Bloodstained Narratives: The Giallo Film in Italy and Abroad

Univ. Pr. of Mississippi. Apr. 2023. 304p. ed. by Matthew Edwards & Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns. ISBN 9781496844460. pap. $30. FILM
“Giallo,” the Italian word for yellow, became synonymous with crime fiction when an early 20th-century publisher began printing Italian language translations of British detective novels with yellow covers. In the 1960s, Italian cinema turned to crime thrillers, and the giallo genre was born. More than crime, giallo was a horror-tinged whodunnit defined by its tropes: amateur sleuths, black-gloved killers, lurid kills, and psychosexual motivations. Directed by Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and others, giallo films fought a balance between style and substance, with inferior entries pushing the genre into self-parody. Berns (The Cinema of James Wan) and Edwards (Murder Movie Makers) offer a scholarly defense of giallo in this collection of essays that reappraise the genre, while some question whether it is a genre at all. Included are deep dives into specific titles, an analysis of the genre’s roots in postwar Italy, and giallo’s influence on directors outside of Italy, from Canada to China.
VERDICT Written for an audience both knowledgeable in cult films and fluent in film theory, this title meets a niche need. Readers seeking to learn a little more about films such as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage or Don’t Torture a Duckling might find themselves overwhelmed.
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