Footprints on the Moon (1975)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Also Known As: Le Orme, Primal Impulse
Directed By: Luigi Bazzoni
Starring: Florinda Bolkan, Peter McEnery, Nicoletta Elmi, Klaus Kinski
Running Time: 96 mins
Release Date: 1975
Country of Origin: Italy

Footprints on the Moon is the story of Alice, a Portuguese translator, who is fired from her job after mysteriously disappearing for three days which she can not account for. With no job and no memories, Alice's only clues to what happened to her during those days are a yellow blood stained dress, a missing earring and a ripped up postcard from a Turkish island called Garma. Alice decides to investigate what happened in those three lost days and leaves for Garma hoping to uncover the mystery.

Florinda Bolkan proves why she's a veteran of the giallo genre with her portrayal of Alice. Bolkan is almost unrecognisable from her usual self with a severe short haircut, stern manner and frumpy clothes. It's a restrained dialed back performance which make her outbursts in the film pack real emotional resonance, in particular the haunting end scene. Fans of the genre will recognise little girl, Paola as Nicoletta Elmi who also had roles in Deep Red, The Night Child and Who Saw Her Die. Klaus Kinski fans may be disappointed by Footprints as the legend himself only appears for around a minute in the entire film's running time as scientist, Dr Blackman. Although his screen time is short, Kinski is the perfect choice for the crazed B Movie doctor and adds a sinister edge to the segments of the film Alice remembers from her childhood.

Footprints is unusual in that it has minimal violence and sex throughout the film and utilises the suspense element of the giallo as opposed to trying to shock through nudity and blood letting. The genre gets a lot of stick for being misogynistic and violent yet Footprints demonstrates that a great giallo doesn't need to rely on these elements in order to be successful. It's also particularly refreshing to have a main female character who doesn't exist purely for titillation. The "unfeminine", stern Alice is a fascinating character and her differences to other Italian female protagonists make you feel more involved with her story and compelled to find out about what happened to her. Characters who come into contact with Alice believe her to be another woman, Nicole, who is a much more glamorous and vibrant woman in stark contrast to Alice. This juxtaposition works nicely throughout the film and the existence of this doppelganger becomes the central mystery to Alice and the viewer. As Alice finds out more about the mysterious Garma and Nicole so do we as the viewer which works nicely and heightens the mystery. 

I couldn't talk about Footprints without mentioning the fantastic work of Cinematagropher Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, Last Tango in Paris) who creates such a vivid and rich overall look to the film. There's some fantastic shots throughout, my personal favourite is when Alice runs out of the conference building showing a striking juxtaposition in Alice's size and the foreboding mass of the structure behind her. The film features many similar shots of Alice dwarfed by her surroundings, perhaps a little visual clue there? The Turkish location of the film is an inspired choice and Storaro captures its beauty perfectly, lingering his camera over ornate Islamic architecture and art. This distinct Turkish look and the use of an off season holiday resort gives the film a distinctive look that sets it apart from giallos centered in Italy.

The great thing about Footprints is that it doesn't go for an ending that provides a perfect explanation for the events in the film. Without giving the ending away, the events that happen to Alice are never fully explained and are open to interpretation - did the events of the film really happen? Was Alice's interpretation of events accurate or a fabrication? There's no elaborate back story or psycho babble that ties the story up in a neat little bow which makes for a much more satisfactory ending. The end scene of the film is beautifully sad, utilises the space theme perfectly and manages to transform a deserted beach into a desolute planet.

I watched Footprints from the Shameless DVD that came out in the UK in 2009. Shameless have done a great job in restoring the film providing a version vastly superior to the grainy, washed out bootlegs and VHS' that were the only attainable source of the film prior. There are a few instances in the film where the quality dips and the language track switches to Italian, this is due to Shameless wanting to provide fans with a complete version of the film despite the lack of a complete usable English source. The switch is obviously noticeable and initially distracting but doesn't hinder the overall viewing experience and I am glad this footage was included in the film.

Footprints is a fantastic example of the giallo genre whilst providing something different from the more shlock orientated entries. The accomplished cast turn out great performances which really elevate the overall quality of this film making it worth a look on Bolkan's portrayal of Alice alone. If like me, you love the gialli that focus on missing memories and recalling clues to unlocking a mystery than this is highly recommended but if you prefer your giallo to be heavy on the gore and nudity you may be disappointed. 



  1. Hi Rachel. Footprints is definitely a rare gem in Giallo land. I've probably put off watching it 50 times over, but finally did last week and I think I need a 2nd viewing to fully appreciate it. I found this post while doing research for the film which will be the next film featured on my site, as well as the podcast I host with 2 other Giallo aficionados called "Giallo Ciao! Ciao!" I hope you will find some time to pay them both a visit! Thanks! --Chris

    1. Hey Chris! Thanks for the message, I appreciate it. I would love to check out your blog and podcast - I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the film!


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