For the month of July, contributing writers of DestroytheBrain.com will be watching, reviewing and commenting on giallo cinema. We will be covering the sub-genre from a beginner’s angle and on the assumption that the majority of our readers are not aware of this giallo. Later on in the month, we will be getting into recent films that celebrate the idea of gialli cinema. Thanks for reading!
HOW DOES ONE GET INTO GIALLO CINEMA?
When I was mass exploring the VHS & DVD territories of horror cinema in the 90’s and into the mid-2000’s, most of my film discoveries were American horror films. Yes, there were some films, as I would later come to find, that were imports from Italy but when I watched those, I just figured there was bad dubbing and didn’t take into play that they were re-edited foreign films. In the early 2000’s, I started making a point to try to pick up special edition DVD’s for films I may have never seen. Anchor Bay put out a Limited Edition 3 disc set of Dario Argento’s Suspiria. I had never seen the film before and figured I would give it a shot. This was the film that introduced me to Italian cinema. I was enamored by the color palette and the gorgeously designed set pieces. The kill scenes were visually strong that they would permanently damage my brain. With the DVD boom happening and Anchor Bay putting out a lot of Italian cinema, I was at the right place at the right time. I remember picking up Deep Red and while I didn’t think it was as great as Suspiria, I liked it. It was strange, unusual and – as a sucker for a good mystery – I dug how Argento executed the film. I started doing some research on the internet with search terms like “films like Deep Red” or “films like Suspiria” and down the rabbit hole I went. I started to recognize Italian directors like Argento, Sergio Martino and, my favorite film director, Mario Bava. I also found out that Deep Red belonged to a genre called giallo.
giallo is pronounced ja-low
WHAT IS A GIALLO FILM?
Giallo films, known as the plural word gialli, are typically stylish murder mysteries with amateur sleuths trying to find the killer before the body count gets too high or the killer gets too close to them. These films are beautifully photographed and have complex murder sequences that remind you of the art of staging. With the gialli sub-genre becoming popular in Italy, along with the exportation of the films to the United States, the films adapted more controversial subject matter. Often misogynistic, the giallo films brought a more modern feeling to the murder mystery and thriller genre – which wasn’t very popular until the production of said giallo films.
Where does the word “giallo” come from? Mystery and Crime novels written by Edgar Wallace, Agatha Christie and Mickey Spillane were typically published in “pulp” format or cheap paperbacks with garish yellow covers – typically with artwork in a circle surrounded by a red border. Mystery and Crime novels became very popular in post-fascist Italy and once Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho became popular in 1960, the Italian film industry – as they would do for the next few decades – decided to throw its hat in the ring and try and capitalize on the popularity of the gialli crime literature and off the success of Hitchcock’s classic film.
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THE GIALLO SUB-GENRE?
I firmly believe that all horror fans are thrillseekers. We got into the horror genre because it scared us, amazed us and after awhile, the films you watch on multiple viewings may get stale and you will begin looking in either extreme cinema full of gore or, if you are like me, you may want to see what else the genre may offer. While Italian cinema has always interested me, the giallo sub-genre interested me more. I have a love for cinema on a technical and visual level and let me tell you that giallo films have this in spades. Murder, mayhem, twists and even perverse pleasures await the yellow abyss that we are about to take a plunge in. However, the most important reason on why you should care about the giallo sub-genre is that without it, we would probably not have the American slasher film. While John Carpenter’s Halloween doesn’t fit the typical mystery mode, if you look at Dean Cundey’s cinematography in the film – especially the lighting of interior walls, houses in exterior darkness, it may all look a bit familiar after you see a few giallo films. Hell, Friday the 13th could be seen as a giallo. I also guarantee that every director you admire has been influenced by the sub-genre in some fashion.
For the first week of our month long celebration and exploration, we will be talking about giallo films that we consider to be necessary viewing:
- The Girl Who Knew Too Much / The Evil Eye – directed by Mario Bava
- Blood and Black Lace – directed by Mario Bava
- The Bird with the Crystal Plumage – directed by Dario Argento
- Deep Red – directed by Dario Argento
For future weeks, we will be exploring deeper into the sub-genre with articles written by contributors who are new to the sub-genre and contributors who are very familiar with it. We will also touch upon the sexuality explored in the giallo films of the mid to late 70’s and the moral walls that sub-genre was determined to break. We will also explore its influence on modern cinema and some of the best soundtracks that giallo cinema provided.
Kick back. Open up a bottle of J&B and get comfortable in your black leather chair. Welcome to Giallo July.