All The Colors Of The Dark (1972)

OCTOBER 9, 2020


Considering Rosemary's Baby's importance in the horror genre and the Italians lengthy history of "paying homage" to successful American films, I'm surprised to realize that All The Colors of the Dark (Italian: Tutti i colori del buio) is one of the very few I've seen that appear to be directly inspired by it. While Exorcist and The Omen got cribbed from mercilessly, for whatever reason (perhaps just dumb luck with my selections) the plight of Rosemary Woodhouse didn't seem worthwhile to rip off all that often, making this 1972 film a novelty for me.

I also haven't seen too many of Sergio Martino's films, a blind spot I keep half-thinking "I need to fix that" but (obviously) fail to take the initiative; the only ones I've seen are Torso and Blade of the Ripper, both of which I quite enjoyed. But they were more traditional giallo types, whereas this one blends the sub-genre not only with Rosemary's Baby's satanic cult elements, but also the sort of "Is this woman going crazy or not?" stuff that was, in turn, an escalation from his earlier Repulsion. So it kind of feels like this is the next logical step, because it has those elements plus knife wielding maniacs and - woo! - a "murder someone to steal their inheritance" plot, of which I am usually endeared.

Edwige Fenech plays Jane, who has recently lost an unborn child in a car accident and is still traumatized from her mother's murder when she was a child - fair to say she's got every right in the world to lose her mind. So it certainly doesn't help that she starts being menaced by a guy with piercing blue eyes (contacts, I hope; I don't want to live in a world with people whose eyes are THAT blue!), who seems to be trying to kill her but is thankfully not very successful. But is he even real, or a figment of her frazzled imagination? And who can she trust to tell about these things, especially when one friend's advice is "hey maybe you should check out a black mass", which results in her being terrified by ANOTHER guy and increasingly unsure of who to believe about these things.

It's an interesting approach taken by Martino and his writers; there is so much stuff going on it's almost impossible to believe all of it could be really happening, so you just start wondering *which parts* are real, if any. But, thankfully, it doesn't take until the final scene to get our answer, as the script is nice enough to occasionally offer a scene between characters where Jane isn't present, which confirms that at least some of what she is saying is true even though the movie isn't quite over yet. There's a Psycho style epilogue where someone rattles off a lot of exposition to fill some holes, but until that point I think it's well balanced - it never gets too confusing, but the mystery remains more or less compelling throughout.

It can get a bit exhausting though, as Feneche is seemingly chased and/or attacked every ten minutes, with the score from Tarantino fave Bruno Nicolai bombarding you throughout each one (and the scenes between). The plot is largely inconsequential, this is more of an "experience" that only took me about fifteen minutes or so to start thinking that it was a big influence on Cattet and Forzani's films Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (the latter actually has a piece of Nicolai's score, so there's no "deduction" necessary there). I almost wish I had saved it for a big screen/large crowd viewing, as it would probably benefit from the enhancement, but since my most recent giallo experiences were more low-key, the change of pace was nice.

But the thing I loved most requires a spoiler for this 48 year old movie, so skip this paragraph if you want to remain pure! For those who are still here - I absolutely adore the fact that George Hilton' male lead, who has the hilarious name of Richard Steele (think of nicknames for "Richard"), was the rarest of things in an Italian genre film from the era: an actually decent guy. Not only does he spend the movie trying to help his fiance (even when she starts suspecting he may be part of the problem), but when a female villain tries to seduce him with her body AND the promise of riches, he shoots her down (literally!), whereas most of his peers would, if not go all the way through with it, at least enjoy the sex being offered him before regaining his nobility. I try not to judge films for their "dated" content because I know they are products of their time, but it can be difficult at times to enjoy these things when the guys are such monsters while serving the role as "hero", so it's just a relief when one comes along that doesn't require a disclaimer or an apology.

Hopefully Shudder keeps adding more of these films to their increasingly impressive lineup; I'm sure they don't sell subscriptions the way exclusives and big gets like Halloween (I believe they're the only ones who have it on their lineup without an additional charge) can, but to me this is the kind of stuff that will keep me renewing - movies I missed along the way when I know I'll never be able to keep up with all the modern options. Every day there's like five new movies coming along across all these services, and it's just daunting to try to even put a dent in that lineup. But I CAN get through all of Martino's genre output, which has a finite number of options - doing that will make me feel accomplished, instead of trying to stay on top of the newer stuff, which is akin to trying to stop a boat from sinking by cupping my hands together and spooning the water out. And I'll probably enjoy the films more to boot.

What say you?


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