Torso executes a generic plot with panache.
The film takes place in scenic Perugia, Italy. A masked killer strangles two female university students, sparking a manhunt. Another student thinks she recognizes 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.
It plays as a mystery, inviting us to guess the killer’s identity. The script proffers a myriad of suspects, painting 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, what I enjoyed most about Torso was its style. There’s a scene where the killer tracks a girl through a swampy marsh. The lighting, camerawork, and editing create a kind of 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 dialog-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 and explain his psychosis via some awkward and disappointing exposition.
My only problem with Torso lies with its heroines. I liked how the film paints them as strong, independent women. Fleeing to a remote outpost wasn't the smartest move, but it was refreshing to see them do something besides run to the nearest man for protection. If only the script had provided them with distinct personalities. Aside from Kendall’s character, they felt interchangeable and never endeared themselves. It’s a common problem with mysteries. We learn more about the various red herrings than about the protagonists.