All the Colors of the Dark

Color, 1972, 94 mins. 41 secs.
Directed by Sergio Martino
Starring Edwige Fenech, George Hilton, Ivan Rassimov, Julián Ugarte, George Rigaud, Susan Scott, Marina Malfatti, Luciano Pigozzi
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Shameless Screen Entertainment (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK RA/R2 HD/PAL), Shriek Show (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9), ELEA Media (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL), marketing-film (Germany R0 PAL) / WS (2.35:1)

All the Colors of the DarkAll the Colors of the DarkWhile Dario Argento was busy making his "animal trilogy" of giallo classics during the early 1970s, the lesser known but fascinating Sergio Martino cranked out five highly accomplished horror-thrillers of his own: The Strange Vice of Signora Ward (a.k.a. Next! and Blade of the Ripper), Case of the Scorpion's Tail, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (a.k.a. Excite Me), Torso, and the wonderfully stylish All the Colors of the Dark. This feverish cross between a murder mystery and Rosemary's Baby supernatural horror stars the gorgeous Edwige Fenech, who enlivened three of Martino's other gialli as well, and teams her up with genre regular George Hilton, who appeared in too many of these things to count.

Here the glamorous duo appear as Jane and shrink hater Richard, a posh London couple coping with the stress of Jane's recent miscarriage due to a car accident. Meanwhile Jane has also been having intense, recurring nightmares involving the murder of her mother and a blue-eyed, knife-wielding Ivan Rassimov, so she seeks help from her sister's psychiatrist, Dr. Burton (Rigaud). Jane's mysterious new neighbor, Mary (Malfatti), has a far more radical solution in mind; she initiates Jane into a satanic cult! Here the main All the Colors of the Darkdevil worshiper (Ugarte), a goateed creep with long gold fingernails, forces Jane to drink fox's blood from a golden goblet and tosses her on the floor for a druggy orgy scene. As Jane's sanity begins to crumble, she wonders whether her horrific visions might actually be premonitions of a violent future; even worse, it could be connected to a sinister man who seems intent on terrorizing and stalking her no matter where she goes. All the Colors of the Dark

Loaded with enough twists and turns to keep the most fanatical whodunit fans busy, All the Colors of the Dark starts off with a bang thanks to Jane's unforgettable nightmare sequence, which would have established Martino as a powerful director to be reckoned with had anyone ever seen it outside Italy. Unfortunately this amazing curtain raiser, along with several vital dialogue scenes and the entire climax, was removed by Independent International when this circulated under the odd title of They're Coming to Get You, with a shorter but more faithful variant also circulating under the title Day of the Maniac. In its original version, Martino's film is a one of the strongest of its ilk thanks to some terrific scope photography, Fenech at her finest, and a top drawer music score from Bruno Nicolai, who even returns to Eugenie territory during the All the Colors of the Darktrippy devil mass scenes. Despite some actual location shooting, the London setting doesn't really come off thanks to some peculiar dubbing and the fact that no one looks even remotely British, but it's a small quibble in an otherwise marvelous film.

Martino's film first appeared on German DVD in 2002 as Die Farben der Nacht, which was a major relief after years of bootleg and a US VHS release that can only be described as a botched mess containing the heavily cut version (with awful new credits) in an unwatchable cropped transfer. The Italian language VHS was uncut but only halfway letterboxed to 1.85:1; gray market dealers circulated a version marrying what remained of the English language track to this extended transfer, but the results were still confusing and visually unsatisfying. The All the Colors of the DarkGerman disc also marked the first time a crucial scene in the third act involving Jane's husband and sister was available in English, which had only been seen before by most viewers in Italian. An odd cheesecloth type visual pattern is barely visible in portions of some lighter scenes of the non-anamorphic transfer, but it isn't a major distraction. The All the Colors of the Darkdubbed German soundtrack is also offered in an extremely annoying 5.1 or 2.0 surround mix; aside from sounding phony and wildly unbalanced, it muffles the music and seems to be taking place underwater. Luckily the English track is in the original mono. Extras include a surprisingly good makeshift trailer set to Nicolai's music, a small stills gallery, and a whopping twenty trailers for other Astro/Marketing-Film releases. Though in German, these trailers offer a few odd novelties: Randy (apparently a re-edited job containing Sylvester Stallone footage from A Party at Kitty and Stud's), The Hearse, Der Joker (a barely seen 1987 thriller written by fantasy novelist Jonathan Carroll, who later disowned the final product), and best of all, a trailer for The Fan.

A much better American release from Shriek Show came along in 2004 and features an improved anamorphic transfer with punchier colors as well as the alternate (and superior) Italian track with optional English subtitles. Extras include the U.S. and international trailers and new interviews with Martino (20m14s) and Hilton (6m19s), plus a batch of radio spots, the chintzy American opening and closing titles, and a photo gallery accompanied by Nicolai's score.

The film made its HD debut in 2016 on Blu-ray as part of a dual-format mediabook edition in Germany, but it features no English-friendly options of any kind All the Colors of the Darkand features some questionable compression that All the Colors of the Darkpushes the inherent digitized harsh grain inherent in the original scan (ID'd now with near certainty as scanner noise)a bit too high for comfort. Otherwise it's colorful and detailed enough to pass muster, but it's really only good for those fluent in either German or Italian. More satisfying is the U.K. 2017 Blu-ray release from Shameless, which comes from the same scan but does a better job of dealing with the noise issue and looks less disruptive in motion. Colors are beautifully saturated in that early '70s Italian film stock sort of way, a substantial amount of extra image info is visible in the frame, and the source material bears Spanish credits, oddly enough. Options are wisely provided to watch in either LPCM English or Italian with optional yellow English subtitles, both of which sound fine. The main new extra here is an engaging audio commentary by Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan from Diabolique magazine and the great Daughters of Darkness podcast, who go into deep detail about the conventions of giallo cinema at the time, probable influences of Lucio Fulci's A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Fenech's status as a current giallo icon and her dabbling in other areas like sex comedies, Martino's tradesman approach to filmmaking and genre, and much more. It's well worth a spin and especially recommended if you've had trouble before with this film's dreamy, nonlinear plotting. A new Martino interview conducted by Freak-o-Rama, "Dark Is the Color" (32m16s), starts off on familiar ground with the chatty filmmaker covering his start in the movie business and entry into gialli, but it kicks into gear when he gets to this film and explains how he and his producer brother went wild with ideas after All the Colors of the Darkseeing a certain Polanski movie. He also covers how the Italian distributor hacked out ten minutes from the film after it opened All the Colors of the Darkdue to audience confusion (it's complete again now) and the peerless imagination of screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, the most prolific and important writer in the giallo cycle. In addition to the usual Shameless promo, the disc also includes "Doors," an "award-winning short" by Michele De Angelis (10m44s) about a woman's harrowing experience trapped in a very confined space. Shot on video in English, it's a minor but fun little bit of spookiness with a great soundtrack. The limited edition Blu-ray also features reversible sleeve options with two poster design options, one definitely more erotic than the other.

In early 2019, Severin Films brought Martino's thriller to American Blu-ray in both a standard edition and a limited slipcase variant announced during its 2018 Black Friday promotion. Either way you get the Blu-ray and a bonus CD containing the film's original soundtrack, containing the same contents as the superb Digitmovies standalone CD. In the early going the transfer looks very similar to the Shameless one, albeit with better resolved grain and a tad more detail, but as it goes along the differences become obvious as the white balance stays more regulated throughout and minor variations start to turn up in the framing and color timing. Frame grabs seen in the body of this review are from the Severin, with comparison ones below; note the fifth one for perhaps the most striking color difference in the entire film. Both English and Italian options are provided in DTS-HD MA mono, both quite good, with optional English SDH (for the English track) or translated English subtitles provided. The All the Colors of the Darkaudio commentary here features Ellinger going solo, with a heavy Martino focus (which makes sense as she wrote a book about him!) and thoughts on the film's elements of occultism, folk horror, and eroticism swirling All the Colors of the Darkaround within the giallo conventions. An alternate U.S. cut (87 mins. 18 secs.) is also included and opens up with the They're Coming to Get You credits but plays out like the standard, shortened Day of the Maniac version; the SD source print (which is presented flat at 1.85:1) is a far less attractive presentation of the film, but it's nice to have here for the sake of completeness. "Color My Nightmare" (40m16s) is a different, longer Martino interview from Freak-o-Rama about the film as he explores the state of Italian cinema in 1972, the direction of his career, the London location shooting, and the commercial demands of audiences at the time. "The Last of the Mohicans" (18m12s) features Gastaldi recalling his days with Sergio and Luciano Martino, the budgetary demands of genre filmmaking at the time, and some of the more melancholy developments in their lives in the ensuing years. (And you'll have to watch to find out what that title means.) "Giallo Is the Color" (31m57s) cuts together interviews with Hilton and Italian horror expert Antonio Tentori, painting a portrait of the explosion of thrillers in the early '70s, the bucking of tradition here by introducing elements from Rosemary's Baby, Fenech's indelible presence in this cycle, Hilton's favorite roles, and the other significant cast members including Hilton's oft-stated rapport with Susan Scott. The usual international and U.S. trailers are included along with a TV spot.

SEVERIN (Blu-ray)

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Updated review on January 23, 2019.