Dario Argento: Fiction and Facts (sort of)

If one approaches Dario Argento’s Tenebre (1982) as a vicious, primal murder spree, then it works, but not everything in this revised giallo makes a great deal of sense. (Who was the lady wearing the red shoes seen after the agent’s death? And, uhm, how’s it no one saw the killer sneak off with a long, bloody knife in a busy public square?)

There are scenes that work (the girl being menaced by the most psychotic Doberman ever put on film) and scenes that don’t (same girl throwing crumpled murder pictures at the killer instead of running for her freakin’ life and avoiding the firewood ax) but it has some clever ideas that will undoubtedly be riffed and ripped off by filmmakers for a while.

Phenomena (1985), however, is still a perplexing hybrid of fantasy, fable, and supernatural abilities and horror that often comes off as very silly… but it does feature a grand decapitation, the porta-pike, and a pit of flesh-eating maggots. Oh, and Donald Pleasence also talks to a Bonobo monkey.

Both films – a giallo and a supernatural thriller – are part of Anchor Bay’s 5 Films by Dario Argento tin, and unlike prior DVDs, these editions of Tenebre and Phenomena offer anamorphic transfers previously available as 4:3 in 1999.

Like their 1999 counterparts, the 2008 discs replicate all the important extras, including extracts of behind-the-scenes footage seen in Luigi Cozzi’s 1991 documentary/profile, Dario Argento: Master of Horror, a film originally released on VHS and Japanese laserdisc (but still apparently unavailable on DVD). We’ve added a review of the 80 min. film HERE, and also included a review of Argento’s appearances on a very weird Italian show created by Enzo Tortora for RAI 3 from 1987 called Giallo, where the director introduces several 3 min. thriller vignettes that were pretty darn gory for TV. Be forewarned the Giallo review contains spoilers.

Next DVD reviews: westerns with grand aspirations: Fox’ The Big Trail in Grandeur (1930 widescreen!), MGM’s melodramatic racist mush Cimarron (1931), and Westlake Entertainment’s The Painted Desert (1931), a very low budget oater notable for Clark Gable’s sound film debut.

And imminent: MVD Visual’s Gil Scott-Heron concert DVD, plus a rare documentary.


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