Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 19th, 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: September 12th, 2017
Approximate running time: 116 minutes (Integral / Italian Cut), 110 minutes (International Cut), 83 minutes (Creepers Cut)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Versions)
Sound: DTS-HD Stereo Italian, DTS-HD Stereo English / Italian (Integral / Italian Cut), DTS-HD Stereo English (International Cut), DTS-HD Stereo English (Creepers Cut)
Subtitles: English, English SDH
BluRay Release: Synapse Films
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $39.95
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.
The three versions of this film are spread over two 50 GB Blu-ray discs. All the versions of the film are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. It should be noted that the sources used for these transfers are not from the same 4k transfer that was used for Arrow Video’s limited-edition release. With that being said, Synapse have done a very good job considering the limitations of the master that they were forced to use. Outside of some mild instances of DNR, all three versions look very good. With the best looking of these three being the International version.
Audio options for the Integral / Italian cut include, a DTS-HD stereo mix in Italian and a DTS-HD stereo mix in English and Italian for scenes that were not shot in English. Audio options for Creepers include, DTS-HD stereo mix in English. Audio options for the International cut include, two DTS-HD stereo mixes in English and it should be noted that these audio mixes have differences, most notably different music cuss. All of the audio mixes are in great shape, dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. The more ambient aspects of these soundtracks are well represented and range wise all of these audio mixes deliver robust audio experiences. This release comes with two subtitle options, English and English SDH. Also, there are English subtitles for the dialog that is only in Italian.
Extras for this release include, a reversible cover art, two radio spots for Creepers (1 minute 3 seconds), a trailer for Creepers (1 minute 25 seconds), a trailer for Phenomena (2 minutes 35 seconds), an interview with musician / composer Andi Sex Gang (3 minutes 57 seconds), a documentary directed by Michele Soavi titled Dario Argento’s World of Horror (70 minutes 51 seconds, in English and Italian with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with Argento scholar and author, Derek Botelho and film historian, journalist and radio / television commentator, David Del Valle.
The extra titled Dario Argento’s World of Horror is a well-rounded overview of all of the Dario Argento’s films up to Phenomena. This extra also touches upon some of the films that he produced like Demons.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, background information about Dario and the Argento family, the cast, locations, cinematographer Romano Albani / the visuals, production related topics and information about other films / television projects that Dario Argento has worked on.
Overall Phenomena gets a solid release from Synapse Films.