Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 16th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, August 12th, 1976
Director: Marcello Aliprandi
Writers: Maria Teresa Rienzi, Nicolò Rienzi
Cast: Olga Bisera, Joseph Cotten, Nathalie Delon, John Phillip Law
DVD released: September 27th, 2005
Approximate running time: 102
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: No Shame
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Synopsis: Martino is a disturbed boy who has an imaginary friend named Luca that no else can see. When things don’t go his way Martino threatens those around him with Luca wraith. Martino’s parents hire a famous psychiatrist who soon discovers that Luca is Martino’s brother who died at birth. Will the psychiatrist be able to cure Martino before Luca intervenes by silencing anyone who tries to separate him from Martino?
Many elements in A Whisper in the Dark bear a strong resemblance to Mario Bava’s gothic ghost story Kill Baby Kill and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. The main plot A Whisper in the Dark revolves around a boy named Luca who nobody but Martino can see and it is also about Luca’s loss which motivates his relationship with his brother Martino. Luca feels abandon by his parents who no longer see him now that he is dead and he is afraid that Martino will also abandon him leaving him all alone. One underlying theme that runs through out the films is the relationships between all the characters. You have a guilt ridden mother who still mourns the loss of her son Luca and a womanizing father who seeks love from other women since his wife is no longer cable of loving anyone.
Unlike most ghost stories A Whisper in the Dark doesn’t rely exclusively on things that go bump in the night when it comes to delivering its moments of terror. Part of the charm of this film is that the viewer like the characters in the film are never quite sure if Luca is real or if all the odd occurrences that have been happening are all just bad luck nothing more. The film is filled with beautiful compositions photographed by cinematographer Claudio Cirillo. There are also several key performances in the film most notable Alessandro Poggi who plays Martino with a child like innocence that perfectly counter balances his more devilish moments when he speaks for Luca. A lot of his performance is told through his expressions and for a child actor I was thoroughly impressed by his overall performance. Another strand out performance is that of John Phillip Law as the father.
What starts out as an uninteresting character that seems one dimensional and is unsympathetic due to his philandering ways quickly turns around when he focuses more on his sons’ illness and less on his next conquest? Pino Donaggio score is one his better in a career that has been largely uneven with a few moments of brilliance. His score also echoes some of the great themes from his score that he wrote for Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. Even though A Whisper in the Dark is mish mash of theme’s that have been explored cinematically many times before it is still an entertaining film that has a few moments that will make the air on the back of your neck stand up.
No Shame presents A Whisper in the Dark in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This high definition transfer has been sourced from the restored original camera negative and it is available for the first time ever on DVD in its original aspect ratio and uncut. This progressive scan transfers boasts nicely saturated colors and strong black levels that remain constant through out. There is an exceptional amount of detail present in every frame and the image remains stable through out. There are no problems with compression, artifacts and edge enhancement is no existent.
This DVD comes with two audio options the films original Italian language track and an English dubbed track both are presented in a Dolby Digital mono. Both audio sources sound clean and are in great shape except for a few minor instance of hiss or background noise on the English audio mix. The music and effects sound evenly mixed with a few minor instances were the music just overpowers the rest of the mix. For this review I listed primarily to the English audio mix and even though I only sampled the Italian audio mix it is a welcome addition since I am a big supporter of DVD releases offering multiple audio options. English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand.
Extras for this release include the films original theatrical trailer and a poster gallery that plays’ music from the film in the background. Other extras include a collectable booklet that includes bios for Joseph Cotton and John Phillip Law as well as a piece that Richard Harland Smith about the film A Whisper in the Dark. Rounding out the extras is a thirty two minute documentary “Whispering Corridor” an interview with cinematographer Claudio Cirillo who discusses the various stages of his career as well as how another job prevented him from working on Luchino Visconti’s The Damned. Overall considering how rare this film No Shame has done a wonderful job with this DVD exceeding all of my expectations. A Whisper in the Dark is a supernatural tale told in a classic style that is distinctly reminiscent of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James, recommended.