All the Colors of the Dark (1972)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-01-21 02:59

Written by: Lewis E. Ciannelli (English version), Ernesto Gastaldi, (screenplay) Santiago Moncada (story), Sauro Scavolini (screenplay)
Directed by: Sergio Martino
Starring: George Hilton, Edwige Fenech and Ivan Rassimov

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

ďI got frightened. A strange guy tried to follow me all the way home."

Despite its Italian origins and its non-sensical, wordy title, All the Colors of the Dark isnít a giallo. Instead, itís the distant cousin of the giallo--a ďletís watch a pretty lady go fucking nutsĒ flick, a type of movie for which the Italians regretfully never invented a word to more concisely describe. In this case, itís Edwige Fenech losing her mind as she comes into contact with a Satanic cult, with Sergio Martino obviously riffing on Rosemaryís Baby. The biggest difference here, however, is that Martino dispenses with the subtle, creeping terror of Rosemary, trying instead to construct a movie almost entirely comprised of the fever-dreamy stuff Polanski carefully parceled out throughout his film.

Itís an approach that never quite works, but itís difficult to deny how he draws you in, even from the opening credits. Martino opens on an eerie landscape shot that begins with some faint daylight that fades ever so slowly--by the time the last credit rolls, weíre drenched in total darkness, almost as if weíve been lulled to sleep. This is wholly appropriate, as weíre soon dropped into a complete nightmare involving surreal images of a pregnant lady; weíre soon shaken awake to discover that this is Janeís (Fenech) dream--she recently lost a baby in a car accident and has been trying to cope along with her boyfriend (George Hilton) ever since.

This is the basic kernel of All the Colors of the Dark; like in Rosemaryís Baby, we basically follow Jane around as she loses her grip on sanity. She counsels with a psychologist (George Riguad) and her sister (Nieves Navarro), both of whom ensure her that she isnít crazy, despite the fact that sheís being stalked by a deranged looking guy with piercingly blue eyes. He hunts her down across various locations, which leads to some dizzying, harrowing chase sequences where Martino really channels Polanski. The apartment building interior, particularly the elevator and staircase, is turned into an inescapable kaleidoscope of terror. Martino consistently infuses these moments with garish qualities, with the persistent nightmarish atmosphere helping to blend the line between dreams and reality. He gets a little too cute when he tucks away dreams within dreams, a trick that gets infuriating by the end and reveals the biggest problem this film has: the limp script, which is nothing but a collection of these psychedelic moments--for better or worse, itís like someone recounting a dream in the sense that thereís never real logic or payoff to a dream.

A lot of this is due to how All the Colors of the Dark most sharply departs from Rosemaryís Baby. We often leave the suffocating confines of the apartment building, and weíre let in on the Satanic element right up front; in fact, thereís nothing insidious about it, as Jane willingly allows herself to be taken in by the cultís ambassador, Mary (Marina Malfatti). This results in Fenechís character having to be pretty dense to string the plot along, but it also leads to the most bizarre stuff the cult has to offer. Theyíre headed by cult favorite Ivan Rassimov, who looks exactly how youíd expect the devil to look: with a pointed beard to sharpen his already angular face. He leads the cult through their rituals, which involve (among other things) dog sacrifice and a huge gang rape of Jane. Martino constantly zooms in and out with dizzying style here, often putting us in Fenechís position of being assaulted by the weird shit sheís encountering.

Itíd just be great if it all connected in any meaningful way; really, the only apparent mystery is informed by the residual fears stirred up by Rosemaryís Baby--of course we should suspect Janeís boyfriend since John Cassavettes portrayed Mia Farrow. One genuine (I guess) surprise does turn up towards the end, when it turns out something else has been orchestrating the events, but itís hardly a shocker. The out-of-nowhere nature of it is probably why this sometimes gets lumped in with gialli, but, frankly, thatís the only real connection besides some of the superficial themes (fractured psychology, childhood trauma, etc.) that largely go undeveloped. Like so many of these films, you just kind of have to go with it--in the end, not even the cultís plot makes a whole bunch of sense, particularly in the way they send a guy to stalk Jane before she can ever show up and do her part in their rituals.

Try as he might, Martino ultimately churns out some pretty average Euro-horror stuff, which is admittedly better than most average horror experiences. Fenech is quite good and attractive as a raven-haired beauty whose silky skin is often put on display; while this doesnít play as sleazily as many of its counterparts, itís still pulsing with sexuality. Likewise, the violence isnít as gratuitous or elaborate as what youíll find in a giallo, but thereís certainly a mean, grisliness to the film, particularly with the Satanic stuff. Transcending the clunkiness is a bit hard--even some of the surrounding performances are often as mechanical as a plot, so navigating this film often feels like stumbling in the dark. Shriek Show released this on DVD years ago with some pretty nice features. You get interviews with Martino and Hilton, a photo gallery, an alternate U.S. title sequence, plus a couple of trailers. The presentation is fine--the anamorphic display is really soft in the same way most Shriek Show releases seem to be, and you get a choice between some mono English and Italian tracks that are similarly a bit muffled but otherwise fine. Youíll likely only encounter one real surprise while watching this, with that being the realization that this isnít a giallo after all--there are a handful of murders, but hardly any mystery. Other than that, itís like being lulled into a crazy womanís most twisted nightmare--and when that woman is Edwige Fenech, it canít be all that bad. Rent it!

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