opera | dario argento | cristina marsillach | ian charleson | urbano barberini | remake | the phantom of the opera | mystery | thriller | italy | daria nicolodi | coralina cataldi-tassoni | giallo | antonella vitale | william mcnamara | barbara cupisti | goblin
Director: Dario Argento
Writer: Dario Argento
Starring: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson and Urbano Barberini
This film was one that I watched originally on DVD with my mother while I was visiting my hometown. We both enjoyed this one, but I hadn’t seen it since. Oddly, when I got into podcasts, this is a movie that seems to have a section of fans. I was excited to see this on 4K at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
Synopsis: a young opera singer is stalked by a deranged fan bent on killing the people associated with her to claim her for himself.
We start at the rehearsal of an opera that is set to debut the following day. The lead is Mara Czekova. What is odd is that we never see her face. The director is Marco (Ian Charleson). The stage manager is Stefano (William McNamara) and the woman in charge of costumes is Giulia (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni). There is an accident though as Mara storms out in anger for having crows on stage, she ends up getting hit by a car. She claims the birds don’t like her.
They need to have someone to replace her and it is decided that is her understudy, Betty (Cristina Marsillach). She is nervous about taking this role though, as it is MacBeth and she believes this is a bad omen. She’s also not sure she’s ready. Her manager, Mira (Daria Nicolodi) disagrees as does the director. Marco laughs it off and states that he thinks she’ll do great.
We see that Betty has a fan who wants her to have the leading role. This is the one from the synopsis. We see through his eyes, so we do not know who he is. This is a the classic POV of the killer for gialli. I should also include that we get images of a nightmare that Betty has of a woman who is being attacked where another woman watches. The watcher is tied up. This factors into things and we come back to it. The last bit here to include was that Betty’s mother was a famous singer, but she was murdered.
The opera goes on. Betty’s admirer watches it from a box. He is interrupted though when someone who works there comes in and tells him he can’t be in there. The man pushes him into lights that are secured there. They fall, crashing to the ground. This shocks the crowd and halts the opera. The show must go on as the stagehand is murdered in this box.
The show is a success and everyone congratulates Betty. This includes a police inspector who is there to investigate the murder. He happened to be in attendance, Alan Santini (Urbano Barberini). He comes to tell her that he is a big fan and gets an autograph from her. Stefano also shows up and realizes that he is one of the last to congratulate her. It is through him that she learns about the murder. The two of them decide to go to the afterparty together.
It is from here that a masked killer shows up. They tie up Betty and places pins under her eyelids. They want her to keep her eyes open as the kill, to watch what they’re doing. Each time it happens, Betty is a suspect as killing happen around her. This nightmare that she has might lead to a key. Plus, the killer attacked the crows that are part of the show. Their handler believes they remember and hold grudges. They could also lead them to who is behind this.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that I want to commend Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini. They took elements of the Phantom of the Opera and incorporated it into this. An example is how this starts. We have the diva who gets mad and storms out. She is injured so Betty steps in. The killer wants her to be a star. That is where it ends, but I thought it still was clever.
We then get a typical giallo from there. I don’t mean that as a slight. Betty has murders happening around her. She is convinced that she is the prime suspect so she investigates. I can’t blame her there. Though, everyone knows that she isn’t doing it. We also get the classic troupe that Argento likes where she needs to remember something to piece everything together. The killer wears black gloves, but they also put plastic bags over them as a second precaution. We also have pseudo-science here to my knowledge the crows and them holding a grudge. I thought it made for a cool scene regardless.
There is a negative that I have with this. The movie tries to be too clever with its ending. I was going to go deeper into my issue there, but I don’t like how they ended this. There was a good spot and this decides to keep going. What I will say though is that this movie is Argento calling out critics. The director of the play, Marco, was a horror movie director. He gets panned with things he’s doing and it makes him ornery. I appreciated that. I also like the reveal of the killer. This was one that I couldn’t remember, but I had it narrowed to two people. I can’t give myself credit for being right due to this.
I’m not sure if there is more to go into for the story so over to the acting. I thought that Marsillach was solid as our lead. Before seeing this, I could have sworn that the posters look like Argento’s daughter Asia. When you see things play out, you know it most definitely isn’t. I like her as this singer who is a bit different and trying to survive. If anything, she is a bit manic, but that plays into the story. Charleson is solid as the director and de facto, Argento himself. I don’t love Barberini’s character. This is just a personal preference as I don’t think he’s old enough. I digress though. Other than that, Nicolodi, Cataldi-Tassoni, McNamara and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
All that is left then is filmmaking. I thought that the cinematography was great. Argento goes a bit experimental with things here and I don’t think it all works. The POV of the bird as it flies around to reveal the killer was interesting. We also get these cuts to the brain that don’t work for me. What did though were the effects. They went practical and I appreciated that. The soundtrack also isn’t my favorite. I know Claudio Simonetti from Goblin and Bill Wyman from the Rolling Stones worked on it. It doesn’t hurt the movie. It just doesn’t stand out like others.
In conclusion, I’m glad that I came back to this one. This gialli has an interesting premise. Taking elements of Phantom of the Opera and making it into a murder mystery. I’m not sure it fully comes together though. I do think the acting is good. We get solid effects and the cinematography does different things. I love the way the killer makes Betty watch though and how that factors in. This is still a solid effort from Argento.
My Rating: 7 out of 10