Welcome back to There's Always Room for Giallo. My how time flies when some black-gloved maniac has you chained to a wall in his basement. It's good to be home though, and to make up for my absence I've brought you all a Fenech-licious treat. If you need to get up to speed, check out my last review in the series over here, my Women in Horror contributions (here and here), or if you're new to the column -- get your ass to class with a little giallo 101. xoxo

Part giallo and part supernatural horror, Sergio Martino's All the Colors of the Dark boasts a gang of giallo greats including screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (Torso), composer Bruno Nicolai (The Case of the Bloody Iris) and leading lady Edwige Fenech (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh) all of who worked with the director on multiple projects. Martino shifts between dreams and reality -- disorienting the viewer and drawing them further into Jane's (Fenech) world, which recalls other players who dwell in these mysterious realms like David Lynch and Roman Polanski. In this way Colors was ahead of its time even though the director admits in a DVD extra that Italian audiences found it frustrating. Martino's film certainly takes a cue from Rosemary's Baby in the way he weaves a web of mystery around horrific events that are set off by dreamy but disturbing imagery.

After suffering a miscarriage caused by a recent car accident, Jane starts experiencing severe nightmares, which begins putting a strain on her relationship with her boyfriend Richard (George Hilton). Jane's sister Barbara (Nieves Navarro) begs her to see a psychiatrist (Georges Rigaud) but the visits prove useless as the terrifying visions and dark dreams continue. Her anxiety is brought to life when a strange, blue-eyed man (my boyfriend Ivan Rassimov) from her dreams begins stalking her, so she desperately turns to her next-door neighbor Mary (Marina Malfatti) for help. Mary's solution is to take Jane to a Black Sabbath ceremony -- I mean really, Ambien is far more dangerous these days -- but a little bloodletting and group orgy shenanigans never hurt anyone, right? The Satanic cult takes more of a liking to Jane than she expected and won't soon let her escape their clutches (check out those fingernails), which takes us down the rabbit hole. This is where Martino's film differs from its traditional giallo brethren. There is no big mystery here because all the key players wear their intentions on their sleeve, but Martino does play with some of the genre's artistic conventions.

Navarro proves to be an acting talent to contend with against Fenech -- and is just as strikingly beautiful. She appeared in a number of gialli in the 70's and was the lead in films like Death Carries a Cane, but her career kind of petered out. Marina Malfatti is equally stunning and even next to the irresistible Fenech, all eyes are on her. Hilton dons the usual semi-sleazy routine and Rassimov is a sinister genius as always. Fenech's killer combination of fragility and hysteria is no less compelling here than the other gialli she is known for.

Like the best Italian homages, Colors borrows core ideas from a popular foreign film and weaves them into a unique viewing experience. While not Martino and Fenech's best collaboration, the title is filled with enough nightmarish imagery, hot giallo babes, and kinky cult action to make it essential viewing for anyone who loves Italian cult cinema.

CATEGORIES Features, Reviews, Horror