“Why on Earth should I love you less because of a sex fiend?”
A young woman takes a bubble bath, drinks to excess and pops unknown pharmaceuticals while mentally fantasizing about tormenting her husband with a fictitious lover, dresses in a revealing go go outfit while reminiscing about her friend Dominique criticizing her for “dressing like a housewife” and then walks out onto a deserted nocturnal beach where she is accosted by a motorcyclist who she avoids by naturally running into the darkest, most isolated location possible and then is summarily attacked by the leather gloved man who suggestively cuts her dress with a switchblade dagger. And it’s only the opening sequence. All to the accompaniment of wildly inappropriate pseudo-bossa nova music by Ennio Morricone.
Welcome to the world of giallo.
Or more precisely, the world of giallo as seen through American eyes as produced by Italian studios to whom the term has an entirely different definition. Confused yet? Giallo is the Italian word for yellow and its genre reference has its basis in mystery novels printed in Italy beginning in 1929 by the publishing house Modadori who released translations of foreign mysteries and thrillers with yellow background covers, the popularity of which led more book houses to take a similar route with original mystery novels. In Italy, the gialli is the mystery story, its transmutation into what American audiences recognize as the “giallo” film, finding its seeds in the German”Krimi” films (with their foundation in the written works of Edgar Wallace) and finding its stylistic roots in two Mario Bava films, 1963’s “La ragazza che sapeva troppo” (“The Girl Who Knew Too Much”, aka “The Evil Eye” in the U.S.) and 1964’s Sei donne per l’assassino” (“Blood and Black Lace”) in which many conventions of this particular style of film would find realization; many of the more exploitative would be adopted into the American horror genre (especially the slasher films). Ever evolving as a genre type, subsequent giallo films would energetically push the boundaries of their own cinematic conventions through an increased, bolder use of color, wilder exaggeration of music, visually opulent bloodletting, sexual fantasy and perversion, gratuitous nudity and madness.
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