5 Films By Dario Argento
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5 Films By Dario Argento

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IMDB Links:     Do You Like Hitchcock?        Phenomena        Tenebre
                      Card Player                           Trauma

Occasionally a film maker will rise above the pack and manage to create his own sub genre. One such man is Dario Argento, the master of Italian horror flicks. His career as a writer, producer and direct is now approaching it’s forth decade and there is sign of it stopping any time soon. His influences are the best in the field with luminaries like Mario Bava, Alfred Hitchcock, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, and Federico Fellini. Those familiar with horror, mystery and suspense films will immediately see the way these men have helped too form the style of Argento. Anchor Bay has many of his films in their DVD catalogue and is now releasing a five pack of some of Argento’s most notable films. Okay, they are not all hailed as the best of his films but each one is representative of the influence his methods have had on the genre as a whole. Each of these five films is part of his ‘giallo’ flicks. These are movie versions of pulp mystery or horror books and truly represent a unique sub genre of their own. Not only has Argento been influenced by the best in the business he has fostered many of the newest film makers in the horror genre. If you are a fan of this type of film you certainly know his works and this set will be a welcomed addition to your collection. If you are newly interested in ‘giallo’ flicks this DVD box set will be a great place to get started.

Unlike many film makers Argento did not go to film school or even college. While still in high school he was a published film critic. Argento has had a life long love affair with the art of cinema and this is one of the major reasons for his success. Many of his movies do not achieve critical acclaim. He makes his films for the fans not the critics. He loves movies and he wants to create films that other like hearted people can enjoy. He was always an innovator quick to embrace new technology to make his movies. He was one of the first to use the now over employed steadi-cam to give a more intimate look and feel for the audience. He was also the first Italian director to use computer generated imagery. While this is common place even in the lowest budgeted flicks today he was on the cutting edge with its use abroad. A large part of his distinctive style is the way Argento utilizes color in his films. He is a master of the color palette using it to not only set the mood but reinforce the emotional impact of the scene. Another part of his technique is the manner in which he moves the camera. It provides a voyeuristic feel for the viewer but manages to do so much more. His camera follows the action like another character lurking in the shadows. Argento is the stereotypical Italian male; he loves beautiful women and makes sure there are several in every film. One creepy aspect of this is frequently one of his daughters, usually Asia or Fiore are on display. He also has placed his long time lover and mother to Asia, Daria Nicolodi in many of his films both in front on and behind the camera. He is also known for his use of music. While heavy on the sinister organ chords he also likes to use techo in many of his films. True to the horror film genre an Argento film is not for the squeamish; there is always plenty of blood and gore to be had.

Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005)

This was made for Italian television and is homage to one of his muses and main influences, Alfred Hitchcock. After this initial involvement with TV he went on to direct two episodes of Showtime’s ‘Masters of Horror’ anthology series. In this flick Giulio (Elio Germano) is a film student, specifically German expressionism. His apartment window overlooks the frequently open window of Sasha (Elisabetta Rocchetti), his beautiful neighbor. She also has the habit of undressing in front of that aforementioned window; something that Giulio would never object to; after all it is cheaper that late night cable television. When she is not undressing Sasha is often fighting with her mother (Milvia Marigliano). One day Giulio is in the local video store when he sees Sasha with a stunning blond woman (Chiara Conti). They are talking about the film ‘Strangers on a Train’ and the next thing you know Sasha’s mom winds up dead. Because this is a made for television flick there is less gore than usual but it is suspenseful and a great watch.

Phenomena (1985)

This is one of the very first films for a then 15 year old Jennifer Connelly. She is a daughter of a famous movie star sent to a girl’s boarding school in Switzerland. It turns out that the school is being targeted by a serial killer with a taste for young girls. Working on the case with the local police is entomologist Prof. John McGregor (Donald Pleasence). He becomes friends with Jennifer and she is soon helping him in his investigations. This works out well since Jennifer is able to communicate with insects of all sorts. This is more in the line of a straight mystery with the usual blood work through in for good measure.

Tenebre (1982)

Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is a somewhat famous author specializing in horror and murder mysteries. While in Rome a serial killer is on the loose and a victim is found with the pages of Neal’s latest book stuffed in her mouth. Neal is convinced that his book may be vital to solving the murders but the police have their doubts at first. If this sfilm teaches us anything it is to be grateful that the European fashions of the early eighties are dead and long gone. The film is somewhat camp by today’s standards but it still holds up as a cult classic.

Card Player (2004)

This is another example of Argento’s perchance to keep up with the changes in technology. In Rome a serial killer called the ‘Card Player’ is on the loose and killing young women. In an Argento flick all serial killers go after beautiful women. The killer gets his nick name from his signature of forcing the authorities to play a deadly game of video poker with him. His victims are shown on a web camera while they are tortured and ultimately murdered before the helpless eyes of the police. Assigned to the case is Interpol agent John Brennan (Liam Cunningham) and his lovely partner, Italian Detective Anna Mari (Stefania Rocca). Things escalate when the police chief’s daughter, played by Fiore Argento, is the next victim.

Trauma (1993)

This is an excellent example of ‘giallo’ at its best. This film features Argento’s older and more famous daughter Asia in her first film with her dad. She plays a teenage anorexic, Aura Petrescu, who escapes from the psychiatric clinic where she was receiving treatment for her disease. She is befriended by a young man, David Parsons (Christopher Rydell). She is ultimately returned home but soon her parents are found beheaded. Others are found dead but the killings occur only when it rains.

This are great films for the fans of Argento and do represent several of his many technical incarnations. They may not be great movies but they are classics in the genre. The DVD is great. The package is a sturdy metal case with each film on its own disc. They have been available as individual releases and still have the original extras on each DVD. All the films are re-mastered and uncensored; just what the Argento purist needs.

Posted 04/26/08

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