Sunday, 3 March 2019

Schindler’s List

Cast: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Kingsley

Director: Steven Spielberg  

195 minutes (15) 1993
Universal Blu-ray region B

Rating: 7/10
Review by Christopher Geary

Based on Australian writer Thomas Keneally’s novel, this drama tells the true story about a German industrial businessman who saved over 1,000 Jews from the Nazi death camps after the invasion of Poland. A distinguishing feature of this movie, setting it apart from other examples of late 20th century cinema about WW2 - such as John Boorman’s Hope And Glory (1987) - is that it was made in black-and-white. Unlike the art-house styling of Japanese production Black Rain (1989), about the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, Schindler’s List manages to overcome that pretentious approach of a modern drama filmed in B&W, partly because Spielberg’s directorial focus explores fussy little details, in scenes often resembling archive footage, that’s probably intended to grant this movie an historical authenticity.


However, despite its inordinate length (three hours runtime), it clearly lacks a colourfully corruptive decadence, as seen more recently in Paul Verhoeven’s Dutch blockbuster Black Book (2006), of the Nazi regime, here depicted in sombre tones of brutal grey, seemingly done in order to de-glamorise a negative culture’s most nostalgic era of yesteryear, and define its marketable period setting. It appears unlikely that Spielberg’s reasoning was to help generate a moody style of realistic horror, because human reality or cinema realism are generally no longer effective in monochrome. In modern cinema, B&W film is simply an anachronistic affectation, so rarely evoking a timeless quality of noir-ish documentary intensity, as perhaps was intended here. Filming in B&W for a modern movie is subtraction, not addition. Consequently, this feels something like a museum piece. Schindler’s List is a museum of a movie. 


Spielberg’s other works set during wartime include the hugely popular adventures of the superheroic ‘Indiana Jones’, that began with Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981); the widely praised epic drama Empire Of The Sun (1987), based on an autobiographical novel by SF author J.G. Ballard; and the critically acclaimed Saving Private Ryan (1998). But since it’s arguable that all of the above are much better WW2 entertainments than Schindler’s List, it remains surprising that none of them score quite as highly as the 8.9/10 on IMDb star ratings. Laden with Oscars, this movie looks designed to embody that particular prize of worthiness where its entertainment and socio-political values satisfy the Academy’s woke criteria for annual awards.


Here, Spielberg embraces a studied adherence to wholly respectful depictions of religion, and its varied ceremonies like Jewish prayers, in conflict with the godless atheism of the Nazis. A tolerance of the faithful and their virtuous community spirit also stands in sharp contrast to the barking hatred from a rampant Nazism that provokes a tearfully nervous reaction or dumb catatonic shock. The certain angelic poses of a meekly suffering people whose lives are crushed, snuffed out, and callously destroyed by the jackboots of fascism is quite plainly a one-sided portrait of Holocaust events. This righteous dignity vies with a typically Spielbergian sentimentality for the movie’s central vibe.


So where are this Oscar-winning picture’s innate qualities to be found? Emotional impacts from a moral repugnance of damned Nazism is, of course, self-evident, along with a story of an ultimately fragile sense of humanity in grim situations of mortal desperation. There is a notable sequence where, to escape violent extermination in the ghetto, some of the persecuted Jews fled into the sewers. Later, the haunting symbolism of the little girl in a red coat represents the splashy colour of blood on the outside, not inside the body where it belongs. This, iconic bad omen and other sympathetic narratives of human folly in war, combine with arty cinema compositions to ensure Schindler’s List meets the demands of rich tone and presentational style for primed for expectations of success at the Oscars.


Were the much feared Schutzstaffel, here represented by the psychotic SS officer Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), actually no better as trained German soldiers than serial killers in uniform? Laughter at needless cruelty usually signifies a degree of sadism, and there’s a blurry line between the presentation of bluntly appalling images of a genocidal massacre for educational value, and wallowing in an accurate recreation of atrocity merely for the sake of a movie about systematic racism. So the artistic decision to shoot in B&W might be viewed as a methodical avoidance of the commercial aspect, a choice prompted by the necessity for graphic depictions of terror and extreme violence that are clearly believable and unnerving, and yet without the risk of becoming rather too seethingly grotesque for any comfortably aware viewing by a family audience. The movie’s B&W images maintain a safe distance from an unwatchable exploitation of the Holocaust, central to a European catastrophe which still has lingering effects upon the continental society of today.

Extras:
This 25th anniversary edition for Blu-ray includes a bonus disc of special features.
Schindler’s List: 25 Years Later - director Spielberg joins actors Neeson, Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz, and Caroline Goodall, at the Tribeca film festival to reflect on the making of the film and its legacy.
Voices From The List - a feature-length documentary with testimonies from Holocaust survivors and archival footage.
USC Shoah Foundation story - with Spielberg.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

The Unholy

Cast: Ben Cross, Hal Holbrook, and Ned Beatty

Director: Camilo Vila  

102 minutes (18) 1988
Lions Gate 
Blu-ray region B

Rating: 7/10
Review by Donald Morefield
  
Camilo Vila’s The Unholy stars Ben Cross as catholic priest Father Michael, appointed as pastor of the reportedly cursed St Agnes church in New Orleans. The church was closed for three years when Father Michael’s predecessors were murdered at the altar after they were seduced into temptation by a demon of desire in the alluring guise of a red-haired succubus (stunning model Nicole Fortier), and the violent crimes were hushed up by parish officials, here represented by Hal Holbrook as Archbishop Mosely. Father Michael learns he’s most likely to share the victims' seemingly predestined fates when the creature also appears to him, offering sensual ecstasy. Can he resist her naked charms? To submit means death and damnation, but perhaps some pleasures are worth dying for...


A late addition to the cycle of religious horrors, then boosted to prominence by sequels to The Exorcist (1973), and The Omen (1976), The Unholy was Cuban-born director Vila’s first English-language production and, given the subject matter, perhaps the genre influence of Mario Bava and Dario Argento seems inevitable. The heavyweight supporting cast led by Holbrook, includes Trevor Howard (then in his eighties) playing the blind Father Silva - apparently gifted with the foresight of prophesy - for one of his last screen appearances; and Ned Beatty is well cast as Lieutenant Stern, the police detective baffled by unsolved homicides. These classy actors do what they can with an obviously weak script, bolstered by special effects work from Bob Keen, ensuring that the movie's production values, at least, earns its well deserved ‘A’ picture status, and their efforts lifted this chiller from the morass of routine schlock-horror video fodder in the 1980s.


A local club practices theatrically cheesy satanic rites, quite appealing to bogus acolytes and the sinfully curious tourism trade. Father Michael counteracts this blatant depravity with slap-happy sing-along hymns, while preaching this comforting familiarity to a newly revived congregation, but his commonplace rituals fail to halt his own persistently erotic nightmares. While investigating, our priestly hero experiences an indoor windstorm that, much like the very sudden tempest at Karswell’s mansion in Night Of The Demon (1957), is centred upon, or prompted by, villainy. Here, it’s the scandal-mongering blond showman and local scoundrel Luke (William Russ). Later, there’s a phone call from Hell, and crazy somnambulistic visions of burning crucifixions (somewhat reminiscent of Altered States), after poor distraught and innocent waitress Millie (Jill Carroll, Psycho II), winds up in a padded-cell at the local loony-bin, before the silent demoness lures the ‘incorruptible’ Father Michael into a betrayal of his vows.


In spite of its dream sequences, there is precious little room in the unfolding of this mystery’s narrative for many convincingly rational or likely psychological explanations of several nocturnal disturbances that are clearly supernatural happenings. So, thankfully, The Unholy has no cop-out ending as just another treatment of evil immortality themes in horror cinema. An intentionally awkward confrontational scene between Holbrook’s pious clergyman and Beatty’s worried sleuth forms the heart of this story’s balancing act of humanist concerns versus complacent faith. 


The director’s attention seems focused upon making certain the imposing visuals are fully supported by an effectively moody atmosphere on the key sets, and The Unholy is worth catching for bewitchingly rendered imagery that’s sustained by strong cameos. Although, obviously, it lacks the contemporary genre impact of Alan Parker’s superbly chilling Angel Heart (1987), the bloody shocks of Clive Barker’s compelling debut Hellraiser (1987), or the unsettling weirdness of John Carpenter’s uncanny and apocalyptic Prince Of Darkness (1987), The Unholy still deserves another chance to impress horror fans, especially with its amusingly esoteric climax of godforsaken monsters, and stylised mayhem that's happily uncut in this HD version.


A fine package of extras, including three featurettes, a director’s commentary track, good interviews, and promotional material, adds plenty of merits to this welcome re-release.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Parents

Cast: Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt, and Sandy Dennis

Director: Bob Balaban

83 minutes (18) 1989
Lions Gate Blu-ray region B
[Released 25th February]

Rating: 8/10
Review by Christopher Geary

“Leftovers from what..?”

A decidedly odd little horror, Parents is a quirky mystery-movie of engagingly stylised black-comedy, with a 1950s period setting where the brightly cheerful colour schemes conceal a grimly brooding tale of suburban cannibalism with gigantic meals cooked for a charming family of three, devouring fleshy platefuls of glistening protein gastronomy.


Moving into a new house, the Laemles quickly acclimate themselves into a neighbourhood that’s unbearably distant for the pressurised imagination of young Michael (Bryan Madorsky, in his first screen role), a morbidly sulky boy so desperately serious, and seemingly ‘manic-depressive’, that he effortlessly freaks out well-meaning social worker and school shrink Millie (Sandy Dennis). Randy Quaid plays a psycho dad Nick in what might qualify as his career-best performance of the 1980s, at least, and Nick’s wife, Lily (Mary Beth Hurt), is the epitome of a quaintly post-war homemaker, an adventurous whizz in the kitchen who denies any wrongdoings when it comes to supersized family dinners or other housework.

    
“What have we said about snacks late at night?”

Usually, such things (like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for instance) are darkly dreary, with shocks that are hammered home with swinging axes, but here’s a differently mannered childhood fantasy about domestic betrayals, very cleverly directed by Bob Balaban, who serves up ominous chills with a feverishly compelling air of smirking normality in a sitcom format. As a character-actor, Balaban had appeared in three of the greatest American SF movies, Spielberg’s magnificent UFOlogy trip Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977), Ken Russell’s masterpiece Altered States (1980), and the sequel to Kubrick’s epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, Peter Hyams’ 2010 (1984), so it’s fascinating to see him directing this kind of picture that reveals another side to Balaban’s genre interests, following similarly themed TV work, helming episodes of anthology shows Tales From The Darkside (1983) and Amazing Stories (1985).  


Is this a pro-vegetarian propaganda piece, centred on the familiar ‘meat is murder’ diet slogan? Yes, but Parents emerges from its various references as an unrepentantly fierce critique of consumer society, delivered for any TV dinner of your choice, with all its fatty jokes trimmed off. Some visual elements are clearly borrowed from early David Lynch’s oeuvre (particularly Eraserhead and Blue Velvet), and aspects of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise, but Balaban concocts a startling recipe for sub-genre success, one that scores highly even when it’s matched against broader knockabout routines in Joe Dante’s excellent comedy The ’Burbs (1989).  


Bonus material:  
  • Commentary track with Bob Balaban and producer Bonnie Palef
  • Isolated score selections and audio interview with composer Jonathan Elias
  • Leftovers To Be - with screenwriter Christopher Hawthorne
  • Mother’s Day - with actress Mary Beth Hurt
  • Inside Out - interview with director of photography Robin Vidgeon
  • Vintage Tastes - with decorative consultant Yolanda Cuomo
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Radio spots
  • Stills gallery

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Class Of 1999

Cast: Bradley Gregg, Stacy Keach, and Pam Grier

Director: Mark L. Lester   

96 minutes (15) 1990
Lions Gate 
Blu-ray region B
[Released 25th February]

Rating: 7/10
Review by Steven Hampton

This sequel to Class Of 1984 is basically a standard-model exploitation movie of sci-fi and action. If the influence of Blackboard Jungle (1955), was most evident in Class Of 1984, then pre-millennial themes of corporal punishment in teenage education sting these rowdy students much like humanity is besieged in the man versus machine dramas of Westworld (1973), and The Terminator (1984), albeit with stunt gags often presented here, quite winningly it must be said, as tongue-in-cheek satire. This is when and where Class Of 1999 nods most affectionately to RoboCop (1987), as the various decision-making processes of three mecha-teachers go horribly wrong.


Class Of 1999 has newly paroled teen Cody (Bradley Gregg) going back to school where the Mega-Tech company and federal defences now provide strict android teachers capable of enforcing programmed rules against rebellious students, and brutal discipline to eradicate gang violence. Kennedy High School’s headmaster, Langford, is portrayed by Malcolm McDowell, whose screen presence chimes with the unrelated Roddy McDowell, of Class Of 1984, but also brings welcome genre references to a British movie, Lindsay Anderson’s classic of allegorical revolution in a boarding school, If.... (1968).


Stacy Keach essays the smirking yet deranged albino inventor, Bob Forrest, who conspires with Langford to employ inhuman methods, including splatterpunk SF mayhem against unruly kids. His humanoid tools of authority are Hardin (John P. Ryan, It’s Alive), Connors (blaxploitation queen Pam Grier, Jackie Brown, Ghosts Of Mars), and Bryles (Patrick Kilpatrick), playing quirky variations on stereotyped school-teachers with cybernetic enhancements to deal with disobedient children. Class Of 1999 delivers savagely cynical futurism with a gross-out horror climax, alternating from cheesy jokes to militarised ultra-violence, while also successfully bridging the conceptual gaps between aforementioned sci-fi movies and off-beat contemporary thrillers like The Warriors (1979), and John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 (1976).     


The action-packed, explosive finale, where rival gangs team-up against homicidal battle-droids involves the rescue of a kidnapped girlfriend, before a school bus is used like a battering-ram, smashing through the main doors. The director, Mark L. Lester, is a highly capable creator of several cult or genre pictures, including Stunts (1977), Firestarter (1984), Commando (1985), Showdown In Little Tokyo (1991), Night Of The Running Man (1995), and White Rush (2003). Are some of these movies just guilty pleasures? Well, yes... but most of Lester’s work is good fun, scoring higher points than usual, especially when compared to the standards of many other movies from the VHS rentals era.    



Disc extras -
  • Audio commentary by Mark L. Lester
  • School Safety: interviews with Lester, and co-producer Eugene Mazzola
  • New Rules: interview with screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner
  • Cyber-Teachers From Hell: interviews with special-effects creators Eric Allard and Rick Stratton
  • Future Of Discipline: interview with director of photography Mark Irwin
  • Theatrical trailer
  • TV spots
  • Still gallery
  • Video promo

Monday, 18 February 2019

Class Of 1984

Cast: Perry King, Timothy Van Patten, and Roddy McDowell

Director: Mark L. Lester    

98 minutes 18 1982
101 Films Blu-ray region B
[Released 25th February]

Rating: 8/10
Review by Steve Hampton

“Life is pain. Pain is everything. You will learn.”

An unnerving portrait of violence in schools, especially with guns, this looks unfortunately so topical that it’s somewhat controversial to see Class Of 1984 getting a re-release on the premium home-entertainment format. Problems of modern juvenile delinquency are fuelled by a punk rebellion, and falling or failing education standards, resulting in quite mindless and constant aggression. In this ‘lawless zoo’ of a wholly American educational institution, a grim situation is further aggravated by drugs and racism, amidst rumbling echoes of Richard Brooks’ seminal The Blackboard Jungle (1955), and a clever title, just ahead of its time, that riffs blatantly upon George Orwell’s dystopian SF novel, 1984 (1948).


New-in-town music teacher, Andy Norris (Perry King), seems endearingly naive, but he’s also engagingly sympathetic to troubled children, even more so as he's appalled by the bitterly  confrontational misbehaviour of gangs when he’s employed at the rundown Lincoln High School. Norris is facing up to one of the greatest dilemmas of our time - how can a responsibly moral establishment figure manage to properly and fairly educate young people when so many of them simply refuse to learn anything? Active participation in various classrooms is rejected in favour of bullying, sporadic rioting, and other criminal activities.
   

Before achieving stardom as the time-travelling hero of Back To The Future, a chubby Michael J. Fox here plays a trumpet in the school band, at least until he’s stabbed and so winds up in hospital. Clever brat Stegman (Timothy Van Patten) is the ruthless gang leader who provokes everyone in sight without any obvious reasoning beyond a surly disruptive attitude, but his apparent case of utterly psychopathic charm is quickly exposed, to an opposing and unsubtly moral force, when Norris attempts to deal with the nasty boy’s cruel antics. Roddy McDowell plays biology teacher Corrigan, a man who cracks under pressure after the movie’s first hour, and he starts teaching a full class at gunpoint. This sequence is a decidedly moving portrayal of vengeful authority run amok, for a tragedy just waiting to happen. It's certainly a potent theme that media has often returned to, particularly in French TV movie, La Journee de la jupe (aka: Skirt Day, 2008), starring the great Isabelle Adjani.   


Long befre the bell rings on the closing action, one kid climbs up the flagpole and falls to his death. Vandalism in school corridors, labs, or workshops, reflects the mental turmoil of broken homes, dysfunctional families, and social depravation. Like the vicious ‘droogs’ (Nadsat for ‘friends’) in Stanley Kubrick’s celebrated A Clockwork Orange (1971), Stegman’s gang of thugs are not averse to home invasion, sexual assault, and kidnapping. Pervy gang moll Patsy (Lisa Langlois, Transformations, Mindfield), lures reactive hero Andy into a final and ultimately fatal pursuit, resulting in a night of hysterical mayhem, complete with an accidental lynching above a theatre stage.


The stunning resurrection granted to Class Of 1984 for this welcome HD release really ought to spark a career retrospective for its under-appreciated filmmaker, and the disc extras reflect this very well. 


Bonus material:

A limited edition booklet includes ‘Future Retro: The Punk Culture And 1980s Sci-Fi’ by Scott Harrison, and ‘And Pain Is Everything: an interview with director Mark L. Lester’.

Disc extras:
  • Commentary track with director Mark L. Lester
  • Life Is Pain... an interview with writer Tom Holland
  • Do What You Love - a career retrospective of Perry King
  • History Repeats Itself - an interview with director Mark Lester and composer Lalo Schifrin
  • Blood And Blackboards - interviews with cast and crew
  • Girls Next Door - interviews with actresses Erin Noble and Lisa Langlois
  • Trailer and TV spots
  • Stills gallery

Sunday, 20 January 2019

King Of Thieves

Cast: Michael Caine, Charlie Cox, and Ray Winstone

Director: James Marsh  

103 minutes (15) 2018
Studio Canal Blu-ray region B
[Released 21st January]

Rating: 8/10
Review by Steven Hampton   

Based upon a true story of the Hatton Garden burglary that made headlines in 2015, King Of Thieves is a hugely entertaining heist movie that specifically recalls the glory days of Ealing classic comedy The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), but it’s not really much like that, at all. Despite its obvious appeal as an old boys caper, full of wrinkly blokes doddering about in search of purpose and meaning in life, its crime drama explores how elderly survivors can still exist in a treacherous London underworld through twilight years with paranoia and a history of violence. These are diamond geezers, but they're a bit wobbly on replacement hips and frequent medications, while plodding through their sixties and seventies, thanks to the ensemble cast of a lifetime.


Kenny (Tom Courtenay, The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner), Terry (Jim Broadbent, Cloud Atlas), Danny (Ray Winstone, Sexy Beast), Billy 'the fish' (Michael Gambon, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover), and Carl (Paul Whitehouse), team up with OAP widower Brian (Michael Caine, Harry Brown, Get Carter) for one last job. Lounging around in pubs, ogling waitresses, cackling and guffawing like retired soldiers when they're not swearing like jolly drunken sailors, the habitual offenders of James Marsh’s movie smartly mine a rich seam of elderly veteran and age-rage humour. They might appear harmless enough but, watch out, Brian’s got a bus pass, their gang has a deaf diabetic as look-out, and every one of them is increasingly desperate for a piss.


“In this game, there’s what you know and what you don’t know, and if you don’t even fucking know what you don’t know, you know fuck all!” Amusingly, the old men’s ace is the mysterious Basil (Charlie Cox, TV’s Daredevil), a young techie with access to keys and a basic knowledge of 21st century security. To counter the otherwise leisurely pace of this Easter weekend crime, crucial action makes use of a wholly energetic fast-cutting, from the job’s prep montage to smash ‘n’ grab drama in the safe-deposit vault, so that key events play like scenes from a typical Guy Ritchie thriller.


Apart from the relaxed presence of Caine on good form, Broadbent is doing his best psycho impression as the frighteningly volatile Terry. Far more than just a starry revision of Ronnie Thompson’s The Hatton Garden Job (aka: One Last Heist, 2017), here’s a freshly iconic take on genre themes of ‘victimless crime’, with the daring actions of widely experienced villains, winningly portrayed by a gallery of great British actors, as this highly commercial assembly of instantly recognisable faces, with careers of dazzling screen credits, clearly enjoy themselves while playing infamous rogues.


Notable use of The Killers’ song The Man, and a jazzy score link this often darkly witty modern picture to British cinema’s treasure of retro images and sounds, as some vintage clips from the likes of Billy Liar (1963), The Italian Job (1969), and Scum (1979), appear in evocative career-flashbacks as a celebratory tribute to the longevity of these stars, that linger not fade into social memory, and KOT presents its true face in the well-worn, yet not always world-weary, expressions of this amazingly impressive cast of seniors.

Disc extras:
A making-of featurette
Michael Caine interview (seven minutes)
A featurette on casting the crooks
Deleted scenes
Trailer

Friday, 18 January 2019

Opera

Cast: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, and Urbano Barberini

Director: Dario Argento

108 minutes (18) 1987
Cult Films Blu-ray region B
[Released 21st January]

Rating: 8/10
Review by Christopher Geary

Even for horror fans, Dario Argento’s cinema can be an acquired taste... What one viewer regards as peculiarly fascinating surrealism, another might judge to be simply a narrative incoherence. Although it often seems that the central values of Argento’s oeuvre flip-flop, from his imitation of Hitchcockian intrigues, to pure aesthetic and technological cinematic merits, there can be no doubt his commitment to a dazzling inventiveness for murder has given us more than a handful of genuine horror classics.


Opera (aka: Terror At The Opera) rips off Phantom Of The Opera, but gets away with it because it adds raw fears and unforgettable visual stylisation to its electrifying fusion of macabre shocks, gruesome violence, black comic characterisation, and borderline campy dialogue. Oddly enough, this is a rather superior genre film to Argento’s own version of Phantom Of The Opera, made in 1998.


In Opera, understudy Betty (Cristina Marsillach) wins a coveted stage role, when the diva’s accident during rehearsals for a new version of Verdi’s Macbeth gives the young singer her first chance in the spotlight. However, the rising star soon becomes a tortured witness to the activities of a vicious killer who forces her to watch as helpless new victims die in agony. Some of this movie’s violence occurs off-screen, but our heroine’s terrified expression as an unwilling observer sells a frightful impact, so we (probably) all prefer not having to look at every single gruesome thing that she sees, anyway. Despite creative misunderstandings of identity and cunning whodunit misdirects, Opera really stands or falls based upon its ingenious and enthralling murder set-pieces, and here Argento surpasses many fans’ expectations with several spectacular and memorable kill-shots that are always worth repeated viewings.
   


Cast as Lady Macbeth, Betty survives bad luck and the cruelty of her bondage ordeals while she pits her wits against a mysterious psycho-killer. Argento’s renowned signatures of visual dazzle and creative ultra-violence have rarely been this precisely and skilfully composed, or so efficiently choreographed, whether for generating unease or habitually and crazily inventive death scenes, where the intensely theatrical unreality of a staged opera is expertly woven together with nightmarish flashbacks.


Some filmmakers would have us believe that the a vital element in the creative process is writing the script. They tell us that a good script is essential, but I tend to disagree. A screenplay is certainly not a movie, anymore than a shopping list is a dinner party, or a business plan (just ask any self-employed worker how useful a page of numbers really is!) is a factory or any other going concern. 

Auteur theory maintains that the director, carrying overall responsibility for the filmmaking project, is the true author of a movie, not the screenwriter, and this idea applies to Argento more than most directors because his best work succeeds while lacking some of the things often deemed to be essential in a proverbial ‘good’ movie. Plot structure, convincingly portrayed characters with credible motives, believable storytelling techniques and comfortable moralising are rarely found in Argento’s brand of slasher cinema.


And yet his work is just as interesting, compelling, and entertaining as other kinds of tragedy depicted on screen, and many Argento pictures boast the kind of demented narrative drive and striking mise en scene which leaves the supposedly shocking horrors of many Hollywood filmic terror masters looking sadly tame and bloodless. Whereas the average US filmmaker uses the apparatus of filmmaking like a sculptor wields a hammer and chisel, chipping and carving away excess to reveal a statuesque artwork beneath, Argento’s approach is more like that of the potter. 


When he wants a particularly grand effect, instead of removing existing material he simply adds more clay! Argento’s acrobatic camera would doubtless score highly with a panel of Olympic gymnastics judges and, arguably, the Italian maestro has made better artistic use of tools like Steadicam (intriguing POV shots) and the Louma crane (swooping abound theatrical settings) than American directors, including the widely acclaimed Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese.   


Superbly restored and re-graded with a 2K scan, in consultation with Argento, this HD release for the Blu-ray edition includes improved English subtitles for the Italian track.

Disc extras:
Aria Of Fear - a brand new candid interview with director Dario Argento
Opera Backstage - a documentary showing Argento making Opera (40 minutes)
Featurette about the restoration process