In scenic Perugia, Italy, a masked killer strangles two female university students, sparking a manhunt. Another student may have recognized the murder weapon, leading to threatening phone calls from the killer. Alarmed, she retreats to a cliff-side villa with four girlfriends, including an American exchange student, played by Suzy Kendall. The killer, of course, follows.
Proffering a myriad of suspects, the script invites us to guess the killer‘s identity. It paints almost every male character as possessive, misogynistic, or perverted. The few that appear normal feel suspect by comparison. I admit, it fooled me.
Mystery aside, I enjoyed Torso‘s style. Consider the scene where the killer tracks a girl through a swampy marsh. The lighting, camerawork, and editing create a kinetic claustrophobia. The more she runs, the more her world shrinks. Even as the tension held me rapt, the sheer craft made me smile.
And it gets better. The last act sees Kendall locked in a bedroom. She slides a piece of newspaper under the door, hoping to catch the key as she forces it out of the lock. I won’t spoil what happens, but I will say this scene caps twenty-some dialogue-free minutes that serve as a master class in suspense. They‘re so good, I forgave the finale, which sees the killer reveal his identity via some awkward exposition.
My problem with Torso lies with its heroines. I loved how the film paints them as strong, independent women. Fleeing to a remote outpost wasn’t the smartest move, but it demonstrated agency. Kudos to the script for not having them run to the nearest man. If only it gave them distinct personalities. Aside from Kendall’s character, they felt anonymous and interchangeable. It‘s a common problem with Giallo mysteries. We learn more about the various red herrings than about the protagonists.