Queen of the giallo has to be glamour gal Edwige Fenech. She has a star quality that lifts her above the level of decorative victim. Sure, she provides delectable, uninhibited nudity and can scream on cue, but her performances are always that more committed and sympathetic, making her heroines especially striking. The brunette beauty headlined a string of gialli throughout the seventies, the best of which were produced by Luciano Martino (her boyfriend at the time) and directed by his talented brother, Sergio. Like his leading lady, Sergio Martino always delivers that little extra to make his thrillers, sex comedies and adventure films stand out. All the Colours of the Dark marks one of their finest collaborations.
It kicks off with a fantastically freaky nightmare sequence, a la Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Bloated witches and satanic grotesques glare into Martino’s fish-eye lens, as poor Jane (Edwige Fenech) relives her horrific miscarriage. Jane and husband Richard (super-suave George Hilton) live in a swanky, London flat and struggle to cope with the loss of their unborn child. Jane’s reoccurring nightmares about an ice-eyed psychopath (Ivan Rassimov) lead her to seek help, first from psychiatrist Dr. Burton (George Rigaud) then from her enigmatic neighbour, Mary (Marina Malfatti). Mary’s cockeyed solution is to initiate Jane into a satanic cult, presided over by a bonkers beatnik with gold fingernails (Julian Ugarte). Black magic rituals see juicy Jane doped up and disrobed, having wild voodoo sex with the, understandably, ecstatic coven while Bruno Nicolai’s sitar-tinged score swirls into psychedelic overdrive. Unsurprisingly, these rituals do more for the coven than Jane, as the psycho-killer begins pursuing her in reality. On the run, Jane’s sleuthing delves beyond her hallucinations, and uncovers an insidious murder plot.
A superbly stylish giallo, All the Colours of the Dark features all the illicit thrills fans cherish the genre for (sex, violence, weirdness galore), and melds a Hitchcockian woman-in-peril/murder mystery plot with trippy, supernatural frills. Both aspects yield their own strengths. The devil worshipping horror stuff provides some unsettling imagery (particularly those skin-crawling hallucinations) presented in sumptuous scope photography, while Martino ratchets up the tension throughout the mystery angle, as the story takes some satisfyingly twisted turns. It’s convoluted as heck, but this is a giallo – if you want straightforward, watch Murder, She Wrote. Fenech is at her most beguiling, never camping it up, no matter how bizarre the situation she’s in. One can never overstate how vital sincerity is within the horror genre. A committed performance turns the ridiculous into the sublime. Some writers have commented on the misogynistic aspects of the giallo, wherein viewers both revel and sympathise with the abused heroines. Be that as it may, one pleasing aspect is that Jane gets to indulge in all sorts of sexy strangeness, but still makes it through okay. Could you say the same for a girl in a slasher movie, if she indulges in sex and drugs? Incidentally, Fenech’s cameo is the only good thing about Eli Roth’s Hostel Part II (2007).