Torso (1973)

FEBRUARY 17, 2008


One of the more common complaints about Grindhouse was that the double feature may have worked better had Planet Terror come AFTER Death Proof instead of before. Since Planet was such an adrenaline rush, it made DP seem "slow" in comparison. So it was a good thing Eli Roth was wise enough to show Torso before Pieces, since Torso IS indeed a slow film and building up to the incredibility that is Pieces was the right thing to do.

Torso is similar to Pieces, in that it's kind of a terrible movie made incredibly good by the sheer batshittedness of it all. But whereas Pieces almost never slows down (when there's a lull in the killings they simply have an attack by the college's "Kung Fu professor"), Torso takes its time, offering very little action in the first hour before a rousing and even somewhat shocking final 20 minutes.

I'm not sure if this was a cut print or not (it was certainly in bad shape), but if not, Torso must be the least violent/gory Giallo film ever. Many of the kills are off-screen entirely, and even the on-screen ones are fairly tame compared to the other films of the era (even ones older than this, such as Bava's Kill Baby Kill). I meant to ask Eli Roth, but I opted to make Mother's Day references instead (I am SO EXCITED for Wednesday's screening of that film).

In fact, most of the movie is simply people leering at each other. Literally every 30 seconds there is a shot of someone looking at someone who is looking at them with a sinister face. Some are reasonable, but at one point a woman somehow senses a guy watching her from down a hill, seemingly a mile away. If you cut all of the looking out, the movie would be about 12 minutes long.

So what's good? Well, the batshit dialogue, as always. One scene begins with a bunch of guys sitting around talking about our heroines; one says "They don't seem to be very politically aware." His friend responds "So what, I'd like to get with all three of them!" Charming. The plot also relies on continual confusion between a scarf that is either red over black or black over red, and this difference is explained at least three times. There's also a guy who looks like David Copperfield, and a brief lesbian scene that comes and goes out of nowhere.

As mentioned, the finale pretty much makes up for a lot of the film's shortcomings. After killing three of the female leads in one swoop (offscreen again, though at least this is used for shock reveal to the surviving girl), the Final Girl does the old "slide a newspaper under the door to catch the key" trick. But she misses, the key falls to the floor. Then, the killer reaches into frame and puts the key on the newspaper for her! It's so delightfully painful to watch it go from hope to despair to false hope... genius scene.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the "can scene". For reasons never explained, one scene is shot from the point of view of a tin can on the ground. We see the can, and hold on it, as a group of locals walk around talking about the girls. One guy kicks the can, and it rolls over near the killer. The killer walks off with his new information about the girls, and we stay with the can. It's hilarious.

Like I said, this was part of the Eli Roth festival, and I am pretty sure that if I watched this one by myself I would be bored even by the stuff I mentioned as good. It's amazing how much the crowd's spirit can add to the enjoyment of a film, and I would strongly urge anyone who thinks that they can replicate the theater experience in their home by spending thousands of dollars on a system to first fuck themselves and then head on over to their local revival house on a night that is showing a cheesy film like this (or even a genuine crowd-pleaser like SLither) and see how much they are missing. Plus, in addition to a sort of "Movie Internet Site Powerhouse" (my row included delegates from CHUD, Aintitcool, JoBlo, ShockTillYouDrop, and, obviously, Bloody-Disgusting), the crowd included John Gulager, Edgar Wright, Sage Stallone, and even the guy who plays Superman on Hollywood Boulevard. No special seating, no VIP treatment, everyone there just has a good time together. Pieces is too good to never watch again, but Torso? Watching it anywhere but a theater full of appreciative fans would just be pointless.

In short, the sound system and maybe even the size of the screen may be "better" at your home, but those things are nowhere near as important as the crowd factor of a real movie theater. Please support your independent theaters, because when it comes to these types of screenings, there is nothing in the world that is as stupid as saying "Why go see a movie I have at home?"

What say you?


  1. I personally think that the order of Grindhouse was perfect. PT was good, but I think DP was better, and regardless of that DP's ending was a perfect way to end the double feature. I think it would have been a huge mistake to put them in the other order.

  2. It's too bad you all watched the U.S. cut, because the uncut version is a fucking masterpiece. It's a great deal more coherent, and tons more violent.


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