‘All the Colors of the Dark’ Is a Nightmarish Murder Mystery Steeped in Satanic Panic [Video]

All the Colors of the Dark

Welcome to The Overlooked Motel, a place where under-seen and unappreciated films are given their moment in the spotlight. I hope you enjoy your stay here and find the accommodations to be suitable. Now, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. I have some misbehaving guests to ‘correct.’ 

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Today’s selection is an overlooked chiller from the ‘70s that serves up a persistent air of paranoia, Gothic energy, an impressive cast of characters, and a sizable dose of satanic panic. I’m talking about Sergio Martino’s 1972 murder mystery All the Colors of the Dark

Following a car accident that led to a miscarriage, Jane (Edwige Fenech) begins having terrible nightmares that plague her during waking hours. At the suggestion of her sister, Jane seeks the help of a psychiatrist but her problems persist. Jane later meets a mysterious new friend called Mary (Marina Malfatti). Mary convinces Jane that attending a black magic ritual called a Sabbat will surely cure what ails her. And initially, the ceremonial affair alleviates Jane’s bad dreams. But before long, she finds herself in even greater danger.  

All the Colors of the Dark is regarded as a giallo but has a number of thematic differences from the slasher-esque gialli that have largely come to define the subgenre. The film breaks from convention in that we don’t see through the perspective of a gloved killer dispatching victims at regular intervals. However, there is still a murder mystery at the core of the proceedings and the film naturally contains graphic depictions of sex and violence paired with a persistent sense of intrigue. Additionally, the film frequently blurs the line between dreams and reality, giving the proceedings the kind of surreal energy one expects from a giallo.

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Further, the flick features two giallo mainstays in Edwige Fenech and George Hilton. The pair previously appeared together in The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and The Case of the Bloody Iris. Both Hilton and Fenech turn in impressive showings here. But Fenech is the real star of the show. She plays Jane with a paranoid intensity sure to keep the viewer in a perpetual state of unease. Fenech also brings a fragility to the role that seems to suggest she may have a full-fledged breakdown at any moment. That serves to augment the baseline of tension established by director Sergio Martino. 

In true giallo fashion, the film begins with a bizarre fever dream, absent of any context, and only proceeds to get stranger from there. This is absolutely a case of style over substance where visual presentation is repeatedly favored over logic. Accordingly, the film is gorgeous to look at and features an entertaining narrative filled with unexpected twists and turns that don’t always make perfect sense. If you are willing to suspend disbelief and just go with it, you’ll surely find plenty to enjoy about All the Colors of the Dark.

Released in 1972, the film is an unmistakable product of the 1970s. The way mental health is portrayed is pretty surprising. Jane’s partner, Richard (George Hilton), warns her that once she begins therapy, she’ll never stop, as if seeking help for mental health is a bad thing. There are also some antiquated ideas surrounding gender roles. But if you can look past that, there’s plenty to appreciate about the film’s vintage. The clothing, accessories, set design, and hairstyles are all quite groovy and reminiscent of a bygone era. Anyone with an appreciation for the look and feel of the ’70s is sure to enjoy the picture’s aesthetic. 

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Speaking of the film’s look and feel, the castle where the occult rituals transpire is absolutely brilliant. The locale gives off Gothic horror vibes that are reminiscent of the heyday of Hammer Horror. It truly makes the perfect setting for a bit of satanic ballyhoo. 

On the whole, All the Colors of the Dark is a chilling thriller that serves up plenty of unpredictable narrative twists, lots of carnage, and a cast of characters who will surely be familiar to giallo enthusiasts. If you’re curious to check out All the Colors of the Dark, you can find the film available on physical media. 

That’s all for this installment of The Overlooked Motel. If you’d like to chat more about under-seen and underrated films, feel free to hit me up with your thoughts on TwitterThreads, or Instagram



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