Category Archives: Dario Argento Films

Two Evil Eyes-1990

Two Evil Eyes-1990

Director-George Romero, Dario Argento

Starring-Adrienne Barbeau, Harvey Keitel

Scott’s Review #1,239

Reviewed March 26, 2022

Grade: B+

Two legendary masters of horror, American director George Romero, famous for zombie films, and Italian director Dario Argento, famous for stylistic horror,  team up to create a thrilling double-bill horror feast.

For fans of the genre, the idea is titillating, to say the least, and the follow-through is a robust success. There is a gnawing television film feel to each of the films that are eventually usurped by the reminder that grand directors are at the helm.

Cleverly, they base their films on the works of the poet Edgar Allan Poe, famous for writing poems and short stories of the macabre and peculiar. ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ (1990) and ‘The Black Cat’ (1990) are the featured tales.

Having seen many Argento and Romero works with Suspiria (1977) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) being my respective favorites, the fun is seeing how each film contains familiar aspects of each with a sprinkling of the 1960 Hitchcock masterpiece, Psycho, thrown in for good measure.

Fun fact- Psycho star Martin Balsam appears in ‘The Black Cat’ story.

In the first feature, ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’, Adrienne Barbeau plays an ex-flight attendant named Jessica who plots with her lover Dr. Robert Hoffman (Ramy Zada) for her elderly husband’s money. While liquidating large amounts of cash, her husband’s lawyer grows suspicious and warns her there will be consequences should her husband die in the next three weeks.

Naturally, he does, and events grow weird and terrifying.

In the second film, ‘The Black Cat, Harvey Keitel plays an unlikeable man named Rod Usher who works as a crime scene photographer. He suffers the consequences when he viciously kills his girlfriend’s cat. In his attempts to rid himself of both his girlfriend and the cat, they continue to reappear, much to his chagrin. With two detectives on his tail, the finale is both grim and satisfying.

If forced to choose, I am more partial to ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ and this is mostly to do with the casting of Barbeau of whom I am a big fan. It’s also the winner of the two as far as the unexpected conclusion goes.

Barbeau carries the film, short at only an hour or so, and infuses likeability into a character who could easily be dismissed as a gold-digging bitch. Jessica feels some sensitivity and truly wants no harm done to her husband, she only desires some money. After all, in her mind, she deserves the payoff for having married an old man.

Romero’s influence is apparent but not as much as Argento’s is in ‘The Black Cat’. A gruesome scene at the conclusion when a character’s decomposing body lumbers forward immediately brought me back to the zombie delights of ‘Dawn of the Dead.

The music in the opening credits reminds me of Argento films in general. A mysterious high-pitched synthesizer sound peppers the experience with horrific beats that are highly effective.

I did not enjoy the prevalent cat torture scenes that appear in ‘The Black Cat’ and these are tough to sit through. I was somewhat encouraged by the knowledge that the dead cat does enact revenge on its torturer in the end.

I chuckled at the numerous references to ‘Psycho’ mostly when Balsam’s character of Mr. Pym appears. When the man climbs a flight of stairs who won’t immediately think of a similar scene in ‘Psycho’ with a deadlier result. Another scene of draining shower water immediately conjures up the legendary shower scene in ‘Psycho’.

Casting heavyweights like Barbeau, Keitel, Balsam, Tom Atkins, John Amos, and Kim Hunter provide credibility to a project that could easily have been dismissed as a throwaway horror double-feature.

The experience is much better than that as the compelling nature and thrills by the minute will keep the audience invested and longing to know what happens next.

‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ (1990) and ‘The Black Cat’ (1990) effectively team two of the best horror directors out there in dedication to the best horror poet.

Perhaps a longer duration for each film might have allowed time for more character exploration but the results are just fine.

Masters of Horror: Dario Argento: Pelts-2006

Masters of Horror: Dario Argento: Pelts-2006

Director-Dario Argento

Starring-Meat Loaf, John Saxon

Scott’s Review #600

Reviewed January 10, 2017

Grade: C+

For those unfamiliar with Masters of Horror, this was a spectacular horror series which aired during the mid-2000s featuring vignettes of superlative horror chapters- famed Italian horror maestro, Dario Argento directed two such chapters during the series run- Pelts is an okay story, but unspectacular, and really only for die-hard Argento fans.

The chapter is quite gory and extreme (this is the main positive)  and stars Meatloaf (the singer) and John Saxon (from Nightmare on Elm Street, and Black Christmas). The story centers around a fur trader named Jake Feldman, who encounters a fellow fur trader offering raccoon skin. Eager to make money and impress a stripper, Jake leaps at the chance, with dire results.

This episode of Masters of Horror is not for the squeamish. If you are a fan of raccoons this might be up your alley. My slight disappointment in this chapter merely comes from my utter love for some of the other chapters, and this one pales in comparison.

Suspiria-1977

Suspiria-1977

Director-Dario Argento

Starring-Jessica Harper

Top 100 Films-#54     Top 20 Horror Films-#14

Scott’s Review #339

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Suspiria is a horror masterpiece, made in 1977, by my favorite Italian horror director, Dario Argento.

A combination of complex storytelling, glossy colors, and a unique art direction, makes this film a treasure and an influence in “the look” of a film attempting to achieve an interesting art direction choice.

The color red is highly prevalent throughout Suspiria, which makes sense due to the subject matter of witchcraft and demons. The musical score is brilliant and chilling.

This film is perfect and one of my favorites.

The film takes place in Germany and the opening sequence is fantastic. We meet our heroine, Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), an American ballet student, as she arrives in blustery Munich to attend a prestigious ballet school.

The shot of the driving wind and rain as she exits the airport is a great example of the ultimate style of this film.

Suzy meets a creepy taxi driver who drives her to the school, where she witnesses a frantic student, Pat Hingle, fleeing the school. Suzy is then denied access to the school by a mysterious voice over the intercom.  The focus of the film then shifts briefly to Pat’s perspective as she meets a sinister fate when she stays with a friend.

One fantastic aspect of Suspiria is we know something is wrong with the ballet academy, we just do not know what or who it involves. With great creativity, Dario Argento builds a set that is modern, sophisticated but laced with an underlying menace.

As we meet the supporting characters, Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) and Miss Tanner (Alida Valli), we know something is not right with them either. Blanc is kindhearted; Tanner is a drill sergeant, but both seem to have something to hide and claim to know nothing of Pat’s terror.

There is also Daniel, the blind piano player, whose seeing-eye dog suddenly turns vicious.

The plot is complex and does not always make perfect sense, but the elements of Suspiria make it a masterpiece.  Pat’s death scene is laced with greatness as she dangles from a high glass ceiling dripping blood. Her hysterical friend is sliced to bits by the falling glass.

This is the best double-death scene in horror film history.

When creepy maggots invade the school leaving the girls feeling for safety, the film goes all out. A later scene involving Suzy’s best friend and fellow student, Sarah, attempting to flee the school via the basement, only to struggle in a pit of razor wire is splendid.

Much of Suspiria is dubbed in English mainly due to the actors either speaking German or Italian, but Jessica Harper and Joan Bennett have distinguishable voices, which lend texture and richness to the dialogue.

Suspiria is a grand horror film, not solely for its mysterious story, but for all the added components that Argento throws into the mix- strange characters, weird sets, and the heavy dose of blood-red- pretty fitting.

Argento’s Dracula-2012

Argento’s Dracula-2012

Director-Dario Argento

Starring-Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini

Scott’s Review #158

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Reviewed August 22, 2014

Grade: C-

As a huge fan of Dario Argento- His classic horror films such as Suspiria and Deep Red would surely land in my Top 50 of all time, not just in the horror genre, this film is a bit of a mess.

The story, as I understood it, involves a young man named Harker, who is hired by Count Dracula to work in his castle as a Librarian. His wife Mina arrives later in the story and is the focal point of the film from that point on.

Another female named Tania rises from the dead to seduce and bite Harker. Dracula intervenes and wants to claim Harker as his own. From this point on, Harker’s wife Mina attempts to look for her husband within the halls of Dracula’s castle.

The plot is difficult to keep track of, not compelling, and certainly not one of Argento’s finest efforts. Clearly an homage to Hammer horror films of the 1950s and 1960s, the film comes across as too campy, poorly performed, and some miscasts among the actors.

The actor who plays Count Dracula is not convincing and seems a strange choice for the part- too nice looking? It felt like Argento did not know whether to make the film serious or go for being completely over the top. Since when can Dracula change forms into a grasshopper, owl, and other creatures besides a bat?

Other characters like the Priest were introduced for no other purpose than to be killed. On the positive side, the art direction is amazing. The film is filled with creepy sets especially inside the mansion and has a distinct 1970’s feel to it. The ambiance is highly effective at portraying a spooky, dark setting.

All in all, though, Argento’s Dracula is a disappointing experience and much better films of the same subject matter have been covered in the past.

Opera-1987

Opera-1987

Director-Dario Argento

Starring-Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson

Scott’s Review #104

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Reviewed July 11, 2014

Grade: B+

Opera is a 1987 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento. The story revolves around a theatrical production of Verdi’s “Macbeth” as the understudy takes of the lead role of Lady Macbeth after the star is hit by a car, and strange and horrific events begin to occur.

The film contains traditional Argento elements- stylistic, extreme close-ups, weird camera angles. Members of the cast are systematically murdered as the killer forces the film’s heroine to watch- aided by a device which, if she blinks, sharp nails will go through her eyes.

The ending is absolutely killer- no pun intended. I love surprise endings in horror films and this one was dynamite. My main criticism of the film is the horrendous dubbing, which distracted a great deal. It has a muffled, hard-to-hear quality to it and no subtitles. I’d rather it have been available in Italian with English subtitles.

The film needs to be upgraded to Blu-ray ASAP. Another odd aspect of the film is the mixture of operatic music with heavy metal music with each kill. It did not seem to fit the film at all. Not Argento’s best- Suspiria and Deep Red have that honor, but a very good, enjoyable cinematic horror film.