Severin Films: All the Colors of the Dark (1972) - Reviewed

Giallo master Sergio Martino, the sadly lesser known of the Italian exploitation horror giants when compared to Lucio Fulci or Dario Argento, was on a creative stride in the early 1970s.  Cranking out several giallo genre classics like no tomorrow between 1971 and 1973, Mr. Martino’s eclectic mixture of suspense and sleaze with his own unique visual panache churned out a giallo picture the likes of which hadn’t been seen before.  Well before Dario Argento’s Suspiria flirted with audiovisual sensory overload filtered through the giallo picture, Martino unleased the explosive, hallucinatory and still nerve-wracking shocker All the Colors of the Dark. 

Released in between Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key and his legendary giallo shocker Torso, All the Colors of the Dark follows Jane (Edwige Fenech from Your Vice in a career defining role) a young woman recently recovering from the trauma of a miscarriage.  Plagued by recurring nightmares of a knife wielding man and increasingly bizarre visions of Satanic violence, Jane and her boyfriend Richard (giallo regular George Hilton) try to find a cure for her strange premonitions. 

After pursuing psychiatry, Jane bumps into mercurial new neighbor Mary (Marina Malfatti) who suggests she try purging her demons by attending a Black Mass.  After reluctantly agreeing, she’s introduced to devil worshipping priest J.P. McBrian (Julian Ugarte), a long-fingernailed creep with sinister intentions for the new recruit.  After being forced into a Satanic orgy, Jane finds her sanity unraveling until neither she (or we) know for certain what’s real or imagined anymore.

Undoubtedly Martino’s most overwhelming giallo in terms of playing with the psychology of the main character and conveying her dizzying and terrifying journey into madness and murder, All the Colors of the Dark is highly stylized, provocative, unsettling and deliberately genuinely confusing.  Predating the mind-warping blending of fantasy and reality that characterized Satoshi Kon’s anime classic Perfect Blue with many sequences that yank the rug out from under the viewer, Martino’s film presents the director at his most psychedelic and kaleidoscopic.

Edwige Fenech was already strutting her way into the giallo underworlds purported by Martino, but here she takes on a demanding role which catapulted her into the status of a sex symbol.  Her she goes the full distance with many nude scenes including but not limited to the infamous Black Mass scenes.  She conveys terror, confusion, curiosity and growing unease so well some of her best scenes are bereft of dialogue, focusing in on close ups of her face and eyes.  Also strong is giallo regular George Hilton who, much like The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, doesn’t make it clear right away whose side he is on, keeping the audience on their toes.

Visually and sonically, All the Colors of the Dark excels, with stunning panoramic widescreen cinematography (and occasionally wide-angled) lensed by both Giancarlo Ferrando and Miguel F. Mila.  Many sequences in the film involve characters looking directly into the camera or creeping towards it, placing you in the heroine’s shoes and conveying her experience of terror so completely it may as well be happening to us. 

Probably the strongest element of all in Martino’s film, however, is the score by Bruno Nicolai.  Genuinely creepy, unsettling with atonal strings echoing Penderecki and at times bombastic with an eerie vocal chorus, Nicolai’s score finally infuses the film with a distinctive personality and mood that doesn’t quite resemble any other giallo score out there.  Of all the cinematic elements that stand out in Martino's film, Nicolai's score easily shines the brightest.

Recently re-released in a 4K restored blu-ray by Severin Films, Martino’s notorious giallo classic represents one of the high points of the director’s career as well as the genre itself.  Though arguably Torso still packs a more direct punch, getting lost down this rabbit hole of a movie was a journey that was frightening, shocking but ultimately mesmerizing.  One of the most daring and confident giallo thrillers by one of the genre’s greatest purveyors.

--Andrew Kotwicki