Giallo means yellow in Italian, but it also refers to crime fiction, named after the yellow colors of early crime fiction paperback books. It’s a term that was adopted long ago for an Italian subgenre of stylized murder mysteries. The parameters that define a global can vary. But they all tend to share recurring elements with each other; Flashy candy-colored blood, black leather gloves, amateur investigators, point-of-view shots, elaborate deaths, great movie titles, and earworm scores. Gialli often features obsession, repressed memories, and fetishistic violence.
This week’s broadcast picks give a crash course on gialli. From the first film attributed to the subgenre to a contemporary love letter that playfully pokes fun at its tropes, these selections have it all. Well, except for the titles of Dario Argento, the best known and most loved filmmaker linked to the giallo. If you haven’t seen any Argento, start with The bird with the crystal plumage on Tubi or Pluto TV, then continue with Dark red color (also in Tubi).
As for the rest, this is where you can stream them this week.
The evil eye – Shivering
The evil eye is the US title for the girl who knew too much, considered the first giallo in history. Fittingly, he follows Nora (Letícia Román), an American obsessed with paperback giallo who travels to Rome to stay with her aunt. There they assaulted her and left her unconscious. He wakes up to a murder going on, but no one believes him when no evidence is found. Nora must use her knowledge of pulpy crime novels to determine whether what she witnessed was real or a ghost memory of murders that took place long ago. The evil eye it also stars John Saxon as Nora’s love interest. Mario Bava is a master of style, and this superbly shot black-and-white thriller manages with its atmospheric visuals when the narrative can get too intricate for its own good.
The red queen kills seven times – Prime Video
An old family curse strikes sisters Kitty and Franziska after inheriting their grandfather’s castle. The legend of the curse says that a sister dies and comes back to life to kill seven people every hundred years, her sister being the last victim. The death count is increasing, but is it due to a curse or something much more insidious? This giallo leans heavily toward gothic horror without sacrificing bloody deaths. In other words, the red queen kills more than seven times. It is the last film by director Emilio Miraglia and his follow-up to the also worthy The night Evelyn came out of the grave.
All the colors of the dark – Shivering
Director Sergio Martino (The strange vice of Mrs. Wardh, also in Shudder) once again teams up with actors Edwige Fenech and George Hilton for a satanic version of the giallo. This time, Martino descends further into the logic of hallucinatory dreams. Fenech plays Jane, a woman still recovering from a car accident that resulted in a miscarriage. Later, a new neighbor recommends Jane to participate in a black mass. Instead of curing her, he seems to bring her nightmares to life, and becomes convinced that the devil worshipers are following her. Filled with psychedelic and psychedelic imagery, it’s a gorgeous giallo full of red herrings and belated revelations.
Dressed to kill – Prime Video
Brian de Palma packs up this thriller full of nods to Alfred Hitchcock and Psychopath, but it is very similar to a giallo. After witnessing the brutal murder of a psychiatrist’s patient, prostitute Liz (Nancy Allen) becomes the prime suspect and the killer’s next target. Liz teams up with the victim’s son to resolve the identity of the killer before it’s too late. All the familiar hallmarks of giallo are there; mystery, voyeurism, black gloves, bloody deaths and sexually charged psychological issues. Add in a fantastic score by Pino Donaggio and you’ve got a stellar giallo at the end of the game.
The editor – Prime Video, Tubi
If gialli doesn’t appeal to you, no matter how hard you try, The editor could do the trick. An Astron-6 horror comedy, The editor it works as a tribute and a parody of gialli. Adam Brooks (Psycho Goreman) plays Rey Cisco, a once popular movie editor who now works on the farm after an accident left him without four fingers. When the actors from his latest project disappear, Rey becomes the prime suspect. It’s up to Rey to investigate and clear his name, leading to some sinister discoveries. Astron-6 playfully parodies the tropes of the subgenre, from incorrect dubbing to pointless storylines. It’s a camp-hugging hoax and doesn’t take himself seriously at all.