G is for Giallo: a Yellow Film Checklist by Richard Glenn Schmidt

In my experience, the giallo will invariably become addictive to the horror and cult movie fan if exposure is prolonged beyond two or three titles. After my Mario Bava (Blood And Black Lace), Dario Argento (Deep Red), and Lucio Fulci (Donít Torture A Duckling) quotas had been filled, I decided to look into other directorsí entries in the genre. The two titles which are primarily responsible for my yellow blood are Giuliano Carnimeoís freaky and wild The Case Of The Bloody Iris and Umberto Lenziís brutal and precise Seven Blood-Stained Orchids. After that, I was determined to see as many gialli as possible.

Inspired by the German krimi films of the 60s and the mystery literature of Agatha Christie and Edgar Wallace (usually printed with the trademark yellow cover; hence the name giallo), the Italians infused their thrillers with explicit gore, exploitative sex, chic fashion, and funky music. Much like the American Slasher films of the 1980s, the giallo films became hugely popular ationally and internationally causing many directors to shift their focus. In the early 70s, Italian directors who specialized in westerns, gothic horror, comedies, crime films, etc. all switched to making gialli in order to follow the trend (and pay the bills). It is during this short time period that the genre exploded into a vibrancy during that didn't die down until the early 80s.

Many European actors and actresses became staples of the genre by starring in several features in a short period of time. Just to name a few: George Hilton, Fabio Testi, Ivan Rassimov, and Luigi Pistilli were in some genre favorites. Edwige Fenech, Anita Strindberg, Mimsy Farmer, Florinda Bolkan, Marina Malfatti, Barbara Bouchet, and Erika Blanc all lent their beauty to the giallo. Like any genre, gialli have a number of trademarks to look out for, roll your eyes at, or perhaps even create a drinking game around. Here is my list of some things to clue you in as to whether or not youíre in the middle of a yellow film. While some of the items on the list could be found in any film, it is a combination of these factors that give the giallo films their own special quirkiness.

The Checklist

- Bottles of J&B Scotch-Whiskey

- Black-gloved killer (acceptable substitute: rubber gloves)

- Tacky high fashion: big sunglasses, wide ties, ludicrously short skirts, etc.

- Fluorescent red blood

- Suspicious behavior and guilty glances (AKA shifty eyes)

- Creepy mannequins or freaky dolls

- Ugly hired thugs who are no match for the killer

- Spiral staircases and/or other suspenseful architecture

- Casual sex (usually between the main characters (who have just met)

- Priestly malfeasance (beware the men of the cloth)

- General disdain/ridicule of hippies

- Incompetent and/or corrupt cops

- Edwige Fenech is in some kind of peril

- Paper-thin motivations for murder

- Huge number of suspects and red herrings (the unsolvable mystery)

Giallo Reviews

All the Colors of the Dark
Black Belly Of The Tarantula
A Blade In The Dark
The Bloodstained Shadow
The Bloodsucker Leads The Dance
Case Of The Scorpion's Tail
Cold Eyes Of Fear
Deadly Sweet
Death Carries A Cane
Death Smiled at Murder
Delirium: Photos Of Gioia
Giallo a Venezia
House With Laughing Windows
The Iguana With The Tongue Of Fire
The Killer Must Kill Again
Killer Nun
Murder Obsession
My Dear Killer
Oasis of Fear
Plot of Fear
Seven Blood-Stained Orchids
Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye
7 Murders for Scotland Yard
Seven Notes In Black
Sex of the Witch
Spirits of Death

Links & Books

Blood & Black Lace: The Definitive Guide to Italian Sex and Horror Movies by Adrian Luther Smith

Giallo Fever

Giallo Scrapbook by Paul J. Brown and Nigel J. Burrell

Giallo Scrapbook 2 by Paul J. Brown and Nigel J. Burrell

Giallo Wikipedia

Spaghetti Nightmares by Luca M. Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta