Written by Stefan Matthew
By the time he was directing All the Colours of the Dark, Sergio Martino was already
making his way into the proverbial deep-end of giallo filmmaking. A hallmark director of
giallo, Martino has always had a knack for what makes the genre so endearing and strange.
Giallo – Italian for yellow – is a genre rooted in early 20th century mystery
paperbacks. Paperbacks that were, as the name suggests, yellow in colour. And though both
the literary and filmic genres would often veer towards murder-mystery, crime and
exploitation, they would also dabble, or in Sergio Martino’s case dive, into the supernatural.
Madness, exploitation, paranoia. All staples of the psychological horror, and all
staples of giallo. And, unsurprisingly, all showcased in All the Colours of the Dark. Along with
a healthy dose of witchcraft.
Opening with a chaotic nightmare montage, Martino throws you right into the weird,
disturbed world of Jane (Edwige Fenech).
A pregnant woman is repeatedly stabbed as blood is smeared all over her belly. A
drag artist writhes and dances before collapsing onto the ground and a killer with a pair of
piercing blue eyes watches the ordeal, stabbing and slicing away. Kaleidoscopic, though
cliché a term, is a fitting description of the scene. The lens dances and splits into six or eight,
as if being viewed through a literal kaleidoscope. The effect is unnerving, unsettling, and as
the childlike choral singing surges and swells the tension reaches its peak before Jane finally
A young woman living in London, Jane is a typical giallo lead. Stressed and paranoid,
she is a mess just waiting to be exploited. We, the audience, are as privy to this exploitation
as ever as the camera lingers on Jane showering, or viewing herself in the mirror.
Her boyfriend Richard (George Hilton) arrives home and immediately feeds her a
concoction of vitamins. He is sure she would be cured from her nightmares if she were to
just take a few more pills. Jane’s sister, Barbara (Susan Scott), works in psychiatry. As you
can guess, her suggestion to rid Jane of the nightmares is analysis and psychiatric help. It’s
all overwhelming, both for Jane and for us.
Jane settles on the latter solution and goes for treatment with Barbara. But, just as
quickly as she seeks help, Jane’s vulnerability is laid starkly bare as the blue-eyed killer
appears to her again. Only this time he’s not in her nightmares. He’s sat opposite her in the
psychiatry waiting room and wielding a knife.
Then, en route home on the tube the blue-eye man appears yet again, this time
terrorising Jane her all the way back to her apartment where she thankfully bumps into
Mary (Marina Malfatti).
Mary is the first calming force Jane, and we, have encountered. The camera pulls
back when we’re with her, giving Jane room to breathe. Its less intrusive, comforting even,
as Mary explains that she is a new resident. Jane has a few moments of respite as the two
converse, with Jane inviting Mary to lunch the next day.
But just as Mary’s calming force is applied to Jane and to us, it is so uncomfortably
ripped away again as Jane heads back to her flat and spies the blue-eye man stalking her
from the street. At this point, neither we nor Jane are sure what is real and what is a
The following lunchtime, Jane admits to Mary that she is being followed by a blue-
eyed killer, and that she suspects it may have something to do with her past. As always, Jane
is paranoid and self-doubting, but Mary comforts her and us with the reassurance that she
Mary explains that she too used to be plagued by nightmares, and that she managed
to free herself by going to a sabbat – a black-magic ritual that she claims will “heal” Jane.
Would Jane like to try it, asks Mary. Well, the vitamins aren’t working and the Doctor she is
seeing is not helping, so the response is a simple “when can I go?”
From here, the supernatural element grasps hold and doesn’t let go. Hosted by a
bearded man wearing odd fingernail-esque jewellery, the sabbat is as strange and
intoxicating as the nightmares. A fitting transition into the second half of the film, really. A
puppy is drained of its blood as the camera slashes between the witches, giving us just
enough time to see each face before the next is thrust upon us.
The dog’s blood is force-fed to our heroine Jane as she struggles in place, held by
Mary, once our beacon of peace, now turned contributor to Jane’s madness.
And when Jane does drink the dog’s blood, the intensity is cranked even further. It’s
as if the film itself is being “healed” by the sabbat along with Jane. The soundtrack swells
with screaming voices, the camera spins dizzyingly between the witches as they each kiss
Jane, hands groping, white-faced.
The kaleidoscopic effects return as the frenzy reaches it’s pitch before we cut to Jane
in bed, making love with Richard, the editing merging Richard and the sabbat-leader into
one. And as Jane comes to, she whispers to Richard “I don’t feel real”. Perhaps the most
accurate line of the movie, “I don’t feel real” sums up the strange and uncomfortable feeling
that is laced throughout All the Colours of the Dark.
And yet, Jane still isn’t healed. It’s barely five minutes before the blue-eyed killer
once again shows up, stalking Jane. All Jane’s effort and vulnerability, the intensity of the
sabbat, the feeling of finally being healed of her nightmares, all that for a few minutes of
respite. We feel as frustrated and frightened as Jane, just wishing the visions of the blue-
eyed killer to be over.
Jane rushes back to the sabbat and the coven once again embrace her. But this time
it’s different, and as the ritual reaches its climax Mary is stabbed to death by none other
than Jane herself.
Collapsing into sleep, Jane wakes up abandoned in a field and within seconds is face
to face yet again with the blue-eyed killer. It’s exhausting, there seems to be no escape from
the nightmares. Only this time, something has changed. And the blue-eyed killer seems,
From here, the film continues its descent into the supernatural as Jane is haunted,
hunted, her visions and nightmares continuing, the blue-eyed killer returning and
reappearing, all while Jane’s grip on reality diminishes. I won’t say anymore, as the
remainder of the film needs to be seen rather than explained, but there are some wonderful
moments of classic-horror tension (one involving a large manor house, a horror staple at
this point) as Jane fights back the suffocating effects of the sabbat.
All the Colours of the Dark is a strange and wonderful introduction to the world of
Italian giallo filmmaking, jammed with exploitation, bloody murder, supernatural black-
masses, strange filmmaking techniques and an incredible soundtrack. Just be warned, the
English dubbing is a little clunky.
Verdict: 5 out of 5