TENEBRAE Blu-ray Review
Terror Beyond Belief!Dario Argento's career has been on a long downward slide for over twenty years. He hasn't made anything really outstanding, in my mind, since Terror at the Opera in 1987. The interceding twenty four years have ranged from mediocre to awful. In 1983, he released Tenebrae, his penultimate masterful giallo film, and watching it again is like watching home movies of yourself from a time when you were younger, more handsome, and thinner. It's almost hard to watch all the beauty on screen when you know that it represents an age that is lost. Tenebrae isn't perfect, but it is a very solid film that is engaging and exciting with a true sense of mystery about the proceedings and some really excellent effects work alongside one of Goblin's more memorable Argento scores.
A notorious horror classic returns in all its depraved glory. This infamous video nasty updated the classic Giallo blueprint for the gorified 80s, courting controversy and drenching the viewer in crimson arterial spray.
A razor-wielding psycho is stalking the horror writer Peter Neal, in Rome to promote his latest work, Tenebre. But the author isn't the obsessive killer's only target, the beautiful women who surround him are doomed as one by one, they fall victim to the murderer's slashing blade...
Will fiction and reality blur as fear and madness take hold? Watch in terror as by turns the cast fall victim to the sadistic imagination of Dario Argento, Italy's master of horror.
Argento has said that Tenebrae is fictionalized autobiography. He says that he's been pegged so often by the conservative press as a reason for violent crime, that he thought he'd just give the critics what they wanted. He wrote a story about a novelist who writes gialli, around whom people begin to die in the most horrific ways. For Dario it was a joke, but for the audience, it made for a really fun story with every main character appearing as a suspect in some way or another. Ultimately, no one can be trusted, and the ending remains a classic, Daria Nicolodi's brilliant shrieking at the climax is unparalleled.
I hadn't seen Tenebrae in at least ten years before popping this disc in, and I must say I was surprised at how much fun I had with this. There are numerous memorable sequences; some brilliant gratuitous lesbians and associated nudity, several fantastic kill shots, including a dismemberment that is accompanied by a ludicrous amount of blood spray that borders on parodic; a public murder in Argento's Rome out of step with time; and an agonizingly long crane shot in which the camera crawls over every inch of the above-mentioned lesbian's home before going in for the kill. Going back through Argento's catalog with Arrow Video has been a real treat, and one I look forward to continuing with Cat 'O Nine Tails in September. Tenebrae is one of Argento's best, and it is well worth revisiting, as I'm sure I will do again soon.
Parts of Arrow Video's presentation of Tenebrae is a bit puzzling. The video clearly outshines the previous DVD incarnations, but there is something strange about it. There is increased detail and better dynamic range in the brightness levels and colors, though there is a strange video-ish buzzing at various points during the film. It isn't an audio buzz, it looks more like extremely fine video noise or something. It's hard to explain, but it doesn't look like grain, and the fact that it is present during bright daylight sequences points to the fact that it probably isn't film grain. It isn't overly distracting, but when you're reviewing a disc like this, you have to have eagle eyes and pick up on things that may sneak past the casual viewer. Like I said, it is light years ahead of any DVD available, but not quite as eye-popping as a modern film or a well-loved classic with an extensive restoration might be.
Tenebrae's audio is also a bit of a mixed bag, though again, much better than the DVDs I've owned. The Italian DTS-HD MA stereo track is noticeably brighter and punchier than the English dub. This tends to be the case on all of the Argento Blus I've come across. Even though many of the actors were speaking English on-set, all of the dialogue tracks were dubbed, and I'd guess that the Italian track just got a little bit more attention from the outset, which is why they always seem to sound better. I didn't notice any distracting hisses or pops, and the dialogue was clear, if at times over-powered by the background score.
Once again, Arrow Video and High Rising Productions have provided a lovely, in-depth set of extras that are sure to please the Argentophiles out there. There are two commentaries included; the first is a previously available one from Argento expert Thomas Rostock, Rostock's take on the film is academic and dry but very informative, the second newly recorded commentary is from Argento fans and experts Alan Jones and Kim Newman, this second commentary is much more lively and shows more spirit. Jones and Newman know their stuff and are genuinely engaged and excited to be talking about the film and the play well off of one another. There are also three interviews, one with Daria Nicolodi, one with Claudio Simonetti, and one with Argento himself, each lasts about twenty minutes and they are both very informative and open about their experiences, successes, inspirations, and disappointments with the film. Lastly there is a bit of live footage of Simonetti and a couple of his Goblin compatriots performing the Tenebrae theme and the Phenomena theme live in Glasgow this spring. Goblin aren't as tight as they may have once been and it looks a bit like your uncle got the high school band back together, but it is fun to watch them play anyway. Also provided in this package is the customary Arrow Video poster, cover art options, and booklet, none of which were available for review at this time, but I'm expecting them and hope to update this review accordingly.
[Update: I have received the final product and the following are my added thoughts]
Arrow's final release version of Tenebrae includes a few printed flourishes that are worth noting. First and most obvious is the custom cover art from Rick Melton. There are many who complain about his artwork on other Argento releases, but I think this is probably his best work. Tenebrae's cover is simple and evocative of the film without being exploitative, in addition to his cover, there are three additional choices for Tenebrae. Rick's art is also included as a wall poster inside the case. The other printed extra is a 6 page essay on Tenebrae from Argento biographer Alan Jones. The essay is intelligent and well written and provides some interesting insight on the film and Argento's thoughts on Tenebrae. Another solid extras package from Arrow Video on Tenebrae.
Arrow Video's presentation of Tenebrae is very good, but not perfect. I'm curious about the state of the image and how it came to look the way it does, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it. The image looks good, the film sounds great, and the extras are fun, overall, Tenebrae can be chalked up as another worthwhile package for Argento fans.
- 4 Sleeve art options with original and newly commissioned art work
- Double-sided fold-out poster
- Exclusive collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on Tenebrae by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento
- Brand new HD restoration of the film
- Optional original mono English and Italian audio
- Audio Commentary with Argento experts, journalists and writers Kim Newman and Alan Jones
- Audio Commentary with Argento expert Thomas Rostock
- Introduction by Daria Nicolodi
- Screaming Queen! Daria Nicolodi remembers Tenebrae
- The Unsane World of Tenebrae: An interview with Dario Argento
- A Composition for Carnage: Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae
- Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches
- Original Trailer