Saturday, 2 September 2017

Hello readers, it's been a while since I've last updated the blog so I've decided to write a bit of an update to explain where I'm at with my writing and why I've been absent from here and Twitter for a while now. I hope it explains why there's been a lack of new content and I really, really hope my loyal readers and followers understand why I've been absent from here. Sorry if I don't explain this very well but I thought I needed to give an explanation for the lull so you don't all think I've given up or can't be bothered anymore.

So where am I at? I've tweeted a few times about working on a few pieces for the blog and this is true. I've been managing to get some writing done here and there and I've been editing some old pieces that are near completion and sitting in my drafts. Currently, I have blogger drafts in the three figures so I can assure you that I've been true to my word and have been working on all of the things I've said I've been. However, at the moment I really feel like I'm losing sight of my passion which has made writing difficult. I don't want to go into my personal circumstances because, let's be honest, nobody really cares about that but what I will say is that I've been going through some personal troubles which means some days I'm unable to find the motivation to do anything. As pathetic as it sounds, even just managing to garner enough interest to watch a film feels like a personal achievement (and if we're going all confessional getting out of bed some days can be a daunting task). It's hard when your state of mind prevents you from really enjoying anything or being able to engage with the things you love and it's especially hard when you know you're capable but can't quite get there. I guess what I'm trying to get across is that I really want to be able to write about the films I love but my head space isn't always in a place where I can do that (I realise I sound like the biggest loser right now!) Writing makes me feel like I have something to contribute (even if it is overly analytical pieces on Italian horror) so when I can't get there it feels like I'm really failing!

I've been delighted to help other people in the community and it's great discussing films and other people's projects with them but I find it frustrating sometimes due to my inability to tackle my own work. Sometimes it's easier to shy away from the community because it's a reminder of my own failings and I start to put pressure on myself to complete something and I get myself all worked up about it which makes things worse. If I don't reply to you/message you back/engage with your content I'm really sorry. I feel terribly guilty about missing what other people are up to and please, if you do have something you want me to read message me! I promise I will get to it in the end.

My biggest issue in all facets of my life is having low self esteem and when I'm in a place like the one I'm at now I tend to become ultra self critical so when I do manage to write, I constantly delete good material because in my mind, everything I do is rubbish. I have an article on Midnight Ripper which is so close to being complete yet every sentence I now write gets thrown out by me for being shit. In reality it's probably not that bad! Obviously, I need to learn to be less self critical and I've been coming on a bit the last few weeks - a great support network of friends and family have helped me tackle this issue and a really rough time in my life and I'm starting to feel like I can write again (maybe!) A special thanks to my Twitter pal Signor Wardh for checking up on me and giving me some decent advice!

I've wanted to have a blog dedicated to gialli since I was 17 and I never could have imagined that I would have a readership and people that want to read my perspective. It blows me away and I want to emphasise how grateful I am to everyone that takes the time to read my work, reply to my questions on Twitter or retweet/favourite my photo sets. I should take stock of what I have achieved like contributing to Arrow's release on Phenomena - who would have thought I'd be included in a release of one of my favourite directors? I'm always going to be annoyed at my lack of self confidence and the things it prevents me from doing. I think a lot about all the articles, projects and podcasts I might have done with a bit of self love. However, as things stand, I'm just grateful that people still follow me and enjoy my content. I promise I'll get there but thank you for understanding  (I hope!) as to why I need a little time to work on my issues.


Obsession: A Taste for Fear (1988)

Friday, 2 June 2017

Also Known As: Pathos - Segreta inquietudine
Directed By: Piccio Raffanini
Starring: Virginia Hey, Gerard Darmon, Gioia Scola
Release Date: 1988
Country of Origin: Italy

Note: This review contains spoilers

The first time I sat down to watch Obsession: A Taste for Fear, I was admittedly skeptical. I always approach gialli from the eighties with a certain amount of trepidation due to their lower budgets and shoddier feel however, there was something about Obsession: A Taste for Fear's (aka Pathos) poster that compelled me to give it a watch. With its artistic poses of bronze and blue naked bodies set against a background of eighties video monitors the film peaked my stylistic sensibilities and, thankfully, the stylised artwork for the film was indeed indicative of the film itself. Over the next hour and a half I embarked on a mesmerising albeit bonkers journey through the futuristic, gloriously eighties world of Obsession: A Taste for Fear and I can safely say that it's now fast becoming one of my go to watches when I want to watch a later period giallo.

Obsession: A Taste for Fear wastes no time in commanding your attention, opening with a punchy, sexually savage scene that has you on the edge of your seat before just as quickly revealing that the violent events on screen are in fact part of a staged photoshoot. The film then introduces us to the main protagonist of the film - Diane, a hard nosed Australian photographer who makes a living from shooting sordid erotic scenes. She is flanked by her talented video engineer Paul and gorgeous model/assistant/live in lover Valerie. Things are going well for the trio until Diane's ex-husband, pornographer Georges, gets in touch requesting her attendance at one of his famously debauched parties. Diane obliges and goes to Georges, despite her better judgement, setting off a chain of events that dramatically change her life.

Violent delights have violent ends
Pornographer Georges is desperate to secure funding for his latest project, a 250ft television installation that showcases his erotic film work, so he asks Diane to help him by seducing beer tycoon and wealthy businessman, Franz Kanneman. Georges agrees to hook Diane up with party reveller and bodybuilder, Teagen in exchange for her help but lingering feelings and sexual jealousy abound as Diane tries to help her ex-husband whilst balancing her work life alongside her sexual proclivities. Not long after bedding Teagan and casting her as the main model in her latest project, Diane is paid a visit by no nonsense cop Lieutenant Arnold informing her (and Teagan's girlfriend) that Teagan's body has been discovered in a dumpster. Arnold has been assigned the case and its up to him to find Teagan's killer. Shortly after Arnold's visit, Diane receives a disk containing a chilling video of her new lover's murder in an elaborate S&M themed snuff video reminiscent of her ex-husband's work. Lieutenant Arnold picks up on this and immediately suspects Georges as the killer but the only problem with his theory is that the video clearly shows the killer to be a red headed woman. As the body count starts to rise it's up to Lieutenant Arnold and Diane to work together to find out the killer's true identity before they strike again.

The only cinematic entry of director Piccio Raffanini, Pathos is a surprisingly well crafted, atmospheric film dripping with eighties style. The film's plot is fairly run of the mill in gialli terms and the killer should be fairly obvious to those familiar with the genre and its tropes but overall, the plot and the killer make sense which, when it comes to gialli, is a blessing. What's perhaps most interesting about the film is not the core plot itself but the various details that Raffanini peppers throughout the movie, in particular the way in which he creates the subtle futuristic setting. It's a shame that Raffanini didn't get a chance to make a follow up to Pathos because the film showed plenty of talent and creativity. Prior to directing Pathos, Raffanini was involved in directing advertisements which somewhat explains the overtly stylised, music video approach he takes in his self penned film.

As par the course with films from this decade, there's more sex and nudity than your average giallo. There's a strong bondage, S&M theme throughout the film with Diane and Georges' using these ideas in their art. At one point the characters visit a bondage club appropriately called The Agony and the Ecstasy which feels like a more watered down version of the fabulous S&M club featured in the video for Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Fans of violence will be no doubt disappointed by the film which is light on gore bar a few quick shots of slashing. The hyper sexualised futuristic world is admittedly compelling but feels a world away from the giallo of the early 1970s. Sex is very much the emphasis of this film which is a real shame because it would have been a far more effective and satisfying watch with more of an emphasis on stylised kills. Your appreciation of Obsession: A Taste for Fear will depend on your tolerance for eighties style softcore at the expense of more traditional thriller elements.

One of Obsession: A Taste for Fears drawbacks is its admittedly lacklustre main protagonists and I'd partly attribute the film's failings to Virginia Hey's role as Diane. Hey's character comes across as abrasive and morally scrupulous with little compassion towards the people around her. She has an air of unlikability that makes it hard to root for her character. Lt. Arnold is a dull male protagonist who doesn't appear to have any notable attributes. I get the impression that Raffanini was trying to make him into the sort of calm, collected, chiselled hero but it just doesn't work due to his complete lack of screen presence and personality. Luckily, the supporting cast make up somewhat for the failings of the leads. Gerard Darmon (Betty Blue, Diva) as ex-husband Georges resembles a sleazy cross between Al Pacino and George Hilton. Gioia Scola shines in her role as Valerie and Carlo Mucari as Paul (who is strangely not credited in the film) does a good job of balancing the role of devoted employee and deranged maniac. The film's use of cameos in Australian body builder Teagan Morrison and Kid Creole as a seedy bookmaker helps to flesh out the surreal world of Obsession by filling it with a cast of eclectic characters.

"Give me a trial print out later"

Obsession: A Taste for Fear reminds me of films like The Eyes of Laura Mars and The Neon Demon which touch upon the idea of art imitating life and vice versa. This leads to some interesting ideas about complicity and distance and the blurring of the lines between fiction and reality. In Obsession: A Taste for Fear we are often watching events unfold on a video monitor with the murders staged in a fanciful way resembling the work of Georges and Diane which makes us, the audience, question if the events on screen are really happening. When we discover the true identity of the killer, we understand that his knowledge of Georges and Diane's work has allowed him to manipulate events allowing him to create his own twisted artistic vision in order to impress the object of his affections. This makes the viewer question Paul's grip on reality and if his constant subjection to the pornographic, sadomasochistic nature of Diane and Georges' work has had some sort of psychological impact on his person. Pathos doesn't answer this question and it's more than likely that Raffanini uses pornography and erotica to titillate the viewer rather than to pose meaningful questions about its effects however, it's something to bare thinking about and this analysis fits quite nicely into the themes of the film.

Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill (1980) was clearly a source of inspiration in Raffanini's offering due to the killer obscuring his true identity by dressing as the opposite sex. Watching through modern eyes the film feels a bit problematic in its approach to the character of Paul. His motivation for dressing as a woman is never fully explained and as such, feels like a cheap way of distracting the viewer from an obvious suspect. Unlike De Palma's controversial 1980 film, Pathos does little to explore Paul's character and the psychological reasoning behind his actions. Whether Paul dressed as a woman purely to evade capture or due to genuine gender dysphoria we'll never know but it does feel slightly exploitative in its use of a character adopting another gender identity.

The killer is revealed

If you look at reviews for Pathos and the majority of Italian thrillers made in the 1980s and 1990s you'll see the same phrase used time and time again "It looks like a made for TV movie". Although this is a valid observation for the majority of films made throughout this period, it's a blanket statement that often flat out disregards the cinematography of films from this time period. Yes, the majority of these films look worse than their sixties and seventies counterparts but they often have a great deal going for them and shouldn't be dismissed outright for having a slightly cheaper feel. It might come as a surprise to some to learn that Obsession: A Taste for Fear's cinematographer was Romano Albani who is best known for his work on Dario Argento's Inferno (1980) and Phenomena (1985). Albani's panache for stylish visuals is evident throughout Pathos and the film features some creative shots and compositions that elevate the film above cheap eighties fare. Raffanini's directing style coupled with Albani's artistry makes for a giallo like no other. It's a real shame that the bootleg copies of the film in circulation are of a fairly poor quality as the visuals would really shine through a cleaned up print and would perhaps lend the film to reassessment from hardened fans of the genre.

Choose your outfit

What perhaps fascinates me the most about the film is Pathos' obsession with new technologies. From video monitors to mobile phones to computerised outfit selectors (predating Heckerling's Clueless by 8 years), A Taste for Fear revels in its futuristic eighties setting. Initially I was under the impression that the events took place in the year the film was made, 1988, but after a car chase scene that culminates in Lt. Arnold shooting a laser gun I realised that Pathos is clearly meant to take place in the not so distant future. Surprisingly, this strange futuristic universe really works for the film and sets it apart from your standard eighties giallo. One of the film's strengths is its ability to immerse the viewer in the bizarre world the events take place in. Although the eighties technology may seem outdated to some, it holds a certain appeal in the present day where millennials are harking back to the era of VHS. With 1980s technology very much in de rigueur, Pathos is a fascinating look into an era of forgotten technology that aligns with modern sensibilities for the world prior to the new information age.

Car design enthusiasts may be intrigued by the car that Diane drives throughout the film. The car, known as the Machimoto was a prototype designed by famous Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro as part of Italdesign in 1986. The Machimoto could best be described as a cross between a car and a motorbike and could extend to seat up to 8 passengers. The use of Giugiaro's prototype fits the futuristic, technologically obsessed film perfectly feeling reminiscent of the futuristic car used in A Clockwork Orange, the Durango '95 aka the M-505 Adams Brothers Probe 16 which also perfectly encapsulated a time in the not so distant future.

The Machimoto (1986)

What struck me whilst I was watching Obsession: A Taste for Fear was its distinctive style which at times appears to fall into that sort of vapourwave aesthetic that has emerged within the last decade. In particular, the design of the apartments, studios and clubs which wouldn't feel out of place on a tumblr page dedicated to a particular subset of eighties design. Romanesque statues surrounded by postmodern decor cast in neon lighting and juxtaposed with 1980s technology really heightens this feel and it makes the film feel, dare I say it, positively contemporary at times. Undoubtedly, with the film's abundance of coloured gel lighting, it would be too easy (or perhaps lazy) to equate the film's purple, blue and red lights with the earlier work of Argento and Bava. Instead Pathos seems to take this influence and combine it with the excessive music video influenced style of the decade and turns it into something far removed from the likes of Blood and Black Lace and Suspiria.

Vapourwave, postmodern aesthetics

What's perhaps most interesting is that for all the comparisons made between the gialli of the classic period and the later gialli of the 1980s, it's the latter that seem to have more in common with the neo-gialli of today. With their overuse of lighting gels and neon, obsession with technology and reliance on popular music instead of composed film scores your average neo giallo feels more like the evolution of a film like Pathos than a tribute to the likes of Martino and Lenzi's work from the seventies. Perhaps those obsessed with the typical style of the neo giallo should check out Raffafini's sole cinematic entry as it at times feels like a blueprint for a more modern interpretation of the genre.

If, like me, you have a proclivity for interior design from the late eighties then you won't be disappointed with the film's set design. Walls made of glass cubes, triangular motifs and textiles comprised of geometric shapes punctuate the various scenes throughout the film. One particularly interesting piece of design in the film is the elaborate chair in Diane's apartment - an example of one of Alessandro Mendini's famous Proust armchairs from 1978, a landmark of postmodern design that would become highly influential in the 1980s. The interior design admittedly feels very much of its time viewed through modern eyes but its distinct look will be sure to resonate with fans of eighties design and cinema.

Alessandro Mendini's Proust chair (1978)

Now there are several reasons as to why the gialli of the 1980s are considered to be weak compared to their 1970s counterparts, one factor which is often cited is the move away from the extravagant fashions and set design to a more stripped back minimalistic style which culminated in the late eighties and early 1990s.  One of the most celebrated aspects of classic period gialli is the pop art approach to interior design and costuming. The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh is a fantastic example of this sort of modernist design with its clashing colours in shades of greens, oranges and blues, abundance of patterns and tendency to use futuristic space inspired motifs. These designs are key examples of the stylistic tropes of the genre and are at odds with later period gialli. The period of the eighties that Obsession: A Taste for Fear was made in is often characterised by minimalist interiors ala Patrick Bateman's apartment in American Psycho. This style is very much evident in Pathos with the characters moving between sparse industrial loft style spaces echoing the hollow vacuous lives of the characters. This stark, postmodern design style is arguably the antithesis of what the giallo is to many and as such, is often regarded as a negative when it comes to later period gialli with Dario Argento's Tenebrae acting as the only notable exception. As stated above, your enjoyment of the film will really depend on your aesthetic sensibilities and patience for sex driven thrillers but for those with a mild interest in cinematic design there's plenty on offer throughout the film.

To digress slightly, films that I never thought would see the light of day on Blu-Ray seem to defy the odds and are picked up for release in glorious HD. This is fantastic for fans of Italian genre cinema but it also highlights an increasingly frustrating subset of the fandom. Time and time again I'm seeing fans of genre cinema dismiss titles that aren't available via a slick Blu-Ray presentation. Admittedly, I do get frustrated having to watch titles like Obsession: A Taste for Fear via poor quality presentations but I truly believe it's important to put your distaste for pan and scan VHS rips aside and embrace some of the more obscure titles that aren't available via official channels. Granted, Pathos isn't for everyone especially those with a distaste for the Italian thrillers of the 1980s but I for one, would rather watch this film in murky quality than not at all. I understand the argument that a low-grade image can somewhat spoil your enjoyment of a film but so long as you can make most of a film out I fail to see how it can radically alter your overall opinion of the film itself. Holding out for remastered HD releases that may never come seems a little sad when you could still be enjoying a great film albeit in poorer quality. Perhaps, I'm just all too aware of how difficult some of these films were to come by before Arrow, Shameless, 88 Films etc came to prominence and that's coming from a child of the 1990s. To paraphrase my Twitter friend Blazing Magnums, sometimes an nth generation copy has a certain appeal in a way that a HD version can't quite match.

For those with a fondness for gialli from the 1980s and the fashion models in peril trope of Italian horror cinema, Obsession: A Taste for Fear is sure to satisfy. Giallo purists may balk at this 1980s offering as it has far more in common with the erotic thrillers of the 1990s than the classic period of the genre, but for fans who are a little bit more open minded when it comes to Italian thrillers post the 1970s, Pathos offers a more modern take on the genre akin to the neo gialli of today. Those looking for an ultra violent thriller will be left disappointed but for fans of the genre that place style above slashings, Obsession is a satisfying albeit slightly baffling watch.

If you'd like to watch Obsession: A Taste for Fear the film is currently available to view on YouTube and can be found here.

Screengrabs: The Sect (1991)

Friday, 17 February 2017

These screen grabs have been taken from the 2016 Blu-Ray release of The Sect from Shameless Films.

Trussardi Action X Dario Argento

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

A little known fact about Dario Argento is that in-between directing 1985's Phenomena and 1987's Opera, the Italian horror maestro took a foray into the world of fashion, directing a catwalk show for Italian fashion house, Trussardi in 1986. Fans of Argento may be already familiar with the director's long standing relationship with the fashion world. In 1985 Argento worked with legendary Italian fashion designer, Giorgio Armani on his supernatural horror Phenomena which showcased many of the designer's famed mid eighties styles. As well as his work with Armani on Phenomena, Argento's films have featured costumes, jewellery and accessories from major players in the Italian fashion industry such as Bulgari and Fendi. As I've argued many times on this very blog, fashion is an intrinsic element of Argento's films, heightening the stylised nature of his cinema and underpinning key themes throughout his work. It's hard to think of Suspiria without recalling the gauzy ethereal fashions or the stark white colour palette used in the wardrobe of Tenebrae. Therefore it should be of no real surprise that Argento would extend his talents to directing a catwalk show for a contemporary Italian fashion house.

Initially established in 1911 by Dante Trussardi, Trussardi began life as a small company manufacturing leather gloves. When Dante Trussardi died in a tragic hunting accident in 1970, his nephew Nicola Trussardi took over the business and the fashion house soon began producing a range of leather goods from handbags to shoes and wallets. The company expanded once again in the 1980s launching ready to wear collections for both men and women in 1983 and 1984. After the success of his ready to wear lines, Trussardi launched a new line called Trussardi Action in the mid 1980s. The Trussardi Action line was to be a modern, ready to wear line featuring fashions for both men and women. As of the fashion at the time, many of the pieces could be worn by either men or women as evidenced in the abundance of oversized tailoring worn by the female models. This was an age in Italian fashion with a heavy emphasis on a utilitarian look that moved away from the prissy, overtly feminine styles of the previous decades. Arguably, this was a time where women's fashion heavily mirrored male fashion and vice versa. The Trussardi Action line's colour palette also reflected this change in style with dark colours such as blacks and greys being the prominent colours in the collection with the occasional pop of yellow and blue in the more sports like items of the line.

Trussardi had previous ties to the theatrical world collaborating on a performance of Macbeth with Giorgio Strehler and the Piccolo Theatre of Milan that took place in the Roman forum of Verona in the early 1980s. Nicola Trussardi's theatrical aesthetic and approach to fashion perfectly mirrored Argento's own vision which made them a natural fit for a creative collaboration. Nicola Trussardi approached Dario Argento to direct the Trussardi Autumn/Winter 1986-87 fashion show for Trussardi Action in 1985 and the two worked together in the coming months to create a contemporary show that showcased Argento's visceral style alongside Trussardi's new collection. The show was held at Castello Sforzesco in Piazza del Cannone, Milan and took place on the 9th of March 1986.

The show has a real theatrical feel embodying Argento's style and attention to detail. At times the fashion show plays out like a film with models acting out various scenarios. The show starts off with the stage dressed like a nightclub with models dancing across the runway under neon lights. In another segment a group of female models argue with a male model as they walk down the catwalk, forming a circular group at the bottom of the runway where they push each other and squabble before returning up the catwalk. In classic Dario Argento style, murder and mayhem were incorporated into the show with a pair of mysterious assailants murdering a model on the catwalk early on in the show. After the model is stabbed to death, a group of male models bundle her up into a polythene sheet and roll her off the catwalk. Even now, the show challenges your ideas of what a fashion show is supposed to look like - it has a narrative, inventive use of props and a real sense of a story. Nowadays we're used to the more outlandish shows of designers like Chanel, Alexander McQueen and Louis Vuitton but back in the 1980s this was a very innovative fashion show - in particular the staging of a murder.

Black gloves are a major focus throughout the show and several models wear them as part of their ensembles. There are several times throughout the show that the camera lingers on a black gloved cladded model and at one point in the show, the models take off the gloves one by one with the camera focusing in on each hand. The use of black leather gloves feel like a fitting tribute to Argento's own body of work whilst also referencing Trussardi's humble beginnings manufacturing leather gloves. The inclusion and focus of Trussardi's leather gloves feels like the perfect marriage between the director and the fashion house as gloves are an intrinsic part of both of their brands.

Argento is well known as an animal lover and animals have featured throughout his back catalogue from the birds in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Opera to Inga the monkey in Phenomena and the cats in Inferno. It feels fitting that Argento references his love of animals in the Trussardi fashion show by incorporating a dog and a cat into the show. A male model walks with a cat whereas earlier in the show a female model in a blue trench coat holds a small dog as she walks down the catwalk. Its touches like this that make the Trussardi show feel like an exercise in performance art, giving the show a strange surreal edge. Why are the models walking with animals? What is the purpose? The inclusion of animals plays very much into Argento's famed dream logic as seen in his forays into supernatural horror.

Weather and the elements are an important part of Argento's show and rain and wind effects are used throughout to heighten the cinematic feel of the production. What I found interesting about the show is that in Argento's subsequent film, 1987's Opera, he uses wind machines in his fictional take on Verdi's Macbeth. Perhaps he took this idea from the fashion show or perhaps he had intended to use wind machines in his failed take on the opera prior to his involvement with Trussardi. The use of the wind machines works well as a concept as it looks great in terms of staging and theatrics but it also showcases the movement of the fabrics, complimenting Trussardi's clothing line.

The last segment of the show draws parallels with Argento's Tenebrae as well as his 1977 supernatural horror, Suspiria. Before this segment starts, golden reddish lights that resemble cat eyes flicker behind the panelled doors in the darkness in a moment that feels reminiscent of the scene in Pat's apartment at the start of Suspiria. The eyes subside and a model appears from behind a series of screens that look similar to the panelled walls in Jane's apartment at the end of Tenebrae. The model walks down the runway as rain pours from above as other models begin to appear and walk the catwalk. The use of rain and thunderous sound effects in this segment heightens this connection between the film and the fashion show as drenched long haired models emerge from the screens and walk the runway rejoicing as they sweep their hair back from their drenched faces evoking memories of Suzy Banyon at the end of Suspiria.  This is arguably the most memorable part of the show, culminating in the models dancing in the rain as Trussardi and Argento join them to rapturous applause.

Arguably, Argento's collaboration with Trussardi was a creative outlet for the director's failed attempt at directing Verdi's Macbeth, allowing him to work in a different medium outside of film. Argento's experiences with the Trussardi fashion show and Macbeth were heavy influences on Opera and watching the film with prior knowledge of his work on these productions brings new light to the film and where Argento was at this stage in his career. The character of Marco and his staging of Macbeth take on added meaning when you consider the elements at work in the Trussardi show. Furthermore, it's worth looking at the fashions featured in Opera in comparison to those on display in the Trussardi Action show. The utilitarian, unisex style in muted colours of the Trussardi show is very much evident in the wardrobe of Opera. Argento went on to work with Trussardi once again in 1986 when Nicola Trussardi provided the costumes for the Argento produced Demons 2 which also happened to feature one of the models in the Trussardi show.

Although a fashion show will be of little interest to fans of Argento and Italian cinema in general, for the die hards or those who want to know a little bit more about this period in Argento's career and/or the inspiration behind Opera, this is definitely worth half an hour of your time. The show is currently available to watch on YouTube.


Opera (1987) Koch Mediabook & Screengrabs

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

I was asked by my Twitter friend @tommyknocker16 to do a comparison post of Koch Media's release of Dario Argento's 1987 giallo Opera. I've not posted in a while so I was up for the challenge and spent an afternoon therapeutically capturing images from both the Arrow and Koch releases for comparison. I've decided to write a little bit about what the release contains in case anyone is interested but I won't be covering the film itself although I intend to in the future. I'd like to give a big thanks to @GiornataNera who introduced me to Koch Media and mediabooks in general and who always gives me great advice on what releases to buy from Germany as well as information on language options and content. If you ever need specific information about German Italian horror/giallo releases then he'll be more than happy to assist!

The Mediabook

Koch's release is well presented in a glossy hard case with the original artwork from the film. The content of the mediabook is spread out across 3 discs featuring the film on Blu-Ray and DVD as well as an impressive selection of special features. The release also contains a booklet that features new writings on the film by Oliver Nöde - this is in German but if like myself, you're eager to gleam new information and analysis on Argento's work, you can probably run a photo of each page through Google Translate and read between the lines. The booklet also contains various black and white images from the film - it would have been nice if these were in colour but I appreciate that printing costs may have prevented this. All in all, this release is beautifully presented and will look great on your shelf alongside your other Argento releases. 

Unfortunately the special features are all in Italian with German subtitles. This is a real shame as there's some great featurettes and interviews included in this release with prominent figures in the Italian film industry such as Franco Ferrini and Sergio Stivaletti. It would have been nice to see Koch include English subtitles but I appreciate that time and cost constraints might have made this difficult. It's also understandable that a German release wouldn't cater to English speakers. Here's hoping that the newly announced US Scorpion release will contain some of the special features on the Koch release but with English subtitles. Despite the lack of English special features, I still think the release is worth the price for the film alone due to the superior image quality.

Special Features

  • "Blood Red Curtain" Interview with Dario Argento (22 mins)
  • "Who Has Done This, and Who am I?" Interview with writer Franco Ferrini (36 mins)
  • "Notes and Nightmares" Interview with composer Claudio Simonetta (30 mins)
  • "Revenge of the Crows" Interview with animatronics specialist Sergio Stivaletti (15 mins)
  • "The Curse of Macbeth" Interview with publicist Enrico Lucherini (14 mins)
  • "With Open Eyes" Interview with film historian Fabrizio Spurio (36 mins)
  • "Terror in the Cinema" Q&A with Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini and Lamberto Bava
  • Audio commentary with Dr. Marcus Stiglegger and Kai Naumann (Opera - 95 min version)
  • Daemonia music video 

Fortunately the film itself has four language options including remastered Italian, German and English audio tracks. The subtitles for the film only come in German so if you want to watch Opera in Italian with English subtitles you won't be able to do so which is frustrating as it's always nice to have this option. I watched the film in English and found the sound quality to be of a good standard - I didn't find the music overpowering, the voices were clear and the sound effects were even more gruesome than I remembered - who could forget the noise of the scissors in Giulia's death scene?! 


I've compiled some screen grabs from the Koch mediabook as well as the Arrow DVD (released under the title "Terror at the Opera") to show you the difference in quality between the two releases. I hope the images below give you an idea of how great Opera looks on Blu. I found that the scenes set inside the opera house looked particularly impressive and the details of Marco's version of Macbeth really came to life in HD. I look forward to using screen grabs from the Koch release in future posts and will probably do a further post of screen grabs in the near future. This is my first time doing a comparison post so if you'd like to see more in the future, please let me know. 

























    Final Thoughts

    I bought this release a week before the Scorpion release was announced and in hindsight this might have deterred me from buying the Koch release if I'm being perfectly honest. I don't believe there's official confirmation over whether the Scorpion release will be region locked although it looks like it will be. If like me, you can't play locked blus than I'd definitely urge you to buy the Koch release despite the lack of English options on the special features. As you can see from the screens above, the film really does look spectacular and the improved image quality does bring a whole new level of appreciation for Argento's last great giallo. I'd say buy this if you're interested in the film alone but hold off and wait for Scorpion's release if you're looking for a more complete edition of the film.

    My Trip to Rome & Profondo Rosso

    Tuesday, 1 November 2016

    So as some of you may already know, my blogging has fallen by the wayside over the past year because I've been planning a wedding which is pretty much the most stressful and time consuming thing you can do. Every time I wanted to write an entry on American giallo or erotic thrillers, I was plunged into another crisis. Sadly as well this year, my beloved Grandpa passed away which has been very difficult for me and the wedding only served to remind me of that fact so I've really been stepping away from film stuff for a good portion of the year. However, I'm happy to say that I should be getting back into it now. I've just finished an essay for a certain distributor which I'm really excited about. Unfortunately I can't divulge what it is but I promise you it's a good one! I intend to make a visual post to accompany the essay which I'll post alongside the release of the film like I did with The Killer Dames release. Stay tuned for that!

    I'm going to do a separate post about the wedding as it was heavily influenced by my love of giallo and Italian horror but I have to wait for the photos so till then, you'll have to settle for this post which is about my experiences on my honeymoon in Rome. I'm going to talk a little about some of the Italian film locations I visited as well as some of the ones I intended to. Hopefully this will be an informative post that will answer some questions about the film locations used for Tenebrae and Inferno. I'm also going to talk about my visit to Profondo Rosso which will be detailed underneath my segment on film locations.

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