Perversion Story

I don’t know if I’ll get around to writing about all the Lucio Fulci films that have recently been released and re-released on DVD anytime soon, but I recently wrote about Fulci’s Perversion Story (Una sull’altra, 1969) for Cinedelica which was released by Severin Films late last month.

Perversion Story is a great erotic thriller and I wouldn’t necessarily refer to it as a “giallo film” because it’s so different from the typical gialli releases that have gotten released in the US but it’s been called a giallo by lots of other reviewers. It does seem like that term is getting tossed around a lot lately by critics and DVD companies that and use it to describe any Italian thriller.

But enough of my silly complaints… Perversion Story has become one of my favorite Fulci’s films and I’m so grateful that it’s been released on DVD. If you enjoy stylish Italian thrillers please stop by Cinedelica and give my review a look. The movie stars the lovely Marisa Mell who happens to be one of my favorite actresses and it also has a fantastic score by composer Riz Ortolani. Severin’s Perversion Story is easily one of the best DVD releases of the year so far. Can’t recommend it enough!

11 thoughts on “Perversion Story

  1. Funnily enough I just watched this disc the other night. I had seen a very poor copy years ago so seeing it again on this dvd was a totally different experience.
    You are right about the word Giallo being thrown around a lot, since I had only seen this film once I think I kind of had giallo in mind just because I had read it in connection with this film so many times.
    It really isn’t but I greatly enjoyed it…nice review over at Cinedelic…I hope you can post some more Fulci reviews in the future.

  2. I’m not sure why the term “giallo” gets thrown around so casually lately, but I guess the growing popularity of the genre has something to do with it.

    Thanks so much for the kind words about my brief review! I hope to post something about Fulci’s giallo films sooner or later, but other things keep grabbing my attention.

  3. Giallo is a problematic term, I think.

    In Italy, it’s clearly a much broader term than would be of any use to us.

    Here there seems to be two schools, both of which seem wrong to me, one is, as you say, any Italian thriller, the other is the kind of defined-by-Argento method that I can’t call myself any happier with.

    I’m not entirely sure what that leaves. For me, it has more to do with the feeling they have, the convoluted/paranoid feeling. As such, this one gets a moderate pass from in my book, even if it’s reaching a little, much like Night Train Murders seems to get a pass from the “defined-by-Argento” crowd.

    I’d be interested in seeing some movement toward an agreed upon standard, but I don’t see it coming any time soon, especially since, as you say, it does seem to be catching on as a marketing term.

  4. I’m more inclined to think that Americans or just newbies to Italian horror/thrillers use the term giallo in a much broader sense.

    For 10+ years I’ve thought the term was sort of based on what Bava created with black gloved killers, body counts and mystery, or at the very least a film had to be based on a pulp novel often written by an author like Edgar Wallace. Giallo films and krimi films have sort of followed certain patterns.

    I suppose since Perversion Story is really a homage to Hitchcock, it sort of follows some giallo trends since giallo owes so much to Hitchcock, but other than the Hitchcock connection, it’s really just a mystery/crime film.

    I think mags like Deep Red sort of set the standard for me back in the 80s, but times are changing and the term “giallo” seems to be used a lot more lately to describe any mystery/thriller made in Italy.

  5. It’s certainly a problematic term since in Italy any thriller, from any country or time period can be called a giallo, it just refers to the thriller genre, nothing more or less. I’m actually glad though that the term is being used a bit more broadly since the argento/black glove idea seems awfully reductive and doesn’t cover the amount of interesting italian thrillers that were made in that time. For me, Blood and Black Lace, One on Top, Forbidden Photos or Tenebre all qualify as genuine gialli. I think it becomes more problematic perhaps when supernatural or horror elements enter the scene, like for instance Perfume of the Lady in Black.

  6. I’m curious when every thriller and mystery produced in Italy started being called a giallo? I’ve always thought (from my own reading) that the genre was pretty specific and based on stylized violence first seen in Bava’s films like Blood and Black Lace (btw – just for the record -Bava’s responsible for the black gloved killer idea in Italian giallo and Argento’s borrowed many of his best ideas from Bava).

    Basic themes like mystery, body counts & unknown killers seemed to be a staple of gialli films. A movie like Perversion Story seems to obviously be just a stylish erotic crime thriller (Fulci himself called it a “fantasy” film and never used the term giallo to describe it from what I’ve read). Of course, I don’t read Italian so I’ve been limited to reading English sources for years.

    Italians seem to the use the term “fantasy” as a general term to describe all horror films & thrillers. It always seemed like the term giallo evolved into what it did in the 80s/90s thanks to horror zines published in the US & Europe such as Gore Zone and Deep Red.

    Any more links to info or knowledge about the term or the history of the use of the term “giallo” is welcome!

    My own favorite giallo site is Profondo Giallo (the oldest one online as far as I know). Of course, it’s not written by an Italian.

    I also like the Giallo pulp site @

    It includes hundreds of original giallo (yellow) book covers, but of course for many years I’ve thought that giallo cinema and the original giallo books are two different beasts. Obviously they’re rleated, but giallo cinema developed into it’s own genre in the 60s.

  7. the first giallo i saw was argento’s ‘opera’ (back in 1990) and i’ve reviewed some of the more recent films of this kind for twitch… i’m with neil, i think the term itself can be firmly applied (killer with black gloves equates to giallo) but that in itself is only one of the many elements which makes the definition a bit too specifically based on a slight detail.

    the broader definitions that often get applied seem to relate to films that relate in general terms with one or more stylistic elements as found in the most famous of the genre movies said to undoubtedly be giallo’s and nothing else – bava’s ‘blood and black lace’ and argento’s ‘deep red’ to name but a couple – and hint at how genres work to contain ideas but also how those ideas bleed from one genre to the other as popularity rises and falls, as directors and writers of strick giallos and similar films push and pull elements in a much more realistically flexible fashion than trying to determine that the only aspect of definition and value within their work remains something as simple as a nice pair of leather gloves on the killer, suspected or otherwise.

    to get too specific both detracts from what the films have to offer as a whole and detracts the potential places any given viewer might drift too and from – i like ‘perversion story” for the elements i also often find in those films strictly defined by many as giallo’s, and i prefer it to fulci’s film such as ‘don’t torture a duckling’ and ‘lizard in a womans skin’ – and it makes this films boil down to far too little outside of whether they actually work or not.

    the other stylistic elements are the similar solutions found by directors switching across genres as popularity rises and falls; vibrant colors are cheap forms of high-contrast dramatic lighting, jaunty angles and obscured views make things unsettling, nudity and sex juxtapositioned against violence gives contradictory emotions to the viewer, death, fantastic decor and architecture make things stylish and contemporary or exotic, etcetera. spaghetti westerns, giallos, crime movies came and went across the 60’s and 70s and some of these elements are there across more kinds of film that they’re often given as being a central part of – the associated directors quickly zipped between them and this is generally held to be a case of diversity, flexibility and ability as much as it’s hacking your way through a career and adapting to survive rather than dying.

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts logboy. I was hoping some people would offer hard evidence and historic facts on the history of the use of the term, but personal opinions are welcome too.

    As I mentioned, I personally first saw the term used in magazines in the late 80s and early 90s, and back then it seemed pretty specific at the time. Every euro thriller and mystery was not called a giallo. I’ve noticed it happening more frequently now with the DVD revolution in full bloom.

    I think this 2002 Kino article does a pretty good job of going over the history of the term as the author sees it and how it’s now viewed, but I’d like to read older articles and read more about how the term developed into what it is now.

    The author says:
    By its very nature the giallo challenges our assumptions about how non-Hollywood films should be classified, going beyond the sort of Anglo-American taxonomic imaginary that “fixes” genre both in film criticism and the film industry in order to designate something specific. As alluded to above, however, despite the giallo’s resistance to clear definition there are nevertheless identifiable thematic and stylistic tropes. There is a stereotypical giallo and the giallo-fan has his or her idea of what constitutes the giallo canon. The following points therefore, are an attempt to clarify and define familiar aspects of this “canon.”

    He then goes on to describe a bunch of films I think easily fall into the giallo genre or “canon”… if there is such a thing?

    Just calling any Italian mystery or crime film with a similar aesthetic a “giallo” could be kind of problematic only because the stylistic elements that you mentioned above can be found in thousands of different Italian films in all genres.

    I personally think Perversion Story as well as a movie like Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion could really just be called erotic thrillers and that would take nothing away from them or diminish them in any way. Of course if they’re described as gialli films it won’t hurt them either.

    My own thoughts about giallo were obviously formed in horror magazines which would obviously focus on things like murder, so this is probably why I’m prone to expect multiple murders in giallo, but in early interviews I’ve read with directors like Fulci & Argento, the term barely if ever came up so it seems to be a word that developed out of film criticism and has changed throughout the years.

  9. genre titling kind of misses the point. ideas don’t follow strict bounds, so why try to pidgeonhole so tightly? when similar elements appear, surely those interested in the elements of a genre might shift their viewing across to take in something else with similar charms? “a rose by any other name…” after all…

    for me, the central aspect that makes a giallo what it is to me
    remains the central contradictory emotions of strong (often explicit)
    positioning of sex angainst violence. ‘perversion story’ fits this more central
    idea of what you find also in those films regarded strictly as being giallos,
    but it doesn’t contain black gloves; i think. it doesn’t have many elements of those films more easily defined and confined by generic elements which a genre definition hints at.

    as for evidence, it’s lost in the mysts of time and beneath another language.

    ultimately, the origin is a style of book with a yellow cover, the commercial boom of films conencted to that style of story seems to stem more from argento’s ‘bird with the crystal plumage‘ than any other film, and many of the solutions and stylistic elements argento placed were used as points from which to jump off and derive similar ideas from in a more loose creative fashion than any definition is going to be able to cope with.

    for me, ‘basic instinct’ is a modern american giallo. for me, ‘don’t look now’ is a giallo in its atmosphere, perhaps in other ways too. for me, ‘female convict scorpion’ movies have many central and cursory connections to giallos – even the sex and violence relationship is here, the crime, the vibrant color splashes too, though clearly not giallo at all. so what? if you like those elements of the giallo, then why not watch those japanese movies that found similar solutions or took direct inspiration – creativity involves deriving as much as it does originality. for me, ‘almost human’ is a spaghetti western that simply transfered into modern city environments and labelled itself a cop drama as the industry adapted and immerged from spaghetti westerns waning popularity.


  10. logboy – I’m not sure I really follow your logic in regard to:

    genre titling kind of misses the point. ideas don’t follow strict bounds, so why try to pigeonhole so tightly?

    No one’s is trying to “pigeonhole” anything. I’m was just trying to get at the history behind the use of the term giallo.

    I need to catch up on my reading soon and I have stack of books on Italian horror I need to read so hopefully there’s more information out there somewhere but as now, I haven’t seen it. Clearly a lot of new material is coming out and new books need to be written. I would also suggest that you and others contribute to the Wiki information online if you disagree with it.

    There’s lots of different film genres such as horror, comedy, westerns, etc. as well as different film movements that have taken place in different countries throughout history such as the Nouvelle Vogue and Italian Neoralism, etc. I personally wouldn’t refer to something like Lawrence of Arabia as a comedy and I wouldn’t call Roma, città aperta a noir film, just as I wouldn’t call Basic Instinct a giallo. Maybe the term poliziotteschi would be more appropriate for Perversion Story?

    Critics and film historians use this common knowledge and terms like “giallo” as a jumping off point to better understand cinema and its history. These labels help us understand the cultural and political motivations as well as the basic aesthetics of any film genre or movement.

  11. exactly, the basics. the connection between films is more deeply found in the ideas, also in the common solutions used across various genres for making interesting films. as for pigeonholed genres, well, this is my way of saying a definition is a pigeohole, whether intended to be one or not, and to a greater or lesser extent unavoidably so.


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