These days I’m pretty big-time into that Italian-pulp-cinema genre from the late 60s and 70s called the giallo (and NOT the trendy womens' shoe-store chain here in Melbourne!) Personally, in my own head and no-one else's, I reckon it’s the most happening sorta obscure film-genre that the pomo-homos haven’t mined yet. I still don’t know why, since the giallo’s have plenty of themes ready-made for today’s trendies, like class-politics, repression, lesbianism and other kinks, cuckold men, sex, murder, rich people, trendy fashion and funky music, etc..etc..etc…For better or for worse the giallos paved the way for that Americanos genre the ‘slasher’ movie. In their own day, the gialli were pretty much the Italianos ripping off Hitchcock, although they weren’t uppity Poms, so they would show you more titties, more blood, and more sunny skies. The word giallo literally means yellow, and the genre named after cheap pulp-lit crime fiction novels that incidentally had yellow covers. There might be some other significant, deeper, meaning but I’ll leave that for the psych-minors. Oh and the killers generally wear black gloves and funny hats.
Part of my own innarest in the giallo stems from my love of Brian DePalma’s films, sexy Italian women, and probably not much else. Aficionados will automatically point you to the two kings of the giallo genre – Mario Bava and Dario Argento – and their films: Deep Red, Tenebre, Sleepless, The girls who knew too much, Blood & Black Lace and Twitch of the Death Nerve – while all landmark/dogma examples of the genre, aren’t always the best places to start (well in my opinion, anyway). So I’ve decided to pick out of my nose, the FIVE BEST NON-BAVA-ARGENTO gialli that are worth watching, starting with the best-early-De-Palma-movie-De-Palma-never made:
NUMERO-CINQUE: THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS.
While many more overweight fans of the giallo genre don’t rate this film, I do. Within 5 minutes all the trademarks of the genre are established: gloves, girls, blood and boobs, the opening scene would be ripped off hook-line-and-stinker by De Palma is his sorta-legendary DRESSED TO KILL. It’s got an inherently stupid premise, whereby our heroine decides to move into an apartment block where two previous hot-chicks were slashered, just so the slasherer can attempt to slash her and give us a story. Another good thing about this film, we are introduced to the Numero-Uno sex-goddess of the genre in sexy-Algerian-Italian actress Edwidge Fenech. We immediately get to see her Edwidges and a few other things. Remember the name, as she’s the boss in many of the best non-Argento-Bava gialli.
ANOTHER feature of the giallo is the use of funky-op-art type architecture and visuals. The giallo while being partly pomo-rippoff also prided itself on its modernisma. So you got lots of pan-global settings, and lots of moderne-60s-70s architecture and settings. And also lots of drugs. But that’s another story…
So in short, THE CASE OF THE BLOOD IRIS, while not delving deep into the mysteries of the human soul and condition, is a good place to start. Sure it aint got all the production values of some of the better films, but it’s got a lot of the basics of what the genre is all about. There’s only one problem though, the DVD is only available as part of the AnchorBay ‘Giallo Collection’ boxset. Bummer!