VIVA GIALLO: 10 Favourites for an October Moon

I did a guest post over at Anti-Film School of my Top Five Scariest Italian Horror Films. I yakked about how much I love Giallo and realized I had never really done a top 10 list of my favourites. I am going to use the same criteria as I did for my Anti-Film School list with one title per director so I can insure ten different directors are represented. Viva Giallo!

Deep Red (1975)

Directed By: Dario Argento

He is the maestro of murder, the master of deception, the connoisseur of color-distorters, the sweet whisperer of shadows, the conductor of the constantly moving camera, he is Dario Argento! My first foray into the world of Giallo started right here and I’ve never looked back. Hold on! I look back all the time! I’ve seen Deep Red more times than I can count on my fingers and toes! David Hemmings plays a pianist who lives below the films first victim and witnesses her death. Hemmings is perfectly cast as the pianist. He is not a detective, he’s a musician, and he charmingly trips, falls and bumbles his way through to the films conclusion. Daria Nicoldi does a solid job as an aggressive liberated journalist/reporter who works with Hemmings to solve the mystery. Death doesn’t get more stylish than this!

DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING (1972)

Directed By: Lucio Fulci

The Godfather of Gore, the narrator of nightmares, the harbinger of horrors, the messenger of the macabre, the shepherd of the supernatural, and the luminary of the lens he is Lucio Fulci! When some local boys go missing and turn up dead in a small superstitious town practically everyone is a suspect. It twists, it turns, and it even shocks! The visuals are quite extraordinary and the performances are great particularly by the talented Florinda Bolkan who plays La Magiara a black magic practicing gypsy. There is an amazing mob scene that leaves me in awe every time I see it. Don’t Torture a Duckling is absolutely one of Fulci’s best and one of the best Giallo ever made!

THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS WARDH (1971)

Directed By: Sergio Martino

The ringmaster of red herrings, the taskmaster of twists, the squire of sexy, the baron of beauty, the superstar of scenery and set pieces, the captain of casting he is Sergio Martino. What is Mrs. Wardh’s strange vice? Mrs. Wardh likes men, and she also likes it a little rough and gets herself into a whole mess of trouble. It features the stunning Edwige Fenech, one of my favourite ladies of Giallo. The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is sexy, beautiful, mysterious, thrilling, and violent! The finale is a trinity of twists that is oh, so satisfying! Exquisite!

TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (1971)

Directed By: Mario Bava

Who knows, there might not have ever been a director Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci or Sergio Martino if there had never been a Mario Bava. Mario Bava along with Riccardo Freda and Antonio Margheriti were the igniter’s of the horror inferno that would spread throughout Italy. Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Blood and Black Lace are widely acknowledged as forerunners to the Giallo surge of the early 70s. And than there is the crazy convoluted gem; Twitch of the Death Nerve. What a great freaking title! And if I haven’t credited Bava with enough, this film is considered by many to be the first slasher film. It has a massive body count and each death is unique and nasty fun! Twitch of the Death Nerve is an absolutely fantastic looking film with a death around every 10 minutes and more red herrings than you can shake a stick at it! A gothic mansion, a serene bay, and a pile of greedy dead bodies; it is all part of a complete breakfast. Bava-licious!

SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS (1971)

Directed By: Aldo Lado

I recently reviewed Aldo Lado’s excellent Night Train Murders, which is more straight up horror than my choice for this list. Short Night of Glass Dolls central character Gregory Moore’s seemingly lifeless body has been found. While his body appears lifeless his mind is working furiously to retrace his steps. We learn along with the character how he came to find himself in this predicament. This bloodless but engrossing tale has great suspense, an intriguing mystery and one hell of an ending! It also has a damn impressive cast featuring Jean Sorel, Ingrid Thulin and gorgeous Barbara Bach. Fantastic stuff!

RED QUEEN KILLS 7 TIMES (1972)

Directed By: Emilio Miraglia

Emilio Miraglia only directed six films and only two of those are horror-oriented Giallo. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is pretty fun but Red Queen Kills 7 Times is the masterpiece of the duo. An old supernatural family curse about a red queen motivates the action which is plentiful and fantastic! Jam-packed with steamy Giallo sexpots who look frightfully similar to one another! Red Queen Kills 7 Times is sexy, suspenseful, frantic, the kills are a creative delight and the red queen is a simply fantastic character! Red Queen Kills 7 Times is just a shitload of fun!

SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS (1972)

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi

Seven Blood-Stained Orchids is bar none my favourite Umberto Lenzi film. A string of suspicious characters, inept cops and a glove wearing maniac coined “the half-moon killer” on account of the souvenir he leaves at the scene of the crime. Great looking cinematography and some imaginative murder scenes; including one of my all time faves that sees an artist killed and their blood mixing with paint. Violence, gore, nudity, above average performances and a bizarre and brilliant soundtrack. Some killer imagery and thrills that are not to be missed.

THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN (1975)

Directed By: Luigi Cozzi

To be honest, the only two films I’ve seen from Luigi Cozzi are the sketchy Starcrash and Contamination (which does have its moments). No matter, as he concocted a damn fine Giallo with The Killer Must Kill Again. It’s the story of an adulterer dirtbag who hires a killer to knock off his wife and a young couple that inadvertedly complicate the deal. This is a unique entry in the world of Giallo as we know who has committed the crime from the get go. Great suspense, wicked twists, creative visuals and Antoine St. John is just fantastic as the sinister killer. This guy has a face you don’t soon forget! St. John gets some solid support from Cristina Galbo, Femi Benussi, Eduardo Fajardo and George Hilton. An extremely satisfying Giallo!

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? (1972)

Directed By: Massimo Dallamano

Massimo Dallamano only directed 12 films but he certainly has an interesting resume! The voyeuristic Venus in Furs, his sex-infused interpretation of Dorian Gray and his other brilliant Giallo What Have They Done to Your Daughters? But I am all about the What Have You Done To Solange? Twists and turns, shocking revelations, an outstanding finale and of course a bevy of beautiful ladies! The cinematographer is Joe D’amato who directed Antropophagus. D’amato’s work in this film is quite impressive. The great Ennio Morricone does the score and adds a perfect moody tension. An intriguing, sexy, enthralling mystery.

THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS (1972)

Directed By: Giuliano Carnimeo

I’m not very familiar with Guiliano Carnimeo’s work. He has directed a lot of Westerns; a genre in which I still have much to discover. I have seen only Fistful of Lead with George Hilton, which I enjoyed. The Case of the Bloody Iris illustrates why you shouldn’t move into an apartment where someone was murdered. Why don’t they ever learn? Another one starring the lovely and charismatic Edwige Fenech. A multitude of red herring and one of the wackiest bunch of oddball characters I’ve ever seen in a Giallo. Finding out how this bunch of bananas fit into the puzzle is a ton of fun. The Case of the Bloody Iris is a stylish, quirky, suspenseful Giallo!

15 Responses to “VIVA GIALLO: 10 Favourites for an October Moon”

  1. Awesome list. Deep Red is a ridiculous film. I don’t like it as much as Suspiria but I did enjoy it a lot.

    • Deep Red, Tenebre and Suspiria are my 3 fave Argento flicks…I really dig all his stuff in varying degrees up to Opera…gets a little dicey after that.

  2. Seven Blood-Stained Orchids is a great flick by Lenzi, but my favorite of his (even though it’s not a giallo) is Almost Human (1974) with Tomas Milian and Henry Silva—a must see for fans of Fernando Di Leo’s Milieu trilogy.

    Of the 10 listed here, I’ve seen seven. And out of those seven, the two giallos films I love more than anything else in the genre are listed: Don’t Torture A Duckling & The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh. Goregirl, you’ve got great taste!

    I’ll definitely be checking out the other three, as well as Fistful of Lead.

    • I have heard good things about Lenzi’s Almost Human and The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist, but I have not delved much thus far into the Italian crime-thriller. Horror-thrillers and Westerns pretty much. I know I have a ton of awesomeness to discover in the polizia/crime stuff! I enjoyed Fistful of Lead, and I like George Hilton, but honestly, there are a lot of better Italian westerns out there.

  3. An epic list! I’ve seen all 10 and love all 10! I too enjoy the fact that David Hemmings is a very fallible hero. That is awesome you acknowledge Bava,Riccardo Freda,and Antonio Margheriti as the forefathers of Italian horror. The later two are often forgotten,and I’ve actually read reviews saying Bava is overrated which made me feel dizzy and faint! I can’t say enough about Mario Bava’s horror films. Blood and Black Lace would probably be on my top ten list as would the fantastic Twitch of the Death Nerve,which is delightful from start to its grand twist ending. Viva giallo and viva Goregirl!

    • I think I was semi-consciously choosing titles I love that I thought would be more friendly to those new to giallo. Flicks like In the Folds of the Flesh and Delirium probably aren’t good starter films…although I get a real kick out of both of those.

      Yeah, there is chatter out there about Bava being overrated. Argento too. To each his own…I guess.

      • I think your list is a fun “greatest hits” of the giallo cinema,and a perfect introduction to those who are new to the genre. I too enjoy In the Folds of the Flesh,Delirium,and other Italian horror films that might not be held in high esteem. Yep,I’ve seen Argento on the overrated list as well,but as you say to each their own. I would much rather watch Blood and Black Lace or Deep Red for the umpteenth time than endure Cameron’s Titanic again. : )

  4. I like your descriptions of Argento and Fulci. And, you’ve reminded me that I have The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh but haven’t watched it yet.

    • I have a secret fancy to be a carnival sideshow barker. Sadly, carnivals and sideshows don’t really exist anymore. Well, there is Jim Rose but it just isn’t the same without fetuses in a jar.

  5. By Far, Bava is my favorite Giallo and I haven’t even seen “Twitch’ yet. I just ordered Lisa & the Devil/House of Exorcism so I can see both Bava’s original vision and the edit/change for American release. You have a few here that I have never seen/heard about and I am copying them into my ‘want list’ folder now.

    • I’m doing a 60s thing in November…there will be more Bava than you can shake a stick at around here. Pretty much a guarantee that Black Sunday, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, The Whip and the Flesh, Kill Baby Kill and Blood and Black Lace will show up at some point during the month.

  6. More films for me to catch up on. The picture for Red Queen Kills 7 Times got my mind racing so I’ll go for that first.

  7. Great list. Just now really getting into Italian horror and giallo, but there is just so much great stuff to find.

    • Thanks Mr. Darko. There is a serious ton of great stuff to discover! I have been checking out the Italian westerns sporadically too and just loving what I’ve seen of those also.

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