= Highest Rating
almost three months of waiting, I finally got hold of
a DVD copy of Dario Argento's Opera
that will actually play without locking up! In case you aren't
aware, the entire initial pressing of the disc (released in
September 2001) had to be recalled due to a manufacturing defect.
It seems the "curse" of Macbeth extended all
the way to the factory! Happily, Anchor Bay is swapping out
the bad discs for new ones when owners contact them. E-merchants
such as Amazon.com have also restocked from consignments of
this second pressing. But more about that later.
Director Argento (Deep
calls Opera his most "ferocious"
film. In terms of the savagery of some of the onscreen killings,
that's arguably true. To me, though, it's no gorier than his
1982 splatterfest Tenebre. Perhaps
Argento was referring to the nature of the murderer in
this tale, who is indeed one sick puppy. Greed or personal gain
plays no role whatsoever in the motivation of this giallo slasher.
Psychosexual deviancy and an unquenchable sadism do, going even
beyond the "norm" of similarly screwed up nutbags
in films past. This one likes to kill, yes —
but gets the biggest thrills
from having a captive audience witness the slaughter. (Perhaps
the murderer should've been a film director instead.)
Spanish actress Christina
Marsillach is Betty, a young soprano acting as understudy to
a famed, temperamental diva on an avant-garde production of
Verdi's Macbeth. Fortune seems to smile upon her when
the star is injured in a car accident —
this could be the big break of her career. But the night of
Betty's triumphant debut ends in nightmare. A masked maniac
ties her up, placing needles under her eyes so that she cannot
close them, then brutally knifes her boyfriend to death right
in front of her. The murderer spares Betty her own life. He
doesn't want to kill her... He just wants her to watch.
And he vows to strike again.
showcases director Dario Argento at the pinnacle of technical
achievement. It goes without saying that the film looks gorgeous.
Aided by veteran cinematographer Ronnie Taylor, Argento engineers
some truly remarkable set-pieces here, most notably the notorious
"peephole kill shot" and the swooping "raven-cam" that swirls
in a dizzying, descending spiral over the theater's panicked
audience. They're astonishing moments, definite high
points in the Argento oeuvre.
Unfortunately, the latter scene is ultimately undermined by
the illogic of its justification in the story. Herein lies the
film's most serious shortcoming: some of the plot elements just
don't make any sense.
new for Argento, you say? A valid stance should one bother to
nit-pick his earlier efforts,
but key aspects of Opera
simply strain all credulity. That birds —
wronged by the murderer with the slaying of three of their feathered
could be relied upon to actually point out the killer in a crowd
is patently absurd, especially in a story devoid of supernatural
elements. That a stage production would be permitted to continue
its run after the savage murders of two of its crewmembers (one
in the theater itself) is ludicrous. There are other problematic
issues as well, such as the villain's seemingly miraculous escape
from a locked, burning room. But the use of ravens for amateur
police work and the continuance of the opera (despite a homicidal
maniac stalking its star) are simply beyond the pale. The tacked-on,
"feel good" voice-over narration that ends the film may also
have you groaning and rolling your eyes.
Until it begins to
self-destruct in the final 25 minutes though, Opera
is tour-de-force Argento —
a thrilling, shocking giallo stylishly orchestrated as only
the Italian Maestro of Mayhem can.
with Suspiria, Anchor Bay's edition
of Opera has been painstakingly remastered
from original film elements. Picture quality is superb. A new
5.1 Surround audio track really punches up the action, though
I must admit the score is not among my favorites of Argento's
films. (And this is not due to the presence of various
operatic pieces, either.)
Limited Edition is a two-disc set. Disc 1 contains the film itself
and all Bonus features. These include both the international and
American theatrical trailers (in the U.S. the film was initially
titled Terror At The Opera),
a cheesy music video of the main theme by composer (and Goblin
member) Claudio Simonetti
and his band Daemonia, and an excellent 36-minute documentary,
Conducting Dario Argento's Opera, which
chronicles the film's production.
Interviewees include cinematographer Taylor, special effects artist
Sergio Stivaletti (who discusses the animatronic birds used in
some scenes), composer Simonetti, and actors Urbano Barberini
("Inspector Santini") and Daria Nicolodi ("Mira").
Of course Dario Argento himself provides his own reflections;
the film apparently sprang from a dark period in his personal
life and resulted in a serious bout of depression. If you've never
seen Opera before, I strongly urge
you to avoid watching the documentary beforehand. Spoilers aplenty!
Disc 2 is an audio CD featuring most, but not
all, of the film's non-operatic music. Particularly missed is
the eerie "flashback" theme by Brian Eno, which is my
favorite bit of music from Opera.
(This is first heard during a tracking shot that ascends a spiral
staircase.) Unless you're a fan of this particular score or a
Simonetti completist, the added value of the CD is negligible.
As mentioned above, Anchor Bay had severe problems
with the initial pressing of its Opera
thousands of them were defective, prone to pixelating and locking
up in most players. To the company's credit it's made a valiant
effort to replace these bad copies. Consumers who purchased a
defective disc can contact Anchor Bay directly for a free replacement
Anchor Bay release covered here went OOP in 2006. On September
25, 2007 Blue Underground is reissuing the title using the exact
same transfer and extras. The soundtrack
CD will not be included.