Blood in the Streets: Serial Killers & the Giallo

Dec 10 2020 19:00 - 20:30

Blood in the Streets: Film Cycles, Serial Killers and the Giallo

The vast collection of rapidly-produced murder mystery films that emerged in 1970s Italy has become known in exploitation cinema histories as the giallo. This all-encompassing categorisation has however subsumed several smaller, loosely-connected film cycles, each of which was embedded in its immediate cultural, economic and political contexts in different ways. This talk will investigate how a collection of these cycles capitalised on preoccupations with the recent past in 1970s Italy, and an attendant sense of disquiet towards modernity and the pace of socio-cultural change. This will in turn reveal various strategies that were being deployed to exploit the local film market, in a perpetual attempt to capitalise on topicality and the perceived tastes of the popular audience.

The key cycles to be considered include a small collection of films that make explicit reference to memories of the Second World War weighing heavily upon the present (In the Folds of the Flesh, Naked Girl Killed in the Park, Watch Me When I Kill, Hotel Fear), commentaries on the increasingly globalised lifestyles of affluent post-war modernity (a much larger category, including such films as Blood and Black Lace, A Quiet Place to Kill, Blade of the Ripper and What Have You Done to Solange?) and ‘rural’ gialli that gaze inwardly at Italy’s atavistic underbelly, to deploy a well-established set of discourses surrounding the nation’s past and the onset of modernity (Bay of Blood, Don’t Torture a Duckling, Torso, The House of the Laughing Windows, Bloodstained Shadow).

Ultimately, the talk will consider these films as prime examples of the serial repetition that characterised Italy’s popular film industry in the 1960s and 1970s. Numerous opportunistic (and usually short-lived) bursts of activity – known locally as filoni – emerged around the profitable film genres du jour. By looking at several of these cycles side-by-side (and placing them in the broader context of numerous filoni focusing on violent crime that emerged at the same time), this talk will examine how this sector of the film industry engaged both with contemporary events and the whims of the market: firstly, by creating speculations in an attempt to predict where the next cycle might lie, informed by previous patterns; and secondly, to exploit the short-lived favourable market conditions of already profitable cycles. My interest is therefore not with uncovering ‘hidden’ preoccupations in the films. Rather, it is with investigating how the industrial conditions of filone filmmaking demanded production decisions that relied on the assumption that such preoccupations were present in a target audience.

About the Instructor:

An Associate Professor of Popular Culture at Bournemouth University, Austin Fisher's main area of expertise concerns popular Italian cinema’s engagement with the countercultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and has published widely in this area. Fisher is currently writing a book on historical representations of political violence in 1970s Italian cinema, and has recently compiled edited volumes on the North American "grindhouse" phenomenon, and the Spaghetti Western. He is founding co-editor of the "Global Exploitation Cinemas" book series (Bloo​msbury), and serves on the Editorial Boards of the Transnational Cinemas and [in]Transition journals.

About the Miskatonic Institute:

Founded by Film writer/programmer Kier-La Janisse in 2010, The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies offers classes in horror history, theory and production, with branches in London, New York and Los Angeles, as well as hosting special events worldwide.