September 10, 2005


“I’m in love with the colour red. I dream in red. My nightmares are bathed in red….Red is the colour of passion, joy. Red is the colour of journeys into the hidden depths of the subconscious. But above all; red is the colour of rage…. And violience” (Dario Argento)

“ A bunch of bullshit” (Mario Bavas’ one time description of his movies)

So where did this phenomenon seed from ?

To go back right to the start we need to look at Italy in 1929. As with the popular Emanuelle series, the written word played an integral part in the genesis of giallo.

A Milanese publish house called Modadori produced a new sensation in crime literature. These books all had yellow covers, and so this type of strand of storytelling was referred to as ‘giallo’ – the Italian word for yellow.

The books were primarily imported translations of the Conan-Doyle, Agatha Christie type with a few fantasy/murder yarns thrown in for good measure.

Previous to 1929 the detective was something of an enigma to the Italian public. Works of detection, mystery and investigation fell into the ‘adventure’ genre before it found a niche entirely of it’s own.

During the 1930’s and 1940’s the importation and translation of U.S.A detective fictions were banned outright by Mussolinis government. Mussolini believed that the glamourisation of crime would be a badly corrupting influence on the weak minded Italian people . (Sound familiar????)

Post war a true Italian form of giallo was finally unleashed courtesy of author Leonardo Sciascia.

Sciascia penned two very important pieces of gialli ‘Il Giorno Della Civetta’ (The Day of The Crow) and ‘Ciascuno il Suo’ (To each his own). These personified Italian zest , making Rome and Milan as important in gialli as London and New York were.

Sciascia also championed the Gialli by writing two polemical articles in the 1950’s . They both dealt with the specificity of Italian giallo and the need to take the subject seriously by intellectuals, particularly those on the left-wing influenced by gromsci.

It was only a matter of time before one rubbed off on to the other, the written word crossed over to the animated performer. Giallo emerged during the ‘golden era’ of Italian cinema in the early 1960’s.

1963 and maestro of the macabre ‘Mario Bava’ demonstrated his versatile pioneering capabilities with the first genuine giallo all Italia ‘La Ragazza che Sapeva Troppo’ (The Girl who Knew Too Much).

We know this is a real first treat of what is going to be, the heroine of the piece can be seen reading a giallo book on the plane flight in the very first sequences.

It is possible to contest if this was the very first giallo movie sometimes Visconti’s ‘O’ssesione’ in 1943 has been linked to the genre. The link is rather a feeble one it can be argued.

‘La Ragazza…’ featured all the precedents that were needed to herald a giallo boom . The staple format, leather gloves, delirium, sexual tension, the hip soundtrack – this was the first....


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