What is it about gruesome Italian director Dario Argento that makes his work so compelling? Is it his elaborately and ingeniously staged set pieces? His view of slaughter as opera? His pornographic approach to murder, where the plot seems to be little more than excuse to lead you to the next murder scene? Is it his fetishistic relationship with the erotic elements of murder, the leather gloves, trench coats, razors and of course the torrent of blood oozing away? Or perhaps the near hysterical hyper pop and rock soundtrack music that blasts away at ridiculous volumes alongside his images?
Yep, all of the above.
It all sounds so kitsch, so B-grade, yet although at times the acting is a little questionable, Argento’ films without fail are always technically brilliant. Both visually and sonically in their attention detail, and if the plot and acting are a little lower down the list of priorities, well who the hell cares – definitely not Argento.
This collection groups together three of his films. A couple of thriller slasher Giallo’ Deep Red (1975) and Tenebrae (1982) and finally Phenomena (1985), which is something else entirely. Deep Red features an American jazz pianist witnessing a murder in Italy, and teaming up with a strange journalist (Argento’ wife Daria Nicoladi) in an attempt to solve the crime. With a great soundtrack by Italian prog rock legends and regular Argento collaborators Goblin, Deep Red whilst at times moving rather slowly is a gripping murder mystery filled with Argento’ usual set pieces. Tenebrae offers an American mystery writer who arrives in town just as a sadistic killer is dispatching people to mimic the murders from his current novel. So guess what, he turns detective in an effort to solve the crime. See a pattern? Stay tuned for some great axe murders. Finally Phenomena which initially mimics the plot to Suspiria, offers a very young Jennifer Connelly (Requiem for a Dream) who can communicate with insects via ESP, chimpanzees running around with razors and not one but two beheadings. Then of course there’ the soundtrack, over the top even by Argento’ standards, from Bill Wyman, Iron Maiden, and Motorhead. Weird.
Each film has a bunch of extras including interviews with Argento, commentaries, An Eye for Horror doco on Argento’s career and more.
Bob Baker Fish