Sunday, January 15, 2012

All the Colors of the Dark (1972)

In this delirious piece by director Sergio Martino, viewers are granted the pleasure to spend, literally, the entire movie with actress Edwige Fenech, as Jane. 

Childhood trauma and a miscarriage, as a result of a car accident one year ago, has resulted in Jane’s mental instability. She lately seems to be spending a lot of time at home now, smoking and drinking while waiting around for her lover, Richard (George Hilton), who’s out working most of the time. Our introduction to Jane in the movie sees her waking up from a bewitchingly filmed nightmare, full of symbolic hints to her troubles, and in a daze, she walks into the shower while still in her nightgown. 

Is this a symbolic and desperate attempt for Jane to wash away what is grieving her, or is it just a chance for Fenech to get wet? I’d say definitely both, which is part of what makes ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK so pleasurable. It is not just an empty ploy for mindless sex and violence, you see, but the film is just as sexy as it is intelligent, head spinning, macabre, and psychedelic. 

Fenech is sort of the main attraction, whose pleasing looks, vulnerability, and pleasant company carries the proceedings rather well, but the movie is also packed with notable Euro-genre actors who contribute to the show, also, such as the frequent Fenech co-stars George Hilton and Ivan Rassimov, and giallo divas Marinna Malfatti and Nieves Navarro, the latter being a fantastic and groundbreaking lead herself in DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT. 

"I'm almost certain that someone is after me, someone from my past, from something that happened in my childhood.  Do you believe in this sort of thing?"--Jane/Edwige Fenech

Taking advice from her sister, Barbara, played by Navarro, Jane sees a psychoanalyst, George Rigaud, about her nightmares and paranoia of being pursued. 

Jane’s paranoia is exemplified by an added tension that is prevalent whenever she happens to be alone, which usually follows with an immediate but temporary sense of relief when she is around others. For instance, when Jane leaves her psychoanalyst, she is alone in a subway station while a menacing “laa-laa” chime from Bruno Nicolai creates a disquieting atmosphere. After the subway pulls up, a feeling of comfort and safety prevails, as crowds of people invade the previously lonely and uncomfortable surrounding. It is not long before the tension rises again as she finds herself alone once more on the moving sub and, as dream seemingly becomes reality, the madman from her nightmares appears, Rassimov.

"Now you are one of us, Jane...  It is impossible to denounce us"--Mark/Ivan Rassimov
A particular scene that has Jane being pursued sees her rushing to get in her car and, sure enough, the engine has trouble starting. This part would seem rather cliché if it weren’t for a particular finesse that Martino brings where certain brief moments and sounds are replayed several times, such as several repetitive loops of the sound of the failed engine start, or Jane’s scream as the killer readies to bear down on her with a knife, in trippy replay mode. Basically, like a lot of Italian directors, full of style. 

While on a lovely walk in the park, Jane’s strange friend, Mary, Malfatti in a wicked looking red cloak, offers her advice and a cure for her problems by suggesting that she go to a Sabbath with her and meet her friends; as she says “you’ve only to trust them, and they will do the rest”.  With intrigue and without thinking twice, she agrees to attend. Jane’s Sister, Barbara, claims that Jane has never been good at making decisions, which, given the naivety she has just demonstrated, has become most apparent.

"She was never good with decisions, but now she is yours and you don't give her the security she needs"--Barbara/Nieves Navarro

The best parts of the film for me are the visits to the Sabbaths, which are brilliantly filmed and enhanced, big time, with an enchanting melodic music score from Bruno Nicolai. The actions of the cultist are horrific, but the stage is beautiful and things take a Gothic turn for the better. Julian Ugárte takes over and easily steals the movie for a couple minutes while acting with full focus and without restraint as the tall and convincingly evil cult leader, exposing bloody teeth and voraciously engaging in an orgy with Jane, as one would expect from a cult leader when such an opportunity presents itself. 

Needless to say, the orgies at the Sabbath only temporarily relieve Jane of her problems, and a whole new world of trouble opens up for her. 

"Strange men have been following women since the stone-age"--Mary/Marina Malfatti

Jane’s psychoanalyst states that due to her emotional shock, it is difficult for her to know what’s real and what isn’t, which is something that can easily be said about the events in the movie and is just another of the numerous charms to this gem of an atypical giallo thriller that constantly disorients the viewer but ties things up rather nicely at the end. 

I haven’t seen many of her sex comedies, but I can still say with confidence that this is one of Edwige Fenech’s best movies. Though her other gialli with Martino (THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH and YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY) as well as THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS are highly recommended as well.

"You are ours now, Jane, and you'll be protected.  Don't worry about anybody"--J.P./Julian Ugarte


  1. This is a wonderful movie, one of the most original giallos I have seen. The feeling of being in a nightmare that keeps changing, from which you're never sure if you've awakened, it captured perfectly.

    1. I know! The lead seemingly wakes up to some unpleasant situations and then wakes up again with the same stuff happening all over again, only slightly different. It’s like that confused feeling of being half awake and half asleep and wondering if your nightmare is over yet. You’re totally right in saying that this is an original giallo.

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  4. Excellent psychological thriller with a very alluring title. Bruno Nicolai's score is fantastic.

    Unfortunately, I think the exposition in the last third of the film kind of dispels the magical qualities that were being set up in the first two-thirds.

    My favourite character would have to be Mary because she's so mysterious and otherworldly! Marina Malfatti is now my favourite Italian actress because of this film (as well as the Killer Queen duo).

    I also managed to find another film she starred in called A Black Ribbon For Deborah but it was the Italian dub with no subtitles. It's still a pretty interesting rip-off of Rosemary's Baby.

    1. Your right, the final third does destroy that magical feel nicely developed over the previous parts of the movie. Even though I still consider it atypical for a giallo, it still did the same ol’ supernatural undertones that end up not being what they seem, not only making the ending less memorable, but also ruining it a bit with those same ol’ police procedural scenes that hamper the pace of most gialli.

      When I said that the ending ties things up nicely, I meant that I was satisfied that everything is at least explained, even if it all seemed unlikely.

      Malfatti is a delight, isn’t she? She has a brief but sexy role in Umberto Lenzi’s SEVEN BLOOD STAINED ORCHIDS. Wow, it looks like Malfatti plays the leading role in A BLACK RIBBON FOR DEBORAH, and not the usual supporting or bit role. This is one I’m definitely going to have to see. Thanks for alerting me of it.

      Thanks, Terence. Your comments are always appreciated. I’m almost finished with a review for Margheriti’s THE VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG. You’ve heard it here first, haha. ;)

    2. Good luck on finding A Black Ribbon For Deborah! I haven't been able to find the English version on the internet so you'll probably have to buy the VHS somewhere (the UK tape is called "The Torment").
      Here's the Italian dub (w/o subtitles unfortunately)

      Giallo Fever has a pretty good summary of the film if you don't understand it:

      Don't expect the film to be very entertaining because there are a lot of talky scenes and it plays out more like a drama. Still, it definitely has some very interesting ideas and the finale is pretty disturbing. Marina Malfatti is also quite endearing in this!