The Cinema of Dario Argento

Dario Argento is one of only a handful of names that are anywhere near household names in the realm of Italian horror (his most well-known counterparts being Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci). The son of film producer Salvatore Argento and fashion model Elda Luxardo, Argento was born in 1940 and started his film career as a critic for the newspaper Paese Sera. Inspired by the films he was writing about, he quickly moved into the realm of screenwriting, co-authoring a number of high-profile Spaghetti Westerns, including Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. His true love, however, was the thriller, and 1969 saw the release of his directorial debut, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. This was just one of a vast number of films of this type being released throughout Italy at the time. Known as the giallo (plural: gialli), this type of film is characterized by its mysterious black-gloved assassins, complex whodunits with vast numbers of suspects and potential victims, and a motive for murder often stemming from past trauma. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the film market was saturated with these thrillers, but Argento's work immediately drew attention to itself because of his sharp visual eye and ability to turn giallo conventions on their heads. Still active today, Argento's directorial career has spanned over three decades, including 16 films, yet he remains one of the most underrated and underexposed individuals in the business. His work is often described by naysayers as badly plotted, over-indulgent, misogynistic style-over-substance, while nothing could be further from the truth. With this brief introduction to the films and themes of Dario Argento, I hope to persuade readers as to his skill and explain why he is my favourite filmmaker of all time.

Above: Dario Argento directing Non Ho Sonno.

Understanding the films of Argento

Many of the oddities present in Argento's films are true of Italian horror cinema in general, but it is worth bearing in mind that Argento is very much an exception in terms of his ability to harness what many see as weaknesses and turn them into strengths. He is not alone in this field - indeed, fellow horror directors like Mario Bava could be argued to be equally adept - but the giallo scene is, in general, populated by a great number of poorly written, badly acted films with little substance to support them - a situation roughly analogous to the current explosion of dismal Hollywood action movies. A handful of gialli do stand out from the crowd, however, and it would probably be a fair assessment to state that a fairly large percentage of these were directed by Argento. To the casual observer, though, even Argento's work will probably seem clumsy, a mistake often made by those conditioned to think that the Hollywood way is the only correct way. With that in mind, I think it wise to discuss the most common misconceptions about the cinema of Dario Argento right off the bat.

One of the most common accusations levelled against Argento's films is that of sloppy writing. Argento has always written or co-written his own material, and those not familiar with his work often mistake his style for incompetence. One IMDB reviewer described the baffling and seemingly nonsensical Inferno as "a complete mess" and "a piece of crap", whereas another referred to it as "one big insult to storytelling". Statements like these completely miss the point of Argento's films, but they are probably understandable reactions for people conditioned to think that the Hollywood model of storytelling is the only valid one. To criticize a movie like Inferno for being nonsensical, however, is to miss the point entirely. Of course it is nonsensical: it represents a nightmare. More imaginative viewers, however, are able to put their minds towards creating explanations or theories of their own. It must also be said that not all films are meant to be "understood" in the broadest sense: I don't remember reading anywhere that there was a mandate stating that all films have to tell a logical and coherent story.

Above: Argento with frequent collaborator, director of photography Ronnie Taylor.

Dialogue has long been a major bone of contempt for Argento's critics. It is certainly true that the dialogue he writes is often sketchy at best, confusing at worst, but once again I would interpret this as a distinctive style that the average movie-goer is simply unwilling (or unable) to grasp. People view traditional Hollywood-style dialogue as being "realistic", but there are two things wrong with this. First of all, it assumes that dialogue has to be realistic; secondly, it asserts a claim that Hollywood-style dialogue is the equivalent of "real life" dialogue – which it quite clearly is not. No, Argento's supposedly "cheesy" dialogue is the result of an Italian director writing English dialogue for actors of a variety of different nationalities, who will, for the most part, end up being post-dubbed into English*. Can I explain why he continues to do this? No, I can't, but at the end of the day, I think that dialogue is simply not Argento’s main concern… and who says it should be?

(* Post-dubbing is a practice that was common from the 1960s through early 80s in Italy, and is still used by some directors today, including Argento. Generally speaking, these films make more money in international sales than they do in domestic Italian sales, so it makes sense from a commercial standpoint to shoot them with English exhibition in mind. Of course, most of the cast is usually Italian or, in some cases, from various countries throughout Europe. Therefore, the actors mouth the English dialogue or pronounce it phonetically and are later dubbed by people who supposedly have a better grasp of English - although given the quality of some dubs this is not always the case! It also means that there is less need for silence when the filming is taking place, which lets the director give orders and allows for noisy equipment to be moved around.

Whenever possible, I would recommend trying to obtain versions of these films where both English and Italian audio is included. This is not always possible, of course, but quite a few releases let you select an audio language, including most of Medusa's discs and some of Anchor Bay's. While English audio will generally synchronize better with the actors' lip movements, on a number of the films the Italian audio makes for a better overall experience, due to the tendency of the English dubbing voice actors to give highly caricatured and/or stilted performances. Your mileage may vary in this respect.)

"Argento's movies focus on style over substance." I hear this one all the time, but once again those making this claim are completely missing the point. Narrow-minded moviegoers and critics alike tend to view style and substance as polar opposites. Generally, these are people so conditioned to the Hollywood model of storytelling that they are incapable of accepting anything that deviates from it. The more open-minded viewer, however, can hopefully understand that, in the hands of a talented director, style can become a form of substance in itself. This is definitely true of Argento, who has much more interest in atmosphere, aesthetics and exploring his own dreams than creating a story that works within a comfortably conformist narrative model. Acting talent and dialogue have never been his strong suit, if they are compared to what you can expect to find in a mainstream Hollywood film, but equally well Argento's artistic ability makes most mainstream Hollywood directors look positively incompetent.

Those who dismiss Argento's work as style over substance also ignore (or are incapable of recognizing) all the details that are going on below the surface. Almost all of Argento's films have a strong metaphor undercurrent, as messages that are a great deal more sophisticated than "don't do drugs" or "don't talk to strangers". Tenebre, for example, assesses the responsibility of the artist for how people react to his creations, Profondo Rosso and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage investigate gender politics and the various stereotypes associated with the typically accepted male and female roles, and a number of his films, including The Stendhal Syndrome and Opera, explore the effect of abuse on both the victim and the perpetrator.

Above: Weird and wonderful colours in Inferno.

The myth of Argento the Misogynist is probably the most commonly held misconception regarding the director and his films. A popular fabrication is that the majority of the victims in his films are women, something that is quite clearly untrue if you look at the statistics. In fact in Tenebre, often touted as Argento's most "misogynist" work, an equal number of men and women are killed, with the men often receiving comparatively more violent deaths than the women. Argento's death scenes are undeniably cruel and designed for their visual spectacle, and many of them do indeed involve women, but to suggest that Argento is endorsing this kind of treatment, of men or women, is absurd. He never shows death as a good thing: it may be visually ornate, artistically choreographed, original and riveting, but it is never something he condones. Indeed, the final frames of his films, which often end with the hero killing the villain to save his/her own life, always suggest that the experience has left the hero mentally scarred. Therefore, Argento never endorses the taking of a life as a solution but rather as a form of depravity or as a last resort.

Furthermore, a large number of his films have featured very strong female protagonists. Starting with Suspiria, he has directed a long, almost uninterrupted line of movies where the protagonist is a young woman, often battling against domineering, grotesque masculine forces. A number of his films have also featured female villains, and he regularly uses our common conceptions about killers (that they are usually male) to surprise us. Argento has often commented that murder is a very male thing, with knives and guns representing phallic symbols and penetration. Whether or not you choose to indulge in such Freudian analysis is up to you, but it is blatantly wrong to claim that Argento hates women. If anyone truly believes that Argento is a director who hates women ("Is that the guy who's pure into rape?" asked a gentleman who shall not be named, upon seeing my collection of Argento DVDs), I suggest that they first come to terms with the fact that what is shown on-screen is not necessarily being condoned by the director, and then watch The Stendhal Syndrome, a character study focusing on the mental unbalance of a rape victim.

If this introduction has taken on an overly defensive tone, that is because movies such as these are so often marginalized and demonized by the gutter press and self-righteous individuals who, more often than not, have not even watched what they are condemning. Hopefully, though, I've managed to dispel a few myths about the films of Dario Argento, encouraged some more people to seek them out, and indeed perhaps persuaded some who might have seen some of his work and dismissed it to perhaps give it a second chance. These are films that have gone unnoticed by the masses for far too long.

Filmography (as director)

This filmography contains main crew listings, plot synopses, brief reviews and recommendations of which DVD release to buy, for each film. Those looking for more in-depth reviews are directed to the full DVD Times reviews, most of which were written by myself, barring the review of Profondo Rosso, by Alan Daly, the UK DVD of Two Evil Eyes, by Mark Davis, and the UK DVD of Non Ho Sonno, by Gary Couzens. I will make every effort to keep this filmography up to date as new DVD versions are released, but bear in mind that it is not feasible (financially or otherwise) for me to buy every single available version of each film.

L'Uccello dale Piume di Cristallo (1969)
a.k.a. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

Written and directed by Dario Argento
Music by Ennio Morricone
Starring Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Eva Renzi
IMDB | DVD Times Review

Synopsis: American writer Sam Dalmas witnesses the attempted murder of a young woman while staying in Rome. When the police confiscate his passport to prevent him from leaving, he sets out to investigate the crime himself and soon becomes a potential victim.

Overall: A remarkably competent debut, Bird may lack the visual flair that Argento would later develop, but it features one of his most coherent plots and has a genuinely surprising and satisfying denouement. Despite not being heavy on originality, it makes for an extremely strong film and a great starting point for viewers who might otherwise be put off by the director's more outlandish movies.

DVD: Available from Medusa on R2 Italian DVD with an acceptable transfer and both English and Italian audio tracks, but with forced subtitles when watching in English (can be circumvented with some players). Also available on R1 US DVD from VCI with a weaker transfer, English-only audio and the slightly disjointed re-insertion of a previously cut scene (panty-ripping). Provided you can break the forced subtitles or don't mind watching in Italian (where English subtitles are optional), I recommend the Medusa. Note, however, that a brand new version is being released by Blue Underground in the US in 2005, featuring a high definiton transfer supervised by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Provided he doesn't choose to crop the film to 2:1 (as he did with some of his films on DVD, including Apocalypse Now), it will probably be the one to go for.

Il Gatto a Nove Code (1971)
a.k.a. The Cat O' Nine Tails

Directed by Dario Argento
Screenplay by Dario Argento
Based on a story by Dario Argento, Luigi Collo and Dardano Sacchetti
Music by Ennio Morricone
Starring James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Catherine Spaak
IMDB | DVD Times Review

Synopsis: A blind older man teams up with a young reporter to track down a madman who is killing people connected to a scientific institute.

Overall: Argento's second film lacks the self-assuredness of his debut and has an overall less enthusiastic pace, but is still a competent thriller. The chemistry between Franciscus and Malden is good and their interaction is enjoyable, even if the killer's motive and identity are disappointing. Argento considers this his weakest film.

DVD: Available from Medusa on R2 Italian DVD with a below average transfer with only an Italian audio track (with optional English subtitles). My recommendation is to stick with Anchor Bay's R0 USA release, which features English and Italian audio as well as a handful of interesting bonus features, including interviews with the key participants. Image quality is roughly equal to that of the Medusa release.

Quattro Mosche di Velluto Grigio (1971)
a.k.a. Four Flies on Grey Velvet

Directed by Dario Argento
Screenplay by Dario Argento
Based on a story by Dario Argento, Luigi Cozzi and Mario Foglietti
Music by Ennio Morricone
Starring Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, Bud Spencer
IMDB | No review

Synopsis: A rock drummer accidentally kills a man who has been stalking him and soon comes to realize that the accidental murder has been witnessed and photographed by a mysterious stranger, who proceeds to blackmail him.

Overall: This is one of only two Argento films I have not yet seen.

DVD: Currently unavailable on DVD, both Medusa (Italy) and Blue Underground (US) are rumoured to be working on finally bringing this long-lost film to the public.

Le Cinque Giornate (1973)
a.k.a. The Five Days [of Milan]

Directed by Dario Argento
Screenplay by Dario Argento
Based on a story by Dario Argento, Luigi Cozzi and Enzo Ungari
Music by Giorgio Gaslini
Starring Adriano Celentano, Enzo Cerusico, Marilù Tolo
IMDB | No review

Synopsis: Argento's only feature film with no horror or thriller connections, this little-seen period comedy centres around the Italian revolution.

Overall: This is one of only two Argento films I have not yet seen.

DVD: Currently unavailable on video or DVD, and Argento has stated a reluctance to release it.

Profondo Rosso (1975)
a.k.a. Deep Red

Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento & Bernardino Zapponi
Music by Giorgio Gaslini and Goblin, played by Goblin
Starring David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia
IMDB | DVD Times Review

Synopsis: Jazz musician Marcus Daly witnesses the murder of a psychic woman and believes that something he has seen but forgotten is a vital clue in determining the killer’s identity.

Overall: A cinematic tour de force and a welcome return to the giallo after a brief deviation with Le Cinque Giornate, this film, regarded by many as his finest, sees the introduction of many of Argento's mainstays: the screen presence of Daria Nicolodi, who was to be his girlfriend and frequent actor for many years, music by progressive rock band Goblin, and a continually roving camera with expert framing. Some have suggested that this film was indirectly responsible for the eventual decline of the giallo, since the genre had nowhere to go after this.

DVD: The US R0 DVD by Anchor Bay is excellent, with a high quality transfer and the inclusion of the longer Italian cut - some scenes are therefore presented in Italian with English subtitles. The film can also be viewed in Italian throughout. Marred only by an infuriating freeze before the end credits roll, replacing a continually moving image with a static shot. Blue Underground will be revisiting this at some point and correcting this blunder.

Suspiria (1977)

Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento & Daria Nicolodi
Music by Goblin and Dario Argento, played by Goblin
Starring Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Joan Bennett
IMDB | DVD Times Review

Synopsis: Young dance student Suzy Banyon (Benner in the Italian version) arrives at a respected academy in Germany, only to discover that it is home to a coven of murderous witches.

Overall: In this writer's opinion Argento's greatest film, the director here abandons the giallo in favour of a supernatural horror movie more closely resembling a dream than an A-to-Z narrative. Everything works in perfect tandem here: the garish colour scheme that would have made Walt Disney proud, the pounding score by Goblin, Jessica Harper's pitch-perfect performance, wavering between disbelief and, later on, pure terror... This is one of the greatest films of all time, and I urge everyone to seek it out.

DVD: Anchor Bay's R0 US DVD is superb, with a wonderful transfer, and a soundtrack that falls shy of being perfect due to some imperfections on the remix. The UK Anchor Bay DVD has the same remix problems, but trades in the Goblin score CD and 25th anniversary documentary for the generic Dario Argento's World of Horror documentary. A now out-of-print DVD is available in Italy, featuring a very good transfer that differs somewhat from the Anchor Bay in terms of colour timing. More importantly, however, it includes Italian 5.1 and English 2.0 Surround mixes that are vastly more accurate than the Anchor Bay remixes.

Inferno (1980)

Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento [& Daria Nicolodi, uncredited]
Music by Keith Emerson
Starring Leigh McCloskey, Irene Miracle, Eleonora Giorgi
IMDB | DVD Times Review

Synopsis: This sequel to Suspiria focuses on the second of the Three Mothers. An almost plotless film that plays out as a vague dream sees a young poet discovering that her home is in fact the hiding place of the Mother of Darkness.

Overall: Argento's follow-up to Suspiria makes even less sense than its predecessor, but if you allow it to, it can carry you away into another world. A truly mesmerizing and hypnotic film, albeit an acquired taste, Inferno falls short of perfection because of its thoroughly uninteresting lead, played by Leigh McCloskey. Tantalizingly brief moments focusing on Irene Miracle and Eleonora Giorgi show us how perfect the film could have been had it maintained a focus on them.

DVD: The only DVD release of this film in the world seems to be Anchor Bay's R0 US version, which has acceptable, if slightly soft, image quality.

Tenebre (1982)
a.k.a. Tenebrae

Written and directed by Dario Argento
Music by Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli and Massimo Morante
Starring Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi
IMDB | DVD Times Review

Synopsis: Murder mystery writer Peter Neal arrives in Rome to promote his latest book, Tenebrae, but discovers that a maniac is killing those he considers to be guilty of "human perversions" in the way that victims die in the book.

Overall: Argento surprised audiences by returning to the world of the giallo after his success with the supernatural. Tenebre's style is an acquired taste, but its story and whodunit elements are spot on, and this is probably the director's most introspective work.

DVD: In terms of image quality, the best available release seems to be the anamorphic R2 Dutch DVD by A-Film. The UK and US Anchor Bay and Italian Medusa DVDs all lack definition and are encoded interlaced. There is also a Japanese release which, while the sharpest release of the film by far, has a noticeable blue tint and many brightness errors, especially in the second half of the film. Hopefully Blue Underground's re-release, which promises a new transfer, is not far off.

Phenomena (1985)

Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento & Franco Ferrini
Music by Goblin, Simon Boswell, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Andy Sex Gang, Bill Wyman & Terry Taylor
Starring Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasance, Daria Nicolodi
IMDB | DVD Times Review

Synopsis: An American teenager, Jennifer, arrives at a prestigious Switzerland boarding school, where a murderer is on the loose, killing young girls. Thanks to her ability to communicate telepathically with insects (!), she teams up with disabled insectologist John McGregor to track down the killer.

Overall: Once you get round the kitchen-sink nature of this film, which includes as many giallo and supernatural elements as possible, Phenomena actually turns out to be a beautiful film with great atmosphere. Jennifer Connelly and the late great Donald Pleasence make for an appealing team of amateur sleuths, and the Swiss locale becomes a character in itself. Plus, you can't go wrong with a razor-wielding monkey!

DVD: The recent anamorphic Japanese DVD features the best-looking release for image quality, and includes the longer Italian cut. However, some of its English audio has been inexplicably replaced by Italian dialogue, despite English source materials being available. The Italian release is also the longer version, but features only an Italian dub (with English subtitles). The US R0 Anchor Bay, despite being the shorter version and having a non-anamorphic transfer, is probably the most appealing option for the casual buyer (it has a decent quality transfer and the most extras, and is in English throughout). This title is also on Blue Underground's schedule for a re-master.

Opera (1987)
a.k.a. Terror at the Opera

Directed by Dario Argento
Screenplay by Dario Argento & Franco Ferrini
Story by Dario Argento
Music by Claudio Simonetti, Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Daniel Lanois, Bill Wyman & Terry Taylor
Starring Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Daria Nicolodi
IMDB | DVD Times Review

Synopsis: Betty, a young opera singer, is kidnapped by a masked stranger and forced to watch him killing her loved ones and friends, placing needles under her eyes to stop her from closing her eyes. Haunted by nightmares, she believes that the murderer has some connection with her deceased mother.

Overall: Ignoring the rather clumsy use of heavy metal music, this is another contender for the spot of Argento's best film. A gleefully sadistic film with the powerful lasting image of wide eyes lined with tiny needles, Argento benefits greatly from the keen eye of Oscar-winning cinematographer Ronnie Taylor, and manages to pack in a strong AIDS metaphor to boot. Memorable for its excellent performance by Ian Charleson, who died of AIDS only a few years later.

DVD: The R0 US Anchor Bay and R2 UK Arrow DVDs feature near identical transfers (clearly culled from the same print, barring differences in opening credits), but the UK disc features the Italian dub while the US disc instead has an excellent documentary on the making of the film. It's a difficult choice.

Two Evil Eyes - segment The Black Cat (1990)

Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento & Franco Ferrini
Music by Pino Donaggio
Starring Harvey Keitel, Madeleine Potter, Martin Balsam
IMDB | DVD Times Review: US disc | DVD Times Review: UK disc

Synopsis: Crime scene photographer Rod Usher finds himself harassed by a black cat adopted by his girlfriend. He eventually kills the cat, and later his girlfriend, in a fit of rage, but the cat keeps returning to haunt him no matter how many times he offs it.

Overall: Part of a collaboration with George A. Romero in homage to the work of Edgar Allan Poe, Argento's half, while far from his best, is strong and vastly superior to Romero's. Keitel's performance is edgy and vicious, and the film includes a very disturbing medieval dream sequence.

DVD: Blue Underground's R0 US release beats the daylights out of Anchor Bay's UK disc in every way imaginable.

Trauma (1993)

Directed by Dario Argento
Screenplay by Dario Argento & T.E.D. Klein
Story by Franco Ferrini, Gianni Romoli and Dario Argento
Music by Pino Donaggio
Starring Asia Argento, Christopher Rydell, Piper Laurie
IMDB | DVD Times Review

Synopsis: David, a former drug addict, befriends anorexic runaway Aura and helps her track down the murderer of her parents.

Overall: A much-maligned deviation from Argento's normal line of work, Trauma is his only full-length American production and seems to be something of a clash of cultures, alternating between a dumbed-down mainstream product and a more creatively free artistic film. This was the first of three films to feature the director's daughter Asia Argento, and while her performance is inconsistent she is overall a sympathetic lead.

DVD: Provided you can defeat the forced player-generated subtitles, the French release is the best one to go for. The Italian release has superior image quality and boasts a cut that is four minutes longer than the international version, but it has no subtitles and is dubbed into Italian only (the film was shot in English without post-dubbing). Anchor Bay is working on a US version for release in 2005, and they are promising to seek out all available materials to make this the longest and best quality English-language release to date.

La Sindrome di Stendhal (1996)
a.k.a. The Stendhal Syndrome

Directed by Dario Argento
Screenplay by Dario Argento
Story by Dario Argento & Franco Ferrini
Based on the novel "The Stendhal Syndrome" by Graziella Magherini
Music by Ennio Morricone
Starring Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marco Leonardi
IMDB | DVD Times Review

Synopsis: Inspector Anna Manni is attacked by the serial rapist/murderer she has been trying to track down. She escapes the ordeal with her life but continues to be stalked and haunted by her attacker.

Overall: The Stendhal Syndrome polarizes viewers, with some loathing it and others proclaiming it a classic. It is certainly Asia Argento's strongest performance to date, and Argento handles the subject matter of rape in a way that is both delicate and horrifying. The film tends to lose its way a little in the second half, but this is Argento's strongest character study to date and a welcome deviation from the standard giallo mechanics (the villain is identified within the first 10 minutes).

DVD: The R2 Italian 2-disc release by Medusa is by far the best, not only in terms of image quality but also for offering both the English language cut and the slightly longer Italian version.

Il Fantasma dell'Opera (1998)
a.k.a. The Phantom of the Opera

Directed by Dario Argento
Screenplay by Gérard Brach and Dario Argento
Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux
Music by Ennio Morricone
Starring Asia Argento, Julian Sands, Andrea Di Stefano
IMDB | DVD Times Review

Synopsis: An adaptation of the classic tale featuring a handsome phantom raised in the sewers by rats who sets his heart on the lovely Christine.

Overall: An incredibly ill-judged venture, this is undoubtedly Argento's worst film, featuring a wooden and miscast Julian Sands, a dreadful script, badly-judged attempts at comedy and a generally clumsy feel. Only Morricone's superb score and Ronnie Taylor's assured photography help prop up this unusual but thoroughly weak film.

DVD: The R2 Italian release by Medusa offers superior image quality when compared to the UK and US releases.

Non Ho Sonno (2001)
a.k.a. Sleepless

Directed by Dario Argento
Screenplay by Dario Argento & Franco Ferrini, with the collaboration of Carlo Lucarelli
Story by Dario Argento & Franco Ferrini
Music by Goblin
Starring Max Von Sydow, Stefano Dionisi, Chiara Caselli
IMDB | DVD Times Review: Italian disc | DVD Times Review: UK disc

Synopsis: Detective Ulisse Moretti comes out of retirement when someone begins killing in a manner similar to that of an old case. Aided by the son of one of the previous killer's victims, Moretti begins to realize that he may have fingered the wrong man...

Overall: Argento brings the giallo into the 21st century with a film that, while not perfect, offers a solid narrative and acts as something of a pastiche of his earlier work. Max Von Sydow gives an impressive performance, but the film is overall let down by somewhat bland photography from the usually impressive Ronnie Taylor. The film does, however, contain Argento's strongest, best-shot opening sequence since Suspiria.

DVD: The R2 Italian release by Medusa features the vastly superior Italian dub as well as the weaker English variant. The UK disc, and the loathsome pan & scan US disc, have only English audio.

Il Cartaio (2004)
a.k.a. The Card Player

Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento & Franco Ferrini
Music by Claudio Simonetti
Starring Stefania Rocca, Liam Cunningham, Silvio Muccino
IMDB | DVD Times Review (cinema) | DVD Times Review: Czech disc

Synopsis: Detective Anna Mari is challenged to games of online video poker by a lunatic who kidnaps young women and uses the game results to determine whether they live or die.

Overall: An ultra-glossy, ultra-modern giallo that, while lacking Argento's usual stylistic flair, features a solid plot and great interaction by the two leads, Stefania Rocca and Liam Cunningham. Unfortunately, it fails to bring anything new to the genre beyond being one of the few films in the world to tackle the subject of the internet in a manner that does not induce cringes.

DVD: Currently, Czech, Japanese and Russian DVDs are available, with an Italian release scheduled for August and a UK one for October. Anchor Bay is also working on producing a special edition for US release at some point in 2005 or 2006. Of the currently available releases, the Czech DVD is the best of the bunch due to its inclusion of a full bit rate English DTS track. The Russian DVD is pan & scan only. There has been some speculation as to whether or not the Italian release will include English audio and subtitles or whether it will be in Italian only.

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