Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 7th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 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: September 13th, 2016
Approximate running times: 101 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Italian, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English, English SDH
BluRay Release: Synapse Films
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $34.95
“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 widescreen. It should be noted though this release uses the same source that originated with Wild Side and then was later used by Arrow Video. The end result is a transfer that improves upon those aforementioned mentioned transfers in every way. Needless to say this is by far and away the best this film has looked on home video to date.
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 sound excellent! Dialog comes through clearly, everything sound balanced and robust when it needs. Range and depth are never an issue as these two audio mixes do a great job with the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. Also included with this release are two subtitle options, English and English SDH.
Extras for this release include, International (3 minutes 12 seconds) and Japanese (2 minutes 8 seconds) trailers for the film, alternate opening credits with English text narration (2 minutes 14 seconds), alternate end credits for U.S, release under the title Unsane (1 minute 51 seconds), an option to play via seamless branching rare English language inserts in place of Italian language inserts, a documentary titled Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo ( 89 minutes 20 seconds, in Italian and English with English subtitles) and audio commentary with film critic and Dario Argento scholar Maitland McDongh.
The extra titled Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo serves as a good introduction for those who are just getting into this genre.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, themes explored in this film and recurring themes explored by Dario Argento, imagery and symbolism, the giallo and essential elements to the genre, cast & casting choices, the look of the film – visuals, set design and wardrobe, the score, key moments, the ending and her overall thoughts about the film.
Overall Tenebrae gets an exceptional release that is a clear forerunner for best release of the year.
Note: Synapse Films are also releasing this film on DVD.