Dario Argento

 
 

 
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DVD image comparison: Inferno

DVD

The release of the Italian DVD of Inferno in October 2007 is a pretty major event, because it marks not only the first time the film has been released on DVD in its native country, but also because it means that the US Anchor Bay release is no longer the only official DVD release of the film in the world (an unauthorised German version, a bootleg of the Anchor Bay DVD, has also been doing the rounds for some time). The lack of variety has meant that there has been little sense of perspective on Anchor Bay’s release - i.e. how good it actually is, how accurate a representation of the film it is - until now.

The Italian release is by the original theatrical distributor, 20th Century Fox, who treated the film absolutely shabbily at the time of its original release, and, until now, didn’t seem to want to know about it. This new release, which includes menus in both English and Italian, begins with the traditional Fox logo and fanfare (seeing this at the start of a Dario Argento film is a truly surreal experience, like two distant worlds colliding), but other than that, both versions are identical in terms of film content, with both featuring English credits and location type.

This is where the similarities end, however. A brief glance at any of the screen captures I’ve posted should reveal that two completely different masters have been used, demonstrating massive differences in terms of brightness and colour palette. Broadly speaking, the Italian release is lighter throughout, improving the shadow detail considerably (see how much clearer Example 10 is on the Italian DVD, for instance). The blacks aren’t truly solid, though, suggesting that some artificial brightening may have been applied. It’s also clear that the Anchor Bay release is noticeably cropped, with a considerable amount of additional information visible on the left and right of the frame in most shots, as well as a smaller amount at the top and bottom. The difference becomes less pronounced at around the film’s half-way mark, however (Example 12 onwards), with the increased visual information generally only being significant on the left hand side of the frame.

Inferno

Above: Anchor Bay; Below: 20th Century Fox

Inferno

In terms of detail, the Fox release appears to show more than that of the Anchor Bay, although some of the perceived sharpness is the result of edge enhancement. It’s not the most severe I’ve ever seen, but it does add a degree of “digitalness” to the image that we could have done without. The compression is definitely much improved on the Fox DVD, utilising a significantly higher bit rate on a dual layer disc (the Anchor Bay disc is a single layer affair). This leads to better presentation of the film grain, as well as helping to make the details stand out better in darker areas. Overall, I think the Fox transfer has the better technical presentation, but the edge enhancement lets the side down.

Moving on to the colour palette, and this is where things get tricky. It certainly doesn’t take a genius to see that the two are very different colour-wise, and I’m at a loss to decide which one is the more accurate. Comparing it with my PAL UK LaserDisc (from Encore) certainly doesn’t do much to shed light on the subject, as the colours on that release are all over the place thanks to the analogue technology. For the most part, the Anchor Bay transfer is considerably more saturated, with colours that at times verge on the extreme. Inferno, like its predecessor, Suspiria, was always intended to have moments of dazzling primary colour, but some of the examples posted here make me slightly suspicious that Anchor Bay indulged in a bit of colour pumping. In particular, if you look at Example 9, you can see that, when lightning strikes on the Anchor Bay version, the entire screen is tinted a strong blue, whereas, on the Fox DVD, a more natural white is shown. Is this a similar case to the Halloween debacle, where the lab timing has been ignored for the Fox release, or is Anchor Bay guilty of jacking up the colours for their version? Anyone want to contact Dario Argento or Romano Albani to get their input on the matter? I suspect that’s the only surefire way of settling this controversy!

In a purely aesthetic sense, I can’t decide which of the two I prefer. This is such a visually-driven film, using composition, lighting and colour to evoke mood, and as such, I suspect that the experience will change quite substantially depending on which version you watch. I do know, however, that I’m not keen on the oddly flat lighting on Eleonora Giorgi’s face on the Fox DVD in Example 6 (the Anchor Bay transfer is much more aesthetically pleasing in this shot). In the end, I’m not going to call it either way. Take your pick.

Inferno

Above: Anchor Bay; Below: 20th Century Fox

Inferno

For audio, the Anchor Bay release provides a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix of the English language version, plus a 2.0 surround mix in the same language. The latter is, however, not derived from the film’s original stereo theatrical mix, but is instead a downmix of the 5.1 remix. The Fox DVD, meanwhile, provides the original English stereo mix, along with the original Italian mono mix, and optional subtitles in both languages, the English subtitle track serving as a translation of the Italian dialogue rather than a transcription of the English. In terms of clarity, the Italian mono track fares the worst, coming across as somewhat muffled, although it is listenable enough. The two mixes on the Anchor Bay DVD fare the best in a technical sense, demonstrating a decent level of clarity, although, given that both tracks are remixes, they cannot really be considered to be representative of Argento’s original intentions. The English stereo track on the Italian DVD, by contrast, initially sounds a lot harsher and more strained, with some noticeable crackling during the first few seconds. The clarity definitely improves as the film progresses, with things improving leaps and bounds after the opening credits, and the differences soon become quite negligible, although the Anchor Bay remixes continue to have the slight edge in terms of overall fidelity. Purists, however, may prefer this slightly weaker quality stereo track to the remixes offered by Anchor Bay.

In terms of extras, the Anchor Bay release is definitely the winner, boasting a trailer, gallery, talent bios and an interview featurette, whereas the Italian release features only the trailer (in poorer quality, and with burned-in Spanish subtitles).

Overall, I’m really not sure how to call this. Both releases have their definite strengths and weaknesses. I suspect that it ultimately comes down to how important you consider it to be to have access to the original stereo English recording and the Italian language version. If you want both of these, then the Fox release is for you. If, however, neither of these are important to you, then it essentially becomes a question of which of the two transfers you find to be more aesthetically pleasing. Use the screenshots I’ve provided and decide for yourselves!

Go ahead and check out the full comparison here!

 
Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2007 at 10:53 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Technology
 

Movie madness

DVD

Yesterday was quite a delay for deliveries for me, starting with the arrival of the third and final season of Veronica Mars from DVD Pacific. Veronica Mars is not a show that I wholeheartedly adore, but I did enjoy the previous two seasons on DVD to varying degrees, and I found myself with a definite desire to hear how the story ends (although, by all accounts, there is little sense of closure in the final episode due to the amount of confusion as to whether the show would be picked up for a fourth season). If nothing else, the move out of the high school environment which dominated Seasons 1 and 2 should provide a much-needed change of pace, while I understand that, mindful of how difficult it was for viewers to get into the previous seasons midway, the producers broke Season 3 into several “mini-arcs” rather than going for one continuous year-long mystery.

HD DVD

Up next: the 2-disc Collector’s Edition of Mission Impossible 3 on HD DVD, also from DVD Pacific (dang, those guys should be paying me royalties!). From the brief glance that I took at it when it arrived, the transfer is every bit as good as I remembered - a virtually flawless presentation and one of the few times I can remember seeing a film photographed in anamorphic Panavision looking this good in high definition I suspect this is due to the fact that Panavision has lost a considerable amount of popularity with filmmakers in recent years, with Super35 tending to be the preferred process for shooting 2.39:1 titles these days. As a result, most Panavision titles released in HD are older, catalogue titles, many of which come from weaker masters. Not so with Mission Impossible 3, which is crisp and clear throughout, with nary an edge halo or soft shot to be found, and only a couple of compression issues preventing it from receiving full marks (we’re talking 9.9/10 stuff here).

The third and final delivery yesterday was the R2 Italian release of Inferno, from DVD.it. This particular release, which is very interesting, will be the subject of a dedicated post that I hope to upload at some point tonight.

HD DVD

Finally, today, the HD DVD release of Seed of Chucky arrived from, you guessed it, DVD Pacific. (Oh, shut up - I like this film, even if it’s in a “so bad it’s good” way.) I really wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of image quality for this one, but I’m pleased to report that it looks very fine indeed. It comes from a film element rather than a digital intermediate, but it’s one of the best film-sourced HD transfers I’ve seen recently, especially from Universal, who have churned out some decidedly underwhelming-looking catalogue titles this year. A handful of shots, and even a couple of entire scenes, look noticeably softer than the rest of the film, but at its best, it has a nicely crisp appearance without looking processed in any way. A very high 8/10, and it would have been a 9 if not for the softer scenes.

 
Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2007 at 5:15 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | HD DVD | TV | Technology
 

Halloween: what can you expect?

Halloween

In just a few days’ time, it will be Halloween, and, naturally, I’m planning a splurge of horror-themed reviews for DVD Times. Last year, I concentrated mainly on covering HD DVD releases, but this year, things are going to be a little more balanced across the three formats I cover. So, provided I can actually churn them out within the next 8-9 days, here’s what you can expect to see:

  • The Descent (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • Halloween (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • House of 1000 Corpses (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • Inferno (R2 Italy, DVD)
  • Suspiria: Definitive Edition (R2 Italy, DVD)
  • Underworld: Extended Cut (R0 Germany, HD DVD)

Now, I’m aware that that’s a bit of a tall order, particularly given that I also have work commitments and my PhD to think about, not to mention a review of the Blu-ray release of Oldboy, plus one of Blue Underground’s new release of The Stendhal Syndrome when it arrives, so I don’t want to promise anything. I’ll do my best to finish as many of them as possible, though.

 
Posted: Monday, October 22, 2007 at 7:41 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | HD DVD | Halloween | PhD | Reviews
 

The optimum Mother of Tears experience

Mother of Tears

Source: Dark Discussion

Dark Discussion is reporting that Optimum Releasing has picked up the UK distribution rights to Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears, with a view to releasing it on DVD in February or March 2008. A general theatrical release is, unsurprisingly, not planned, but Alan Jones is apparently trying to persuade Optimum to put together a screening of the entire trilogy in London with Argento himself in attendance.

Bear in mind that Optimum are also a supporter of high definition media, currently releasing HD DVDs and also supporting Blu-ray as of November. They haven’t released a whole lot of HD content as of yet, but in their most recent press release they stated an interest in responding to “the demand for a greater variety of product”, so it’s possibly worth contacting them and asking them to consider releasing Mother of Tears on either or both formats. I’ve sent them an email (info@optimumreleasing.com), and I would strongly encourage you to do likewise.

CD

In related news, the soundtrack to Mother of Tears is being released in Italy by the label Edel to coincide with the film’s theatrical release at the end of the month. MovieGrooves hope to have copies in stock by early November, and I’ve already got mine pre-ordered. I’m very curious to hear the score in all its glory - I’ve heard mixed reports about it, but the Jerry Goldsmith/Omen-esque snippets that I’ve heard in various trailers and the like sound quite enticing, and, if nothing else, it suggests something of a change of pace for Argento and Claudio Simonetti.

 
Posted: Monday, October 22, 2007 at 7:38 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | HD DVD | Music
 

Blu-ray bonanza

Blu-ray Blu-ray

On Friday, I received a couple of packages from DVD Pacific, containing the first two instalments of Masters of Horror: Season 1 on Blu-ray. Volume 1 contains John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns, Stuart Gordon’s Dreams in the Witch-House and William Malone’s The Fair-Haired Child, while Volume 2 contains Dario Argento’s Jenifer, Lucky McKee’s Sick Girl and John Landis’ Deer Woman. Hmm, something slightly wrong about the first Argento title I own in HD is comfortably the worst thing to which his name has ever been attached (then again, I haven’t seen all of the pre-Bird with the Crystal Plumage westerns that he wrote, so there could be some clunkers among them as well). Still, we all have to start somewhere, and I wanted to pick these discs up, given that Argento’s shameful contributions are the only episodes I have seen of either season of Masters of Horror. I just hope some of the other filmmakers were able to bring a little more of themselves to the table.

As for the treatment of the episodes on Blu-ray, you may already be aware that, barring the audio commentaries for each episode, all of the extras from the standard definition releases have been dumped. Classy, Anchor Bay, real classy. Anyone would think you didn’t care about what you were putting out. Oh, wait a minute - judging by Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and Evil Dead II, that much is pretty clear.

Anyway, unlike most Blu-ray and HD DVD releases, these discs are encoded at 1080i rather than 1080p. The reason for this seems to be that the closing credits for each episode scroll at 60 Hz, necessitating the episodes themselves to be stored as such. Personally, I’m glad Anchor Bay didn’t try to deinterlace them themselves, as such results are rarely pretty. As for the image quality, it’s reasonably good. All the episodes have a similar soft, rather diffuse look, but I suspect it may turn out that they look as good as the source materials allow.

Blu-ray

I’ve also received a check disc for Tartan’s upcoming UK Blu-ray release of Oldboy. The image quality is… eh, passable. I’ve seen worse, but I’ve seen a lot better. Looks rather murky and edge enhanced. I’ve been tasked with reviewing the technical components of the disc for DVD Times - we already have plenty reviews of the film itself, so there’s no need to repeat what others have already said.

See you at the movies!

 
Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 10:44 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Reviews | TV | Technology
 

A pretty developed sense of perversion

Wholesome girly antics in Enigma Rosso

Above: Wholesome girly antics in Enigma Rosso

Throughout the 1970s, hundreds (if not thousands) of gialli were made, and, although many of them are now readily available on DVD, the vast majority are either lost entirely or only available in severely compromised grey market editions, usually copied countless times from already iffy materials. One giallo that I’d been wanting to see for some time was a 1978 offering called Enigma Rosso, also known as Rings of Fear, Red Rings of Fear, Virgin Killer (a pretty misleading title), Trauma (not to be confused with the 1993 Dario Argento slasher of the same name), and various other diverse titles. It bears the distinction of being the final part in the group of films unofficially referred to as the “Schoolgirls in Peril” trilogy, the first two instalments of which, What Have You Done to Solange? and What Have They Done to Your Daughters?, were helmed by the gifted and underrated Massimo Dallamano. Dallamano’s life was cut short when he was involved in a car crash in 1976, but he collaborated on the script for Enigma Rosso and, as far as I can gather, fully intended to direct it. The reigns ended up being passed to Alberto Negrin, and the buzz on the Internet has always been that the end result was nothing like as good as the first two films in the trilogy.

Until recently, the only version of the film that was circulated on a wide basis seemed to be a murky-looking, VHS-sourced pan and scan presentation of the English language print, which, with PAL speed-up, ran for approximately 81 minutes. Recently, however, the same version of the film (albeit with Spanish credits) showed up on DVD in Spain, non-anamorphic and with Spanish audio only but in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I bought this DVD back in August, and, a few days ago, put the finishing touches to my own personal composite version, which marries the English audio from the VHS dupe with the transfer from the Spanish DVD. The results, while far from ideal, are certainly preferable to either version on its own. I understand that several different cuts of the film were prepared for different markets, so presumably other versions exist which feature additional and/or alternate footage, but, for the time being, this is probably the best we’re going to get.

The plot sees Inspector Gianni Di Salvo (Fabio Testi, who also played the lead in What Have You Done to Solange?) investigating the death of a teenage girl, Angela Russo, whose body is discovered washed up on a riverbank. In predictable giallo fashion, it quickly emerges that something incredibly seedy has been going on, involving Angela and her three friends, quaintly known as “the Inseparables”. They, and the various employees of the St. Theresa’s boarding school, quickly begin dropping like flies, and Di Salvo, finding himself faced with a killer with, in his own words, “a pretty developed sense of perversion”, teams up with an unlikely accomplice, Angela’s younger sister, Emily (Fausta Avelli).

It immediately becomes apparent that this third instalment in the trilogy is very much a companion piece to its predecessors, as familiar elements crop up throughout. Peeping tom scenes of girls in showers? Check. Late night motorbike chase through the streets of Rome (at least I think it’s Rome - the locations used are fairly anonymous)? Check. Sordid sexual antics and corruption at the very core of society? Check. Back street abortion? Check. Negrin seems intent on combining the amateur sleuthing elements of Solange with the police thriller exploits of Daughters, and the result is rather confused and not altogether satisfying. There isn’t enough detective material to make an interesting poliziottesco, while at the same time the amateur detection scenes are too limited for a solid giallo. Negrin seems to want to both have his cake and eat it by catering to both markets, when in reality the end result ends up pleasing neither.

A lot of the confusion, I suspect, stems from the sheer number of writers involved. The English print credits Marcello Coccia, Dallamano, Franco Ferrini, Stefano Ubezio, Negrin and Peter Berling for the final screenplay (while the Spanish print, predictably, gives a completely different, and smaller, list of writers). A lot of gialli seem to have been written by committee, but I can’t recall ever seeing another with this many names attributed to its script. Another reason may have been the multiple cuts supposedly prepared for different territories. This would certainly explain the setting up and abandonment of multiple subplots, including Di Salvo’s rather unconventional, seemingly non-exclusive relationship with a shoplifter who may of may not be his wife, as well as the established-then-abandoned-then-reintroduced partnership between himself and young Emily.

Or it could be that Negrin was simply being sloppy. This is the only film I’ve seen by this director, but it suggests that he wasn’t half as effective a filmmaker as Dallamano. The peeping tom shower scene has a clumsy, leering quality that lacks the thematic justification of the similar scenes in Solange (confounded even further once we learn the identity of the voyeur), while the cross-cutting between scenes of an abortion being performed on one girl and flashbacks to a raucous orgy involving herself and her friends falls flat on its face. This is the sort of parallel that Dallamano would have been able to draw in a more subtle way, but Negrin, lacking his skill behind the camera, has to resort to crasser, more obvious techniques. Riz Ortolani’s score, too, doesn’t really work, frequently throwing menacing stings into completely innocuous situations.

As for Testi and his character Di Salvo, he’s pretty much your typical 70s macho cop protagonist. His preferred method of investigation is to barge into people’s bedrooms in the middle of the night, haul them out of bed half-naked and scream “Who killed Angela Russo?” at them. He also knows just how to set people at their ease: confronted with a room full of stone-faced, prudish schoolteachers, he bellows “Someone with a cock this big raped Angela Russo!”, spreading his arms wide to demonstrate. He also performs a rather intriguing interrogation on a suspect prone to motion sickness by taking him to a theme park and hauling him on to a roller coaster ride, and he’s as likely to enjoy a nice meal and bed down for a kip on the premises of a suspect as he is to actually do a decent day’s work in the office. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t think we ever see him setting foot inside a police station, while the oversized cardigan that he wears for the film’s duration robs him of much of his credibility - odd, given that, in The Big Racket and The Heroin Busters, I had no trouble believing in him as a cop.

In the final analysis, Enigma Rosso is comfortably the weakest of the trilogy. The final solution is disappointing and seems to be based more around hammering home the familiar message of corruption taking place in the very foundations of society than actually providing a satisfying explanation to the murders. There are definite moments of inspiration here and there, and it’s rarely boring, but it lacks the depth of Solange and the high octane rush of Daughters. Oh, to know what Dallamano had in mind for this one.

PS. I haven’t forgotten about The Giallo Project. In fact, I hope to get it started up again very soon. Think of this as a sneak peak at where I hope to end up in the somewhat distant future.

 
Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 1:17 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | Reviews
 

It’s a mad, mad world

DVD DVD

I’m probably going to regret this when my credit card bill arrives, but what can I say? It’s one of my all-time favourite films, if not my absolute favourite, and I’m determined to get the best possible presentation possible, so I’ve ordered both the newly-released Italian 2-disc “Definitive Edition” tin box set of Suspiria from IBS, and the upcoming French 3-disc Collector’s Edition from Amazon.fr.

The situation, as far as I can determine, from various web sites and forums, is this:

The Italian release includes an English 1.0 mono track - not ideal, but, if it is derived from the mono recording that did the rounds back in 1977 at cinemas not equipped to play the film’s quadrophonic mix, then it will still be preferable to the monstrosity present on the Anchor Bay DVD. Also included are Italian 1.0, 5.1 and 5.1 EX mixes, although this surprises me somewhat as the 5.1 EX track presumably renders the 5.1 track irrelevant. English and Italian subtitles are included, as well as the following extras: two Dario Argento interviews, theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, gallery.

The French release includes no English audio options, and French subtitles are forced when any of the Italian audio options are enabled. These booby traps will not, however, thwart the HMS Whimsy’s skilled navigators. The offered audio options, as per Wild Side’s page on the release, are French mono and Italian mono, stereo and 5.1. The extensive array of extras is described in my previous post.

So there you have it. The Italian tin should be arriving within the next week or so, and, if nothing else, it will look very nice on my shelf next to my French Danny the Dog tin, which features a similar design. I must say I’m really stoked to see this new HD-sourced transfer in action. In an ideal world, I’d be sitting down to watch it in full 1080p on HD DVD, but that doesn’t appear to be on the cards just yet, so, in the meantime, I’m going to have to settle for plain old standard definition.

 
Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 9:44 PM | Comments: 9 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | HD DVD | Technology
 

To hell and back again

DVD

For a considerable length of time, Anchor Bay’s US release of Dario Argento’s Inferno was the only legitimate copy of the film on DVD (a German company also released an unauthorised version which was merely a port of the Anchor Bay version). It was a good release for what it was, but suffered from a couple of notable flaws. First of all, the transfer, while reasonably good, was slightly soft and suffered from some compression artefacts, probably due to cramming this visually sumptuous 107-minute film on to a single layer disc. Secondly, although a 2.0 surround option was provided, this was in fact a downmix from Anchor Bay’s own 5.1 remix rather than the original stereo recording in which the film was originally released.

Finally, however, the Anchor Bay release has some competition. Released in Japan with some horrible cover art on October 5th, the exact specifications are unclear, and I’m not going to chance it and order a copy, given how expensive Japanese DVDs invariably are. Luckily, however, I don’t have to, as it has also been released in its native Italy (with the same horrible cover art) by its original theatrical distributor, 20th Century Fox. A scan of the full front and rear cover art was recently posted at Dark Discussion by member Opera 1987, and the eagled-eyed among us will be able to spot that it contains two audio options: “Italiano 2.0 mono” and “Inglese [English] 2.0 stereo”. Italian and English subtitles are also listed.

This release seems to check all the boxes for me: not only does it include an English stereo track (presumably the original recording rather than a remix), but it also provides the option to watch the film in Italian with English subtitles. I’ve always wondered how the film would play in Italian, with Argento’s own narration during the opening credits, and now it looks as if I’ll have the opportunity to find out. I’ve ordered a copy from DVD.it.

DVD

Coincidentally (or not), Inferno’s predecessor in the Three Mothers trilogy, Suspiria, is also seeing two re-releases this year, both derived from a new high definition master supervised by cinematographer Luciano Tovoli. CDE has already released a special tin box edition in Italy (artwork again sourced by Opera 1987), which looks to be fairly similar in terms of bonus content to the two previous DVD releases of the film in that country. In France, however, Wild Side is going all out, having recorded two hours’ worth of new interview material, featuring everyone from Argento to Tovoli to the restoration team. You can read an exclusive preview (in French) at DVDRama (thanks to Mannfan at Dark Discussion for the link).

The full list of bonus features, by the way, is as follows:

- The restoration of Suspiria - discussions with the restoration team
- Interview with Dario Argento
- Dario Argento: The Master of the Form - new interview with the director
- The Argento Connection - colleagues reveal their collaborations with the filmmaker
- Interview with Luciano Tovoli, director of photography
- Interview with Claudio Simonetti, composer
- Interview with Davide Bassan, son and assistant to production designer Guiseppe Bassan
- Interview with Dario Nicolodi, co-writer
- Argento as seen by: Pascal Laugier, Alain Schlokoff, Jean-Baptist Thoret
- Trailers
- Photo gallery
- Filmographies

According to Amazon.fr, this release also includes a CD containing the original soundtrack, much like the Anchor Bay 3-disc limited edition.

DVDRama’s preview also includes screen captures from the release, which reveal a colour palette much closer to the two Italian DVD releases of the film than to the darker and more contrasty (but, by many, preferred) Anchor Bay release. Given that this transfer was supervised by Tovoli, it should be the definitive presentation of the film on DVD, although these small screenshots unfortunately fail to provide much of an idea of how the DVD measures up in the all-important areas of detail and encoding. Additionally, the preview fails to provide any information on audio and subtitle options. As many people will know by now, the audio on Anchor Bay’s Suspiria DVD is viciously mangled, and, if Wild Side have included English audio at all, it is to be hoped that they have gone back to the original 4-channel recording, or at the very least created a new mix based on it, rather than simply porting over Anchor Bay’s mangling.

This new edition is due out at some point in December (the 4th, according to the not necessarily reliable Amazon, and I’m sorely tempted to pick up a copy, although, knowing my luck, an HD release will be announced almost as soon as I do so (perhaps by the Weinstein Company, who recently acquired the US rights to the title, but have been quiet on the issue of HD DVD releases recently). Either way, I don’t think I could ever have too many copies of one of my favourite films of all time, and, if the hype is to be believed, then this new French edition could just render the much-vaunted Anchor Bay version obsolete.

 
Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 4:21 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Technology
 

Upcoming review copies

DVD DVD

This have been a little quiet on the review front of late, but I’m hoping that will pick up soon with the arrival of a couple of new titles.

First up is the recent 2-disc special edition of Dario Argento’s The Stendhal Syndrome from Blue Underground. Casting my eye around the net, it seems that virtually every major horror review site got their copy ages ago, but one of the problems that faces UK-based reviewers is that, generally speaking, we don’t have much direct contact with the US distributors. Still, hopefully the wait will be worth it. Given that I already own the Italian release from Medusa, and Blue Underground’s transfer doesn’t appear to improve much on it, if at all, my interest in this release comes primarily from the point of view of its bonus materials, which sound rather impressive.

I will also soon be receiving a copy of the 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition of Disney’s The Jungle Book. This is not my favourite Disney by any stretch of the imagination - in fact, I’d go so far as to say that it heralded the beginning of a particularly dark age in the studio’s history - but it has some great moments, and I never got round to picking up the old Limited Issue DVD release, so I’m looking forward to refreshing my memory of this title. Oh, and it appears to be another of Disney’s semi-controversial matted widescreen releases (see here for the debate surrounding Robin Hood and its intended ratio).

 
Posted: Thursday, October 04, 2007 at 11:38 AM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | Reviews
 

Mother of Tears sails into the Bay

Mother of Tears

Source: Bloody Disgusting

It is being reported that the North American distribution rights for Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears are to be jointly picked up by Anchor Bay and the Weinstein Company. What this means in terms of the film’s chances of getting a theatrical release are anyone’s guess, but let’s just say that they’re somewhat higher than they were previously. It’s also unclear how any potential high definition home video release would work out, given that Anchor Bay is Blu-ray exclusive while the Weinsteins are HD DVD exclusive. Oh, and, naturally, the usual fears have arisen that, given the Weinstein brothers’ track record of butchering foreign titles, the film will eventually show up in America in a form decidedly unrepresentative of Argento’s artistic intentions.

Whatever happens, though, let’s look on the bright side: a semi-major has got involved, which gives the film a better chance of some form of theatrical exhibition than any of Argento’s other projects since Opera.

 
Posted: Friday, September 14, 2007 at 4:11 PM | Comments: 7 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Dario Argento | HD DVD
 

Semi-decent version of Flour Flies coming soon?

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

Marin Spanic of German DVD publisher New Entertainment World (responsible for, among others, the recent release of The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire) has been teasing members of the DVD Maniacs forum with screen captures of a copy of Dario Argento’s long-lost giallo Four Flies on Grey Velvet which blows away every version available at the moment.

This film, the director’s third and the concluding part of the Animal Trilogy, is the only one of his films to not have a legitimate DVD release. Seemingly tied up in a series of endless rights dispute, it is only available in the form of a variety of heavily compromised bootlegs which fail to do is justice in any shape or form. These new captures, however, while not brilliant, are an enormous step up.

Little is known about the source at the moment. Marin would almost say that New Entertainment World is not releasing the film, but that he received a preview version comprised of excerpts from the film from a source that he is not at this stage able to disclose, and that he will hopefully be able to say more soon.

I don’t want to jinx this, but it looks like we might just get a half-decent release of this mistreated film before very much longer.

 
Posted: Monday, September 10, 2007 at 10:58 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli
 

Happy birthday, Dario Argento!

Mother of Tears

Dario Argento turned 67 today, and he celebrated the event in style last night with the world premiere of his new film, Mother of Tears (La Terza Madre), at the Toronto International Film Festival. Mannfan over at Dark Discussion is doing the admirable job of collecting together the various reviews and opinions that have been cropped up all over the web from those who were lucky enough to attend last night’s screening. It seems fairly clear that it’s going to be as divisive as any of Argento’s recent films, with those expecting something identical to Suspiria and Inferno likely to be sorely disappointed.

Of course, I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve seen it for myself. I just hope I don’t have long to wait.

 
Posted: Friday, September 07, 2007 at 4:11 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | Web
 

The gates of Hell open on Halloween

Halloween

This Halloween looks set to be something very special. Not only does Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears launch in cinemas in Italy on that day, it has now been confirmed that Flagship Studios’ launch title, Hellgate: London, will also be seeing the light of day on October 31st. Online games retailer Gamestop have put both the regular and Collector’s Edition versions up for pre-order, including a sneak preview of what we can expect to find inside the latter:

- Special Packaging and Art Design
- Hellgate: London Game 2 DVDs
- Hellgate: London Map Poster
- 106 page Dark Horse Graphic Novel
- Unique in-game pet – Mantawraith
- Bonus Disc containing:
— “Making of Hellgate: London”
— Official Game Soundtrack

Now, as pointed out at the hellgate.incgamers.com fansite, this information has not been confirmed by anyone at Flagship, so these details should be taken with a pinch of salt. However, they are specific enough to give me hope that this is indeed the final list of extras rather than something dreamed up by a Gamestop employee in order to shift copies. In any event, it’s only $10 more expensive than the regular edition, so I’ve plumped for it… although, given past experiences with Gamestop on the Diablo II and Warcraft III Collector’s Editions, I’ll no doubt incur a heavy customs charge on it.

 
Posted: Friday, August 10, 2007 at 4:15 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | Games | Halloween
 

Super mega DVD extravagant announcement extravaganza

DVD

There were quite a few exciting announcements on the DVD front during my period in the wilderness, so, to make things simple, I’ve decided to summarise them all in one post. The first of these is Season 5 of Spooks, due for release on September 10th 2007 in the UK from Contender Home Entertainment, presumably to roughly coincide with the launch of Season 6 on BBC1. Personally, I felt that Season 5 was a bit of a step down from Season 4, sacrificing some of its realism in favour of increasingly large-scale and preposterous situations (the opening two-parter featuring a hostile takeover of the British government and an attempt to kidnap the Prime Minister’s son), but it was still hugely enjoyable and remains, for me, one of the best things on TV. As with previous DVD releases, the ten episodes will be spread across five discs, although extras seem to be fairly limited this time round, with only two commentaries, interviews, trailers and a video diary preview for Season 6.

On the Italian front, we now have confirmation of the release date and contents of Starz Home Entertainment’s next Mario Bava box set. Due out on October 23rd, The Mario Bava Collection: Volume 2 will feature new versions of Baron Blood, Lisa and the Devil, Roy Colt and Winchester Jack, Four Times That Night, Bay of Blood and 5 Dolls for an August Moon. This is a definite must-have for me, and includes three titles that I’ve never seen. Speaking of which, I really need to get round to watching Kill, Baby… Kill! and Black Sabbath in Volume 1…

Keeping things Roman, Severin Films have also announced that they intend to bring Lucio Fulci’s little-seen Seven Notes in Black to DVD on October 30th, under the considerably less classy American title of The Psychic. Bonus materials will include “a never-before-published interview with Fulci as well as interviews with cast and crew”. I already own two copies of this title - the (ahem) unauthorised Alfa Digital release, which is in fact a pirate copy of the initial French DVD with an English track attached to it, and the more recent French 2-disc special edition from Neo Publishing. I always felt rather guilty about paying for a bootleg copy that allowed Alfa Digital to take money for other people’s hard work, but I desperately needed a copy in English. Now it looks as if I can finally bin it and pick up this authorised version.

Finally, it looks as if Alex Infascelli’s most recent film, H2Odio (a.k.a. Hate2O), will be coming out on DVD in the US on November 20th. It’s from Tartan Video, so a UK release is also a strong possibility. This is another disc that I’ll definitely be picking up, given how much I enjoyed Infascelli’s 2000 giallo, Almost Blue (his 2004 offering, The Vanity Serum, was less impressive but still interesting).

Oh, and it seems that Dario Argento’s Inferno is finally being released on DVD in Italy, making this only the second DVD release of this film in the world (unless you count that bootleg German DVD with the weird cover art). The artwork chosen for it couldn’t be worse, and no English audio or subtitle options appear to be forthcoming, but I’m somewhat tempted to pick it up, (a) to see what it plays like in Italian and (b) on the off-chance that it has a superior transfer to the Anchor Bay release.

 
Posted: Thursday, August 09, 2007 at 2:01 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV
 

Trafficking in illicit gialli

DVD

Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange? is one of my favourite gialli - in fact, it’s probably my all-time favourite non-Argento entry in the genre. His loose follow-up, What Have They Done to Your Daughters?, is also enjoyable, although not on the same level (and it’s more of a cop thriller than a dyed-in-the-wool giallo anyway). Dallamano died in 1976 while he was still prepping the third instalment in this so-called “Schoolgirls in Peril” trilogy, and, although it finally did see the light of day, under the title of Enigma Rosso (or [Red] Rings of Fear for English speakers), this Alberto Negrin-helmed conclusion is generally considered to be a pale shadow of its predecessors. I’ve never seen it, but have wanted to for some time, and not long ago, to my considerable surprise, Spanish DVD distributor Filmax put out a fully letterboxed (2.35:1) release, which I immediately snapped up. The image quality isn’t really up to snuff (it’s non-anamorphic, soft, and exhibits the tell-tale signs of a bad attempt to noise reduce the artefacts of an analogue master), but it’s streets ahead of, say, New Entertainment World’s The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire. The problem? The only included audio track is a Spanish dub.

That’s actually not as much of a problem as you might think, the reason being that I’ve managed to get my hands on an English-language version sourced from an old 80s VHS tape. The sound quality, unsurprisingly, is pretty ropey, but they both seem to feature the same cut of the film (it was a co-production between Italy, Spain and West Germany, with several different edits prepared for the various markets), so splicing my own version together shouldn’t require too much work.

From various sources, I’ve also managed to get my hands on a variety of other gialli that I haven’t seen yet. Many of these were never released on DVD, and as a result the copies I have look pretty shocking, but it’ll be nice to actually sit down and watch some completely new (to me) gialli:

Naked You Die (Antonio Margheriti, 1968)
The Sweet Body of Deborah (Romolo Guerrieri, 1968)
The Frightened Woman (Piero Schivazappa, 1969)
In the Folds of the Flesh (Sergio Bergonzelli, 1970)
Hatchet for the Honeymoon (Mario Bava, 1970)
Cross Current (Tonino Ricci, 1971)
My Dear Killer (Tonino Valerii, 1972)
Eye in the Labyrinth (Mario Caiano, 1972)
Naked Girl Killed in Park (Alfonso Brescia, 1972)
French Sex Murders (Ferdinando Merighi, 1972)
The Killer Must Kill Again (Luigi Cozzi, 1975)
Eyeball (Umberto Lenzi, 1975)
Giallo a Venezia (Mario Landi, 1979)
A Blade in the Dark (Lamberto Bava, 1983)
Midnight Ripper (Lamberto Bava, 1986)
The Devil’s Honey (Lucio Fulci, 1986)

Seems like enough to be getting on with, at any rate, although I won’t be sitting down to watch them yet. My plan is to go through every giallo I own in as near to possible as chronological order - a rather daunting task, but one that I hope will get me thinking about appropriate topics for my PhD. I’ll be going by the original Italian theatrical release dates (as per IMDB), if available, but in certain cases I’ll only have the year of release to go by. I’ve done a brief recky and have made some interesting discoveries - did you know that The Black Belly of the Tarantula, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, Cross Current, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire and The Fifth Cord were all released one after the other, with no more than four days between each? There truly does seem to have been a time when a new giallo was coming out every week. In any event, a conservative estimate tells me that I have more than 80 titles to get through. Wish me luck!

 
Posted: Wednesday, August 08, 2007 at 7:27 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | PhD
 

The ten highest-rated gialli

Film

According to IMDB

1. Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975)
2. Eye in the Labyrinth (Mario Caiano, 1972)
3. Blood and Black Lace (Mario Bava, 1964)
4. What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (Massimo Dallamano, 1974)
5. The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail (Sergio Martino, 1971)
6. Tenebre (Dario Argento, 1982)
7. The Perfume of the Lady in Black (Francesco Barilli, 1974)
8. Don’t Torture a Duckling (Lucio Fulci, 1972)
9. Opera (Dario Argento, 1987)
10. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970)

Ignoring the presence of The Perfume of the Lady in Black, which I don’t consider to be a giallo in the first place, this is a pretty interesting list. Deep Red’s Number 1 status is hardly unexpected, as is the general favouring of Argento’s output - 40% of the titles are his (although this probably has a lot to do with the fact that his gialli are likely to be the most widely known). Naturally, I disagree with most of the list, but I suppose that’s what you get when you turn to the IMDB for guidance!

So, what do other people’s Top 10 lists look like?

 
Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2007 at 9:19 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | Gialli
 

Life after Mother of Tears

Film

Mother of Tears may not have been released yet, but, according to the Profondo Rosso shop web site, Dario Argento is already giving thought to his next project. Desertrain at Dark Discussion has kindly offered an English-language summary of what the post conveys:

At profondorossostore.com they say that Dario is already thinking about his next project that should be a horror diptych…they say he still doesnt have the right idea but that’s what he wants to do: 2 films strictly connected and dedicated to the same facts…

A diptych, according to Wikipedia, is “any object with two flat plates attached at a hinge”, and “the term is also used figuratively for a thematically-linked sequence of two books”. This sounds like a very interesting prospect, although I had half-expected his next film to be a giallo rather than more horror.

 
Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 at 8:40 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento
 

Mother of teasers

Mother of Tears

A higher quality version of the Italian teaser trailer for Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears has surfaced at Yahoo. It’s still fairly low resolution, but all the same it’s a massive step up from the camcorded version that showed up on YouTube recently. In particular, the colours are much purer, and a couple of brief shots even show that some of the old Suspiria and Inferno primary colour magic is on offer.

Credit for discovering this goes to Guillaume (Mannfan) at Dark Discussion.

Update, July 21st, 2007 11:20 AM: A downloadable version is now available here.

 
Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2007 at 7:58 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento
 

Finally, some Blu-ray titles worth owning

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

So far, a few decent titles have been released as Blu-ray exclusives, but hardly any of them have been must-haves. For me, Casino Royale, The Descent, The Devil’s Rejects and Kingdom of Heaven are the only titles that would fall into that category, with only The Descent standing out as a near-classic. All that will change in October, however, when Starz Home Entertainment/Anchor Bay will release their first slate of titles. DavisDVD has the scoop on the cover art, rough specs and release dates of their initial line-up:

October 2nd, 2007: Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, Evil Dead II and Day of the Dead
October 16th, 2007: Masters of Horror Season 1 Volume 1 (Cigarette Burns, Dreams in the Witch-house, The Fair Haired Child), Masters of Horror Season 1 Volume 2 (Jenifer, Sick Girl, Deer Woman)
November 6th, 2007: Beowulf & Grendel
November 13th, 2007: Masters of Horror Season 1 Volume 3 (Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, Dance of the Dead, Pick Me Up)
December 11th, 2007: Masters of Horror Season 1 Volume 4 (Imprint, Homecoming, Haeckel’s Tale, Chocolate)

I’ll definitely be picking up all of the October 2nd releases, and am currently undecided on Masters of Horror. I’ll probably get Volume 2 for Jenifer, so I can own some HD Argento, even if it’s bottom drawer HD Argento, but I’m not convinced I can see myself splurging on the other volumes. I’ll probably wait to see what my finances are like at the time, or perhaps look into the prospect of a review copy or two. Beowulf & Grendel is the odd one out in this otherwise horror-themed line-up, and I can’t see myself rushing out to pick it up… although it does star Sarah Polley, who can make just about anything watchable (why else d’you think I’m buying the Dawn of the Dead remake on HD DVD?). One thing’s for sure, Anchor Bay are to be commended for having the guts to step into the murky waters of high definition, and I sincerely hope the sales of these releases persuade them to continue releasing titles on Blu-ray. (How ‘bout those Tenebre and Phenomena special editions - pleeeeease?)

Specs for the first four releases are as follows, by the way: 1080p transfers (duh), PCM 5.1 audio, and all of the extras from the standard definition releases. Each disc will carry an RRP of $29.97. No word on the video codec - I’m just hoping it’s not MPEG2, which their HD distributor, MGM, favours. Oh, and I’m assuming Dawn of the Dead is just the standard theatrical cut.

 
Posted: Monday, July 16, 2007 at 12:36 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | HD DVD
 

When the Starz go Blu

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

Source: High-Def Digest

Hot on the heels of the news that Starz Home Entertainment (formerly Anchor Bay) had tossed its hat into the high definition ring with the announcement that the first season of Masters of Horror would be coming to Blu-ray, the company has now provided specs for this release (a set of four BD50s, 1080p transfers, PCM 5.1 audio, and “comparable extras” to the standard definition counterparts), as well as the news that Halloween, plus entries in the Evil Dead and George A. Romero’s original zombie trilogy will be showing up in October (the article states that we’ll be seeing “three to four” titles, so exactly what will be released seems to still be up in the air).

I have to say I think it’s really good that Starz are debuting with some of their big guns. I’m not sure how long it’ll be before we see some gialli in high definition (I’m hoping for those long-promised special editions of Tenebre and Phenomena), but things do finally seem to be on the move for fans of the more obscure side of cinema.

 
Posted: Thursday, July 05, 2007 at 11:03 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV
 
 

 
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