Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 12th, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1987
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini
Cast: Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cataldi Tassoni, Barbara Cupisti, Cristina Marsillach, Antonella Vitale, William McNamara, John Charleson
DVD released: September 11th, 2001
Approximate running time: 107 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital DTS ES 6.1 English, Dolby Digital DD-EX Surround English
DVD Release: Anchor Bay
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: OOP
Synopsis: A young opera singer named Betty (Cristina Marsillach) is thrust into the spotlight right before opening night of Verdi’s Macbeth with the opera’s leading lady Mara Czekova is injured. A crazed fan stalks Betty forcing her to watch as the stalker kills everyone close to her. Will Betty be able to unmask her stalker before she becomes his next victim?
In 1987 Dario Argento would direct what many of his fans consider his last great film Opera. The film reportedly would be made during one of the most tumultuous times of Dario’s life with the passing of his father and ending of a lengthy relationship with actress Daria Nicolodi. The films plot which revolves around a sadistic killer who has ties with a young opera singer named Betty is one of Argento’s best written screenplays of his career as all the events unfold like a Shakespearean tragedy.
The play with in the film Macbeth is cursed and this lends to the various mishaps that happens along the way. The music of Giuseppe Verdi along with Claudio Simonetti’s score and the heavy metal that is injected into the film during the murder sequences are integral parts to the whole film. Even though Dario Argento is known for his baroque visual tapestry his films all owe a great debt to their composers who have through the various stages of his career supplied him with music that is menacing, haunting and most importantly unforgettable.
Opera visually features some of Argento’s most stylish and daring compositions. The film which takes place mostly in two locations The Opera house and Betty’s apartment is perfectly lit. Color wise Opera is not vivid as most Argento films and its photography is most definitely a precursor to Argtento’s The Card Player. Fans of Argento’s previous films which enjoy several clichés like the excessive use of rain or the black gloved killer which are both used to great effect in the film like they had been used many times before by Argento.
The murders in Opera are the most graphic and disturbing of Argento’s career. My favorite moment also happens to be the most inventive murder ever conceived. It is when Mira, Betty’s manager is looking through peep hole and she is shot through the eye and the bullet travels down the hallway and hits Betty’s only contact with the outside world her phone. The dubbing for this release has taken on some criticism and while it is not without its setbacks it does have it charms when you get used to it. The cast all do a very good with the films weakest link being it’s lead Betty played by Cristina Marsillach. The best and most interesting performance in the film is Ian Charleson as Marco. Ultimately Opera is a flawless film in which Argento tackles everything he had learned up to that point and mixed them all together into bloodbath of sadism that goes for your jugular.
When this DVD was released by Anchor Bay nearly six years ago it was one of the best looking Dario Argento DVD transfers on the market. Revisiting this title all these years later the transfer while not flawless still looks really good. Sure there is noticeable grain; some very minor specs of dirt and some mild edge enhancement all these things while noticeable never become overtly distracting.
This release also trumps all other releases of Opera if only for it wide array of extras all of which are insightful. Extras for this release include theatrical trailers, a Daemonia music video, a Dario Argento Bio, a thirty-six minute documentary titled “Conducting Dario Argento’s Opera” and a bonus CD with the film’s score. Until a better release comes along this is the most definitive version of Opera on DVD.