When I decided to tackle Gialli for my monthly feature, I knew I had to include a film from one of my favorite directors, Sergio Martino. About every time I talk about Sergio I bemoan the fact that he doesn’t get the respect that he deserves for the massive amount of great films he produced. I mean how can you not love a man who gave us At the Mountain of the Cannibal God, Hands of Steel, Giovanna Long Thigh, and The Violent Professionals? Then when you add to that the wonderful gialli that Martino directed, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have The Key, Torso, Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, and tonight’s flick All the Colors of the Dark [Italian:Tutti i colori del buio] (1972), you have a director who’s output definitely deserves more attention than he gets.
All the Colors of the Dark stars the beautiful Edwige Fenech as Jane Harrison, a young woman troubled by nightmares that started after she lost a baby in a car accident. She becomes extremely distraught and finds her only relief in the vitamins that her pharmaceutical salesman boyfriend Richard Steele (George Hilton) gives her. At the advice of her sister, Barbara (Nieves Navarro), she seeks help from a psychologist, but even though he assures her that she can overcome her problems, she still feels sure that there is a man with ice blue eyes following her. Rushing into her apartment to escape the man, she is befriended by Mary (Marina Malfatti) who suggests that she has some friends involved in black magic who could help Jane overcome her fears. Jane agrees to take part in the ritual, but soon finds herself indoctrinated into their cult and is forced to commit murder.
Roman Polanski’s 1968 film Rosemary’s Babygave Martino the kernel of an idea for a gialli with occult theme, and he approached Santiago Moncada, who also penned 1970’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon, to write a treatment for the film. Then the screenplay was written by frequent Martino collaborators Ernesto Gastaldi and Sauro Scavolini. While it eschews many of the typical giallo elements, there is very little blood spilled and no mysterious gloved killer here, the strength of the film comes from the tautness of the mystery. Until the reveal happened, I had no idea who was trying to set Jane up to become a member of the satanic cult or why. There are a few red herrings, but the film doesn’t get around to them until late in the third act. I think this was quite clever as each time I thought there was a reveal, I found out I was wrong.
Of course the film gains much strength from the powerhouse performers included in this film. I have to start off talking about Edwige Fenech. What can I really say about her that hasn’t been said a million times? Probably nothing, but that’s not going to stop me from saying it again. Edwige is very beautiful in this film, as usual, and although the film lacks blood and black gloves, it sure makes up for it with nudity. In the opening moments of the film you get Ms. Fenech taking a shower, and needless to say, it is quite an enticing scene, but Edwige is more than just a pretty face or a beautiful body. I always enjoy her acting, but I think she really shines when she is the terrorized center of a thrilling story. She is able to look very realistically panicked and distraught, and do all that while being clad in the finest in early ’70’s Italian styles. This would be the second of eleven collaborations between the director and Ms. Fenech, and their films together are all high points in their respective careers.
George Hilton and Ivan Rassimov are two more names that should be familiar to fans of Italian genre cinema. Uruguayan George Hilton began his career in South American cinema in the early sixties, but in 1964 he moved to Europe to pursue his career further. He found plenty of work in westerns throughout the decade even starring in a few of the “Django” titles. As the seventies began and tastes began to change, he moved into working on gialli and starred in several Martino films. In All the Colors of the Dark, he is mostly a secondary character whose screen time is very limited, but Hilton gives a fine performance when he is on screen.
Taking a bit more of the screen time is Ivan Rassimov, who appears as the man with the icy blue eyes that is stalking Jane. Rassimov is a very creepy guy to begin with, and while I don’t know what they did to make his eyes look like that, it sure put the icing on the cake. Rassimov’s character has very few lines, but his menacing presence was enough to make quite an impact on the film. Like Hilton and Fenech, Rassimov was also a frequent star in Sergio Martino’s films, and he would go on to great turns in Bava’s Shock, Deodato’s Jungle Holocaust, and Lenzi’s Rome Armed to the Teeth.
One of the most striking elements of All the Colors of the Dark is the amazing cinematography. The camera practically drinks in the beauty of the London setting, and through a series of interesting camera angles, smooth tracking shots, and striking close-ups, the camera does as much as the script for keeping the film suspenseful. The film also starts off with a really creepy dream sequence which sets the unsettling tone for the film quite perfectly. All the Colors of the Dark featured two cinematographers, Miguel F. Mila and Giancarlo Ferrando. While Mila has credits like Ossario’s Attack of the Blind Dead and Naschy’s A Dragonfly for Each Corpse to his name, Ferrando is perhaps more infamous for being he director of photography on the cult classic Troll 2.
All the Colors of the Dark may be far from the traditional mold of a giallo, but that’s what really makes this film work. By bringing in the occult elements to the script, Martino’s film gives the viewer the feeling that anything might happen. It keeps you guessing for its entire running time whether men are to blame or if the devil himself has come for Ms. Fenech. I highly recommend this one to anyone who loves a good thrill ride Italian style, and fans or Martino or Edwige should surely not miss out on this one.