Scorpion Releasing has three Italian horror flicks (remastered in 2K) from Argento coming out in the next three months: Opera in January, The Sect in February, and The Church in March. Opera being the only one of the three he directed, with the other two being producing and/or writing efforts, and being directed by his frequent collaborator friend, Michele Soavi. I’ve never been a fan of Italian horror personally, only being familiar with it through Fangoria magazine. I’ve never seen a giallo flick, and my assumption has always been they’re basically slasher films done Italian-style. Slashers have never been my forte either, but I do own, and have loved, some of the ones we’ve created here in America (i.e. Halloween, Friday the 13th, Hell Night, Terror Train, etc.), so when Opera showed up I decided to take a brief jaunt outside my comfort zone. Yes, this’ll be my very first viewing of a giallo, and an Argento giallo at that!
Apparently this opera of MacBeth is rumored to be “cursed,” the lead actress is hit by a car and breaks her leg, which means someone else now gets to star in it, and it ends up being Betty (Cristina Marsillach), but she comes with a lot of “baggage” that’s going to spell doom for the people around her. There’s a couple of flashbacks that’ll be revealed to be of her when she was small, her mother, who was twisted, and some hooded guy who used to do things to her.
The moment Betty takes the stage a killer begins to target her, and a real twisted one at that, but aren’t they all? This one gets his kicks out of tying her up and making her watch when he kills, and how to do you make a person watch something they don’t want when they can simply close their eyes? You tape a bunch of pins under their peepers. You can see what I mean by checking out the poster. This killer also likes to use a blade to expire his victims, and the messiest kill of the whole movie is of boyfriend/stage manager, Stefano (William McNamara), who takes a blade up under his chin and we can see it come out in his mouth. He’s then stabbed to death on the floor.
This movie is also a mystery as to who the nutbag is, and it ends up being the tall, blond police inspector, Alan Santini (Urbano Barberini). The one death that really took me by surprise is of Betty’s friend, Mira (Daria Nicolodi), who takes a bullet right through her eye and out the back of her bead when she looks through the peephole as she’s unknowingly conversing with the killer. The shot is an uber close-up of the bullet entering the peephole, continuing slow-mo through and out the woman’s skull. Quite an impressively stage kill I must say.
The killer likes to shroud his head in a black hood, and double glove his hands, which I’ve never seen done before. He wears the customary black leathers you typically would for performing such heinous acts upon other human beings, but then puts a pair of plastic, surgical gloves over those, making his hands look almost slimy, or something. So, why is he targeting Betty? He knew her mother (hence those flashbacks), and did things to her, so I guess, he figured she was like her mom and could pair up with her too to do stuff to her.
There’s one other important person in her life, the director of the opera she’s in, Marco (Ian Charleson), he lives right up to the end, when he gets knifed to death after she and Betty are in the Swiss Alps, thinking Santini is dead after his final attack on her that was supposed to have the both of them burning to death in a room, but he faked his death in the process.
Opera has a bittersweet ending. The police finally capture Santini, not kill him, not what I was expecting, since most slashers usually end up dead at the end of their movies, or seemingly dead, but not really, so there can be a franchise, but she looks to have gone insane just before the end credits appear. Too bad, she was so hot.
There was a clever moment of how Marco goes about unmasking the killer. The opera is using a flock of ravens in the production and Santini breaks in one night to vandalize the dress Betty wears, but ravens get out and harass Santini forcing him to kill three of them. According to “raven lore” ravens remember those who persecute them, so Marco unleashes them during a performance, they zero in on Santini in the audience and peck out one of his eyes.
So, that was an Argento giallo. Interesting, but still not my cup of tea. I do like Argento’s cinematography though, and the way he stages some of them. He also certainly loves colors, like reds, yellows and greens, mostly reds for this flick. I was surprised I recognized one of the actors, wasn’t expecting to, but I’ve seen William McNamara in other movies. I didn’t even know he was in this, until he popped up.
Near as I can figure Anchor Bay was the first cult distributor to release Opera on DVD here in the states in a couple of editions (standard and limited) back in 2001. Blue Underground picked up the title after that and released it in 2007. All previous releases were DVD, this one, coming from Scorpion Releasing on January 23rd, is its first ever U.S. blu-ray! You can buy the standard version here on Amazon!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 2.35:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—No subs.
The transfer looks gorgeous! Being unfamiliar with this in its previous DVD incarnations I wasn’t sure if the echo audio was a glitch, or inherent in the English dub, according to Scorpion it’s inherent in the dub, but it’s not distracting. It wasn’t for me, at least. The worst case scenario audio that sounds like it’s being recorded in an auditorium I’ve ever heard is on Retromedia’s double feature of The Killer Shrews/The Giant Gila Monster. The echo was so bad it makes the movie unwatchable, but the problem is only on the Shrews. The echo in Opera is not that bad, not even remotely, but it is evident. It won’t destroy your movie going experience, unless you’re really sensitive to something like that, then, yes, it will. Totally, and completely. Destroyed. All over the place.
This also the full 107-minute uncut version too!
Extras included . . .
- On-Camera Interview With Dario Argento (21:41) (New)
- On-Camera Interview With Star William McNamara (16:44) (New)
- U.S. Theatrical trailer
- Italian Theatrical Trailer
- International Theatrical Trailer
NOTE: I need to stress there will be two versions of these Argento flicks coming out, the standard editions, which can be ordered on Amazon, and the Deluxe Editions, which can only be gotten on Ronin Flix’s site. If you’re curious, here are the specs for Opera’s Deluxe Edition:
- Two different English tracks and the Italian track with English Subtitles
- The film presented in two aspect ratios, each on their own dual layered discs – 2.35:1 and 1.78:1
- NEW audio commentary with film historian Nathaniel Thompson
- NEW interviews with stars William McNamara, Barbara Cupisti, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni , Urbano Barberini and make up artist Franco Casagni
- Interviews with director Dario Argento, composer Claudio Simonetti, screenwriter Franco Ferrini, special fx artist Sergio Stivaletti, press agent Enrico Lucherini, and movie historian Fabrizio Spurio
- The U.S/Orion Pictures cut
- Original Theatrical Trailers
As of this review there’s currently no immediate street date for this version, so I recommend checking Ronin’s site periodically.