Dario Argento:
An Eye for Horror
U.K. / 1997
Directed by Leon Ferguson
Dario Argento, Asia Argento
John Carpenter, George Romero
Tom Savini, William Lustig
Color / 57 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Image Entertainment
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
    5   10 = Highest Rating  
Love his films or hate them, there can be no argument that Italian director Dario Argento is a visual stylist par excellence.
    Argento's work in the medium of cinema has gone on to inspire and influence a host of filmmakers from all across the globe. From the black-gloved killers of his gialli murder/mysteries to the baroque, nightmarish dreamscapes of such supernatural thrillers as Suspiria and Phenomena, his films portray a world that springs from a distinctly European, aesthetically-centered mind, one profoundly influenced in its formative years by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. If you're attuned to his particular wavelength, then watching the best of Argento's movies never fails even with repeated viewings to invoke visceral and even subconscious reactions. "Welcome to my nightmare," says the Italian maestro of the macabre, and we willingly plunge into the darkness.
    Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror is a documentary film spanning the director's nearly 40 year career. Originally made for European TV in 1997, it has apparently been recently updated to incorporate footage of Argento and his crew shooting scenes for Sleepless ("Nonhosonno"), which wrapped in 2000 and was released in theaters on the continent in early 2001. (The film reaches American shores on Dec. 18 via DVD.) Using standard techniques, the documentary interweaves clips from some (but definitely not all) of Argento's films with a well-written narration. The balance of the program is rounded out with interview segments. Among those participating: Argento biographers Maitland McDonagh and Alan Jones, directors John Carpenter, George Romero and William Lustig, special effects artist Tom Savini, composers Claudio Simonetti (of Goblin) and Keith Emerson (Inferno), actors Jessica Harper, Piper Laurie, and Michael Brandon, former collaborator and leading lady (both on and off-screen) Daria Nicolodi, daughter Asia Argento, and, of course, the man himself. Even '70s shock rocker Alice Cooper weighs in on his love of Goblin's groundbreaking Suspiria score.
    Though his early days as a movie critic and screenwriter are touched upon, the natural focus of the documentary is Argento's filmography, beginning with the 1969 giallo
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Unfortunately, it seems the producers of An Eye For Horror were unable to procure the rights to clips from almost half of them, so that much of Argento's work is quickly brushed over with only a few stills displayed if anything at all. His non-director credits, notably as producer/co-writer for films helmed by Lamberto Bava (Demons) and Michele Soavi (The Church), are barely mentioned. To its credit the documentary takes a more psychological approach to its subject than would be the standard practice. McDonagh (who is female) and Carpenter effectively dispense with the notion that his work is misogynistic in its depictions of violence against women. And Argento's daughters, Fiore (who as a teen was 'decapitated' in Phenomena) and actress/model Asia (The Stendhal Syndrome, among others), provide intriguing insights into the somewhat less than normal psychology of their father. While apparently an eccentric (if not downright odd) fellow, Argento himself comes across as a likeable person totally committed to his vision, regardless of its commercial success or failure.
    For diehard Argentophiles this documentary will not reveal anything new. Fans will likely already have most of his films on DVD, and a number of these
particularly those released in the States by Anchor Bay contain featurettes that cover aspects of his career in deeper detail. But for those new to the darkly mysterious and often shocking vision of Dario Argento, this disc should serve as a useful overview of the fantastical treasures that await them.
NOTE The "Blood 'n' Guts" icon is for a few squishy scenes culled from various Argento films, notably Harvey Keitel's "bowels first" impalement from Two Evil Eyes. The "Bare Flesh" icon refers to Asia Argento's topless scene from Trauma.

As one would expect with an hour-long documentary this is a bare bones release lacking in any of the conventional "extras". Picture and sound quality are quite good for this sort of endeavor, though one must take into consideration that the quality of the film clips shown isn't going to match that of the remastered versions of the films themselves (those currently on DVD, that is). There was one interview segment, however, where the background music threatened to overpower the person speaking. 10/18/01