Each country tends to have its own idiosyncratic film styles and genres or subgenres. Britain has the lugubrious Kitchen Sink Drama – best typified by the films of Ken Loach. Japan has scary as hell ghost stories. France has the New French Extremism with films like Irreversible, Romance, Baise Moi.
The Italians have Giallo. Giallo translates as ‘yellow’ and refers to the yellow covers of the pulp fiction mystery books that inspired many of these films. Giallo films, for Italian audiences, mean any kind of thriller – thus the term would include films like Psycho and Peeping Tom. For non Italian audiences, Giallo refers to a very specific type of Italian film.
In the Giallo, there is the murder mystery/ whodunnit vibe running throughout the film. The killer is usually dressed in black with the iconic black leather gloves holding the murder weapon. There is usually a seedy undertone to the proceedings – the subject matter is usually lurid – and there are lashings of sex throughout the film.
Gruesome death in inventive ways are showcased in the film and there are red herrings scattered throughout. It is usually young beautiful women being carved up but there are exceptions. Gorgeous Euro starlets are associated heavily with Giallo – Edwige Fenech, Florinda Balkan, Suzy Kendall, Erika Blanc – to name a few.
All of the above elements come together to produce a heady brew of sex, sleaze, murder and mystery that characterise the Giallo. The plural of Giallo in Italian is Gialli but I have referred to Giallo in the plural as Giallos which I do believe is also technically possible.
When I wrote this list, there were too many films I loved to create a top ten so sit back and prepare to be astounded by Italian genius in the Top Twenty finest Giallo films.
This article was first posted on February 4, 2013