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5 FILMS BY DARIO ARGENTO
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Reviewed by: Zombie Boy

Directed by: Dario Argento

Starring:
John Saxon
Jennifer Connelly
Daria Nicolodi

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
A steel-case box set of five Dario Argento films, ranging across his oeuvre from 1982 to 2005. Included films are: Tenebre, Phenomena, Trauma, The Card Player, and Do You Like Hitchcock?
Is it good movie?
There are five films to review here, so I will try to be as brief as possible.

Tenebre was Argento's return to the giallo format after several horror films, and it concerns a writer being menaced by someone killing women after the fashion of the killer in his latest book. Anthony Franciosa and John Saxon star, presumably before they began finding lost loves and killing Freddy Krueger, respectively. The movie is presented here in its full and uncut and boring form. 90 minutes of POV stalker footage and lame (save for one deliciously bloody de-arming) kills followed by ten minutes of three plot threads jammed into the eye of one needle. See it for Argento's trademark camera moves (such as the telescoping camera mounted on a flexible crane that crawls up and around the outside of an apartment building like Spiderman) and Claudio Simonetti's cyber proto-Goblin score, but don't ask for much more.

Like Tenebre, Phenomena is also presented here in its full and uncut form, but unlike Tenebre, it makes almost no sense whatsoever. A very, very young Jennifer Connelly stars as the daughter of a famous American film actor, studying abroad, who arrives in Switzerland just in time to be in the midst of the rampage of a serial killer. With the help of crippled entomologist Donald Pleasance she hones her ability to communicate with insects. Oh, and she sleepwalks. And thereís some creepy wind. Argento crams some other crap in towards the end, but they would be spoilers to mention. Like it matters. As in most other Argento films, it is shot beautifully, and has awesome music (even if rather incongruously distributed during the proceedings).

Trauma begins with a promising paper doll animation sequence, leading into a grisly beheading, but unfortunately falls apart soon after. Asia Argento stars as an anorexic Romanian teenager who is saved from a suicide attempt by a young American graphic artist. They become involved, and murder and intrigue follow them wherever they go. The sub-theme of the horrors of anorexia is never explored properly, and the wonderful SFX of Tom Savini cannot save the plodding nature of the narrative and the ultimate boredom of seeing the same beheading done over and over again. Itís a step above some other Argento works Iíve seen, but just doesnít cut the mustard in the finish. Especially the ridiculous reveal at the end.

Lest I be considered rampantly negative, I actually quite liked The Card Player. A sadistic serial killer kidnaps women and forces the police to play online poker with him for their lives. For every hand that the police lose, he amputates something. And if the police win best 3 out of 5, he lets the woman go...and if they don't, well, I guess you can guess what happens. I found this conceit delicious and devious, even if the lack of betting in the poker games renders the possibility of much more suspense null. But as the narrative progresses, the killer begins specifically targeting detective Anna Mari something or other. Why is he doing that, and how does he even know she is on the case, since he had previously been acting anonymously? This one is actually worth watching to find out.

Finally, we come to Do You Like Hitchcock?, which is an atypical Argento film. Probably because it is a made for TV film that was meant to be the pilot for a Masters of Horror-like show. It concerns an incredibly annoying college student who Rear Window-style witnesses a Strangers on a Train-style murder. He then stalks around, sticking his nose into places where it doesn't belong, until he "solves" the case (i.e.: does nothing of the kind). There are hints of humor, and a decent amount of tits, but this films is not for hardcore Argento fans. Its linearity and lack of kills will piss you off.
Video / Audio
Tenebre:

Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic widescreen. The colors are muted to death, and it is painfully obviously where the cut scenes have been placed back in, but fans should be happy to see the entire film preserved here for posterity.

Audio: Dolby Surround 5.1, Dolby Surround 2.0, and Italian mono. No complaints about the sound here.

Phenomena:

Video: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, by far a better transfer than the crappy VHS copy I saw as a kid (the cut version, known as Creepers).

Audio: Dolby Surround 5.1, Dolby Surround 2.0, Italian Mono.

Trauma:

Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, looks really good.

Audio: Dolby Surround 5.1, Dolby Surround 2.0

The Card Player

Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen.

Audio: Dolby Surround 5.1, Dolby Surround 2.0

Do You Like Hitchcock?

Video: 1.66:1, says Anamorphic Widescreen, but the opening credits get cut off on either side of the screen, so you tell me.

Audio: Stereo.
The Extras
All of the films have similar extras: all have a trailer, a bio on Argento, and all but Hitchcock have an interview with the man. All but Hitchcock have commentaries. Trauma and The Card Player with Profondo Argento author Alan Jones; Tenebre with Argento, Simonetti, and journalist Loris Curci; and Phenomena with Argento, Simonetti, Curci, and SFX man Sergio Stivaletti. There are also various featurettes sprinkled amongst the discs, from simple behind the scenes stuff, like the quick, fluffy bit on Hitchcock, to the personal video taken by Tom Savini on Trauma. Phenomena also includes a couple of music videos for songs from the film. There are also a few interviews with Claudio Simonetti that should please any Goblin fans out there pretty well. There are more, but my time here grows short. Essentially, if you like the films, you'll have more than enough extras to satisfy your trivia needs.
Last Call
This is a really excellent box set, even if I don't care for Argento. It is conveniently packaged (kind of like a TV series box set) and the metal case is sturdier than the average jewel case. It has a wide-range of films from the man's career, and they all look and sound as good as you'd expect from Anchor Bay. If you're a fan of the man, you could do worse than to own this, even if just as a show piece.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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