Giallo: Thrillers ‘a la italiana’

Giallo

Giallo

Giallo: Thrillers ‘a la italiana’

Among aficionados of cult cinema, the Italian genre Giallo stands as an alternative to formulaic American thrillers. These films feature very specific characteristics that set them apart from “respectable cinema,” such as suspense, deliberate nudity, and gallons of blood.

The name of this genre derives from a series of crime comic novels produced in Italy in 1929 called Il Guiallo Mondadori. The name was a nod to the garish yellow covers of the novels.

Giallo literature enjoyed great success in print, which soon began to attract enterprising directors and producers looking to try something new. Although the genre has two styles: the Italian and the Anglo, both boast trappings of mystery and suspense. The Italian style refers to a broad genre, the thriller, while the Anglo style is more known as a ‘thriller a la italiana.’

The popularity of the genre truly took root in the 60s, and has evolved alongside mainstream cinema. The movies are bigger and more scandalous than the original novels, featuring full-frontal nudity and blatant eroticism that were only alluded to in the source material.

The pioneer Giallo was Mario Bava, whose film The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) serves as the first true example of the genre. The film’s name is a clear homage to the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock and his film The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).

     

The Girl knew too much

The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Dario Argento

Dario Argento

The most important representatives of the genre are Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Aldo Lado, Sergio Martino, Umberto Lenzi, and Pupi Avati. They have made countless must-see movies such as Blood and Black Lace (1964), Orgasmo (1968), The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) and Torso (1973).

Despite its popularity, Giallo is not as prevalent today as it once was. However, its influence in worldwide cinema can be seen in many films such as the first films of Brian de Palma and John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978).

David Fincher’s Se7en (1995) is also regarded by critics as being strongly influenced by Giallo film. In 2009, Dario Argento, loyal to the genre’s roots, released Giallo. However, the director disliked the final cut edition that was released to the market and stated he was no longer involved in the project.

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