Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 3rd, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1982
Director: Dario Argento
Writer: Dario Argento
Cast: Anthony Franciosa, Christian Borromeo, Mirella D’Angelo, Veronica Lario, Ania Pieroni, Eva Robins, Carola Stagnaro, John Steiner, Lara Wendel, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Giuliano Gemma, Mirella Banti, Ippolita Santarelli
BluRay released: June 27th, 2011
Approximate running times: 101 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Italian, DTS-HD Mono English
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: £21.99
Synopsis: A bestselling author of thriller novels and those around him are being targeted by a psychopath stalker with homicidal intentions.
"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Throughout his career there have been several occasions, where Dario Argento has ventured away the film the giallo genre. Most notably his one, two punch of supernatural themed horror films, Suspiria and Inferno. In 1982 exhausted from the experience of making Inferno, he would step away from what was to be the conclusion of the ‘Three Mother’s’ trilogy and return once again to the genre the giallo genre with Tenebrae (a Latin/Italian term which means darkness or shadows).
Reportedly one of the inspirations behind Tenebrae was a real life stalker, that Dario Argento encountered while working on a proposed film in Los Angeles in the early 1980’s. Two other notable inspirations include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes.
When I first encountered Tenebrae, I was not that impressed with the film. Now years later and after many subsequent viewings, I have come to the conclusion that first impressions, are not always to be trusted. If ever there was a film that demands multiple viewings, it would be Tenebrae.
From a narrative stand point Tenebrae does not stray to from away from the blue print that Dario Argento established with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. And just like Deep Red one of Dario Argento’s most revered films, Tenebrae uses flashback’s / memories from the killers’ Point of view. And while one of the most important plot devices of any giallo, are its red herrings. No Dario Argento film before or since has ever piled on as much misdirection as Tenebrae does.
From a visual stand point there is rarely a moment in which this film does not artfully flaunt its acrobatic camerawork and intricate laid out compositions. A few of the more memorable moments include a young girl who is being terrorized by a ferocious dog and somehow ends up at a killer’s lair. A 2 1/2 minutes crane shot that ends with a pair of brutal killings, the first one a woman who’s t-shirt is sliced by a razor before her throat gets sliced and the other her lesbian lover who is chased around before finally having together own jugular sliced, then her head crashes through a window. And let’s not forget the blood soaked finally that includes a woman’s arm being severed and the blood spraying from her severed limb across the wall.
One area where many Dario Argento films are often more miss, then hit are his cast and their performances. Headlining this Cast in the role of this film’s protagonist a bestselling novelist named Peter Neal, is Anthony Franciosa (Hatful of Rain). He gives a well rounded performance that stands out as one of the strongest to ever grace a Dario Argento film. Reportedly one of the actors being considered for the role of Peter Neal was Christopher Walken. The supporting cast features many recognizable faces like, John Saxon (Enter the Dragon) in the role of a sleazy agent, Giuliano Gemma (Day of Anger) in the role of the lead detective assigned to the murders, John Steiner (Salon Kitty) in the role of a neurotic television personality, Lara Wendel (Satan’s Wife) in the role of the young girl who is terrorized by a dog and Daria Nicolodi (Deep Red) in the role of Peter Neal’s assistant. And while the majority of the cast are very good in their respective roles. This film’s most underwhelming performances comes from Daria Nicolodi, who was reluctantly cast in the role that she ultimately ended up with. The most surprising performance comes from an actress named Veronica Lario, who has been cast in the role of Peter Neal’s girlfriend, Jane. Though this role does not have much dialog and is limited to a few key scenes. it is by far and away the most memorable character that appears in this film. It should not come as surprise that this is the role that Daria Nicolodi wanted to portrayed, at least she gets the final scream.
Tenebrae comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. There are no problems with compression, colors, flesh tones look accurate and black levels fare well throughout. Tenebrae like Dario Argento and cinematographer Luciano Tovoli’s previous collaboration Suspiria has a very distinctive look that they were aiming for and here is what Luciano Tovoli said about the film’s visual look, ‘We decided on a hyper-illuminated night, which wouldn’t leave any way out for the victim and wouldn’t leave a way out for the aggressor either. I worked hard to light these nights uniformly, with great contrast, with great novelty. What I did in the first film, this diffused light I tried to boost it to its maximum, to make it hyper-realistic. There was no shadow in which to hide, not even for the viewer.’ This brings us to this transfers contrast levels which do at times appear to be too bright, especially when compared to other home video releases of Tenebrae. Reportedly a French Blu-Ray release from Wild Side appears to be the only release that faithfully retains the look that that Luciano Tovoli described in the aforementioned quote. The most problematic area of this transfer is it’s grain structure, which has an odd look to it and at times almost looks like digital noise. One scene in particular, the death of the young girl who has been chased by a dog in one of this transfers most pronounced scenes concerning this odd grain structure.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD Mono mix in Italian and a DTS-HD Mono mix in English. Both audio mixes exhibit some mild instances of distortion and moments were the dialog sounds unbalanced. The film’s score and more ambient aspects of the soundtrack fare much better. In all these audio mixes like this release’s transfer lack consistently. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles that are easy to follow and error free.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (3 minutes 14 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), three interviews, ‘Scream Queen! Daria Nicolodi Remembers Tenebrae’ (16 minutes 6 seconds -anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles) she also has a brief intro before the film, ‘The Unsane World of Tenebrae: An Interview with Dario Argento‘ (15 minutes 15 seconds -anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles), ‘A Composition for Carnage: Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae’ (10 minutes 6 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in English), a segment titled ‘Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches’ (16 minutes 39 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and two audio commentaries, the first with journalists / writers Kim Newman and Alan Jones and the second audio commentary with Argento expert Thomas Rostock.
The three interviews do a good job exploring each of these three individuals roles in the making of this film. Some of the choice moments include Daria Nicolodi being dissatisfied with the role she ended up with (She wanted the role that eventually went to Veronica Lario), Dario Argento discusses the origins of this project (most notably an accident with a stalker while he was staying in Los Angeles) and Claudio Simonetti explains why reason behind a more electronic score. During playback of these interviews I noticed several occasions in which the audio sounded distorted. All the extra content is presented in a 1080 progressive.
The stronger of the two audio commentaries is the track with Kim Newman and Alan Jones, who not only provide plenty of insight into this production and the films of Dario Argento, they also manage to keeps things laid back and entertaining. While the audio commentary with Thomas Rostock is a rather dry affair that gets bogged down in its lack of spontaneity. With this being said, he does provide some worthwhile information that all Dario Argento will find interesting.
Also included with this release a collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on “Tenebrae” by Alan Jones, author of “Profondo Argento”, a four sleeve art options with original and newly commissioned artwork and a double-sided fold-out poster. Overall Tenebrae gets an uneven release from Arrow Video that leaves plenty of room for improvement.
Note: Though all of the extras are presented in a 1080 progressive, they would not load on my Sony BDP S350 model player. I was however able to load them on my LG blu-ray player that I have for my PC. Also there have been other individuals that have reported trouble with the extras loading on their respective players.