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Thursday, July 17, 2014

ITALIAN HORROR WEEK: A Hollow Icon

Eric Polk is the host of Dollar Bin Horror radio along with Rhonda and is a confessed Italian Horror fan, however he comes to us today with an opinion piece that discusses the latter day movies of Dario Argento. If you have a favorite later Argento picture I urge you to comment on this post and let us know what it is and why. If you agree, we'd love to know your personal feelings on Argento's movies especially his most recent outings. It's important to give voice to all sides of an argument. I know for a fact that Polk is a huge fan of Argento's older work.

You can check out Dollar Bin Horror and Dollar Bin Horror Radio here (where I often make appearances and enjoy speaking with Eric and Rhonda and his guests).


I'd like to start by saying I wish Dario Argento a speedy and healthy recovery from his most recent injuries. Having said this, I hope this will also apply to his flagging directorial career. As Italian horror fans, we know the contributions of this man are the stuff of legend. Few directors have put out a more quality string of work. Deep Red, Suspiria, Inferno, Tenebrae, Phenomena, Opera, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. This only begins to tap into the brilliance of this man.

Yet, somehow, in the past fifteen years or so, Mr. Argento has lost his touch. The consistency and technical superiority which were hallmarks of his 70s/80s output became droll, uninspired, lifeless films that makes one throw their hands into the air, disgusted. Giallo, The Card Player, The Stendhal Syndrome, and his most recent entry: Dario Argento's Dracula. He has the audacity to incorporate CGI into this piece of dreck. This from the man who gave us one of the most colorful, beautiful films in Suspiria. How could he do this after everything he has done for cinema?

I understand most artists, regardless of genre or work, tend to, at times, hit the automatic pilot button when it comes that whatever piece they're producing, but I think Mr. Argento's is stuck. He occasionally rights the ship with films including Trauma and the underappreciated Mother Of Tears, however, the bad is outweighing the good these days.

A damn shame coming from someone once called The Italian Hitchcock. 

NOTE FROM THE DOC: 

I also thought it might be fun to include all the trailers from the post-Trauma period, the period often considered to be the downfall of Argento's work though I would argue that a few golden age gems exist. I think his Masters of Horrors contributions were particularly strong. I've provided some of my own commentary below each one. 

DRACULA

While I adore the copious topless beauties in this and the uniform hilarity that borders on tongue in cheek, Fearless Vampire Killers fare, this one feels all over the place with some liberties taken that should be given back with apology. Rutger Hauer is under utilized. CGI... is not. It's there in abundance and bad. 

GIALLO

As is often said about Giallo... did Adrian Brody get paid yet? For a movie that tries to reclaim the genre for which Argento is known it's ineffective, slow moving and confusing at time. There's nothing to grab onto.

MOTHER OF TEARS

The first two pictures in the Mothers trilogy were so strong it is unfair to expect this to hold up to those films especially since the golden age of Italian Horror was over at this point. Still, it is fairly bland and feels like a let down. I hate to say that I wish Mother of Tears wasn't made, but I prefer my dream rather than the reality. 

JENIFER

One of the Masters of Horrors episodes. Between this and Pelts you have two movies are actually widely enjoyed though Pelts (below) is probably the fan favorite of the two. Proof that the Argento could still tell a story when it mattered.

PELTS

DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK (Not a trailer)

Having not understood what I was supposed to be watching, I think that with a bit of a back story, Do You Like Hitchcock is a fitting homage to the old master of suspense but fails to allow Argento hold the crown of Italian Hitchcock. 

THE CARD PLAYER

I love the premise of The Card Player, but it packs little punch. Still I consider this an exception to the later Argento movies failing. Most people do agree with me on this point however. 

SLEEPLESS

I have not seen Sleepless since it came out on VHS tape when I worked in Blockbuster, but boy was I disappointed. I think this requires a revisit and I will and perhaps I will write about it. 

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Julian Sands is always great... except in Argento's vision of Phantom of the Opera that underwhelms. I found myself comparing it to any number of previous incarnations of this popular story, and it didn't stack up.

STENDHAL SYNDROME

This is the big let down for me. I waited. I read about it in Fango... to no end. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Finally it got a release... not in the US. Then we got the tape and I ordered it and I paid a whole lot for it. It was my first Argento movie that came out while I was actually a fan of his work and it barely delivered. I have to rewatch it shortly. I do own it. I still love the name.

1 comment:

  1. People kind of suck when they give up on each other. I’ll bet a 6-pack of cheap beer that the same folks who gave up on Dario at ‘Trauma’, or even ‘Two Evil Eyes’, would swoon on their knees and pull the “we’re-not-worthy” fan hysterics if they were to meet him on the street. ‘Sleepless’ has the notes of the giallo we all have come to know, with the tapestry of clues that lead us down a path we aren’t expecting (I don’t know about you, but that finale surprised me); and ‘Mother of Tears’ is so campy and out there at times, the grain of salt you have to take it with is flashy and has an accent like Udo Kier. I personally never went in comparing it to Suspiria or Inferno. Too much time had passed to make such a comparison, because we all know how directors change over time.

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