Review Date: March 21, 2004
Released by: Dragon Entertainment
Release date: 3/2004
Region 0, PAL
Full Frame 1.33:1
Back in the early 1970's, after the success of Cat O' Nine Tails, Dario Argento was hired by RAI (the Italian National TV network) to produce a short series in an effort to modernize Italian TV. At the time, Italian TV consisted of one channel and was heavily censored by the government. Argento was a modern, cutting-edge director, and was thus considered perfect for the job. The series is titled Door Into Darkness and consists of four episodes: The Tram and The Eyewitness, both directed by Dario Argento; The Neighbor, directed by Luigi Cozzi; and The Doll, directed by Mario Foglitetti, an RAI worker.
The show was an overnight success, drawing huge ratings and launching Argento as a prominent director. But who is this show's intended audience? Will the typical Argento fan enjoy it? Or will they find it to be disappointing? Dragon has released a 2-disc PAL DVD set of the series that is limited to 3,000. Lets take a look and see if it holds up.
Episode One: The Neighbor
- One night, a young family - Luca, his wife Safiana, and their newborn baby - travel to their new apartment by the beach. They arrive to find the electricity is out. Deciding nothing can be done about it so late at night, they sit down to watch some TV( via battery power!) and will deal with the electricity in the morning. During the movie, a water stain begins to spread on the ceiling. They head up to the apartment above them and discover a dead body in the bath tub. Before long, the neighbor returns and Luca becomes trapped in the apartment. When the neighbor realizes that the couple have discovered the body, he ties them up and prepares to dispose of them. As morning arrives and the neighbor prepares a burial by the sea, the couple receives a ray of hope from the unlikeliest of allies.
Episode Two: The Tram
- A young blonde woman is found dead beneath a tram's passenger seat. Detective Giordani is assigned to the case. As he begins interviewing the tram's passengers and operators from the previous night, he becomes perplexed as to how not a single person noticed a murder taking place. The detective decides to reenact the tram ride during the day to get better understanding of the events that took place. One of the tram operators becomes a suspect and is subsequently convicted of the murder. As the operator is being dragged off to jail, he maintains his innocence and leaves the detective wondering if someone else is responsible for the murder. In one last ditch attempt to gather more information, the detective decides to reenact the tram ride at night - during the same time frame the actual murder took place. A mysterious stranger follows, determined to stop the detective before the true killer is revealed.
Episode Three: The Eyewitness
- A lady named Roberta is driving home late at night down a windy road. As she rounds a curve, a woman darts in front of her car and collapses. Roberta is able to stop before hitting her. The collapsed woman is bleeding and as Roberta is trying to decide what to do, a dark figure emerges from the bushes and points a gun at Roberta. She's able to flee before the figure shoots. When the police arrive, both the body and any traces of blood have disappeared. The police, and even Roberta's own husband, question whether or not the incident occurred. But Roberta is certain of what she saw, and that her life is in danger. Roberta's husband devises a plan to lure the killer out, but the plan fails and Roberta finds herself trapped in her home to fend off the killer.
Episode Four: The Doll
- When a schizophrenic escapes from a local asylum, police are called in for assistance in finding the person. A woman is murdered and police begin a city-wide man-hunt to find the patient. As police slowly narrow in, their effort to prevent a second murder may be in vain. Another life hangs in the grip of the schizophrenic, but not all is what it seems.
With introductions and even cameos by a young Dario Argento, the Door of Darkness series is the Italian take on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Each of the episodes is a mystery/suspense. Do not expect typical Argento here, as there is no gore or excessive violence present, nor are any of the trademark Argento visuals. Luigi Cozzi explains during an interview that the shows were shot for presentation in black and white, but the RAI wanted them filmed in color for possible future broadcasts. Even so, Cozzi goes on to explain that many of the colors were chosen because of how they appear in black and white. He goes as far to recommend people view this in black and white to see it as originally intended.
My favorite episode was The Witness. There were a few scenes that had me on the edge of my seat, and even sent some chills down my back. Next would be The Tram, which is a great little whodunit. The Neighbor, a bit of an offshoot of Hitchcock's Rear Window, was enjoyable, but slower paced than the previous two. Finally, The Doll, which has absolutely nothing to do with killers dolls, was probably the least enjoyable of the four shows, though I still enjoyed it.
These shows are obviously murder mysteries, not horrors. The pacing is slow in each, but that's generally appropriate for a murder mystery. Each segment runs nearly an hour in length as the story develops, red herrings are thrown in, and we are left to guess who the murderer might be. Though I thought some of the stories were predictable as I watched them, I turned out to be wrong.
I thought it might be difficult to determine what type of horror fan would enjoy Door Into Darkness, but I was wrong. Casual Argento fans may be disappointed by the lack of his typical trademarks in the series. There are some unique shots in each, such as slow motion sequences and a series of quick cuts. These shows are not for horror fans, or Argento fans (excluding you die-hards, of course). If you're a fan of murder mysteries and have the patience to sit through a slowly developing story, you'll enjoy these.
All of the episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios. The DVD itself is region 0 PAL, so be certain your player can handle it. The transfer was shot on 16mm and is over 30 years old. Both the age and low quality of the print is evident. The colors are faded and washed out, especially in The Tram and The Doll. This may be a casualty of lack of emphasis on color, due to the series being shot for black and white presentation. Minor print damage appears throughout the episodes, with The Doll having the worse. The image is soft and lacking in detail, with some scenes worse than others. This may sound like a bad transfer, but I wouldn't necessarily rate it so. It's lackluster, yes, but considering the source materials, I was expecting a lot worse. The image isn't quite as soft as I expected, nor is there as much print damage as I expected. My biggest complaint is the faded colors, but I'm betting there is little improvement that could be done considering the source materials. I'll rate this with a C, as I consider it to be a satisfactory transfer with all things considered.
All episodes contain an Italian mono track, with optional English and German subtitles. There are some occasional pops and hisses in the sound track, but overall it's free of distortion. One minor complaint would be that the English subtitles have some problems. Grammatical errors I can overlook, though there are some present, but there are times in both the episodes and the interviews that there are clearly some statements missing. In one interview, Luigi Cozzi points out that Argento directed one of the episodes under a pseudonym, yet the subtitles fail to actually display 'Dario Argento' as the director. These problems are minor and infrequent, but are worth noting. Overall the subtitles seem to do an adequate job of conveying the dialogue.
Interviews galore with director and Argento associate Luigi Cozzi. The dialogue is Italian, but German and English subtitles are available. There is a main interview where Cozzi discusses how the series came to be. Then, prior to each episode in an additional Cozzi interview where he discusses specific details regarding the episode. The interviews total about an hour in length and are full of interesting tidbits that fans will enjoy.
Door Into Darkness is an enjoyable collection of murder mysteries that was helmed by Dario Argento. Fans need to be aware that this isn't typical Argento, however. Anyone that enjoys a good murder mystery should certainly enjoy the episodes in Door Into Darkness. The transfer has problems but is satisfactory considering the source materials. Subtitles have a few minor problems but get the job done in the end. The set is packaged in a nice little slipcase (looking like a mini-laserdisc, which is always a plus) and comes with linear notes (in German only). Overall a decent release from Dragon. Recommended!
This disc is available from Xploited Cinema. Remember that it's a limited edition of 3,000.
Movie - The Neighbor - B- | The Tram - B | The Witness - B | The Puppet - C+
Image Quality - C
Sound - C
Supplements - B
- Running Time - 4 hours 33 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- Italian Mono
- German and English subtitles
- Luigi Cozzi interviews/introductions