Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 9th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1987
Director: Michele Soavi
Writers: George Eastman, Sheila Goldberg
Cast: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Domenico Fiore, Robert Gligorov, Mickey Knox, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, George Eastman
BluRay released: September 23rd, 2014
Approximate running times: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
BluRay Release: Blue Underground
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.98
Stagefright was the directorial debut of Michele Soavi (Cemetery Man, Uno Bianca) who honed is craft as a filmmaker working as an assistant director Dario Argento. Key collaborators of Stagefright include screenwriter George Eastman (Baba Yaga, Rabid Dogs), cinematographer Renato Tafuri (The Church), composer Simon Boswell (Santa Sangre, Hardware) and producer Joe D’Amato (Emanuelle in America).
It is ironic how time can change one perspective in something. When this film was first released it was a failure at the box office and if it weren’t for its subsequent home video releases it may have faded away into obscurity. Fortunately for us diehard fans of Italian thrillers that this film is as relentless as the killer that is terrorizing the cast who are preparing for their big show.
The first indication that this movie is going to be something special it is meticulously constructed narrative that is perfectly paced as each moment is allowed just the right amount of time to resonate. And when it comes to set up and character development things are also in top form. The opening act does superb job setting who is everyone is and giving just a glimpse of the monster that is about to go on a killing spree. The middle act is a highly entertaining game of cat and mouse, while the final act is a classic showdown between the victim that just won’t die and a determined killer whose own undoing comes at their own stubbornness.
From the get go this film does a great job establishing and maintaining tension. And nowhere is this more evident then when it comes to the deaths sequences. All of the murders are of the moment and the killers improvising when it comes to weapon of choice makes everything a potential weapon. And when it comes to each death sequences they are an inventive and sufficiently gory.
It should not come as surprise that this film’s visuals are first rate considering that its director honed his craft as assistant director for Dario Argento. The same year that he made this film, Michele Soavi worked as an assistant director on Opera. Soavi’s clear nod to his mentor comes in a scene where a character standing in front of the mirror bow’s and the killer is standing behind them. A similar scene appeared in Argento’s Tenebre.
In a film with many standout moments visually this film’s most memorable moment is a sequence where the last survivor is trying to get a key that is literally stuck in the stage at the killers’ feet. And in order to do this the last survivor must crawl under the stage and pry the key lose without disturbing the killer who sits above them.
Another area of this production that holds a lot of weight is Simon Boswell’s excellent score which ranks among his best work to emerge from his work in Italy. And like many of the most revered thrillers / horror films this film’s score play an integral part as it firmly establishes the mood. Though he composed the majority of the music that appears in this film, there is a classical sounding composition that originally appeared Sergei M. Eisenstein’s silent film Stachka.
Performance wise the majority of the cast are very good in their respective roles, especially David Brandon in the role of Peter, a down on his luck theatrical director who will do anything to get his next hit play. Other performances of note is Giovanni Lombardo Radice (City of the Living Dead) in the role of Brett, an obnoxious actor who likes to prank everyone and Barbara Cupisti (The Key) in the role of this film’s protagonist Alicia, an actress who determination keeps her one step ahead of the killer. Ultimately Stagefright is an exceptional film and one of the last great thrillers to emerge out of Italian cinema in the last thirty years.
Stagefright comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Colors look vibrant and nicely saturated, flesh tones look healthy, black and contrast levels look consistently great throughout. There are no issues with compression and when compared to previous releases there is marked improvement in the amount of detail present. Also it should be pointed out that when compared to Blue Underground’s previous DVD release that this new release slightly more information, most noticeable on the sides.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a DTS-HD stereo mix in English. Both audio mixes sounds great as dialog is always clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too. Range wise the DTS-HD 5.1 offers a slightly fuller sound experience. This release also comes with three subtitle options, English SDH, French and Spanish.
Extras for this release include an extensive poster & stills gallery, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 18 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and five interviews, the first interview with director Michele Soavi (19 minutes 1 second – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles), the second interview with actor David Brandon (11 minutes 40 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), the third interview with actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice (14 minutes – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles), the fourth interview with make-up effects artist Pietro Tenoglio (11 minutes 21 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles) and the fifth interview with composer Simon Boswell (18 minutes 2 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen).
Topics discussed in the interview with Michele Soavi include his career as an assistant director and how he became involved with Stagefright, screenwriter George Eastman, producer Joe D’Amato, working with a limited budget, the cast, the look of the film and his thoughts on the final product. Topics discussed in the interview with David Brandon include Joe D’Amato, various Italian productions that he worked on and comments about their directors, his extensive work in theater acting and how it help in his casting for Stagefright, the cast, his characters death scene and the danger involved in shooting it. Topics discussed in the interview with Giovanni Lombardo Radice include how he first meet Michele Soavi and how they often were competing for the same roles – most notably the role of Ricky for the film House on the Edge of the Park, his involvement in Stagefright and his thoughts on various other films also directed by Michele Soavi and he discusses various other films that he has appeared in. Topics discussed in the interview with Pietro Tenoglio include Joe D’Amato, Michele Soavi, the special effects he created for Stagefright and the cast. Topics discussed in the interview with Simon Boswell include how he became involved in composing soundtracks for films, Dario Argento, the unique way that he was asked to compose scores for Italian filmmakers and how there are many films that he composed scores for that he has never seen, his score for Stagefright and various other films that he has composed scores for. Overall this is another strong Hi-Def upgrade from Blue Underground that comes with a wealth of new extras.
Note: This film is also being released by Blue Underground on DVD.