This was made before Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There’s a whole wave of early-seventies Italian giallo films that aren’t Dario Argento movies – everyone’s seen the Argento giallos – which are lesser-known B-movies that have been overlooked by the fans. They’re fantastic movies and Torso is a prime example.
Luc Merenda is in it, who plays the police inspector in the beginning of Hostel II questioning Jay Hernandez. Luc came out of fifteen years of retirement – he’s now an antique dealer in Paris – to come and do this part for me. He was in a lot of these giallo films and he’s a superb actor.
As Quentin says, the first 45 minutes to an hour of the movie almost dares you to keep watching it. It’s so incomprehensible but it’s actually an amazing film and I think it’s a masterpiece.
The first ten minutes are confusing but the last thirty minutes are set at this house and once they get to this house it’s amongst the best examples of the genre I’ve seen. It suddenly elevates to the level of Alfred Hitchcock in terms of filmmaking. It’s so fucking scary and tense.
Torso is probably the most sexually-charged giallo film out of any of them. It starts off, during the opening credits, with a lesbian scene and there’s an amazing lesbian subplot in the movie. There’s tonnes of nudity, hippy orgies and stuff and the girls are so hot in it. But it’s completely underrated.
Sergio Martino made Torso and then he made a film called Suspected Death of a Minor. He was one of these guys who just churned out a bunch of movies. He also made this movie called The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, but really Torso is his masterpiece.
Who Can Kill a Child? was just re-released on DVD and I was actually going to make a film that was pretty-much the exact same premise but now I don’t know if I will because he did it so perfectly.
It’s a great evil kid movie, but it’s one of those things where the kids are running amok and you’ve got to kill them, and how could you kill a bunch of kids? That idea is fucking awesome.
And again what’s so great about it is it’s a slow burn. This and Torso were very influential on Hostel because these seventies Italian giallos start off with a group of students that are in Rome, lots of scenes in piazzas with telephoto lenses, and you get the feeling they’re being watched. There’s this real ominous creepy feeling.
The girls are always going on some trip somewhere and they’re all very smart. They all make decisions the audience would make.
This film is a rip-off of Last House on the Left, but set on the train. And it’s really fucking creepy. It’s got a problem where you can tell the train cars are on a set, but it’s really, really scary.
The guys are these really creepy Italian guys and one of them has this whistling theme that was done by Morricone that when you hear it, it really gives you chills.
A lot of the girls on the train and the creepiness in Hostel II is very-much influenced by Night Train Murders.
Lucio Fulci is such a massively underrated director. Everyone knows him as the Godfather of Gore. He did these three fantastic films in a row.
One of them was called One On Top Of Another (pictured), which was also released as Perversion Story. Distributors would always confuse people with the titles of movies. One On Top Of Another is a really good giallo.
Then he made this film Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. It’s a terrific, terrific movie. It’s really got this great, trippy dreamlike imagery in it.
But in between he made this drama called Beatrice Cenci based on a true story about this woman whose father was a wealthy landowner in the 16th century who locked her up in a dungeon in the basement. He was raping her and the family plotted and killed him and they were all executed. There was a huge public outcry about it.
Beatrice Cenci was an amazing film. If it were released today it’d win Best Picture. It’s so well done, it’s so contemporary, and the filmmaking is so smart.
It’s never been released in the US. I know there’s one French DVD of it, I don’t know if it’s on DVD in England. It’s the best film Lucio Fulci’s ever done. It’s so fucking good. It starts off right away and you’re in it; it doesn’t feel like a period movie at all.
And it’s got this thing where every time the infected people kill a girl they rip her shirt off first. There’s a scene at a hospital where the infected are being brought in and treated – like Planet Terror – and they run up to a girl and they just rip open her shirt and then rip her tits off. You can’t believe it. You’d think he’d maybe do it once, but Umberto Lenzi just keeps doing it over and over again. It’s pretty hilarious.
There’s also a whole scene set in a TV studio where someone’s doing an aerobics class and all the infected zombies tear in and start ripping up and infecting this aerobics class. Nightmare City is fantastic.
The film that was the single most influential film on Hostel II was Fernando Di Leo‘s Avere vent’anni which translates as To Be Twenty. Fernando Di Leo is the fucking man, he made a whole bunch of fantastic films. There’s a double-disc that Nocturno put out in England and Italy.
This movie, starring Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati, is kind-of about the different generational attitudes towards sex. The young generation that doesn’t give a fuck about sex and the older generation who wants to punish them.
These girls go around Rome just fucking guys and fucking girls and their whole motto is like, “We’re young, beautiful and pissed off.” They don’t care about anything, they just don’t give a fuck, and it’s plays like a light sex comedy which Gloria Guida is renowned for in Italy.
But they tease the wrong guys. At the end they go into this diner and there are these really fucking scary guys. So they’re teasing them and fucking with them and these guys follow the girls into the woods and the ending is the most shocking, horrifying ending I’ve ever seen in a film. It’s really hard to watch and really upsetting and then it just ends and the credits roll.
When this movie was released there was an outcry, an uproar, and they pulled every single print out of the cinemas and destroyed them or recut them. They re-released it completely changing the ending and made it end as a fun, happy sex comedy. So a recent release restored Fernando Di Leo’s cut and he got a lot of shit for it.
It was really interesting, while I was making Hostel II I said I wanted to make a movie like To Be Twenty and the kind of reaction I got from Hostel II and the outrage, and the censorship, I said to my brother, “I think we did it, I think we actually made a Fernando Di Leo film.”
Critically that guy never got his due and he died, but this movie is his fucking masterpiece. It’s so smart but the ending is so violent and shocking that it’s the only thing people can take away from the film. It’s a comedy and a drama with a really, really upsetting, genuinely horrific close.
I had everyone watch it on Hostel II. The KNB guys, who did the make-up effects, were like, “That was the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen.”
The best film that I saw which I’d never seen before is a Fellini short film called Toby Dammit. It was part of a European film called Spirits of the Dead that was made in 1968 that featured segments from Louis Malle, Roger Vadim and Fellini, each adapting an Edgar Allan Poe short story.
The Fellini one, Toby Dammit, has the single greatest performance by an actor I’ve ever seen; it’s Terence Stamp. It’s on the level of Malcolm McDowell in Clockwork Orange or Jack Nicholson in The Shining. He plays this drugged-out actor called Toby Dammit who’s flown to Rome to make a movie and it’s shot almost like a live-action, surreal drug trip.
He was going to have Peter O’Toole do it, but he backed out, so Fellini put out a casting call for the most decadent actors in London and he got Terrence Stamp.
I’ve shown this movie to so many people who said, from the first shot, that this is the coolest movie they’ve ever seen. People that were never into Fellini, or who found Fellini films boring or pretentious, were like, “I get it. This is unbelieveable.”
Terence Stamp is haunted by this little girl with a white ball that he thinks is the devil. You see where the bouncing ball in The Changeling came from, and creepy little kids that were in the likes of Ju-On. Fellini did it forty years ago in Toby Dammit.
But it’s so fucking out-there. There’s a scene where he’s completely fucked on drugs and gets taken to the Italian Oscars but it’s some crazy ceremony. They’re giving out the Golden She-Wolf Awards and there’s a fucked-up fashion parade. It’s Fellini’s imagination gone completely wild. And the ending is really fucking creepy. It’s got a very, very creepy haunting quality to it.
It’s a fucking masterpiece and no-one’s seen it!
I’m doing three different things at the same time and everything needs my full attention. It’s like I have this garden, and I’ve got to take care of this garden, that garden and another one. Cell is still happening but the script is still being written. The thing about Cell is I didn’t want to go back-to-back into another film after Hostel II, I wanted to switch it up creatively, so my Heroes episode will be scary but more Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents scary. I wanted do it psychological scary.
And then I’m going to do Trailer Trash, my movie of fake trailers like my Grindhouse trailer. It’ll be full-on Monty Python silliness.
I know the Thanksgiving trailer isn’t attached to either movie outside the US, but Grindhouse underperformed in the US and I think it’s one of the greatest cinema experiences of all time. So however those guys need to make their money back, they should. I think they spent seventy million making, basically, the ultimate geek film. So I think that it’s such a great film that people will deal with eventually seeing it on DVD but right now going to YouTube.
That said, the Thanksgiving trailer looks amazing on the big screen; I was so happy. It looks like a print that you found in the back of a pickup truck in the 1980s. Even the one on the internet is a little washed-out; when you see it for real it’s rich and black and it’s got all those great yellow scratches and dirt on it.