The Bloodstained Shadow (1978)

JUNE 23, 2009


It’s rare I watch a Giallo that’s not from Argento or Bava, so if The Bloodstained Shadow (Italian: Solamente Nero) is not one of the better ones outside of their realm, please accept my apology for enjoying it, and then suggest some others. For all I know, it’s among the weakest, because I have so little to compare it to. It could use some tightening and a bit more gore, but otherwise it’s exactly what I want from a Giallo.

And what do I want, exactly? Well, some great murder scenes, obviously. Like I said, there’s not a lot of blood (the murderer mainly just strangles folks, though there is a nice bit where he/she tosses an old woman into a fire), but they are all well-staged and coherent, which is more than you can say about some others I’ve seen. By grounding the film in something that actually resembles reality, it allows the story and characters to shine through, with some impressive visuals to boot.

It also has its fair share of wonderfully strange moments, like when a woman tries to cheer up her retarded son by dismembering a doll that he hates (this part actually disturbed me a little, as she really fucking annihilates the damn thing). I also love all of the extras in the movie, as they are all colorfully blunt and seemingly carrying out their actual lives. There’s a pair of drunks outside of a restaurant rambling about whether or not one has time for another round, a few cops questioning the sex life of the film’s hero, and a guy who is really impatient about getting his food in another restaurant scene. It’s also the rare film to have a line of dialogue like this: “That man has tried to molest my little boy again. This is the fourth time!”

She says this to a priest, who then goes off to confront the would-be pedo. The idea of a priest giving someone shit for being a child molester is somewhat like me complaining about someone being too harsh on Lionsgate. Also, the plot point is rather unnecessary in the long run (the guy is one of the first to die, and his red herring man-servant is never seen again), but it’s still, if nothing else, unique.

I also liked how the mystery was structured. Some might consider the end a bit of a cheat, but I didn’t see it that way, and thanks to an exposition-heavy explanation from the hero as to how he figured out who the killer was (complete with flashback footage - it’s like an early version of the Saw montage), everything makes sense and fits together. There’s a brief moment early on that seems to be trying to make the hero a viable suspect (he appears wet when there was no reason for him to have been outside), but other than that, it’s unusually sound in that department. Plus I didn’t figure out the killer’s identity until pretty late into it, so that’s also good.

I am curious - does Venice only have that one street, or is that the only one that they allow film crews to work on? It’s the same one you see in Don’t Look Now, Last Crusade, and probably a dozen others. When our heroine (Suspiria’s Stefania Casini) begins walking around the area, I kept expecting that freaky little rain-coated woman to run out and stab a surprised Donald Sutherland.

The DVD’s only extra besides the trailer is an interview with director Antonio Bido, who comes across as far more sane and coherent than many of his peers. He explains why Goblin is not credited with the score, talks about working with the actors, and apologizes for not sticking with the Giallo genre, and mentions having a new script in that vein, which, 7 years later, has sadly not been filmed. Maybe if Argento’s aptly titled Giallo is a hit, it can help pave the way for a resurgence in the genre. It’ll help keep me in business, at any rate.

I was saddened to discover that this film is relatively unheralded. The trailer is not on Youtube (a scene is though), the IMDb page is below average in terms of having info (the message board is completely empty too), and there is no Wikipedia page for it. There's a lengthy page for the Saw theme song ("Hello Zepp"), but not for this movie? Come on now.

What say you?

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  1. I've been wanting to check this one out after recently viewing Antonio Bido's only other giallo, Watch Me When I Kill (A.K.A. The Cat With the Jade Eyes). While pretty imitative of Argento (and with a score that could've been done by Goblin, though is actually done by some guys called the Trans Europa Express), I still found it to be much more interesting some of the other non-Argento gialli I've seen (namely A Blade in the Dark, which I found to be pretty damn dissatisfying, even though it's much bloodier than this film). Anyway, you should definitely check out Watch Me When I Kill if you liked this one. It even has one of those insanely abrupt endings that you're so fond of!

  2. Oh nice, he mentioned it briefly on the interview and my only thought was "Did Argento sell him that title?".

    Bloodstained has an abrupt ending too, I forgot to mention it. Makes even some of the Hammer ones look overlong in comparison.

  3. Giallo recommendations:
    "Black Belly of the Tarantula"
    "Autopsy" (1975, not the Adam Gierasch film)
    "The Fifth Cord"
    "What Have You Done to Solange?"

    I've seen so many of these damn movies that they all start to blend together, and I can't, for example, remember the exact differences between "The Case of the Bloody Iris" and "All the Colors of the Dark." But those four stand out in my memory as quality.

  4. Im adding this one to the ol netflix for sure, love a good giallo and only heard about this one for the first time this month

  5. Bianco Vestito Per Mariale, Un (A White Dress For Mariale) aka Spirits of Death is another good giallo.

  6. There's always room for giallo.


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