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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A (Very) Brief History of the Giallo

An American writer wanders the streets of Rome when he witnesses a black-clad figure stab a woman inside an art gallery. Shocked, he rushes to help, only to find himself suddenly trapped by the gallery's enormous glass doors. Powerless, he watches in horror as the woman cries for help as she dies. 
With the approach of Halloween, many of us are spending the coming weeks catching up on horror flicks and Italy certainly has no dearth of films in this genre. The above scene opens Dario Argento's 1970 The Bird With the Crystal Plummage, a classic of the giallo genre.
Giallo is the Italian word for yellow, which was the trademark color of the covers of the pulp crime novels, published by Mondadori, starting in 1929. Following their enormous success, other publishing houses soon got in on the act, publishing their own cheap crime novels, always with the yellow cover. The term giallo soon became synonomous with crime fiction.
The films that soon emerged from these novels added elements of horror, eroticism, and madness, taking the typical giallo plots and transforming them from straightforward crime stories into psychological thrillers. While the whodunit aspect of the literary tradition was retained, the murders that occur in gialli are often grotesque, usually filmed in artful, even operatic, ways.
If your curiosity is piqued, here is the trailer from legendary director Mario Bava's 1963 film The Girl Who Knew Too Much, which is generally considered the first film of this genre.
Have you seen any giallo films? If so, which ones are your favorite? Tell us in the comments section below!
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