Colour me confused. Not because I couldn’t follow the plot of this 1972 giallo (often a challenge for me where the genre’s concerned, I’ll admit) but because, in this case, I could. All the Colors of the Dark is a surprisingly straightforward and simply plotted thriller, which is both refreshing and a little ordinary as a result.
Things get underway with a hideously pantomimed nightmare sequence I wasn’t sure whether to take seriously or not. A man in drag cackles at the camera, giant turquoise eyes peer out of the screen, a naked woman smears blood on her belly... And they say you can never relieve your college days. All of this is taking place in the diseased imagination of Jane Harrison (Edwige Fenech), a troubled Londoner still recovering from the loss of her unborn child in a car accident some months ago.
It seems that these and other gruesome images flash into Jane’s mind whenever her fiancé Richard (George Hilton) tries to make love to her. He responds by mixing her up strange “vitamin drinks” that look like inky water, while she in turn becomes progressively more unbalanced. It’s a vicious circle, really, and no one’s having much fun except the man in drag.
Soon, Jane’s nightmares start to come to life as she finds herself repeatedly menaced by a blue-eyed man wielding a stiletto (that’s wielding, not wearing – we’ve moved on from the man in drag). At the park, on the train, even in her own apartment building, nowhere is safe – and one particularly good suspense sequence finds Jane inadvertently locked out of her flat, waiting for a slowly approaching lift as her stalker ascends the staircase below.
So far, so giallo, but things take a turn for the supernatural when Jane makes friends with Mary (Marina Malfatti), a neighbour – and predatory lesbian, natch – who inducts her into a satanic cult as a means of curing her nightmares. From here on in, nothing and no one can be trusted, as events get even stranger and the true motives of Jane’s friends and family are shockingly revealed!
Or perhaps not so shockingly, since All the Colors of the Dark doesn’t really go in for the genre’s usual twists and mysteries, other than the central issue of whether the traumatising set pieces Jane puts herself through are real or imagined. Instead, it concentrates on building an atmosphere of nightmarish paranoia similar to Rosemary’s Baby and, for the most part, pulls it off. It’s only in the final third, when the film starts chucking in all kinds of new ideas (premonitions, previously unmentioned inheritances) that it starts to feel forced. Even so, it all makes enough sense and ties up neatly.
Director Sergio Martino was in the midst of an amazing run when he shot this film hot on the heels of The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, but it’s the following year’s Torso that I think shows him at his best. Now that’s a scary movie! All the Colors of the Dark has plenty going for it (not least of which is that fantastic title) but remains a pretty tame option stacked up against its mostly more outrageous contemporaries.