Thursday, October 10, 2013


I recently had a very pleasant movie surprise.

I was talking to a friend about films the other day and giallo films came up in the conversation. Giallo - or "yellow" - films are thrillers, getting the giallo name based on the cheap, crime thriller paperbacks in Italy that traditionally had yellow covers. 

He was looking for some good Argento to watch to round out his Italian horror giallo genre card. I told him he should go old school for sure, leaving more recent Argento strictly alone. I made mention of TENEBRE, SUSPIRIA and DEEP RED as a sort of perfect threesome for this sort of thing. Of course, INFERNO would be grand as well.

Then I looked over a copy of TENEBRE because the plot was fuzzy and I realized that I actually never saw it! I had seen clips and documentaries reviewing the film, but I never really saw the film from start to finish. This was a fantastic win, actually. I thought I was all done with Argento new watches from the "good old days" , yet here was something that I had not been able to catch up on.  I wasn't disappointed as I watched, though I did know who the killer was and that was a rather large drag. The clips I saw let the mystery go and I wish I had the chance to try to sort it out myself. No spoilers here, however!  

The plot is classic giallo mystery. Author Peter Neal is kicking off a book tour for his new book TENEBRE, traveling from New York to Rome for a few interviews and speaking engagements. His trip sets off on a rocky start when he finds out that his travel bag has been ransacked - clothes shredded and items broken. Things get worse as a series of murders take place and mysterious notes are left for the author that refer to the murders and quote passages from his book.

Who is the crazed killer? Is it a strange interviewer in Rome? His estranged lover from New York? Or, could it be that Peter Neal has a new and completely insane lover of his books that he has yet to meet?

Classic giallo! I loved it. And the Goblin score (YouTube link below) fits so well here. It's another amazing, swooping music piece that is instantly recognizable.

We have all the Argento / giallo tropes here. First person, "camera as killer" perspective, the black gloved murderer, mysterious goings on and lots and lots of female violence, sadly. Mr. Argento was no feminist. Women are brutally and violently extinguished along with a few men in a two to one ratio and the blood flows freely. However, unlike some films with a over the top amount of violence, this film actually backs the violence with story. It's no "set 'em up and knock 'em down" film. It has a plot and a mystery that is rather good when I think about it. You have to watch it to see what I'm getting at.

Argento was at the top of his game in this film. The camera work is fun ( a VERY long tracking shot at minute 28 or so. long...) and the pace is sound. The plot makes sense, really. The story behind it is rather good. This was the best time for Argento work - circa 1970 to 1980.

BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE set things off well in 1970. It's a bit long and Argento didn't quite polish things, but it's a fantastic watch. CAT O' NINE TALES (1971)  and FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (1971) worked well. However DEEP RED really got the Argento spin popping. The style behind the camera work, the story and the attention the the giallo tropes made Deep Red sing. Argento branded the film with his unique and twisted art.

SUSPIRIA (1977) took things another step forward with some additional visual style choices and character work that set Dario off into GOD MODE when it came to the creepy, sick and twisted giallo genre. INFERNO (1980)  followed suit, but took things into very strange territory. Sadly, MOTHER OF TEARS didn't follow Inferno directly, thus ruining the THREE MOTHERS TRILOGY. When Mother was made in 2007, the Argento magic was lost. Hell, I think the film might have managed to top the MOTHER TRILOGY off well if Dario made it in 2005. DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? stayed with me for a long time in a GOOD way. Mother of Tears might have been great if it was made during that time frame.

But...I digress.

A classic shot that is seen as one of the cornerstones of this film

TENEBRE was the feature to follow Inferno and it really shows. We don't have magic or the supernatural here. It's just a good 'ole giallo mystery. (The supernatural does return in 1985's PHENOMENA, however.)

I loved Anthony Franciosa as Peter Neal. He was grand and channeled ROD SERLING from time to time in his delivery of lines. :) We have the usual Italian actors and actresses that are dubbed over, but it's nt distracting. And, the ever awesome John Saxon plays a major role here as well, which is worth the price of admission alone! Oddly, THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH was made in 1969, but he looks exactly the same years later.

And.....I developed another HORROR CRUSH on Veronica Lario. Hubba Hubba!!!  :) Sadly, aside from a few television roles, the only other movie she was in was a film called SOTTO...SOTTO. Yes, I plan to track this down. heh

The violence towards women is rough at times - be warned. But, oddly, it's not as mean spirited as some of today's "torture porn" varieties. I think it's due to the fact that the violence is there in addition to the story instead of weak story points whipped up to get to more violence.

Like a good mystery?  Check this one out for sure! Fun stuff!

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