5 Films By Dario Argento (Anchor Bay).
Tenebre (1982) w/ Anthony Franciosa, Daria Nicolodi. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNNN
Phenomena (1985) w/ Jennifer Connelly, Nicolodi. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNNN
Trauma (1993) w/ Asia Argento, Christopher Rydell. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNNNN
The Card Player (1994) w/ Stefania Rocca, Liam Cunningham. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNNN
Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005) w/ Elio Germano, Chiara Conti. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NN
Dario Argento makes Italian horror at its finest, filled with bizarre set pieces and disorienting plots, gruesome murders, stylish visuals and, above all, a delirious sense of the poetry of nightmare. The long, over-the-building tracking shot in Tenebre makes no narrative sense whatsoever, but it carries a powerful, uncanny charge.
In that movie, Anthony Franciosa plays a thriller writer beset by a murderer using his books as inspiration. Set in a weirdly depopulated and overlit Rome, Tenebre moves from chilly control to blood-soaked dementia, along the way delivering some great set pieces (notably the fetish dream of red shoes) and strange dialogue. (“Somebody who should be dead is alive, or somebody who should be alive is already dead”.)
If Tenebre represents the mystery side of the giallo, that particularly Italian genre that applies a horror-movie sensibility to mystery-movie content, Phenomena is almost pure horror. There is a story, but it’s buried under a heroine (Jennifer Connelly) telepathically connected to bugs, a razor-wielding chimpanzee, a murderous mutant and a ton of maggots.
Trauma and The Card Player are lesser works, but only slightly. The former revisits some ideas done better in Argento’s Deep Red, and the latter is an almost-normal cop thriller.
Do You Like Hitchcock?, made for Italian TV, is the set’s mildest entry and the only one without many extras. While all the retrospective docs are worth watching, Argento scholar Alan Jones’s commentary on Trauma is the most insightful about the man and his movies.
These titles are all reissues, but at $39.99 on amazon.ca, the box is a bargain.
EXTRAS Tenebre: Argento, composer Claudio Simonetti and journalist commentary; retrospective making-of, camera technique and sound effects docs, more. Widescreen. English, Italian audio. No subtitles. Phenomena: Argento, effects artist, composer and journalist commentary, retrospective making-of and effects docs, more. Widescreen. English, French audio. No subtitles. Trauma: Argento historian Jones commentary, retrospective making-of doc, Tom Savini making-of doc, more. Widescreen. The Card Player: Jones commentary, making-of doc, Simonetti doc. Widescreen. Do You Like Hitchcock?: making-of doc in Italian, no subtitles. Widescreen.