Gino Santini's Lens: The Cinematic Splendor of Ethiopia in The Seven Red Berets

Friday 24 November 2023

I recently discovered Mario Siciliano's war film, The Seven Red Berets (Sette baschi rossi, 1969), which unfolds against the tumultuous backdrop of the Congo Crisis. What immediately caught my attention was the film's breathtaking cinematography, particularly the exterior landscapes shot in Ethiopia, masterfully captured by cinematographer Gino Santini.

Featuring captivating images of stunning sunsets, where warm oranges and reds cast a golden glow over the rugged landscape, Santini's cinematography captures the Ethiopian terrain, enhancing Siciliano’s film by seamlessly blending the raw beauty of nature with the inherent violence of the war film genre in a visually compelling manner. Siciliano navigates the complexities of war through Santini's lens, intertwining the breathtaking scenery with the harsh realities of conflict. The juxtaposition of serene sunsets against the turmoil of battlefields creates a striking visual narrative that mirrors the dichotomy of the characters' experiences. As the story unfolds in the tumultuous backdrop of the Simba rebellion, the cinematography becomes a poignant commentary on the duality of life in conflict zones.

Santini, under the direction of Siciliano, adeptly captures the journey of his disparate group of soldiers as they traverse the varied Ethiopian terrain. This expedition takes them through the mesmerising sunset-drenched locales mentioned earlier and extends to the unique geographical features of the Ethiopian landscape. Particularly noteworthy is the film's portrayal of the characters navigating the salt flats in the Danakil Depression, where Santini captures, through his lens, the harsh desiccation cracks that intricately characterise this extraordinary terrain. Other captivating regions featured include the majestic Ethiopian Highlands and the awe-inspiring Rift Valley.

Gino Santini exhibited a remarkable proficiency in photographing landscapes, particularly in diverse foreign settings. This talent is evident in his ventures into the Western genre, as seen in films like Garter Colt (Giarrettiera Colt, 1968) and Django the Bastard (Django il bastardo, 1969) to name a few. However, his expertise extends beyond this genre to include the Tunisian backdrop in Emmanuelle's Silver Tongue (Ecco lingua d’argento, 1976) and Savana: Violenza carnale (1979), as well as the snowy terrains depicted in The Lions of St. Petersburg (I Leoni di Pietroburgo, 1972).

Delving deeper into Santini's filmography, it became apparent that many of the visually striking shots in Sette baschi rossi found a second life in his later collaboration with Mario Siciliano, Skin 'Em Alive (Scorticateli vivi, 1978). The decision to reuse such stunning visuals comes as no surprise, considering the sheer beauty and artistry evident in these scenes. Santini's exceptional ability to immortalise Ethiopia’s captivating landscapes evidently made them irresistible for a second cinematic venture.

Italian filmmakers, such as Santini and Siciliano, have consistently utilised surprising and exotic settings, providing audiences with a window into unfamiliar terrains. This deliberate choice is reminiscent of the war film tradition, where showcasing foreign climates not only captivates viewers but also underscores the universality of the human experience in the face of conflict. Santini's proficiency in capturing diverse landscapes reaffirms the synergy between Italian genre cinema and the exploration of unexpected global settings.

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From Villa to Boardroom: Exploring Set Design Continuity in Five Dolls for an August Moon, Ciao Gulliver & The Divorce

Wednesday 22 November 2023

In my previous post, I mentioned my intention to share briefer blog posts about various observations and discoveries I find in my day to day research on Italian cinema. However that post proved to be lengthier than anticipated. So, I’m back with a more concise update this time! 

This blog initially started as a place to share my insights into Italian genre cinema, with a particular emphasis on the design aspects inherent in these films. This focus stems from the remarkable period spanning the mid to late 1960s through the early to mid-1970s, widely regarded as the golden age of Italian genre cinema. During this time, films exhibited captivating set designs that not only vividly captured the essence of the cultural zeitgeist but also embodied the distinctive design aesthetics of that era. A noteworthy exemplar of this phenomenon is Mario Bava’s Five Dolls for an August Moon (Cinque bambole per la luna d’agosto, 1970), a coastal-set giallo that deftly adheres to the mystery style reminiscent of Agatha Christie. This film stands out as a prime example of a giallo unfolding predominantly within a singular location—a stunning coastal villa perched dramatically on a cliffside.

Mario Bava employed his signature illusionary techniques to create the exterior location, skilfully imparting the illusion of a villa that, in reality, did not occupy the cliffside as depicted in the film. Whereas, the coastal villa’s interiors, where the majority of the film unfolds, were shot at Dear Studios in Rome. The centrepiece of the set is the heart of the villa which unfolds as a sumptuous open-plan living space, where a striking black lacquered spiral staircase dominates the scene as the undisputed focal point. Amid the modernist aesthetics defining the coastal residence—marked by pristine white walls and expansive open layouts—the spiral staircase ascends to prominence, infusing the space with a cinematic allure that mirrors the opulence of the era. This villa, evoking the sophistication of a fashionable 60s gallery, transforms into a canvas for the bourgeois pursuits of its inhabitants. Serving as a visually captivating backdrop, it enriches the unfolding narrative with a distinctive and stylish setting.

Cinque bambole per la luna d’agosto (Bava, 1970)

However, Bava's film was not the sole production in 1970 to employ such a set. Carlo Tuzii’s Ciao Gulliver (1970), a socially conscious drama emblematic of the post-’68 protest cinema movement, seemingly repurposed the sets for Bava’s film. Given that both Five Dolls for an August Moon and Ciao Gulliver were produced and released in 1970, it’s conceivable that the same set was repurposed for both films, albeit with distinct visual treatments in each production. Under the direction of production designer, Giuseppe Aldrovandi, Five Dolls for an August Moon incorporated modernist architectural elements set against soft furnishings, intricate light fixtures such as chandeliers, and 1960s artworks, featuring a vibrant colour palette dominated by red and yellow hues. The inclusion of natural elements, including various plants, decorative dried wood arrangements, and encroaching exterior fauna, added a dynamic layer to the main interior space.

In contrast, Ciao Gulliver's production designer, Antonio Visone, elected for a different visual approach. While Bava's film unfolded within the opulent confines of a seaside villa for the wealthy, Ciao Gulliver repurposed the same interior to depict the domain of Enrico Maria Salerno's character, "Boss." Consequently, the interior underwent a transformation to embody a more corporate, business-like aesthetic characterised by stark and minimalist interiors. Visone's departure from the luxurious setting of Bava's film underscores the shared space's versatility, seamlessly transitioning into a setting reflective of the sterile world in Ciao Gulliver. Despite these differences, commonalities persist. Notably, the aforementioned staircase remains a consistent feature, even in the starkly empty surroundings, adorned only with a lone plant and artwork. Additionally, the square grid-like doorway, once an entrance to a bedroom in Five Dolls for an August Moon, now serves as the portal to Boss' office in Ciao Gulliver.

Ciao Gulliver (Carlo Tuzii, 1970)

In the broader exploration of Giuseppe Aldrovandi's production design for Mario Bava’s Five Dolls for an August Moon, another significant film to examine is Romolo Guerrieri's relationship comedy The Divorce (Il divorzio, 1970), starring Vittorio Gassman and Anita Ekberg. Released in the same pivotal year of 1970, The Divorce appears to have repurposed the set from the aforementioned Bava film, a connection underscored by the distinctive spiral staircase, now adorned with silver accents. 

The Divorce exhibits a parallel set design to Five Dolls for an August Moon, albeit with subtle modifications, reinforcing the continuity of visual elements across these productions. Guided by the creative vision of production designer Dario Micheli, the set design in The Divorce diverges from the sparser aesthetic of Ciao Gulliver, aligning more harmoniously with the pop-art sensibility witnessed in Bava's Five Dolls for an August Moon. This alignment emphasises the interconnectedness of design choices, offering a nuanced understanding of how visual motifs transcended individual films in the vibrant cinematic landscape of the early 1970s. 

Il divorzio (Romolo Guerrieri, 1970)

In the future, I look forward to delving deeper into Ciao Gulliver and exploring the film's unique visual elements in greater detail but in this blog post, I hope to have provided a glimpse into the captivating sets and visual language that defined Italian genre cinema in the early 1970s.

Additional Images

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Sonia Topazio, Dario Argento & The Stendhal Syndrome

Tuesday 10 October 2023

While this blog has been relatively quiet recently due to my ongoing work on Home Video releases and other projects (you can find more about them here), I couldn't resist sharing an interesting discovery from my daily research. It's a reminder to myself that I should write more of these informative snippets in the future!

So, while I was perusing photographs from the world of Italian cinema during the 1980s and 1990s, I stumbled upon an unexpected image featuring Dario Argento with an ex-girlfriend, Sonia Topazio. Her name might not immediately ring a bell, but a closer look revealed her roles in several of Argento's films, making her a noteworthy figure in his filmography. 

Born in the picturesque town of Potenza, Italy, in 1969, Sonia Topazio's early years were marked by her unwavering dedication to athletics. As a skilled middle-distance runner, her talents led her to Rome, where she signed with the athletics team Cises Frascati. Her future in the world of sports seemed bright, promising a successful career ahead.

However, fate took an unexpected turn when, at the age of 18, a tendon injury abruptly dashed her athletic dreams. However, this injury opened up new opportunities in Topazio's life. She chose to embark on a different path, redirecting her passions toward the realms of cinema and theatre. A chance meeting with a film agent opened up various opportunities, notably as a model for various magazines. Success arrived a year later when she won the role of Nina Ciampa in Luigi Pirandello's comedic play, Berretto a sonagli staged by the Sicilia Teatro company and directed by the esteemed Italian director, Mauro Bolognini. 

Over the next eight years, Topazio immersed herself in a multifaceted career, leaving her mark on both stage and screen while also working as a secretary at Luciano Martino's Dania Film. Her roles during this period included collaborating with Mauro Bolognini once again, portraying a prostitute in his 1991 erotic drama, Husband and Lovers. She revisited the role of a prostitute in Alfonso Brescia's erotic giallo, Omicidio a luci blu, in 1992 and reunited with the director in 1995 for the beach comedy, Club Vacanze.

Among her work during this era, she took part in other sensually charged productions such as Marco Ferreri's The Flesh and Mario Gariazzo's Ultimi fuochi d’estate. Furthermore, she made small appearances in comedies like Michele Quaglieri's Una donna da guardare. Her television contributions included Ezio Pascucci's Il mago and the TV series Europa Connection, starring John Philip Law, Ray Lovelock, and Vittoria Belvedere. Beyond these projects, she continued to thrive in her stage-acting pursuits.

In the mid-1990s, Topazio crossed paths with Argento, leading to a passionate yet relatively short-lived romance spanning around a year. This relationship had its share of difficulties, notably Asia Argento's disapproval, although Topazio's connection with Fiore Argento was considerably smoother. Despite Topazio's previous ventures into the world of acting, Argento initially resisted the idea of her pursuing an acting career. Nevertheless, he ultimately cast her in two of his films. Their relationship coincided with the production of two significant projects: The Stendhal Syndrome (1996) and The Wax Mask (1997), which Argento produced and Sergio Stivaletti directed. In the latter, Topazio portrayed a nurse, while in the former, she delivered a memorable performance as one of Alfredo Grossi’s victims who is brutally raped and murdered in front of Asia Argento's character, Anna Manni, on the backseat of a white Volvo. 

While the scene is notorious for its unflinching portrayal of violence and sexual sadism, it's the climactic intensity of this moment that renders it truly unforgettable within Argento's body of work. In this sequence, Topazio's nameless character becomes the focal point of a shocking act. A gunshot pierces her cheek, depicted through a CGI representation, illustrating the bullet's entry and exit through her mouth. The result is a disturbing image, as the gruesome hole becomes a macabre window through which Grossi darkly mocks Anna.

In an enlightening interview with Claudio Bartolini (linked below), Topazio provides captivating insights into the production of The Stendhal Syndrome through her perspective and her collaboration with Dario Argento. Particularly, she sheds light on the significant scene in which her character meets a brutal end. Originally slated to be filmed in just two days, Argento's meticulous vision ended up necessitating four days to achieve, underscoring the scene's paramount importance and the technical complexity involved in bringing it to life.

The filming process involved coordination with the second unit, helmed by Luigi Cozzi, and was extended due to Argento's dissatisfaction with the initial results from the first two days of shooting. One of the chief challenges for Argento was the use of fake blood and how it translated on camera, specifically in the depiction of the visceral moment when Thomas Kretschmann's character, Alfredo, bites Topazio's lip, unleashing a deluge of red liquid. 

While the scene incorporates groundbreaking CGI effects, notably the first-ever employed in an Italian film, it also integrates practical effects to enhance its realism. To depict the moment when a bullet strikes Topazio's cheek, a combination of practical techniques were employed. This involved the use of a prop gun discharge, followed by the application of compressed air and talcum powder to authentically simulate the impact of the bullet on her cheek.

Creating the exit wound for the scene demanded a more intricate approach, involving the crafting of a cast of Sonia Topazio's head to accurately replicate a realistic bullet hole through the cheek. This intricate task fell under the capable hands of Sergio Stivaletti, who skilfully fashioned the cast, meticulously matching it to the actress's likeness. Topazio herself was notably impressed by the astonishing resemblance when she laid eyes on the final result.

Beyond the specific filming of Sonia Topazio's scene, she offered valuable insights into Dario Argento's meticulous approach as a director and his unwavering commitment to the authenticity of his films. For instance, The Stendhal Syndrome, which delves into psychological depths, was crafted by Argento in consultation with a psychiatrist. The focus was keenly directed toward capturing the splintering of Anna Manni's psyche in a believable manner. 

Moreover, Argento placed importance on authentic reactions from his cast. To prepare for her role, Topazio found herself under Argento's watchful eye, as he would unexpectedly spring out from the shadows to gauge her genuine fear reactions. 

The filming process encountered its share of challenges. Initially, Dario Argento's decision to dismiss several individuals from the production raised eyebrows, with Sonia Topazio perceiving it as a somewhat excessive reaction. Fortunately, as time progressed, the production settled into a more collaborative and harmonious working environment.

However, Topazio herself didn't escape Argento's discerning eye. She received a critique from the director regarding her costume for the role, with Argento deeming it too provocative, despite it having been selected by costume designer Lia Francesca Morandini. This observation offers a glimpse into the rationale behind the limited visibility of Topazio's body in the film, as it is largely obscured by Thomas Kretschmann's character, Grossi.

Sonia Topazio's role in The Stendhal Syndrome, though brief, undeniably leaves a lasting impression thanks to the grim fate that befalls her character. Within the context of the film, the female victims depicted within it often occupy a somewhat anonymous and eerie space, their lifeless, bloodied bodies strewn across the dimly lit streets of both Rome and Florence, devoid of distinct identities. Topazio's nameless character embodies this macabre imagery and the superfluous nature of victims like her to killer, Alfredo. Despite the brevity of her appearance, her contribution to the atmosphere of foreboding and dread is significant, emphasising the psychological intensity that Dario Argento's thriller is renowned for.

So what became of Topazio after her tenure in the macabre cinematic realm of Dario Argento? Following their parting in 1997, she ventured into a new career path as a television presenter on the local Lazio network, Telelazio, where she hosted Runners, a sports program dedicated to the world of running and athletics enthusiasts. In the domain of television, her acting career persisted with a role in Sergio Martino's TV film, A due passi dal cielo, as well as appearances in popular television series like Turbo and Ricominciare.

Topazio continued to act, returning to the thriller genre once again with a role in Antonio Bonifacio’s 1998 giallo, Il delitto di Via Monte Parioli, and taking on a role in his 2000 thriller, La stanza della fotografia. Her journey through the thriller genre culminated in 2000 with her appearance in Corrado Colombo's La donna del delitto.

Although comedies such as Stressati, Besame mucho, Ogni lasciato è perso, and Ti spiace se bacio mamma? became a staple of her career during this period, the realm of erotic cinema remained her forte. Notably, she appeared in productions like Tinto Brass Presents Erotic Short Stories: Part 2 and Joe D'Amato's Top Girl.

In 2001, Topazio posed for Playboy magazine, marking a notable point in her association with the erotic genre. Subsequently, she completed her studies, earning a degree in Literature and Philosophy from Sapienza University in Rome. Her acting career supporting her academic pursuits. Topazio then transitioned into a role at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, where she assumed the position of head of the press office in 2004. Alongside her responsibilities in this role, she contributed scientific articles to newspapers and magazines and authored a book in 2005 titled Il taglio nell'anima, featuring a foreword by Dario Argento. Despite the conclusion of their romantic relationship, the two maintained their friendship and stayed in regular contact, and Topazio looks back fondly on their time together. 

When delving into characters like Topazio, who might initially appear as mere footnotes in the extensive career of Argento, we unearth compelling stories that enrich our understanding of his directorial legacy. These stories provide a deeper dimension to Argento's films, offering fresh and intriguing perspectives that enhance our appreciation of the films he has crafted over the years. By exploring the experiences and fates of seemingly secondary individuals, such as Topazio's, we gain valuable insights into the artists and storytelling within Argento's vast filmography and for that, I'm eternally grateful. 


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All the Colours of the Dark: The London Locations

Wednesday 20 July 2022

This post was originally posted on the Shameless Films website in commemoration of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. You can order the Shameless Blu-Ray of All the Colours of the Dark here

In a filone characterised by exotic locales, typically of European extraction, few Italian directors managed to capture the atmosphere and authenticity of their foreign set productions than Sergio Martino in his 1972 London set giallo, All the Colours of the Dark — a giallo that manages to instil a thoroughly British sensibility in its baroque tale of Satanic cults and psychological trauma. The production, partly borne from Martino’s experience filming abroad, would capture the Italian appetite for foreign set thrillers taking pace in glamorous international locales, giving an insight into cosmopolitan European cities further afield.

Martino first visited London in 1968 during the production of Marcello Avalone’s L'altra faccia del peccato, which Martino associate produced alongside his brother, Luciano who served as the film’s producer. Embracing the distinct charm of the capital, Martino would return to the city, three years later in 1971, with the first in his series of seventies gialli, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail starring George Hilton and Anita Strindberg which was partially set in the city. In the autumn of 1971, Martino returned to London to shoot All the Colours of the Dark but despite his familiarity with the city, Martino had originally considered Ireland, or more specifically Dublin, as a potential filming location (as seen in Giuliano Montaldo’s Sacco and Vanzetti and Riccardo Freda’s The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire shot in 1970 and 1971 respectively). Ireland was a cheaper option to film in than England but Martino ultimately decided upon London, in part due to his inability to find a suitable flat complex with a lift to film in in Dublin. Familiar with London and its atmosphere, Martino was content with his second choice citing the distinct atmosphere of the UK capital as a deciding factor whilst admitting that Ireland might have been slightly more atmospheric as a location. Yet, despite being Martino’s second choice, London proved to be the perfect setting for his tale of satanic mystery. All the Colours of the Dark, filmed in the latter half of 1971, is detached from the more psychedelic portrayals of the city associated with the cinema of the Swinging Sixties. Instead, Martino’s take on the capital is all together more austere, embracing the autumnal landscape of the capital and its architecture to create a distinctly British atmosphere that proves to be one of the film’s greatest assets. 

The vast majority of All the Colours of the Dark’s exterior shots were filmed in the capital with a few notable exceptions. In this piece I will detail some of the film’s most memorable settings and their various locations in, and outside of, London.

Kenilworth Court

Jane Harrison and her partner Richard reside in a distinctive and grandiose flat block in London which is characterised by stone balconies and architraves, Dutch gables and detailed brickwork. It’s an impressive, imposing building which Martino and cinematographers, Giancarlo Ferrando and Miguel Fernández Mila, make the most of with high and low angled shots alongside sweeping long shots which display the building’s dramatic architecture. The location of said flat was the prestigious Kenilworth Court — located in Putney — an impressive Edwardian construction consisting of 8 flat blocks surrounding a communal garden. It was built in the early 1900s by architect R. C. Overton and was designed to predominantly house families who would reside in the complexes’ 150 ported flats. The prestigious address attracted several notable persons including Fred Russell, the father of modern ventriloquism, and Lord Hugh Jenkins, the MP for Putney and Minister for the Arts. 

What makes Kenilworth Court such an effective location in All the Colours of the Dark is the way in which the architecture of the building adds to the film’s building sense of paranoia and dread. Throughout the film, via Ferrando and Mila’s voyeuristic photography, we get the sense that Jane is continuously being watched even when in the supposed sanctity of her own home. The residents of Kenilworth Court, like Mary, live one on top of the other and are frequently shown to be keeping tabs on Jane, peering through their net curtains and loitering in stairwells and hallways. Again, as mentioned, low and high angled shots contribute to this idea, with residents looking up and down on one another, interrupting the privacy of intimate moments such as a kiss between lovers. 

The London location of All the Colours of the Dark is integral to the film’s distinctive atmosphere and Kenilworth Court with its reddened brown brickwork, green communal space and car park full of British motor vehicles reflects the Britishness of Martino’s film as well as complementing the film’s autumnal colour palette.

Aldwych Tubę Station

After Jane’s arduous psychiatric appointment with Dr Burton, she waits at a deserted tube platform — bar a solitary, unnervingly still commuter — to get the train back home to her flat in Kenilworth Court. The signage in the station shows that we are at the Aldwych tube platform, a station no longer in operation in the present day. 

Aldwych was — and still proves to be — a popular filming locale for film scenes that take place in the London Underground. In the present day, this is due to Aldwych station’s closure in 1994 as a functioning tube station allowing the likes of film crews for Creep (Smith, 2004), V for Vendetta (McTeigue, 2006) and 28 Weeks Later (Fresnadillo, 2007) to film inside with ease. As the station didn’t operate outside of peak hours during the filming of All the Colours of the Dark in 1971, it was considered to be an ideal location for night shoots with films such as Death Line (Sherman, 1972) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Furie, 1987) making the most of the station’s limited operating hours.

During filming, the section of the track at Aldwych was operational so Jane’s journey on the tube is contained to that specific location, this can be seen when the train slows at the supposed next station and the signage for Aldwych is still present. Jane’s short ride on the tube presents an interesting snapshot of the London Underground in the early 1970s with various adverts, notices and interior detailing on display. Jane sits across from a middle class family who exit at the next station, leaving her alone with Mark. It’s interesting to note at this juncture that Martino was pleased with the selection of extras cast in All the Colours of the Dark. The director wanted his film to be populated by a cast of extras with a distinct British look with characterful faces in a move away from the Mediterranean faces that typically populated the giallo. Again, this brings authenticity to the London setting, particularly in the way that such extras are dressed.

Holland Park in Lansdowne Road

Jane hastily exits the tube after her encounter with Mark and flees from the station. The station signage is clearly shown indicating where we are, Holland Park Station. In the present day, Holland Park Station - located on Lansdowne Road - still exists but the entrance to the station is in a different location, with the one Jane exits from now no longer accessible. In reality, it would have taken Jane nearly an hour to walk (or run!) from Holland Park station to Bishops Park (her next location) on foot. 

Bishops Park

Jane Harrison’s autumnal stroll was filmed at the aforementioned Bishops Park in London, a park located ten minutes away from Jane’s flat in Kenilworth Court. The park was also used as a filming location for The Omen (Donner, 1976) in which Robert Thorn walks through the park before meeting with Father Brennan. The distinct railings in Bishops Park are prominent in both films and the manner in which Fenech and Peck are filmed walking through said location echo one another, taking on a pensive, solitary mood. Whilst, Jane Harrison’s walk through the park provides cinematic respite from the London Underground scene, it also conveys the autumnal landscape of London where the crunch of fallen amber and tawny leaves set against Jane’s knee high boots and layered wardrobe gives a tangible sense of London on an overcast Autumn day. 

Roland Gardens 

Lawyer, Francis Clay, asks to meet with Jane at Roland House, a name which gives away its location in Roland Gardens, South Kensington. Jane pulls up to the address and once again, the Britishness of All the Colours of the Dark is highlighted via Jane’s choice of vehicle, a suitably English, 1967 Austin Mini. Clay’s office is located in a late 1800s townhouse, now converted into flats and offices. The respectable veneer of the prestigious neighbourhood, characterised by wrought iron railings and ornate doorways hides, hides the macabre omen inside - an animal skull which rolls down the winding stairs before Mark presents himself to Jane and launches his attack. Jane promptly escapes, giving a wider view of the street and its British amenities like a pillarbox red Royal Mail postbox. 

Wykehurst Place 

Whilst the vast majority of All the Colour of the Dark’s locations were set and filmed within London, the Gothic headquarters of the Satanic Cult that Jane becomes embroiled in were located further afield, filmed at Wykehurst Place in Bolney, West Sussex. Wykehurst Place, also referred to as Wykehurst Park, is a Gothic Revival mansion, designed by Edward Middleton Barry, which pays architectural homage to the chateaux of the Loire Valley filtered through a grandiose Gothic sensibility. During the time of All the Colour of the Dark’s filming, the mansion had fallen into a state of disrepair which arguably added to its authenticity as a location for horror cinema. One of the most notable architectural features of the building, beyond its impressive turrets and stone work, is the pair of griffins which sit imposingly at the property’s wrought iron gates and in relation to the Italian horror cinema, recall Lucio Fulci’s London set giallo, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) location, Woburn Abbey. 

Wykehurst Place proved to be a popular setting for film productions with several films shot at the sprawling Gothic estate in the 1960s and 1970s. Hammer’s Demons of the Mind (Sykes, 1972) and The Legend of Hell House (Hough, 1973) were both shot at the mansion, making the most of the imposing Gothic architecture to instil a sense of dread in their respective audiences. All the Colours of the Dark wasn’t the only Italian genre film to utilise Wykehurst Place as a setting, in 1977 Alberto De Martino shot scenes at the location in his Kirk Douglas helmed science-fiction cum horror film, Holocaust 2000. 

The Anchor Pub

It feels fitting that a London set giallo should feature a traditional British pub and when in the capital scouting locations, Martino stumbled across one of Bankside’s oldest taverns — The Anchor located in the borough of Southwark. Jane and Richard share a drink and a cigarette at the location, sitting either side of a window which looks out onto the Thames. Despite a smoking ban now in enforcement, The Anchor remains largely unchanged from Edwige Fenech’s days as a wine drinking patron bar a few minor changes. The window frames, seen in the establishing shots of the premises, are now painted pillarbox red as opposed to the more traditional white wooden frames present in 1971. The age of the building was as apparent then as it is now with its thick wooden beams and traditional brickwork. These architectural features bring authenticity to a film trying to capture the rich atmosphere of London and its historic past and have a transformative quality, immersing the audience in its London set locations. 

Dr Burton’s Country Home

While the majority of scenes were shot in various locations across London, Martino ventured beyond to scout a mansion that would serve as Burton's countryside residence, seemingly situated in East Sussex. The design of Burton's country home reflects the Arts and Crafts style, a hallmark of the United Kingdom's architectural heritage.

The interior further exemplifies a distinctly anglicised or Arts & Crafts aesthetic, featuring extensive oak paneling, multi-paned windows, and imposing stone fireplaces. Set designer Giorgio Bertolini meticulously incorporates British elements, including ceramic teapots, a copy of the News of the World, and notably, a 1953 card commemorating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

In the All the Colours of the Dark Shameless featurette, Dark is the Colour, Martino recounts how the scene with Fenech and Navarro in the London taxi was filmed on the grounds of the leafy estate in Rome, emulating the look of British parkland, with the signature London taxi cab giving added credence to the authenticity of the location. 

Whilst one of many internationally shot gialli of the 1970s, there’s few examples of the filone that manage to convey their setting as effectively as Martino’s All the Colours of the Dark. Through the deployment of effective production design, location scouting and technical prowess, Martino manages to create a distinctive world that leans into its British location whilst playing with the more baroque and fantastical hallmarks of the Italian giallo.

If you like what I do here at Hypnotic Crescendos and want to show a bit of support, you can always drop me a few pennies for research materials via my PayPal here
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