Review Date: May 31, 2003
Released by: DB Media
Release date: 1993
MSRP: 5,871 Yen
Most of Dario Argento's legion of fans are familiar with two of the documentaries made about him and his movies. In 1986, Argento protégé Michele Soavi made a nice little documentary about his mentor entitled Dario Argento's World of Horror, and in 2000, a UK television company produced Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror. But there is a little known Argento study with the bulky name Dario Argento: Bizarre Opera: Master of Horror. Bad title aside, this Luigi Cozzi-directed documentary fits nicely in between the two more well known films, detailing Argento's work from the mid 80s to the early 90s. Unfortunately, the only way to obtain a copy of this is to get the laserdisc version produced in Japan. Still, any self-respecting Argento fan will surely want this in his or her collection
Like any documentary, there really is no story here. Again, it's basically a study of the films of Dario Argento from 1982 (Tenebrae) to 1993 (Trauma). Argento is interviewed about his inspirations and writing methods, and commentary from film critic Fabio Giovannini, effects man Sergio Stivaletti, and composer Pino Donnagio provide further details. Several behind-the-scenes sequences are here, most notably a very in-depth section on the making of Opera (1987), as well as some of the sound effects used in Tenebrae. Plenty of film clips are used to augment the discussion, and the clips are in Italian with English subtitles. This was new to me, as I've only seen Opera with the English dub.
Next up, Argento describes how he integrates music into his films, and whether he writes the music before or after filming. Again, several film clips are used, even going back as far as Suspiria (1977). We also hear Argento's views on writing for films he's directed versus films he only plans to produce. This provides for some discussion and clips of The Church (1988), The Sect (1990), and even Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1979)
Lastly there's a visit to the set of Two Evil Eyes (1990), Argento's collaboration with George A. Romero. Dario has always been a huge fan of Edgar Allen Poe, so hearing him discuss his literary idol is something any fan will want to hear. Visits to Poe's home and gravesite are here, along with interviews with actress Madeline Potter and special effects guru Tom Savini. After a nice little collection of clips from several Argento productions, the closing credits roll, but don't stop the disc just yet. A short (8 minute) segment on Dario's American production of Trauma shows up at the end, and while way too short, it's also required viewing. Widescreen (2.35:1) clips along with a whole host of interviews (Frederick Forrest, Piper Laurie, Brad Dourif, Asia Argento, Christopher Rydell, James Russo, and Savini again) add a nice little epilogue to this great documentary.
It's unfortunate that this documentary is so rare, as any Argento fan will really eat this up. Luckily, many of the making-of clips (Tenebrae, Phenomena, and Opera) have already appeared on the Anchor Bay DVDs, so even if Master of Horror never sees the light of day on DVD, most of it is already available. But again, that's MOST of it, certainly not all. The Argento interviews are extremely insightful, and since Anchor Bay has already released The Church minus the sequences from this documentary, it's safe to say that there will always be something here not seen elsewhere. Whether or not any upcoming releases of Two Evil Eyes, Trauma, and The Sect will contain segments from Master of Horror is unknown. I'm playing it safe and holding on to this LD real tight.
And even the sequences that show up on the Opera DVD are still different on this laserdisc. The differences are not exactly earth shattering, but as an Argento completist, I like having this documentary to complement the extras on the Anchor Bay DVD. Also, I liked seeing the film clips in Italian, as I've never been a fan of some of the voices used in the English dub. On the flip side, it's funny to see Jennifer Connelly dubbed into Italian for the Phenomena clips, when the English subtitles match her lips and the Italian dubbing doesn't!
Speaking of languages, subtitles, and dubbing, you'll be bouncing around with three different languages on this LD. Many of the interviews are in Italian, with English translation over top of the Italian. Yes, subtitles would be a better choice, but that would seem even more cluttered, as the entire disc has Japanese subtitles. These subtitles are not removable, but they are also not too distracting.
Finally, several very long film clips are provided, so it's like a real Dario Argento's Greatest Hits package. These are not just short clips edited together; some film segments are two to three minutes in length. Of course, it is highly advisable to be familiar with ALL of the films highlighted here, as many of the clips will serve as spoilers for those unfamiliar with the movies. The closing carnage of Tenebrae is here in all its gory detail, along with the infamous murder in Opera, and many of the death scenes in The Church. Now, for those of us who have seen all those films, this is the best of Dario, all on one disc. Good stuff, no doubt about it.
As I'm finding out with other older documentaries (like Scream Greats - Tom Savini), the quality of the film clips used here are more than a little disappointing. I've gotten so accustomed to seeing the films on Anchor Bay DVDs, that the segments here simply pale in comparison. They're dark, murky, and fuzzy, but we do have to remember it's all done before the films were digitally re-mastered for home viewing. The interviews and behind-the-scenes bits are a lot better, but I've heard that this was a made-for-TV documentary, so the medium of choice is video, unlike Soavi's 1986 documentary film. Thus, the image quality here is not even up to the normal standards of laserdisc, but again, it's what you get with a transfer that was done on video to begin with.
Your center speaker will get the most work here, with just a few instances of music being directed to the left and right speakers. A bit of a hiss shows up in the interview with Michele Soavi. But all of the dialogue is quite clear (and if you can read Japanese, the dialogue isn't even necessary!), and this film was meant to inform more than entertain.
Like any documentary (with maybe the exception of the Romero documentary Document of the Dead), no supplementary features are provided.
I think this is the best of the three Argento documentaries. Even though many of the scenes have now been included as supplements on other DVDs, it's much better to have them all on one disc like this. Plus, we may never see the segments concerning The Church, The Sect, Two Evil Eyes, and Trauma other than here. And the interviews are priceless. This is not an easy laserdisc to find, as was only available for sale in Japan. But any Argento fan should seek a copy of Dario Argento: Bizarre Opera: Master of Horror immediately.
Documentary - A
Image Quality - C
Sound - B-
Supplements - N/A
- Running time - 1 hour 22 minutes
- Nor Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English and Italian Dolby Pro-Logic Stereo
- Japanese subtitles (non-removable)