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Home / Film / Home Video / Classic Horror on Disc: Severin’s All the Colors of the Dark (1972).

Classic Horror on Disc: Severin’s All the Colors of the Dark (1972).

Disc Details

Severin, 2019. Region A.

Feature: 94 mins. Aspect ratio 2:35:1.

Previous Region A/Region 1 Disc Editions

Shriek Show/Media Blasters. 2004. DVD.

The Movie

All the Colours of the Dark is a fascinating giallo directed by Sergio Martino and written by Ernesto Gastaldi and Sauro Scavolini. Gastaldi also wrote several giallos, including The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970), Death Walks on High Heels (1971), The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972),  and the Martino-directed giallos The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971), The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail (1971), Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972), and Torso (1973).

The film opens on a static outdoor shot of trees silhouetted against a lake. As the titles unfold onscreen the light gradually fades to blackness, with only the sounds of twilight and night as accompaniment, and then there’s a smash cut to a bizarre nightmare. The bad dream involves a pregnant woman, a clock without hands, a black-toothed hag with a blonde wig who moves like a human doll, and our heroine, Jane Harrison (Edwige Fenech), sprawled naked and bloody on a bed (an abortion reference). The images are mainlined from Jane’s subconscious, dark subconscious reminders of a car accident that killed her unborn baby. A flash of a man’s hand making a stabbing motion with a bloody knife even intrudes on her waking mind when she’s trying to have sex with her husband Richard (George Hilton). This recurrent vision haunts her, the stiletto blade plunging into her torso.

In her psychiatrist’s waiting room she sees a man that has the same piercing blue eyes as a man in her dream. Initially dismissed as her imagination by the shrink, it’s confirmed that there was in fact a man there. The blue-eyed man appears to stalk her on the Underground (the film is set in London) and then in a park beside the Thames. But who is he and why is he following her?

Jane’s neighbour Mary is a slightly sinister presence. When asked if she believes in visions, Mary agrees and says cryptically “that and much more.” Mary reveals that she has been cured of her own psychological problems by attending a witches’ sabbat. Bizarrely, Jane agrees to try this out for herself.

Her introduction to the Satanic cult is at a sprawling mansion in the countryside. She is taken down a flight of stairs and into the centre of a group of robed people. One who appears to be the leader sports blade-like extensions on his fingers. A dog’s throat is slit and the blood drained into a goblet. “Drink this and you will be free,” he says to Jane. She takes a sip and then is stripped and ravaged by him and other members of the coven. Shot with canted angles, distorted images, unnerving closeups, and with a cut to her in bed with her husband, its unclear if this was a dream or figment from her subconscious. Subsequent sessions with the coven get even weirder, with Mary appearing to throw herself on a blade wielded by Jane to “free herself.” These sequences are obviously influenced by ‘60s psychedelia with their disturbing, surrealist imagery. (The leader of the coven sometimes resembles Mike Raven in Hammer’s Lust for a Vampire.)

Later, Jane stays for a night at the psychiatrist’s cottage, which is being managed by a caretaker couple. She wakes up there the next morning with the cottage seemingly deserted. She finally locates the caretakers – sitting dead at the kitchen table, one of them bizarrely still clutching a newspaper as if reading it. At this point it’s unclear if this is a vision or reality. The trenchcoated stranger appears then, brandishing the dagger from her nightmares, which he claims is the same weapon that killed Jane’s mother. “You have crossed every barrier to reality,” he says, “You can’t renounce us….you belong to us.” The stranger confronts Jane in the cottage grounds but is stabbed with a pitchfork by Richard just before he is about to impale Jane with his dagger.

“I’ve no idea of reality,” Jane says towards the denouement, after experiencing an alternate ending to the story that appears to have been another vision. The ultimate reason behind everything is unfortunately quite pedestrian, with a rather abrupt ending that shifts the movie out of the supernatural and squarely into the realm of a conventional thriller.  

Overall, though, All the Colours of the Dark is almost like a giallo version of Rosemary’s Baby. Richard gives Jane “potent vitamins”, purple pills dissolved to the colour of Easter egg dye, that make her sick in a similar fashion to how Mrs. Castanet feeds Rosemary a vitamin shake. Jane finds a book, Magic and the Supernatural, on her husband’s desk, which has a picture of the same symbol that the leader of the sabbat had around his neck. Her neighbour Mary appears to have vanished from the building, leaving no trace. It is like a Satanic conspiracy drawing tight around Jane. (In the Sergio Martino interview in the disc extras, he acknowledges Polanski’s film as an influence.)

The style of the film is surreal and fragmented with jarring juxtapositions, angles, and cuts that destabilize the viewer. This has the effect of drawing you into the splintered and paranoid mental state of the main character until you’re unsure where reality begins and ends. The result is a surprisingly effective study of the effects of psychological trauma and one of the more interesting movies from the heyday of the giallo film.

Transfer

The image has vivid colour and a softness that is likely inherent to the source and intended to give a dreamlike feel. Overall the transfer is pleasing: clean and filmlike.

Special Features

They’re Coming to Get You – 87 min. An alternate U.S. cut of the film. This version, released in 1975 by Independent International, misses about five minutes of footage from the original Italian release.

Color My Nightmare – 40 min. An interview with the director, Sergio Martino, where he touches on the shooting of the film, the genre movie zeitgeist of the time, and different versions of the movie. One interesting tidbit is a true crime case in Italy, where a wife sent a killer from Milan to Rome to murder her husband, the elements of which were taken and reworked by several genre films of the period.

Last of the Mohicans – 18 min. An interview with the screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi. He recounts his early days in the industry, including his work with Sergio Leone and how he met Luciano Martino and his brother Sergio. Brief, but funny and informative.

Giallo is the Color – 32 min. Interviews with actor George Hilton and “Italian horror expert” Antonio Tentori. Hilton talks about how he got into acting in Italy, his early days in Western movies, how he ended up in thrillers, and the making of All the Colours of the Dark. Tentori talks about how the movie fits with Martino’s other gialli and the style and themes of the film.

Audio commentary by Kat Ellinger

CD of the original soundtrack composed by Bruno Nicolai

Bottom Line

A very satisfying package of a key ‘70s giallo. Recommended for casual and serious giallo aficionados alike.  

About Paul Sparrow-Clarke

A child of the ’60s and ’70s, I was born in Caerleon, Wales, where I spent my formative years. The ubiquitous ghost stories of the region piqued my interest in horror at an early age and from there I gravitated to books on horror films, with Dennis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Films, Alan Frank’s Horror Movies, and Ed Naha’s Horrors: From Screen to Scream being particularly influential. With the help of these books, I became an “expert” on screen terror far before I was allowed to see any of the films on the telly. I moved to Alberta, Canada in 1981, and the culture shock (and the cold winters) did nothing to dim my interest in genre cinema. Here I discovered Fangoria magazine, VHS tapes, and the fact that my tall height was a ticket to sneaking into Restricted movies in the theatre. Thus began a banquet of terror treats that continues to this day, though I no longer fear being asked for ID at the box office. I have worked as a retailer, cinema usher, invertebrate zoology technician, map cataloguer, bureaucrat, teacher, freelance business/technical writer, and now earn my keep in university administration. I have previously written about genre cinema for Her Majesty’s Secret Servant and We Belong Dead magazines and books, and I’ve hosted public film screenings and co-hosted film podcasts.

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