An obscure and little-known series outside of Italy (the series is thus far only referenced in Wikipedia), Giallo (“Yellow”) was a weekly half-hour show edited and presented by Enzo Tortora, for which Dario Argento directed a series of 3-minute thriller and horror vignettes shot on film (which provoked some conservative audience members to protest Argento's decision to stick with his gory, unsettling imagery).
Only seven of the Argento vignettes (apparently totaling nine) were available for this review, each of which begins with Argento reading and addressing a live TV audience, while banks of TV sets and recording gear is arranged like an enveloping techno-wall. Hovering around Argento is a spiky-haired brunette (sometimes wearing a matador's vest) who often stops and gazes at the back of his head like it's some glowing hypnotic object d'art (usually when he speaks), although at times when not behaving like a pothead, she seems to be involved with spinning a few popular songs of the day.
Argento's narration occasionally bleeds into a vignette, or there's a short cut back to Argento before the episode continues uninterrupted. Not being fluent in Italian beyond meager food terms, I have no idea what's being said, but the attempted synopses below contain twist spoilers, so be forewarned:
1 – A youth is watching Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, and is eventually drawn to his own window, where he sees a killing across the street in another apartment. He grabs a thick rope from the TV cabinet (where else would you keep one?) and proceeds to climb down (perhaps the stairs or elevator are non-existent?) but is taunted by a masked thug who wraps a snake around the youth's neck. After some badly-synced screaming, the thug pulls off the stocking mask, and the youth realizes it's a practical joke by a friend. Besides a passing resemblance to the premise of Do You Like Hitchcock? the rest of the vignette is idiotic.
2 – An athletic blonde in undies is distracted by a bloodstain on her carpet, and starts to check out her curves for any marks. She runs into the bathroom, and under the cobalt neon light, takes a magnifying glass and examines her ass, thighs, chest, and belly button, only to see a maggot poking through her right eyeball. It eventually bores itself back inside, and she grabs a knife and slams it into her socket to kill the wiggling invader.
3 – A thug breaks into a woman's apartment, beats a her on the head with a stick, begins to rape her, but the scene is broken up when the woman flashes to herself seated at a table with several men, each of whom takes the place of the rapist in her quasi-dream state until she grabs a bread knife from under the bed, and stabs the last guy in the neck, splattering blood all over her face.
4 – At a young girl's birthday party, the celebrating group head into the darkened dining room and play a game of ‘familiar objects,' which progress from jewelry to socks to a severed foot and finally a freshly decapitated head - the latter causing the father to laugh like a loon at his traumatized daughter. It's a one-gag vignette, but feels like a complete sequence from some non-existent, diabolical film.
5 – A stud lying in bed looks at the curtain patterns being reflected from the nearby window onto the ceiling. He notices a devil's face, and then the shadow of a figure, who turns into flesh and stabs him in the neck with (what else?) a bread knife. He gets up after screaming, the blade still embedded in his neck, and after frothing at the mouth, he turns into a zombie, then a giant Little Shop of Horrors maw, and proceeds to eat his scrawny dog who's been yapping through the whole vignette.
6 – A little girl alone at home hears noises throughout the house and heads for her bedroom. After running to her bed, she watches the door open and sees a smiling Santa Clause. Seeing her fear gone, Santa pulls off the human mask and reveals himself to be a flesh-eating lizard, which immediately sends the girl into a state of distress again.
7 – A young kid goes for a interview to work for Dario Argento. An assistant takes over the boy's questions when the famous director (playing himself) is too busy with a chattering entourage in his office. The boy spends the night in a hostel with creepy, sleazy older men, who steal the boy's documents. After complains to the heavy-set deskman go nowhere, the boy returns to the room, where he's grabbed by the men, who are about to poke him with (what else?) a bread knife, only to have Argento and his entourage appear, explaining the whole thing's a test (or something, since my Italian is nonexistent).
There are a few additional segments that have Argento going through special effects, sound effects, and filmed murders using clips from Tenebre, Phenomena, and Opera and behind-the-scenes footage later used in Luigi Cozzi's promo-doc, Dario Argento: Master of Horror (1991). There's also a short montage of footage that shows Argento directing the ‘evil Santa Claus' vignette, too.
Imagine the episodes with the budget limitations and eighties hairstyles of the el cheapo Freddy's Nightmares series, plus an oft-used bread knife, and blood. It's all so very, very strange...
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan