Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 24th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1985
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Patrick Bauchau, Donald Pleasence, Fiore Argento, Federica Mastroianni, Fiorenza Tessari, Mario Donatone, Francesca Ottaviani, Michele Soavi
BluRay released: May 8th, 2017
Approximate running time: 116 minutes (Italian Cut), 110 minutes (International Cut), 83 minutes (Creepers Cut)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Versions)
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Italian, DTS-HD 5.1 English / Italian, LPCM Stereo Italian, LPCM Stereo English / Italian (Italian Cut), DTS-HD 5.1 English, LPCM Stereo English (International Cut), LPCM Mono English (Creepers Cut)
Subtitles: English (for all dialog in Italian), English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B (UK)
Retail Price: £24.99 (UK)
Synopsis: The daughter of a world-famous actor is sent to an all-girl private school in Switzerland. Shortly after her arrival. She learns about a series of murders that all involved young women her age. Unable to fit in with the other girls. She finds companionship with an elderly entomologist and his pet monkey. She also forms a most unusual bond with insects. Which also allows her to communicate with them and unlock the identity of who the killer is?
The first thing that immediately grabbed. While revisiting Phenomena. Was how grounded the story was. Even though it is rooted in the world of the supernatural. One of the more common criticisms of Dario Argento’s films. Is how anemic his plots tend to be. And how the majority of the characters that populate these films. Are one dimensional. Even some of the secondary players in Phenomena are nothing more than window dressing. The film’s does feature what is arguably the most well rounded protagonist to ever appear in a Dario Argento film. Structure wise Phenomena does a superb job laying the groundwork for the film’s manic blood soaked finale. Also, the film finds a satisfying balance between its more carnage related moments and its more character driven moments.
For Phenomena Dario Argento re-teams with cinematographer Romano Albani. Visually Phenomena is in direct contrast to the style that they employed for their previous collaboration Inferno. They had previously worked together on Inferno. Another area in which this film stands out are its special effects. Which even by today’s standards. They hold up really well. A key collaborator on Phenomena was filmmaker Luigi Cozzi (Star Crash) who help with the film’s special effects. The one area this production stands out most from any other Dario Argento film is its soundtrack. Which included a wide variety of collaborators and styles. The soundtrack includes the following contributors, Goblin, Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, Simon Boswell (Andi Sex Gang), Franky Goes to Hollywood, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Bill Wyman and Terry Taylor. The film’s most memorable musical motif is a piece title The Valley. This song is featured in the film’s opening.
Looking through the various films that Dario Argento has directed. And one area that he generally excels at is casting. And with Phenomena he assembles one of his strongest casts. In one of her first film roles Jennifer Connelly (Once Upon a Time in America) is cast in the film’s lead role Jennifer. So much of the film rests on her shoulders. And she proves to be up to the task. With her interactions with insects being her most compelling moments. Not to be outdone or overlooked is Daria Nicolodi (Deep Red) in the role of Frau Brückner. The woman who has been given the task of taking care of Jenifer. Throughout her collaborations with Dario Argento. She has played a wide variety of characters. And yet there is something about her performance in Phenomena. That is so diabolical evil and entertaining. Other performances of note include Donald Pleasence (Halloween) in the role of elderly entomologist who befriends Jenifer and Patrick Bauchau (The Pretender) in the role of a detective who has been given task of catching the killer.
Even though Dario Argento is primarily known for operatic thrillers. One must not overlook his supernatural cinematic endeavors. Most notably Suspria. A film that many critics and his majority die-hard fans widely consider his masterpiece. On the other end of the spectrum is his 1985 thriller / supernatural hybrid Phenomena. Which was butchered upon its original U.S. theatrical release and released under the title Creepers. So, it is not surprising that Phenomena has had trouble finding its audience due to these aforementioned cuts (about 28 minutes). Over the years, Phenomena has slowly gained a follow. And most of this can be attributed to the film finally being released in its 116-minute version and now Phenomena can finally be viewed with fresh eyes.
This limited edition brings together all three versions of Phenomena and these three versions are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. And each version comes on their own 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The Italian cut has been given a brand new 4k transfer has been sourced from the film’s 35mm original camera negative. The International cut has been given a brand new 2k transfer that was sourced from a 35mm print. The sections unique to the Creepers cut has been given a brand new 2k transfer that was sourced from a 35mm print. When compared to Arrow Video’s previous Phenomena release, these new transfers are a substantial upgrade.
The audio mixes included for these three versions are all in great shape. Dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. The more ambient aspects of these soundtracks are well-expressed and range wise they sound robust when they need too. Included with this release are two subtitle options, English and English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release are spread over three discs.
Extras on disc one include, a Japanese press book for the film, Jennifer music video (4 minutes 11 seconds), English language trailer for the film (2 minutes 36 seconds), Italian language trailer for the film (2 minutes 36 seconds, with English subtitles) and an insightful audio commentary with Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films.
Extras on disc two include, The Three Sarcophagi, a new visual essay by Michael Mackenzie comparing the different cuts of Phenomena (31 minutes 2 seconds).
Extras on disc three include, a definitive feature length documentary titled Of Flies and Maggots, a new feature-length documentary including interviews with Dario Argento, actors Fiore Argento, Davide Marotta, Daria Nicolodi and Fiorenza Tessari, co-writer Franco Ferrini, cinematographer Romano Albani, production manager Angelo Jacono, assistant director Michele Soavi, special optical effects artist Luigi Cozzi and special makeup effects artist Sergio Stivaletti (2 hours 13 seconds, in Italian and English with English subtitles).
Rounding out the extras the remastered soundtrack CD featuring the complete Goblin instrumental soundtrack, plus four bonus tracks by Simon Boswell and Andi Sex Gang, reversible cover art and a sixty-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled The Poetry of the Gross-Out: Argento’s Phenomena written by Mikel J. Koven, an essay titled Argento, Armani and the Fashions of Phenomena written by Rachael Nisbet, an essay titled Phenomena as a Key to Unlocking Opera written by Leonard Jacobs, information about the versions and information about the transfers.
Overall Arrow Video continues to raise the bar for special edition releases with this spectacular release that is arguably one of the best home video releases of all time, highly recommended.