After his shock masterpieces Suspiria and Inferno, Dario Argento returned to his beloved thriller (giallo) genre for Tenebrae, a disturbing psychosexual murder mystery about the horrors of unexplained violence.
On a book signing tour in Rome, famed crime novelist Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) learns a deranged killer is turning the fictional homicides in his latest chiller Tenebrae into sadistic reality. While helping the police solve the crime, Neal and his closest associates soon become the killer’s next targets…
Argento is in top form here, giving fans all those trademark stylistic touches that he is famous for: the black-gloved assassin (using his own arm à la Hitchcock); the outsider trapped in a foreign city; flashback clues; inspired set-pieces – all combined with Luciano Tovoli’s dazzling cinematography (everything is bathed in a clinically bright aesthetic) and an electrifying score from three members of Goblin.
But it’s Argento’s fast and furious murder sequences that fans crave and Tenebrae has one of the best; a four-minute sequence in which the killer scales the walls of a gorgeous modernist house to hunt down his prey to the pounding strains of Simonetti’s rock music (which the victims are actually listening too). It is the film’s most memorable sequence and one which forces the viewer to become the ultimate voyeur – just as Hitchcock did in the opening scene of Psycho. Argento also adds a touch of surrealism to the mix: his Suddenly Last Summer inspired flashbacks, in which famed transgender actress Eva Robins plays the murderer’s first victim, are gorgeously weird.
On a trivia note: Silvio Berlusconi’s wife Veronica Lario plays Neal’s fiancé Jane. Her bloody death scene was heavily censored in 1990s prints of the film, but thankfully is restored in the Arrow release.
Arrow have really gone to town on this release, and I especially love the rolling eyes on the menu screen. As for the extras, well there’s a neat bag here, starting with Daria Nicolodi’s introduction and ending with Goblin performing live (shot earlier this year in Glasgow). The whole concert would have been a real keeper, but the few tracks presented here are still a treat.
As for the audio commentary, Alan Jones (who has written an excellent booklet to accompany the release) and Kim Newman really know their Argento, and I would certainly pay to join Jones on his tour of Rome idea, visiting all of the locations that appeared in Argento’s films. Finally, the Blu-ray transfer is on a par with Arrow’s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage release. It’s a tad grainy, but still pristine, making this one the best one to own.