Let's talk Dario Argento...

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He's gone crap, but who has a working knowledge of his entire ouvre? I've seen all his movies except his comedy 'The Five Days in Milan' (unreleased outside of Italy). What's the opinion? I say he's a master of style who is largely underrated but who's best films show more talent than the entirety of Hollywood can usually conjure up in an entire year.

Calum, Friday, 2 May 2003 18:19 (nineteen years ago) link

Suspiria and Tenebre are his most realized visually...but there's something to lend fans of set design/lighting/camera angles..etc. in almost all his films...except maybe the Standahl Syndrome...that one kind of stunk.

thomas de'aguirre (biteylove), Friday, 2 May 2003 18:29 (nineteen years ago) link

Suspiria was my favourite.... it's now Deep Red. The only notable one I haven't seen is Four Fly's On Grey Velvet. i eagerly await it's DVD release.

Without Argento and Bava we may never have had Delpalma and Carpenter. I think Argento influenced DePalma every bit as much as Hitchcock.

I really can't reccomend DEEP RED enough.

PVC (peeveecee), Friday, 2 May 2003 19:10 (nineteen years ago) link

(calum, enlarge more on how the talent manifests: what does he do that other don't?)

mark s (mark s), Friday, 2 May 2003 19:13 (nineteen years ago) link

Anybody got that Giallo Collection DVD box set -- there's some amazing stuff on there like SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS and Who Saw Her Die which bears a striking resemblance to Don't Look Now.

PVC (peeveecee), Friday, 2 May 2003 19:13 (nineteen years ago) link

Argento's films are like abstract nightmare tableau's -- I love how they follow dream logic more than plot. You know one of those really VIVID dreams that seems to make perfect sense while you're having it but you realize was only the visual representation of emotions upon waking.

PVC (peeveecee), Friday, 2 May 2003 19:17 (nineteen years ago) link

Have you seen Deep Red thomas? Not the hacked up 80's VHS but the restored DVD I mean. There's a big difference between the two. Many of argento's films where heavily edited (usually his tracking shots strangely enough) for their North American video releases. Who knows why considering some the stuff that was released on video in the 80's.

PVC (peeveecee), Friday, 2 May 2003 19:22 (nineteen years ago) link

i was just about to mention the dream-logic thing too - seeing my second argento picture (bird w/crystal plumage i think - the first was suspiria) was TERRIFYING even though it's not a very scary picture, precisely because suspiria's storyline had led me expect that things could take a bizarre/scary turn for the worse at any moment

i haven't seen any of his recent stuff, tho i've lingered over that cheapo-looking Sleepless box a few times at the video place

jones (actual), Friday, 2 May 2003 19:29 (nineteen years ago) link

don't think he's underrated. people have been drooling over his best movies for years.including me. he has papers written about him, retrospectives of his work, lovingly restored and easy to find dvd's, etc, etc.I think he should have moved to hollywood. all the good italian horror guys should have. Italy might have been a great place to make movies in the 60's and 70's but those guys are stifled now.there needs to be a mass exodus like in Hong Kong so that Dario can make Face/Off 2 in time for christmas.I hear he is actually making the last part of his witches saga, can't wait for that.

scott seward, Friday, 2 May 2003 19:29 (nineteen years ago) link

B-b-but he might have made "respectable" films in Hollywood like Milos Forman, and gone all boring.

Is anyone here familiar with the work of Walerian Borowczyk? I'm always fascinated by that era where the new European art cinema tried to meet the demands of commerce by merging (?) its goals with those of the more-commercially-successful new European soft core porn and gore genres. Borowczyk was one of the key figures here (see also Emmannuelle and its umpteen spinoff franchises). Miklós Jancsó's Private Vices, Public Virtues is the most unsettling mixture of this type I've seen.

amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 2 May 2003 20:04 (nineteen years ago) link

which bears a striking resemblance to Don't Look Now

PVC-i saw that gallo collection and thought about it some..but ultimately passed(not knowing a thing about the films)..but if there is anything as good as Dont Look Now, then i will for certain be picking it up...also, the scene in Deep Red when the midget murder doll warbles thru the door is one of the most disturbing things i've seen on film.

thomas de'aguirre (biteylove), Friday, 2 May 2003 20:05 (nineteen years ago) link

"the scene in Deep Red when the midget murder doll warbles thru the door is one of the most disturbing things i've seen on film".


The real gem in the giallo collection is SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS.

PVC (peeveecee), Friday, 2 May 2003 20:28 (nineteen years ago) link

I don't think that hollywood would have done a good work to argento's imagination which is too twisted anyway for big bucks productions, I mean he's really a weirdo he's not fakin it. Think about it half of the charme his given by he's gothic re-thinking of italian cities such as turin for deep red or rome for previous stuff. That said, I still consider one of italian best director and maybe in this he's alittle bit underrated by official critique.

francesco, Friday, 2 May 2003 20:37 (nineteen years ago) link

Mark - what does Dario do that others don't? Well, he practically invented the mis en scene of the contemporary horror film that is the killer's eye view point (as seen from the camera) not to mention quietly revolutionising the use of widescreen in the genre, his 360 degree camera trickery in Opera was genuinely groundbreaking and without Suspiria and Deep Red there would be no John Carpenter or Brain DePalma and Tim Burton as we currently know them. Without Suspiria it's probable that Sam Raimi and Nicholas Roeg would not be the same either - and the Robert Zemeckis film What Lies Beneath was pure Argento, as was From Hell and pretty much every other 'mainstream' genre film of recent years. I could ramble on, but as one postee mentioned there has been a ton of literature devoted to his influence on American cinema.

Four Flies on Grey Velvet is pretty good. I didn't mind 1993's Trauma too much (in full widescreen it's actually quite a decent little thriller - but his early work left him with too much to live up to), but The Phantom of the Opera, Sleepless and Phenomena really stink. I hated The Stendhal Syndrome when I first saw it but I have it on tape and I'm gonna give it a second chance.

Short Night of the Glass Dolls is a pretty decent giallo. I liked one of Fulci's earlier ones - Don't Torture a Duckling, but his other giallos I've seen from this period (Murder to the Tune of Ten Black Notes and A Lizard in a Woman's Skin) are dull. Besides, Fulci was never a patch on Argento but maybe that's another thread...

Calum, Saturday, 3 May 2003 00:25 (nineteen years ago) link

I like Phenomena. It certainly isn't his best, but the story is incredibly strange, the gore works, and unlike say The Stendhal Syndrome the film is much more than an exercise in fetishism regarding razors slashing woman's throats to the point of erotic excess. While maybe not as well executed, Phenomena is more interesting to me than his Hitchcockian films like The Bird With The Crystal Plumage.

I'm curious to see how Il Cartaio comes out. While it might not be Suspiria III, as long as it isn't Stendhal Syndrome II, I'll be excited about it.

Ryan McKay (Ryan McKay), Saturday, 3 May 2003 01:39 (nineteen years ago) link

im hardly versed in his films, but i enjoy horror films a good deal so... i saw Suspiria recently for the first time and found it... well, underwhelming (other than, maybe the Goblin soundtrack). perhaps he was an innovator and was cribbed incessantly for the past 30 years but i feel like i'm missing something. what will make me believe.

Honda (Honda), Saturday, 3 May 2003 08:57 (nineteen years ago) link

seems like no-one over here apreciated sleepless.
Fulci was just an artisan never had an hit movie so he had to work on tons of movies, sometimes at the same time, to make a living but Duckling(Non si sevizia così un paperino) is so great...
According to my taste other goods movies are: Buio Omega by Aristide Massaccesi,La casa dalle finestre che ridono (Pupi Avati), Macabro_Frozen Terror (Lamberto Bava).

francesco, Saturday, 3 May 2003 09:31 (nineteen years ago) link

I thought Buio Omega was rubbish. I'm not a big D'Amato (or Massaccesi fan - thought Jessica Moore was hot in Eleven Days, Eleven Nights) - the only Avati film I've had the 'pleasure' of seeing is Zeder, which I thought was pap and I've only enjoyed one of Lamberto Bava's movies which was A Blade in the Dark.

Honda - if you're not getting Suspiria it's probably because you've not dimmed the lights and cranked up the sound as loud as possible. Either that or you're still discovering non-American horror which is as different from Hollywood as you can get.

Calum, Saturday, 3 May 2003 15:49 (nineteen years ago) link

Calum-Buio Omega, basically, makes me laugh because reaches peaks of gratuitous violence untili then unknown in italian thriller cinema, it's so incredibly morbid. Ditto for Bava's first movie..after that he went fairy tale and tv friendly, you should check that one.
La casa dalle finestre che ridono (sorry I don't know the american title) is an absolute chef d'ouvre but after that Avati moved to other directions..don't know exactly what he's doing at the moment but I think intimistic bourgeois crap just like, almost, everybody else in italy

francesco, Saturday, 3 May 2003 16:59 (nineteen years ago) link

calum i'm not sure that "practically invented the criminal's POV shot" quite nails it: powell made a pretty sophisticated comment on the device with Peeping Tom, and the device itself goes back at least as far as mamoulian's Jekyll&Hyde. Argento really did make it his own, but i think this might owe a lot to the other POVs he employs as well, which help to sort of "highlight" his switches to the killer's (it's been awhile since i've seen an Argento picture so i'm having trouble remembering specific instances to support this - i do recall though that one of the crazy 360-degree camera moves in Opera you mentioned is a bird's POV)

also i think what mark is asking isn't "which directors wouldn't be the same without argento", but HOW wouldn't they be the same - what would be missing? which moves in particular have they copped from him? I mean What Lies Beneath and From Hell are completely different movies (WLB is good, for one thing) so in what ways are they both "pure argento"?

(i'm not trying to get on your case, btw: it would just be nice to get some of these threads beyond film-guide-blurb-style comments, and you seem to have more experience this genre than most of us do)

jones (actual), Saturday, 3 May 2003 17:55 (nineteen years ago) link

yes also saying ~"there's a ton of literature abt blah blah blah": no, YOU say it, HOW, now, that's what this place is for (talk abt the literature if you like, tell us what it is, but tell us what it SAYS)

also using the word "influence" is a way of avoiding the actual process: yes yes the same devices/images are being used, but are they saying the same things more dully, or interesting different things?

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 3 May 2003 22:12 (nineteen years ago) link

Well guys I think I explained myself fine, but seeing as how I spend my time writing about this shit and have a whole magazine and web site devoted to it then you could always go over there and read my more in depth thoughts about genre icons such as Argento. Is that just being sensible and saving me some time? So Mark for me to ramble on about Dario Argento's influence in the manner you wish (which seems to be an academic essay) would take time and effort and me repeating much of my own writing which is why I'm perhaps better to refer you to such wonderful books on the man himself as Maitland McDonough's 'Broken Mirrors, Broken Minds' which explains the man's influence in the sort of detail that you want.

Anyway, because you asked - 'Peeping Tom' showed a camera eye POV (NOT the killer's point of view per se) in which to try and seperate the distance that the viewer has between the action on screen and their own voyuerism. It, therefore, tried to make the viewer central to the actual murder. It is undoubtable that 'Peeping Tom' had a huge effect on the contemporary horror genre (c.f. 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer' and 'Man Bites Dog' to mention just two, use Powell's device exactly as he intended) but from The Cat O Nine Tails (1971) onwards Argento actually made the viewer into the killer through using the first person as camera's eye. It is quite probable that he was influenced by Powell but being as Peeping Tom was an initial flop and only rediscovered several years later as a 'critics' film - well, this may or may not be the case. Whatever the case is, Cat O Nine Tails was the first horror film in which the viewer is placed into the eye view of the murderer - in lesser genre books John Carpenter is associated with inventing this device in Halloween which we now know is not the case.

What Lies Beneath is pure Argento in that it owes its plot to the giallo films which Argento popularised (and Mario Bava brought to the screen). To go into this would have to involve me describing the giallo genre which, to be honest, I don't want to do (it will take more time than I have) so the best way to discover this is to watch the films yourself. But even stylistically the films owes its look to Argento (the scene in the bathroom evokes memories of Argento's Deep Red, whilst the close ups of murder weapons and running water are one of Dario's traits). From Hell with its nonsensical storyline, weapon fetishism and vivid colour scenes reminded me a great deal of Argento. The film's widescreen horrors are also influenced by Dario as he was the director who was consistent with the use of scope in the genre (very few horror films had used widescreen previous to The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Dario's Suspiria showed how widescreen could prove effective to the genre - again, John Carpenter's Halloween is often the film credited with this).

Mark - are the films I'm talking about more or less effective? Well, when you use the term 'saying the same things' you are, I presume, assuming that Argento's cinema says anything (it doesn't) - narratively his films are a mess. So I would assume you are not familiar with his movies. His influence on mainstream cinema has been purely stylistically, although I should point out that he was the first director making films for a mass audience who presented gay characters in a positive light.

Calum, Sunday, 4 May 2003 02:21 (nineteen years ago) link

It's actually precisely the innovations that Calum attributes to Argento (and Calum: please give us a link to your website, and some exact cites for books and articles so we can track them down; I'm interested) that make me leery of his work. The Sadeian quality of it, the uncomfortable overlap between gore and pornography. It's unsettling for me, and not in a way that makes me want to return. But then again, I'm quite squeamish in certain ways--I still can't finish Reservoir Dogs--so I don't pretend this is some kind of definitive criticism.

amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 4 May 2003 02:26 (nineteen years ago) link

I'm also, of course, skipping over Argento's influence on Italian horror which is astronomical and includes lesser directors such as Antonio Bido, Umberto Lenzi, Luigi Cozzi and Aldo Lado to the inconsistent Lucio Fulci and Lamberto Bava (yes I've seen Macabre and also his little seen return to gillo Body Puzzle) and also the more talented likes of Michele Soavi.

I'd recommend anyone who hasn't to check out everything Dario made from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1969) to Opera (1987) avoiding Phenomena (1985) on the way. I think many people would be honestly surprised about how much his cinema changed the way people make horror films in Hollywood. Halloween even rips off Deep Red's music score! Though Halloween is the better film IMO...

www.firelightshocks.com - is my web site. There are now three full length books on Argento, of which Maitland's is the best (good to read about him from a feminist POV as well, but the book ends at 1990's Two Evil Eyes), but also Alan Jone's book (Mondo Argento) and FAB Press released a book on him a couple of years ago as well.

I think most of his horror films are now available in the UK uncut on DVD, except Inferno, Cat O Nine Tails and The Stendhal Syndrome. Interesting - mainstream critic Kim Newman voted for Inferno as one of the ten best films ever made for the Sight and Sound poll!

Calum, Sunday, 4 May 2003 02:32 (nineteen years ago) link

i'm not at all attacking you, calum: i'm interested in DA but yr right, i don't know much about him — you know lots of production facts and have seen his films, so all i'm asking is, why not describe them or talk abt them in a vivid way? why not unbend a little and say what's different about him to someone who is interested but not well-informed? not everyone's an italo-horror buff

link us to some of yr writing on this! i have no interest in you writing "academic" essays, just saying concrete stuff instead of being vague or saying "read this book" (says what the book SAYS if it's so interesting or useful) (doesn't have to be lengthy or lists: sometimes it's good to be able to distinguish a genre in a pithy, funny sentence anyway... this is def how to win new converts, who are always put off by lists and homework tasks, i think)

i'm not going to restart my furious ILM war on the actual meaninglessness of the word "influence" quite yet, but i do think the word is just noise unless ILF posters are prepared to be SPECIFIC about exactly they mean when they say it: yes i know it's a widely used word, but it's widely used to avoid specifics - and specifics are what's interesting (again i'm not attacking calum here: when i pursued the point to pin him down, he gave an answer detailing the specifics as he saw them — that's cool)

(tho it'd save time, calum, if you stopped waving the "if only you weren't so conventional in yr assumptions" stick at me — i actually have zero investment in someone else being considered "greater" or "lesser" than DA => what i like knowing IS WHAT STUFF DOES => if DA invented the killer-POV that's interesting, but it's also interesting — to me — how ppl after him used the same device, to similar or different ends in difft contexts)

mark s (mark s), Sunday, 4 May 2003 10:50 (nineteen years ago) link

Fair enough - I guess 'influence' is a vague term. My only real advice is to track down Suspiria, his best film, and Deep Red, his best giallo, and if you like them take it from there in terms of reading and further viewing. Folks either love or hate him.

I sympathise with the postee who said that they find his work worrying. I do as well - filming his own daughter being raped (Stendhal Syndrome) and in sex scenes (The Phantom of the Opera) is downright strange. And I do think accusations of misogyny are often well deserved - although men get it pretty horribly as well in his movies.

Calum, Sunday, 4 May 2003 12:34 (nineteen years ago) link


jones (actual), Sunday, 4 May 2003 16:44 (nineteen years ago) link

I watched 'suspiria' and it was a really unique movie for me bcz its one of those movies where the soundtrack completely and utterly overwhelms the film.

I never felt he was doing much with film and it was really lame. the soundtrack kept me awake through it all.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Monday, 5 May 2003 09:16 (nineteen years ago) link

i'll defend Nonhosonno, with reservations. La Sindrome di Stendhal is such a bizarre, distasteful film, and the less said about Argento's wretched Phantom of the Opera, the better. but there are (guilty) pleasures to be had from Nonhosonno. just be sure you're watching the original print and give the widest possible berth to Artisan's gutted Sleepless.

DA's films tend to reflect his circumstances and emotional state during production. during his protracted divorce from Daria Nicolodi, he certainly wasn't shy about dishing out onscreen pain and punishment to his ex (and now daughter Asia is in on the act; c.f. Scarlet Diva). the drab Trauma wore the constraints of a troubled, threadbare American production on its sleeve. and i don't know the status of familial relations circa Stendahl, but anything that would bring a father to have his daughter raped repeatedly whilst his camera leered couldn't be too healthy.

i suspect that DA enjoyed making Nonhosonno, as he once again revels in the filmic excesses that mark his most celebrated work. the camera hasn't been so untethered since Tenebre. the violence is meted out (mostly against women and effeminate men, of course) with grand guignol gusto that would have shocked even Fulci, yet it seems, god help us all, more playful than perverse. and all the lurid trappings - garish colors, overacting, Goblin! - are finally back in play. alas, they serve a screenplay that is the flimsiest of assemblages of giallo clichés. even in DA's able hands, it's such an incohesive clutter of nursery rhymes, childhood trauma, revenge, dreams, and fractured-identity psychobabble. still, viewed in the right spirit, it's a fun movie (barring its excessive length and wearying static stretches) - something we haven't been able to say about an Argento film in ages. no doubt, Argento has still got it. he stages one bravura sequence - the unrelenting pursuit of a train-bound victim-to-be - with merciless economy; the payoff to this bravura sequence is as horrifying as the murder that opens Irréversible. if nothing else, Nonhosonno suggests that it may be too early to dismiss the maestro as a has-been.

summerslastsound (summerslastsound), Monday, 5 May 2003 14:30 (nineteen years ago) link

Oh come on, stop being smart. We're on an English language forum so call a spade a spade. If you want to convert people to Argento then call the damn film 'Sleepless' and not Nonhosonno, as non-Argento fans are gonna be puzzled. Seriously, anyone can be a smarty fanboy and rake up the Italian names but it kinda grates for me (just my opinion). Anyway, in answer to what you said - I saw the Italian DVD of Sleepless and thought it was pants (the film and not the DVD, which was an outstanding widescreen transfer). A few points though...

"the camera hasn't been so untethered since Tenebre".

What what what? Did you see Opera?

"the violence is meted out (mostly against women and effeminate men, of course)"

Argento rarely preys on effeminate men. He's bisexual and effeminate himself for goodnessake! His portrayal of gay characters in 'Cat O Nine Tails', 'Four Flies on Grey Velvet' and 'Deep Red' was genuinely ahead of its time.

"with grand guignol gusto that would have shocked even Fulci"

No I would argue with this. I thought 'Sleepless' was the first Argento film where the misogyny was irrelevant to the narrative and it just left me feeling revolted. BUT even so it's a far tamer excercise than Fulci's 'New York Ripper' or his even more reprehensible 'Cat in the Brain'. Though Deodato is much worse than even Fulci when it comes to making misogynistic, 'tear em up' gore movies.

Calum, Monday, 5 May 2003 16:04 (nineteen years ago) link

Sleepless is NOT Nonhosonno and i'm surprised an Argento fan would so much as suggest otherwise!

summerslastsound (summerslastsound), Monday, 5 May 2003 17:01 (nineteen years ago) link

>What what what? Did you see Opera?

yes, for some reason Terror at the Opera slipped my mind (if we're going to use English titles... at least i was being consistent about it. hmph.) and Argento's half of Two Evil Eyes was spirited as well. but the camerawork has been pretty lackluster since.

>His portrayal of gay characters in 'Cat O Nine Tails', 'Four Flies >on Grey Velvet' and 'Deep Red' was genuinely ahead of its time

as simpering stereotypes and/or fragile, damaged souls. yeah, way ahead of "Will & Grace" or The Birdcage, maybe.

summerslastsound (summerslastsound), Monday, 5 May 2003 17:09 (nineteen years ago) link

It translates as 'I Can't Sleep' but the English title is Sleepless, which is why I said discuss the films with the English language titles as many postees on this thread have pointed out their unfamiliarity with Argento's films.

Opera was also the original English language title for Terror at the Opera and the title of the current release. Again, you are participating in a thread where you are trying to persuade people to watch Argento films. How are you going to do that when people don't know or can't locate the films you're talking about you dodo?

Stop being such an anorak.

Calum, Monday, 5 May 2003 17:11 (nineteen years ago) link

''Again, you are participating in a thread where you are trying to persuade people to watch Argento films''

no you're not!

In this thread we say either classic or dud to argento and give our reasons. more attacking and more defending plz.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Monday, 5 May 2003 17:26 (nineteen years ago) link

I wish I could participate more in this discussion but I've only seen Suspiria (loved it--amazing art direction & the always-creepy Jessica Harper) and the first ten minutes or so of Stendhal Syndrome which I couldn't really handle. Phenomenon's been highly reccomended to me. I really should check that out.

slutsky (slutsky), Monday, 5 May 2003 17:35 (nineteen years ago) link

come on calum - summerslastsound's first paragraph makes it quite clear which film is being discussed, and the next two specifically describe not only the way DA's personal history might be reflected in his working process, but also some of the giallo tropes you couldn't be bothered to go into. and "stop being so smart" is probably the worst suggestion i've read here yet.

jones (actual), Monday, 5 May 2003 17:53 (nineteen years ago) link

My opinion stands, people who have said on this thread that they are not familiar with Argento's work would benefit most from knowing the English titles rather than the original Italian titles.

And this was never a 'classic or dud' thread.

Calum, Monday, 5 May 2003 18:04 (nineteen years ago) link

he's right on that last one folks.

slutsky (slutsky), Monday, 5 May 2003 18:58 (nineteen years ago) link

summerslastssound's contribitions to this thread are perfectly easy to follow for argento newbies, calum, and interesting also

mark s (mark s), Monday, 5 May 2003 19:36 (nineteen years ago) link

Argento's portrayal of gay characters as:

"simpering stereotypes and/or fragile, damaged souls. yeah, way ahead of "Will & Grace" or The Birdcage, maybe."

Should I presume you'vee not seen 'Cat O Nine Tails' then?

And whilst the detective in Four Flies on Grey Velvet may be considered effete and even 'simpering', he is also brave and presented in a pivotal light to the story.

Calum, Monday, 5 May 2003 19:43 (nineteen years ago) link

Yes, as are Calum's.

Cozen (Cozen), Monday, 5 May 2003 19:44 (nineteen years ago) link

Yeah, this is a good thread. I'm still too squeamish to go out and rent one of his movies though. Is there an "Argento lite"?

amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 5 May 2003 21:50 (nineteen years ago) link

''And this was never a 'classic or dud' thread.''

fine but a lot is going to come down to that. but summer is still making a good arg.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Monday, 5 May 2003 21:51 (nineteen years ago) link

Argento-lite... hmm, try The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Cat O Nine Tails, Four Flies on Grey Velvet and Trauma (all in widescreen if possible, the diluting of their original scope frame kills them dead). He only really went hyper-violent with Deep Red onwards. I don't think his films are THAT nasty in today's world of Guinea Pig films and Faces of Death, or even such legal horrors as Salo and Henry (whilst the uncut Evil Dead is gorier than any of his movies).

Calum, Monday, 5 May 2003 23:27 (nineteen years ago) link

'Once Upon A Time in the West' - co-written by Bertolucci and a young Argento: the movie's S/T composed BEFORE the film was shot, so that the cast could hear it/respond to it while acting before the camera - a method taken up by Argento for his own flicks? One way of explaining the extraordinary synthesis of image/colour/sound - yer actual 'total cinema' - that Argento SOMETIMES pulls off (I'm thinking of the opening airport scene in 'Suspiria'), maybe. Also, the thumping S/T plays down the centrality of dialogue in favour of gesture, noise, body language, facial tics etc. - in part a way of avoiding the problems of dubbing? All the Argento flicks I've seen have been to a greater or lesser extent deformed by awful dubbing and over-literal, awkward-sounding translations: this is much more of a problem w/ Argento's plot-driven giallo mysteries (Deep Red, the Bird With Crystal Plumage, Tenebrae) than w/ the hallucinatory supernatural shockahs (Suspiria, Inferno).

Andrew L (Andrew L), Tuesday, 6 May 2003 09:09 (nineteen years ago) link

(What are Guinea Pig and Faces of Death?)

Cozen (Cozen), Tuesday, 6 May 2003 16:32 (nineteen years ago) link

(you don't wanna know)

slutsky (slutsky), Tuesday, 6 May 2003 17:06 (nineteen years ago) link

two years pass...
I'm no horror maven (I was a squeamish kid and thus got a late start), so I'd only seen Suspiria before I watched the Deep Red DVD last night. While it has many loopy and marvelous visual pyrotechnics (the mega-closeups on the killer's playthings/calling cards, the aforementioned dwarf puppet), man, those comedic interludes with Hemmings and the journalist are just endless. (And I did see the face in the mirror right after the parapsychologist's murder -- was it really so tough to?)

I'll be seeing more, but while I don't dismiss the horror genre's weight out of hand (certainly not prime Cronenberg -- or James Whale), DA's approach doesn't grab me so far.


And while the queer isn't the killer, he certainly gets the juiciest, most dragged-out (so to speak) demise.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 27 January 2006 20:46 (seventeen years ago) link

"the scene in Deep Red when the midget murder doll warbles thru the door is one of the most disturbing things i've seen on film".


Oh Hell yes! Talk about totally unprepared-for. It took me weeks to recover from that, there's a very similar scene in Communion, does anyone recall? That shit me up too.

mzui (mzui), Tuesday, 31 January 2006 14:21 (sixteen years ago) link

Maybe cuz I saw it on TV, but my only reaction to that shot was an admiring laugh.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 31 January 2006 15:32 (sixteen years ago) link

seven years pass...

I just finished Opera and good lord what a corny, sloppy film!

queen bey backers (Stevie D(eux)), Friday, 27 December 2013 02:55 (nine years ago) link

I mean the kill scenes were OK enough but the plot had crater-sized holes, several of them, and the way the characters (and the actors) acted generally made no fucking sense. Also, dude gets his eye pecked out and is just like "eh whatever nbd"

queen bey backers (Stevie D(eux)), Friday, 27 December 2013 02:58 (nine years ago) link

"the plot had crater-sized holes" - welcome to gialli!
"the way the characters (and the actors) acted generally made no fucking sense" - welcome to gialli!

But no, I'm kind of ambivalent about Opera myself. I think there are some classic Argento set-pieces in there, but it's not as consistent as it could be. I also remember finding the kill scene soundtracking pretty rubbish, but apparently the soundtrack is by Eno and Simonetti, which should be great...

emil.y, Saturday, 28 December 2013 01:41 (nine years ago) link

I dreamed I saw Argento's latest and it was, by some miracle, not the worst movie ever made. I think I'll keep that rather than watch the movie itself.

Alfre, Lord Woodard (Eric H.), Saturday, 28 December 2013 02:13 (nine years ago) link

xp no but I liked "Deep Red" v much and I thought it was much more engaging and interesting and not as awful, same with "Bird with the Crystal Plumage"

queen bey backers (Stevie D(eux)), Saturday, 28 December 2013 03:58 (nine years ago) link

Hey Eric:


CAROUSEL! CAROUSEL! (Telephone thing), Monday, 30 December 2013 04:47 (nine years ago) link

And Stevie, have you seen Tenebre or Phenomena yet?

CAROUSEL! CAROUSEL! (Telephone thing), Monday, 30 December 2013 04:48 (nine years ago) link

Oh. My. God.

Alfre, Lord Woodard (Eric H.), Monday, 30 December 2013 05:04 (nine years ago) link

Rewatched Phenomena the Halloween before last and assigned it a slight downgrade, which was a bummer given it has a [spoiler]-wielding [spoiler] who comes to the rescue in the last minute.

Alfre, Lord Woodard (Eric H.), Monday, 30 December 2013 05:05 (nine years ago) link

Tenebre, tho, remains a f'n masterpiece.

Alfre, Lord Woodard (Eric H.), Monday, 30 December 2013 05:06 (nine years ago) link

xps no but this guy I rly like told me to watch both of them so

queen bey backers (Stevie D(eux)), Monday, 30 December 2013 05:47 (nine years ago) link

General consensus seems to be that OPERA was Argento's last great film, so I wldn't step much further into the wreckage of the last two decades, tho' STENDAHL SYNDROME and SLEEPLESS both have their moments/adherents. But Eric OTM abt Tenebrae.

Ward Fowler, Monday, 30 December 2013 12:38 (nine years ago) link

There are other good ones, hell, other great ones, but really if you're new to Argento what you want is Suspiria - Profondo Rosso - Tenebrae. Can't fuck with those three.

emil.y, Monday, 30 December 2013 12:57 (nine years ago) link

Suspiria is the one everyone can love. Tenebre is the one that will let you know if you're all-in on Argento or if you should probably just get out while the getting's good.

Alfre, Lord Woodard (Eric H.), Monday, 30 December 2013 13:03 (nine years ago) link

I've seen Suspiria, Deep Red, and Bird with the Crystal Plumage (and now Opera)

queen bey backers (Stevie D(eux)), Monday, 30 December 2013 13:50 (nine years ago) link

Inferno a must-see, too. It's honestly kind of awful, but in between the lost-in-translation weirdness ("cake factory" wtf), bizarre setpieces (the hot dog guy) and sub-Goblin soundtrack, there are brilliant moments like the underwater ballroom and a big gooey chunk of Keith Emerson cheese during the climax:


It's no Goblin/Simonetti, but it's like a distant cousin of Morricone's "Magic and Ecstasy"...

CAROUSEL! CAROUSEL! (Telephone thing), Tuesday, 31 December 2013 19:50 (nine years ago) link

IS. Inferno IS a must-see. Movie good, watch with eyes, *grunt*

CAROUSEL! CAROUSEL! (Telephone thing), Tuesday, 31 December 2013 19:51 (nine years ago) link

I actually love the Emerson score nearly as much as Goblin's for Suspiria.

Alfre, Lord Woodard (Eric H.), Tuesday, 31 December 2013 19:57 (nine years ago) link

So do i. It's my second favourite Argento film and the OTT synth-prog score definitely heightens the hysterical feel.

Ramnaresh Samhain (ShariVari), Tuesday, 31 December 2013 20:17 (nine years ago) link

I love the synth oscillations at the first long-shot reveal of the Varelli building early on.

Alfre, Lord Woodard (Eric H.), Tuesday, 31 December 2013 20:19 (nine years ago) link

three months pass...

I put off sampling Argento this long on the grounds that I'm not a big horror/slasher watcher, but I finally gave Tenebre a whirl at a colleague's urging and, yeah, it's pretty terrific. I'm willing to subscribe to the "dream logic" reading of his films offered upthread; as a plot, the film makes very little sense and is filled with all sorts of "huh?!" moments even if you take it at face value (eg. why does a certain character even carry a fake knife?), so it is best to just read the whole thing as an elaborate and occasionally inexplicable (the doberman--wtf?) nightmare. Comparisons to De Palma are spot on--like "classic era" De Palma, Argento is clearly in love with filmmaking. The famous POV shot outside of the apartment building, for example; it makes no logical sense whatsoever, but it's just absolutely beautiful cinema, you know? Ditto the extended dream sequence on the beach--a lesser filmmaker would have used such a sequence purely for exposition (if they even used it at all), but Argento allows it to exist as this puzzling, erotic and eventually shocking little self-contained moment. A much smaller moment, when a character, leaving a room, pauses to offer a fleeting glance into...the empty room? the camera? the audience? was so startling and unexpected that I couldn't help rewinding the disc and watching the scene twice more.

So, what should be next? Deep Red? Suspiria? The Bird with the Crystal Plumage?

Inside Lewellyn Sinclair (cryptosicko), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 17:33 (eight years ago) link

Deep Red is incredible

christmas candy bar (al leong), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 17:35 (eight years ago) link

Deep Red is yr classic giallo. Suspiria and Inferno are more dreamlike. Watch them all!

Yuri Bashment (ShariVari), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 18:15 (eight years ago) link

And then eventually enjoy Opera, which is sort of the most crowd-pleasing synthesis of them all and undoubtedly the last great movie he made.

Eric H., Tuesday, 1 April 2014 18:24 (eight years ago) link

> So, what should be next? Deep Red? Suspiria? The Bird with the Crystal Plumage?

yes. all of those. they are probably Bird, Red, Suspiria in order of gore, with Suspiria being the bloodiest.

koogs, Tuesday, 1 April 2014 18:58 (eight years ago) link

two months pass...

A friend of mine got Argento to sign her ass and she got it tattooed:


goth colouring book (anagram), Thursday, 26 June 2014 20:56 (eight years ago) link

two months pass...

any one else prefers inferno over suspiria? i like how it jettisons plot and central character in favor of people just wandering around brightly colored sets and getting brutally murdered.

nauru, Saturday, 13 September 2014 18:23 (eight years ago) link

Difficult. Score obviously strong argument for Suspiria. In terms of setting Suspiria's Schwarzwald/Hofbräuhaus/Königsplatz/Munich backdrop also has a clear advantage over the rather nondescript location of the house (was it Rome?) in Inferno, even considering the beautiful underwater scene in the latter.
But iirc the showdown in Inferno is a rather hilariously bonkers and unexpectedly arriving letdown compared to the just dull letdown of a finish of Suspiria and the story up to this point has lost all coherence anyway and is more Horror Jazz than actual narrative, so yeah: Inferno.

the european nikon is here (grauschleier), Tuesday, 16 September 2014 20:31 (eight years ago) link

It's NYC in Inferno- there's even a scene set (allegedly, anyway) in Central Park. Probably shot in Rome, of course, Cinecitta or somewhere.

You guys are caterpillar (Telephone thing), Wednesday, 17 September 2014 03:13 (eight years ago) link

it was actually filmed on location, mario bava did some special effects for that scene.

nauru, Wednesday, 17 September 2014 16:39 (eight years ago) link

Inferno is prob the more effective movie overall - it really sustains that dreamlike mood throughout - while the last third of Suspiria is a bit baggy. But the opening twenty minutes or so of Suspiria has to be Argento's greatest work, a hysterical symphony of colour, music, performance, editing, decor, all of it pitched at maximum intensity.

For many years the cat-eating-rat shot in Inferno was censored, one of the BBFC's dumber animal cruelty cuts.

sʌxihɔːl (Ward Fowler), Thursday, 18 September 2014 07:42 (eight years ago) link

Just finished Tenebrae per Telephone Thing's recommendation.

All the things I picked apart Opera for up thread also ring true here but the difference is that Opera was a really boring film and Tenebrae was not.

I really do hate the dubbed dialogue, though. Like soooo much.

rad het chilly poppers (Stevie D(eux)), Monday, 29 September 2014 03:54 (eight years ago) link

though "Turn it DOWN!!! RRGGHHHH *HUFF* *HUFF*" was p wonderful

rad het chilly poppers (Stevie D(eux)), Monday, 29 September 2014 03:56 (eight years ago) link

two years pass...

Just a heads up: a very limited edition blu-ray of a restored Suspiria is up for preorder as of today, and if the response is any indicator it won't be available for long (as I keep learning the hard way with these limited edition releases). It looks pretty fantastic (screenshots behind the link):


Always Be Cropdusting (Old Lunch), Saturday, 26 August 2017 01:52 (five years ago) link

^ region 1

koogs, Saturday, 26 August 2017 05:00 (five years ago) link

two years pass...

I’ve been working my way through Argento, have seen Deep Red, Suspiria, Inferno, and Tenebrae so far. Suspiria is my favorite, but I only watched it after seeing Guadagnino’s version, which I also really loved, even more I think. They are related but are very different films

Dan S, Sunday, 23 February 2020 02:12 (two years ago) link

six months pass...

Deep Red was so great. Tenebrae kept me up at night.

i'm loving digging through these now

Neanderthal, Monday, 14 September 2020 04:16 (two years ago) link

Deep Red just really makes me appreciate how good his visuals are. the entire scene of chiseling open the hidden window at the abandoned house and the reveal of the artwork on the wall in the house and it's sudden reveal of a missing piece are marvelous.

Neanderthal, Tuesday, 15 September 2020 03:10 (two years ago) link

I enjoyed Bird with the Crystal Plumage. excellent framing, not quite the heights of Deep Red, and a few draggy bits, but....whoknew I liked giallo after all

Neanderthal, Tuesday, 15 September 2020 04:59 (two years ago) link

one month passes...

Phenomena is so awesome. I love how Jennifer Connelly manages to clean all the maggots and bile off her with that one errant fresh water pipe. All the stuff with the "infinite doorway visions" toward the beginning were incredible.

is Creepers different enough to be worth watching?

flappy bird, Sunday, 1 November 2020 04:21 (two years ago) link

that film had real potential, but I couldn't get past the bad acting

Dan S, Tuesday, 3 November 2020 01:46 (two years ago) link

referring to Phenomena

Dan S, Tuesday, 3 November 2020 01:49 (two years ago) link

I didn't hate Phenomena, but I watched it with an astute friend who thought it was entertaining but awful, and that affected my opinion.

I most liked Suspiria and Deep Red. Tenebrae and Inferno were also interesting but not as good.

There were diminishing returns for me after that

Dan S, Tuesday, 3 November 2020 02:02 (two years ago) link

four months pass...

This is not about Argento but there's no all-purpose giallo thread:

I LOVE Italian genre cinema of the 60's and 70's. Love the politics, clothes, design, the anything goes vibe and of course the soundtracks.

However, I am no good at dealing with gore and particularly violence against women in films, so have ignored the giallo genre while delving deep into spaghetti western and poliziotteschi.

So my question is, anyone know of any good efforts in the genre that lean more towards mystery or (even better) conspiracy thriller rather than the gore/horror side?

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 16 March 2021 16:28 (one year ago) link

You might well favour the adjacent Poliziotteschi genre - essentially, Italian cop thrillers of the 1970s. These movies share some of the same DNA with Giallo - including not only a similar sense of seventies style but also, it has to be admitted, some fairly unreconstructed sexual politics and brutal violence - but with a greater emphasis on crime, corruption and politics (again, often of a pretty reactionary, all crims are scum kind). Some of Morricone's best 70s soundtrack work was done for Poliziotteschi.


Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 16 March 2021 16:40 (one year ago) link

I've watched tons of poliziotteschi, as per the previous post. :) "Milano Calibro 9" (smart) and "Street Law" (stoopid) are my faves.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 16 March 2021 16:42 (one year ago) link

Oops yes.

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 16 March 2021 16:46 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

Saw him tonight introducing The Bird with the Crystal Plumage at Lincoln Center. It really is quite impressive as a first feature. The editing, which he hand-waved away in the Q&A (basically saying he edits when he shoots), is remarkably tight and good. Few if any contemporary directors would have the courage to edit like that. Was also struck for the first time by the humor in his writing… something that a large audience reminds you of when you hear the laughter in the room.

Josefa, Saturday, 18 June 2022 05:16 (seven months ago) link

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