Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 25th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1973
Directors: Dario Argento, Roberto Pariante, Luigi Cozzi, Mario Foglietti
Writers: Dario Argento, Luigi Cozzi, Marcella Elsberger,Mario Foglietti
Cast: Enzo Cerusico, Paola Tedesco, Marilù Tolo, Riccardo Salvino, Aldo Reggiani, Laura Belli, Mimmo Palmara, Robert Hoffmann, Mara Venier, Erika Blanc
DVD released: March, 2004
Approximate running time: 273 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1:33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital mono
DVD Release: Dragon
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL
Retail Price: $41.95
By the early 1970’s the giallo genre would reach the height of its popularity due in part to the success of Dario Argento’s animal trilogy. In 1973 the RAI Italy’s only major television network at the time approached Argento about doing a series of episodes for T.V. based on the same style and theme’s he used for his animal trilogy.
The Neighbor – A young couple arrive at their new villa and right away thing start to go wrong. Their gets caught in mud so they decide to go inside their new villa only to find out the electricity hasn’t been turned on. Later while watching T.V. they discover a stain that is growing in size on the roof. They go up stairs to their neighbors to investigate the stain and when no one is home, but the door is open they let themselves in. They soon discover that the stain was caused by the overflowing water flowing form the bathtub. After they turn off the water and turn on the lights they soon discover something that will forever change their fate.
The Tram – When a beautiful blonde named Monica Rini’s corpse is found on a Tram the next day while it is being cleaned. Inspector Giordani (Enzo Cerusico) who has been assigned to the case decides the best way to solve this case is to do full reenactment with all the passengers. When Giordani’s investigation leads to the wrong man being sent to prison him soon comes up with another plan to save the man that may cost Giordani his life.
Eyewitness – Roberta Leoni (Marilù Tolo) while driving tired and alone one night nearly hits a woman who jumps in front of her car. Roberta after she gets out of her car soon learns that the woman has been murdered and when the murderer comes towards her she runs to a tavern near buy. When the police arrive and search the scene no victim or sign of blood is found. Had Roberta imagined everything or is someone trying to make her look like she is crazy.
The Doll – A patient escape a mental institution and the police launch an all out man hunt. A mysterious man (Robert Hoffmann) carrying a black bag walks around town looking for a woman with red hair. The police intensify their search when Elena Moreschi (Erika Blanc) a fashion designer is found murdered at her place of business. Will the police catch this psycho path before more are killed?
The first episode the neighbor is more of a thriller in the style of Alfred Hitchcock then what we have come to expect from Italian thrillers. Early on we know who the killer is and the tension is builds as more people discover his secret. This episode also loosely resembles Hitchcock’s Rear Window in which like Cozzi’s The Neighbor the plots revolve around nosey neighbors who through their investigations get in over their head. Mimmo Palmara who plays the psycho path upstairs neighbor strangely resembles Lars Thorwald played by Raymond Burr in Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The second episode The Tram and the third episode Eyewitness are the two strongest of the four episodes. These two episodes were both directed by Dario Argento and they both follow the standard giallo rules more then the other two episodes. In the Tram Argento takes the simplest idea a passenger murdered on a tram in front of witnesses and he manages to build the suspense until it reaches its peak in the finale. The Tram contains scenes that were original written for the Bird with the Crystal Plumage and they were never filmed. In the Eyewitness he mixes things up a little by twisting what is real and what is not before a final reveal that ranks up their with some of his best pay offs. Argento’s two episodes are the most stylish and the best written out the four in this series.
In the final episode the Doll it opens up with a series of quick cuts from the point of view of the killer that are meant to show the instability of this character. This episode feels padded and tends to drag at times and the rapid editing cuts at times seem unnecessary. The Doll is the weakest of the four episodes in this series; still it does have a moody performance from euro regular Robert Hoffmann of Grand Slam and Spasmo fame. The twist ending like most giallo is supposed to be a surprise and in the Doll the final reveal is spoiled to early. Dario Argento had a falling out with Composer Ennio Morricone while working on the film Four Flies on Grey Velvet which would lead to the hiring of Giorgio Gaslini for the Door into Darkness series. Gaslini would also work with Argento of the Five Days of Milan and the main theme for Deep Red. His music for this series at times resembles Morricones, still he manages to help reshape the series through his rhythmic backbeats that add tension through out the series. Argento’s influence is felt through out the entire series. Luigi Cozzi even mentions in one the interviews how they were short a camera man so Argento stepped in. Argento has created a cinema landscape that many have tried to imitate over the years and with the Door into Darkness series he successfully makes the transition from film to television without diluting his original vision.
Dario Argento’s Door into Darkness retains its original 1:33:1 aspect ratio in which it was original shown on Italian television in 1973. The colors are muted at times and according to Luigi Cozzi the series was made at a time when all programs on Italian television were shown in black and white. Which lead the filmmakers in this series to pick a more subdued color scheme that also worked well when shown in black and white? The image is soft at times and there is some minor print damage through out, still nothing that ever takes away from viewing this series. While the image is not up to standards of Anchor Bay’s Argento DVD releases Dragon has done an amazing job transferring this to DVD considering the rarity of this series and the fact that is was shot on 16 millimeter film stock.
The only audio option included only his release is the series original Italian language soundtrack that is presented here in its original Dolby Digital mono mix. The track is in really good shape with no sign of hiss or distortion. I found the dialog easy to understand and follow through out. My only minor complaint is that the music and sound effects at times sounded muffled. English and German subtitles have been included which are easy to read and follow.
The main extras on this two DVD set consist of five interviews with Luigi Cozzi who directed the series first episode The Neighbor. The first interview he talks about the origins of the series and in the subsequent interviews he sets up each of the four episodes. These interviews cover a lot of ground with his incite into the series and Dario Argento. During all of the Luigi Cozzi interviews the English subtitles don’t start immediately and once they appear they are there for the remainder of the interview. Rounding out the extras is a sixteen page booklet that includes photos and more information about the Door into Darkness series unfortunately all the text is in German only.
Dario Argento with Door into Darkness manages to translates the giallo genre which was at its height of popularity at the time into a series of episodes created for television that have all the trademarks that we have come to associate with this genre. Dragon’s Door into Darkness tow DVD set is a limited edition release and only 3,000 copies have been made. One of Dario Argento’s most obscure works has been rescued and finally released on DVD. In a special edition release that gives fans of Argento’s baroque style a chance to this series in its best release version to date.