All the Colors of the Dark (Italy/Spain, 1972)
As someone who was born in the 1960s, my formative years were filled with children’s films and television painted in garish hues, filled with disjointed narratives and bizarre imagery. This early exposure left me with a love of psychedelia and surrealism which persists to this day, and I often go back to the cinema of the late sixties and early seventies out of preference. While most films of the time aimed at adults were slightly more restrained, some were every bit as weird as anything The Magic Roundabout or Sid and Marty Krofft could throw at their audiences. When the DVD cover of All of Colors of the Dark (my spell-checker is sulking about the American “u” deficit) promised that I would “enter a kaleidoscope of psychedelic horror”, my interest was piqued.
Promisingly enough, All the Colours of the Dark opens with a dream sequence that could have been lifted from a Jodorowsky film, with an array of strangely dressed or undressed characters doing equally strange things in an abstract space until a man with unnaturally blue eyes gets stabby. Once we snap back to the waking world of Jane Harrison (played by the preternaturally beautiful Edwige Fenech), a distressed young woman who sleeps with her make-up on, things take a turn for the mundane.
No, scratch that. Calling All the Colors of the Dark mundane is not quite fair. It does offer us a Satanic cult with a hippie leader, human sacrifice, paranoia, conspiracies and betrayals, and a blurred sense of what is real and what is hallucination, but none of it quite lives up to the giddy chaos of the first five minutes. For the most part, it is a standard giallo, with an imperilled young woman being stalked by a mysterious man, with equally mysterious eyes, for most of the running length. Apart from his near-luminous eyes, the only thing that stops this man being an archetypal giallo villain is his refusal to wear black leather gloves.
What sets All the Colours of the Dark apart from most gialli is the machinations of the aforementioned Satanic cult. By the time this story line is in full swing, the film feels more like Rosemary’s Baby than Deep Red. While there is nothing explicitly supernatural in All the Colours of the Dark, it is certainly possible to interpret it as such.
As per many gialli, the plot and details do not stand up to close inspection. Characters behave in irrational manners that serve the needs of the script and nothing more. Jane, the protagonist, is a wet fish of a character and spends most of the film simpering, sobbing and swooning to the extent that I was rooting for the murderer to end the suffering for both of us. But, ultimately, gialli are vehicles to deliver shocking and memorable images, and in this, All the Colors of the Dark succeeds.
Any disappointment I felt when watching All the Colors of the Dark was almost certainly due to mismatched expectations. What I had heard about it lead me to anticipate a visual assault on the scale of Amer, but what I saw was a slightly above-average giallo with a few twists. These twists do set it apart, and the visual style makes it a film worth seeing. Just set your expectations accordingly.