We closed out Giallovember and as promised, I wanted to pass along Rob’s movie picks for the month. (Giallo + November=Giallovember, which is nestled neatly between Horror + October and the Holiday Classics/not-so-classics of December)
For those of you interested in movies or those of you tired of the drab selections on Netflix, Hulu, or some other streaming service, enter the world of the Giallo film…
- Who would be interested in this genre? If you like movies about mystery, psychological thrillers, horror, supernatural events, or Avant-Garde films, give them a peek. If you’re a fan of beautiful sets, costumes, or have a theatre background like I do, you’ll adore them. If you watch cinema for fun or a shock factor, they’re for you. If you’re musically inclined and love well-composed soundtracks by greats such as Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai, and Goblin (we’re talking masterpieces that gave inspiration to current day composers such as Hans Zimmer, Philip Glass, Danny Elfman, Peter Gabriel, Tangerine Dream), then you must jump on the Giallo train.
All the well-known horror directors such as Brian De Palma, George Romero, John Carpenter, Guillermo del Toro, Eli Roth, Christopher Nolan, Tim Burton, and Quentin Tarantino love this genre and pay homage to it. Many even claim it’s how they became interested in film—my beloved husband being one of those directors and film experts.
- What are they? Gialli originated in the 20s as mystery stories with yellow covers (Giallo is Italian for yellow). In the 1960s, they retold these stories in the movie genre, with a plot scope as broad as Italian cuisine. Hitchcock has a few of the Giallo elements in his movies though they’re much more visually tamed. Gialli were the predecessor to the famous slasher movies of the 80s; in fact, Friday the 13th is descended from Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood.
Here are qualities you’ll find in a standard Giallo:
- An “everyman” character often solves the case. Detectives are clueless, blundering idiots who can’t see the clues in front of their face.
- The killer is never who you (or the detectives) think—Gialli are known for having several red herrings and plot twists. We’ve watched some Gialli multiple times and still can’t remember who committed the crime. Who doesn’t love to not know how a movie ends!?! Who doesn’t love a mystery that always remains a mystery!?! Who IS Dodd!?!
- A meticulously dressed killer with black gloves and a wardrobe that makes a GQ model envious.
- Supermodels. In the 60s, it seems models were able to act AND model, despite their inability to run. (I actually impersonate the awkward running style quite well.)
- Poor overdubbing. Budget constraints and international casting placed an English-speaking actor such as John Saxon, an Italian actress such as Edwige Fenech, and a Spanish actress such as Susan Scott on the same set. Each actor spoke their native dialect, and it required overdubbing to glue it all together.
- Frequent subtitles. Sometimes overdubbing just didn’t happen. Sometimes we have to read the dialogue during the film. They’re foreign films… you expect subtitles.
- Fantastic set design and lighting. Never has cinema replicated the qualities of stage productions as closely as the Giallo genre has. Stage production requires a great amount of creativity as budgets are low. Props, intense lighting, colorful fabrics and clothing, clever shots, and the intense imagination of the director make this genre visually stunning. (Way before CGI, kids!)
- J&B must be in the film somewhere. Even Kurt Russell drinks it in John Carpenter’s remake of Thing. It’s damn good. And a required prop.
- Homosexuality, orgies, nudity, and other taboos of the time.
- Sexual perversion, such as incest or an Electra/Oedipal complex.
- Psychological issues such as socio- or psychopathic tendencies.
- Low-budget (though in many, you’d never guess just HOW low-budget they were).
- A German shepherd (or other large dog). Sometimes the dog was a killer, sometimes it was a guide dog.
- Overly dramatic death scenes so over-the-top with bright-red blood and overkill, you can’t possibly take it seriously or ban it for being too realistic.
- Exploitation of any and every kind—no SJW will watch this genre and allow it to survive. If you fall into that category, I recommend sticking to Disney movies (which are by all standards, exploitation films… but that’s a rant for another day)
- The entire mystery unravels and they solve the crime in the last 5 minutes of the movie. Movies don’t last over 1.5 hours, either—it’s the perfect timeframe for a movie!
- Here’s How to Spot a Giallo, which gives you a visual idea of what they’re all about:
- When were they made? In the 60s, 70s, 80s, and a rare few since then. Unfortunately, as cinema has progressed, the artsy look, awkward dialogue and plot has been lost. Recent films by the previous Gialli Masters have fallen short of the quality they previously had.
- Where were they popular? They were brought to fame in Italy, though there is a cult following in France, Germany (known as “krimi” films), the US, and Spain.
- Why were they made? In reaction to oppression from the church and social culture.
- How can you find them? Search for the well-known directors first: Mario Bava (more artsy and mystery), Dario Argento (horror and psychological thrillers), Lucio Fulci (more horror), Lamberto Bava, Umberto Lenzi, Sergio Martino. Google some clips of films to see what you may like.
Here are 3 short films Rob created, which emphasize the color, topic, and style of the Giallo genre: Split End (color, psychological twist) and Instant Karma (psychic, J&B, lighting color, the blade of death and destruction), and Nascita (style, color, tools of the killer, obscure and macabre imagery)
In case I’ve piqued your curiosity about this genre, here are Rob’s picks for Giallovember ’18 (in order of viewing pleasure). Feel free to check out some of these fantastic films and let us know what you think of them!
- Death Walks on High Heels
- Death Walks at Midnight
- Death Carries a Cane
- 5 Dolls for an August Moon
- The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
- The Red Queens Kills 7 Times
- The Girl That Knew Too Much
- Blood and Black Lace
- The Case of The Scorpions Tail
- The House with Laughing Windows
- Perversion Story
- Seven Blood-Stained Orchids