, believing that Ted abandoned her. They begin again, but red-headed thug George (Bruno Corazzari) emerges in Portafino and threatens to kill them both in seven days if they don't hand over the million dollars in merchandise that Ted stole when he double-crossed the gang. Now the pressure is on for Ted to remember his past, to save Sara's life and his own.

If you're going to brazenly call your movie Puzzle (not to be confused with Body Puzzle), it had better be a fantastic, engaging mystery story. Judging by the empty check boxes above, you may be tempted to think this is a weak film but, in fact, this movie totally delivers. It's pretty much a giallo version of The Bourne Identity, (or, rather, The Bourne Identity is a spy movie version of Puzzle) where we must piece the crime story together alongside the amnesiac hero. There's also an element of Regarding Henry, as Ted's amnesia reboots his strained relationship with his wife. There's no "giallo killer" in Puzzle, but the mystery is in slowly discovering Ted's identity and the details of the crime – who knows what, who was involved, and what it is they want.  Puzzle is engaging and surprising from the beginning to the gruesome end.

  • George threatens Sara by throwing lit matches at her and says he "saw it in a film once."  He's referring to Charade, a movie where Audrey Hepburn must piece together the details of her dead secret agent husband's final mission.
  • The amnesia angle comes from Hitchcock's Spellbound and I'm surprised that more gialli didn't make use of it as a plot device. 
  • The fancy gold mantle clock is established as an important clue, but I have no idea what it has to do with anything in the story. 
  • Ted is a nice, easy-going guy who slowly discovers that he has a brutal, calculating dark side. This, I think, makes him one of the most three-dimensional characters in the entire genre.

What the Hell Am I Watching?

Luca, the bratty 12-year-old neighbor kid with the Pete Rose haircut, isn't related to anyone but just insinuates himself into every situation. For example, why was he at lunch at a fancy restaurant with the grown-ups?

About 12 minutes into the movie,  we see Sara cleaning up after dinner... washing plates... throwing away leftovers... putting the chiansaw back in the pantry... wait, what?! Why does she have a chainsaw just sitting out on her dining room table? And why does she store it in the kitchen pantry? It makes no sense, but you just know there's going to be a great payoff at the end of the movie.

Amnesiac Ted really needs to stop greeting people with "Who the hell are you?"

Fashion Moment:

Englishman Ted may have moved to Italy, but he's not giving up those impeccable Saville Row suits and preppy-casual sweater vests.