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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » 5 Films By Dario Argento
5 Films By Dario Argento
Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // May 27, 2008
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted July 4, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movies:

One of the most influential horror directors of all time and one of the few classic Italian horror directors still making movies within the genre, Dario Argento has rightfully built a rabid fan base over the decades he's been making movies. Whether it be a giallo like The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, a dark horror fantasy like Suspiria or a television project like Masters Of Horror: Pelts, his work is always worth a look even if it isn't always a masterpiece. Over the years, Anchor Bay have released a fair amount of the mans' films onto DVD, and the ones that they still hold the rights to have now been assembled in this 'steel book' boxed set collection, 5 Films By Dario Argento. Before we go any further, it should be noted that aside from the packaging, there is no exclusive content in this collection. The Tenebre and Phenomena DVDs in this set are identical to the Anchor Bay re-issues while the Trauma, The Card Player and Do You Like Hitchcock? discs are the exact same as the single disc releases that are still in print.

Tenebre (1982):

Widely regarded as one of Argento's finest giallo offerings, Tenebre was released in North America originally under the alternate title of Unsane. The film follows the exploits of an American mystery novel writer named Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) who travels to Rome at the behest of his agent, Mr. Bullmer (John Saxon), to promote his latest novel, 'Tenebrae.' Accompanying him on this trip is his personal assistant, Anne (Daria Nicolodi), who has long harbored a secret crush for her employer. What Neal doesn't know is that his ex-wife, Jane (Veronica Lario), has also tagged along on this little trip.

Just before Neal arrives, a young woman is killed by a black-gloved killer brandishing a straight razor, her throat viciously slashed open by the unseen maniac. Neal receives a letter from the killer who credits his writing as the inspiration for the murderous rampage that he has only just begun. Neal, of course, makes a phone call to the police who send Detective Giermani (Guiliano Gemma) and his partner Alteri (Carola Stagnaro) to investigate. As the detectives try to figure out who the killer is, the bodies start to pile up around them - first a pair of lesbian lovers are murdered, then the daughter of the man Neal rents his apartment from is killed with an axe. All of the victims have a tie to the author, who soon starts to fear for his life. He and his other assistant, Gianni (Christiano Borromeo), begin an investigation of their own but the killer has a few tricks up his sleeve and won't stop until his obsessions with Neal and his work are silenced.

A gleefully gory whodunit, Tenebre holds up well years after it was made. Famous for it's bloody kill scenes as well as for one particularly remarkable shot (where a camera tracks up a building, through the window and around the house without any edits), this is a wonderfully shot film with some remarkable cinematography and a great score from regular Argento co-conspirators Claudio Simonetti and the rest of Goblin. The suspense mounts nicely as the picture progresses and there's a great air of tension throughout the film that keeps audiences on their toes while the body count grows.

The performances, while not particularly mesmerizing, are fun with John Saxon obviously enjoying himself as Neal's money hungry agent. The late Anthony Franciosa (who has popped up in everything from TV work to Zombie Death House to Death Wish II makes for a likeable enough lead while supporting performances from Argento's ex-wife, Daria Nicolodi, and Euro-cult regular Giuliano Gemma are also enjoyable. The film isn't as colorful or otherworldly as some of the director's effort but it's a well shot picture with some good performances, great camera work, remarkably bloody murder set pieces and solid, mounting tension making it a must see for giallo enthusiasts and horror buffs alike.

NOTE: The footage that was missing from the previous Anchor Bay DVD release has not been restored for this re-issue. A second stab during the flashback sequence is missing as is some other minor material. This same problem plagued the previous Anchor Bay DVD release though a Japanese import DVD does present the film completely uncut.

Phenomena (1985):

Originally released in North America as Creepers, this fan favorite is unique even amongst Argento's unusual filmography. Shot right after Tenebre this film follows a teenage girl named Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly), the daughter of a movie star who heads to Switzerland to attend a private girl's school in the mountains. The school's headmistress, Frau Br├╝ckner (Daria Nicolodi), bunks Jennifer with Sophie (Federica Mastroianni). What Jennifer doesn't know is that recently a tourist woman, Vera Grandt (Fiore Argento), was murdered in the area. Inspector Rudolf Geiger (Patrick Bauchau) found the victim's head and he and his assistant, Kurt (Michele Soavi) brought it to the local entomologist, Dr. John McGregor (Donald Pleasance), who is able to tell how long ago she was killed by examining the maggots that have decided to eat poor Vera's flesh. McGregor is bound to a wheelchair but has a chimpanzee assistant named Inga to help him around the house.

One night, Jennifer sleep walks and inadvertently witnesses the murder of a fellow student. She wanders into the woods where Dr. McGregor's chimp finds her and takes her back to her master. McGregor believes that Jennifer may be telepathic. Jennifer's memories of the murder she saw are clouded by sleep but she winds up undergoing a series of tests courtesy of the school's doctor. When Sophie winds up the next victim of the killer, a firefly leads Jennifer to a clue that could pinpoint the murderer's identity but the ridicule she is subjected to at the hands of her fellow students is starting to take its toll on her increasingly fragile psyche. Things come to a boil as Jennifer and McGregor try to uncover the killer's identity and stop him or her from murdering again, but as things progress, Jennifer calls upon her insect friends to help her in a few unorthodox and rather frightening ways.

Likely the most effects intensive film that Argento has ever shot, Phenomena is a genuinely weird film. A strange hybrid of giallo conventions and paranormal insect telepathy, it's truly a picture unlike any other. Connelly is well cast in the lead as she plays her part with a very effective sense of distance and one gets the sense that her character is, in more than one way, very detached from the rest of her fellow students. She's a loner and she's very alienated amongst her peers so it makes sense that this girl who relates to well to insects would get along with an expert in the field. Pleasance is great as McGregor, and while he hams it up in a few scenes he never goes too over the top or even comes close to ruining things. The supporting performances are uniformly strong and well balanced.

Like many of Argento's gialli, the highlights of this film are the murder scenes. A few grisly slashings (created by effects man Sergio Stivaletti) are seen in gory detail but here a couple are given some interesting twists that, to detail, would spoil the film for those yet to see it. The scenes in which Jennifer controls the insects (courtesy of Luigi Cozzi) are also rather remarkable; particularly when you consider that no CGI was used in their creation. The odd soundtrack, composed of tracks from Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, seems at odds with the score from Simon Boswell and Goblin but it's hard not to think of this film every time you hear Flash Of The Blade.

Not a film for everyone, Phenomena plays better the second or third time around than it does on its initial viewing, simply because you'll probably spend much of the first go around scratching your head wondering how this all came to be. Once you get over that, it's much easier to appreciate this quirky picture on its own merits and enjoy it for the bizarre thrill ride that it really is.

NOTE: This cut of the film contained on this DVD is the uncut English version, however, the Italian version of the film does run slightly longer and contains footage not seen in this version. None of that footage is found on this disc, either in the feature or in the supplements. It wasn't on the previous Anchor Bay release either, though it was included on a Japanese DVD release.

Trauma (1993):

David Parson (Christopher Rydell), simply by chance, stumbles upon and prevents an anorexic teenage girl named Aura Petrescu (Asia Argento) from jumping off a bridge and ending her life. She ends up being brought back to her parents, Adriana (Piper Laurie) and Stefan (Dominique Serrand). Shortly after, a maniac running around Minneapolis decapitating people murders her parents and Aura is left an orphan. She and David team up and, through a few odd coincidences, find themselves teaming up to try and figure out who's been doing the killing and why. The murderer only seems to kill at night when it rains, and there does in fact seem to be a link between all of the victims, but who the murderer is remains a mystery until the pair discover a couple of revealing clues.

Trauma has a bad reputation among horror movie fans, at least when compared to undisputed classics of the genre like Argento's earlier films such as Suspiria or The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. While this picture never approaches the levels of suspense and weirdness that some of his better received films have, Trauma does have it's moments and there is enough to like about the movie to make it worth checking out.

As usual, the visuals are nice and the cinematography, while not as flamboyant as his European films have tended to be, is still quite slick. Some nice fluid camera movements, such as the scene where the camera pans from one window to the next with such precision that you barely notice that it's moving in the first place, keep the picture looking good even when the story is a little weak. Some of the director's trademarks are noticeable in a few scenes as well, making it a fun if not unfamiliar ride for seasoned fans of his work. The black gloved killer is omnipresent, and the use of primary color gels in the lighting is always a welcome (and seemingly expected) touch in his work.

With Savini at the helm of the special effects team it's a safe assumption that they'd be handled well. Sadly, that's not really the case and the severed neck set pieces make use of some obviously plastic looking props. This is certainly not Savini's best work on display here, and it pales in comparison to his efforts on pictures like Maniac or even The Burning. The killings are rather subdued here though; at least in comparison to some of Argento's other films. Sure, the decapitations are an interesting idea but although sometimes less can be more, it would have been nice to see him really cut loose as the picture sometimes feels quite restrained.

Performances are reasonably good across the board, with Asia showing some talent in front of the camera even this early in her career. It's always fun when Brad Dourif shows up at the table and that's what he does in a cameo role that, if you're not paying attention, is easy to miss - especially if you're only familiar with him from the Lord Of The Rings films as he looks completely different here. The rest of the cast turn in respectable efforts, but the end result is still a middle of the road picture for Argento.

The Card Player (2004):

In a role that Dario Argento originally intended for his daughter and regular collaborator Asia Argento, actress Stefania Rocco plays a Rome police detective named Anna Mari who is contacted by a criminal responsible for kidnapping a British tourist. This criminal calls himself 'The Card Player' and tells Anna that if the police can beat him at a game of video poker, he'll let the victim go, if not, he'll murder him in cold blood. The police chief (Adalberto Maria Merli) refuses to negotiate and soon the police see the victim slaughtered live over the internet.

A British detective named John Brennan (Liam Cunningham) is sent to Rome to help with the investigation and he and Anna work together hoping to uncover clues as to the killer's identity. Soon, a woman is kidnapped and the police are again challenged to a poker game. Knowing they won't likely beat him, they enlist the help of a gambling addict named Remo (Silvio Muccino) to help them. The police find themselves in a race against time hoping to find the killer before he strikes again, with their hopes lying in the hands of the rather unreliable Remo.

The first thing you'll probably notice with The Card Player is that Argento's trademark colors and camerawork have been markedly turned down this go around. The bright hues and flashy moves of films like Deep Red have been eschewed for a look that comes closer to Fincher's Se7en than any of Argento's earlier efforts. This is a very cold and clinical looking film shot in shades of grey, black, brown and green. The fantastical elements of many of his earlier films are completely missing here and it looks like he's gone for a more realistic feeling with the film. In some ways, that's a disappointment but you can't blame the man for wanting to try something new even if the film isn't completely successful. The use of computer technology leaves itself wide open to being picked apart and the way in which the police handle themselves while dealing with what is essentially a computer based crime isn't all that believable. Once, or if, you get past that then The Card Player isn't a bad thriller though it feels like it lacks the passion of some of the director's better movies.

The performances from Rocca and Cunningham are pretty good and quite believable. They have an awkward chemistry together that allows us to sympathize with them and hope they'll solve the crime. Muccino doesn't give a particularly strong turn as Remo, however. A few interesting kill scenes are noteworthy and the fake corpses created for the picture are sufficiently realistic and grisly. Figuring out the killer's identity isn't particularly difficult, however, and once you do that much of the suspense is sucked out of the picture. Ultimately, The Card Player is a lesser effort from the director but there's still enough about it that works that, even if you don't go back to it time and again, it is worth a watch.

Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005):

This made for TV film is, in the eyes of many fans, one of his least impressive efforts, possibly because the fact that it was made for television means that it's a more restrained picture than we're used to from the director. That said, while upping the ante in the sex and violence department might have made the picture more exploitative, it wouldn't have helped the predictable storyline much at all and that's where the bulk of the problems with this film lie.

The movie revolves around a college student named Giulio (Elio Germano) who absolutely adores the films of Alfred Hitchcock. He also enjoys watching Sascha (Elisabetta Rocchetti), the girl across the street, with his binoculars (a la Rear Window). He sees her change her clothes and prance around, but he also sees her argue with her mother on a pretty regular basis. When her mother is found murdered in the apartment building right across the street from where he lives, he takes it upon himself to investigate the killings and try to find the real culprit.

As he looks into it, he begins to piece together the facts of the case and starts to suspect that Sascha, might have paid one of her girlfriends, Federica (Chiara Conti), to commit the crime in exchange for helping out her friend by committing a crime of her own, just like in Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train.

As a tribute to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, a director that Argento gets compared to a lot whether he likes it or not, Do You Like Hitchcock? works fairly well but judged on its own merits, it's not a great picture. The biggest flaw is that because it makes reference to or, if you prefer, pays homage to many of Hitchcock's better known films it is in a way pretty predictable. It isn't hard to guess who the killer is or even guess the motive, in fact, it's laid out fairly early on and because of that, there's little suspense. There are a few nice Argento touches in the camera work and style - the picture always looks very good and features some very nice cinematography - but the story is middling. It's not terrible, it's just unremarkable. It's a slick looking film with some cute tributes but the performances and the script are bland. Think of this as Argento-lite and you might come out of it appeased but anyone expecting the mayhem of his better regarded giallo films will likely walk away disappointed with this one.

The DVDs:

Video:

Tenebre: The transfer for Tenebre on this new release is anamorphic 1.85.1 widescreen (Anchor Bay's previous DVD issue was simply letterboxed) but unfortunately it looks like AB simply took the old master, which was originally prepared for a laserdisc release years ago, and converted it to 16x9. Tenebre isn't quite as colorful a picture as other Argento films so it has a rather clinical look to it rather than the fantastic tone that much of his other material exhibits and this transfer replicates that but the color reproduction is inconsistent throughout the film. There are some serious problems with this transfer, however. If you look very closely you'll see some slight vertical picture stretching and really, this transfer is pretty bad. While fans can and should accept the fact that the colors are rather harsh looking here (as they were intended to be) and that certain scenes will always look a little too bright, Anchor Bay hasn't done the film any favors by recycling an old out of date master.

Phenomena: The previous Anchor Bay release of Phenomena was also non-anamorphic so it's nice to see this re-issue enhanced for 16x9 playback. That said, there aren't really any vast improvements here. The picture has been sharpened a bit but it's resulted in some ringing and noise on the image. While this is definitely the best looking of the five films in this set, the improvement over the previous release is negligible. That said, color reproduction is pretty decent and while the detail levels probably could have been better, so too could they have been much worse. There is some smudginess to the image that you'll notice if you watch carefully during quick movements but at least the picture is quite watchable even if this transfer leaves a fair bit of room for improvement.

Trauma: The anamorphic 2.35.1 transfer on this disc is the same as the previous Anchor Bay release, meaning that unfortunately, it's interlaced and very jittery looking. There are compression artifacts evident in many of the darker scenes as well as some mild ghosting artifacts in some parts of the film. Color reproduction looks okay but detail levels are soft and unimpressive.

The Card Player: Again, this disc is identical to its single disc release counterpart so the 1.85.1 anamorphic transfer is, like Trauma, unfortunately interlaced. This is a fairly cold looking film and it's quite a dark picture but the film is certainly quite watchable here and details levels are alright.

Do You Like Hitchcock?: Again, identical to it's single disc release, the transfer for Do You Like Hitchcock? is presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.78.1. While it's nice to see that the transfer is anamorphic, it too is also interlaced and a little smeary looking in some spots. There are some mild compression artifacts present and some scenes are a bit on the soft side. Color reproduction is fair to average and detail levels are unremarkable. Like the transfer for The Card Player, it's watchable, but it's not great.

Sound:

Tenebre: Audio options are provided in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, and Italian Dolby Digital Mono, though strangely enough (as with the previous DVD release), there aren't any subtitles of any kind supplied here so if you don't speak Italian, you're not going to get much use out of that track. As far as the 5.1 track goes, the dialogue is a little low in the mix and there are some points where you're going to probably want to turn the volume down as the music gets pretty loud but aside from that, the audio is fine.

Phenomena: Audio options are provided in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, and French Dolby Digital Mono though again, there are no subtitles supplied for some reason. The audio here is identical to the previous release but that's fine, aside from the lack of subs for the French track there aren't any serious issues here. The scenes that utilize all of the bugs sound great with some nice rear channel action and the strange score composed for the film comes through nice and clear.

Trauma: English audio tracks are available in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. No alternate language dubs or subtitles are supplied. The 5.1 mix is decent here but there isn't a whole lot of rear channel action and the majority of the surround action comes from the film's soundtrack. That said, the levels are fine, the dialogue is easy enough to follow, and the movie sounds pretty good.

The Card Player: English audio tracks are available in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. No alternate language dubs or subtitles are supplied. Either track sounds fine on this disc. The 5.1 mix gets the edge for some interesting surround effects used in the rear channels and for opening up the score a bit more and filling in the mix with more depth.

Do You Like Hitchcock?: The only audio track on this disc is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. No alternate language dubs or subtitles are included. The dubbing doesn't help the film much but at least the quality of the mix itself is decent. There isn't a whole lot of channel separation but the score sounds decent and the levels are properly balanced throughout. That said, the lack of the Italian language track is a problem.

Extras:

The extras, some of which are new but most of which will look very familiar to Argento fans, are spread across the five discs in the set as follows:

The extras on Tenebre start off with the commentary track from Dario Argento and composer Claudio Simonetti, moderated by journalist Loris Curci. This is a decent track even if it's obvious that Argento and Simonetti aren't quite as comfortable speaking in English as they probably would have been in Italian. As such, the track is a little on the slow side. That said, there's some great information in here as the three discuss the history of the picture, what Argento was going for with various scenes, how they feel about the film and why various members were cast in their specific parts. Argento talks about his enthusiasm for electronic music at this point, and he talks about the importance of some of the murder set pieces that highlight the film while Simonetti talks more specifically about the music on the picture and talks about why the soundtrack for this is a Goblin score in many ways even if they didn't use the name.

New to this release is Voices of the Unsane (17:19, anamorphic widescreen), an interesting featurette on the history of the film featuring interviews with Dario Argento, actress Daria Nicolodi, director of photography Luciano Tovoli, composer Claudio Simonetti, assistant director Lamberto Bava, and actress Eva Robins. This is a really interesting look back at the making of the film as those involved share some interesting stories about the casting, the cinematography, the shocking violence of certain key scenes, where the film stands in Argento's filmography and what it was like on set. Each of the interviewees has his or her own story to tell and this featurette does a good job of shedding some welcome light on the history of the production.

The Roving Camera Eye Of Dario Argento (4:26, anamorphic widescreen) is a quirky interview with Argento (who speaks in Italian but is overdubbed in English) in his Profondo Rosso shop in Italy where he discusses his work. He talks about different techniques and effects that he has used in his work and cites examples from specific films. We then a clip that illustrates his points, specifically that amazing shot from Tenebre that takes us up the outside of the building and then in through the window and around the house. Accompanying this is Creating The Sounds Of Terror (2:05, anamorphic widescreen), a clip from the same source that where we see how sound effects were created by slicing into melons and stabbing into chunks of meat. Both of these clips are carried over from the previous Anchor Bay DVD where they were titled Special Camera Equipment and Sound Effects respectively.

Interesting in a strange sort of way is the Alternate End Credit Music (2:14, also carried over from the previous DVD release) segment. During the commentary, Argento and Simonetti were upset to hear an America pop song play over the end credits that was placed there but American distributors without their consent. Anchor Bay put the original music over the end as per Argento's wishes but the pop song is here as a supplement. It sounds completely inappropriate but it's interesting to hear it.

Rounding out the extras on this disc are the film's North American theatrical trailer (3:13, anamorphic widescreen), a Dario Argento Bio, some spiffy menus, chapter selection and trailers for other Anchor Bay DVD releases.

Phenomena's supplements kick off with the commentary track from Argento, effects maestro Sergio Stivaletti, composer Claudio Simonetti and moderator Loris Curci that was on the previous DVD. This is a decent track even if there are a few awkward moments where they participants struggle to express themselves a little bit. They cover the effects work and the score in a fair bit of detail as well as the casting process, the location shooting, the effects work and many of the themes that pop up in this rather unique picture.

Exclusive to the re-release of Phenomena is the new featurette, A Dark Fairy Tale (17:16). Included here are interviews with Argento, co-writer Franco Ferrini, Dario Nicolodi, actress Fiore Argento, director of photography Romano Albani, effects man Sergio Stivaletti, and optical effects man Luigi Cozzi. This clip heavy featurette explains the importance of Jennifer Connellys' performance, the difficulties involved with working alongside a monkey, the intricacies of photography massive amounts of flying insects and where many of the ideas for the film came from, including the supernatural element. While this covers some of the same ground as the commentary track, it's interesting enough in its own right that this supplement is absolutely worth a look.

While the Luigi Cozzi And The Art Of Macrophotography (4:38) featurette also appeared on the previous DVD, it's an interesting segment worth revisiting. Here Cozzi discusses in subtitled Italian the work he did on this picture and how he went about using macrophotography to create the many insect effects scenes that are seen throughout the film. There's some interesting behind the scenes footage here that gives us a look at Cozzi plying his trade on set.

Also carried over from the previous release is the Dario Argento On The Joe Franklin Show (9:01) clip from an episode that was originally broadcast on August 29, 1985. Argento, speaking in English, appeared here to promote Creepers where Franklin asks him how a mild mannered man such as himself wound up a 'king of horror.' Argento talks about some of his favorite horror films and how his pictures are different from other horror movies. Argento admits here that he hopes his films keep people up at night and explains why, he talk about shooting films in English, and he discusses some of the effects work as well.

Rounding out the extras (and carried over from the previous DVD release) are the Claudio Simonetti Music Video - Jennifer (4:10), the Bill Wyman Music Video - Valley (3:59) which was directed by Michael Soavi, the film's original theatrical trailer (2:34), the same Dario Argento biography that was on the Tenebre DVD, some static menus and chapter selection. All of the supplements on this disc are presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Trauma contains a solid audio commentary from Argento biographer Alan Jones. The author of Profondo Argento (available from Fab Press) gives us a good, critical commentary of Argento's first American film and he details where a lot of the ideas came from and provides some welcome general trivia about the making of the picture. The delivery is a little dry at times but Jones really knows his stuff. He's not only written about the director at length but spent quite a bit of time with him on the set of a few different productions and as such, he's really got the insight to properly analyze and critique the man's movies, which is exactly what he does this time around.

Love, Death And Trauma (18:36) is a keen featurette that is essentially an interview with the director who describes the film as 'pure Argento'. Dario talks about how a visit to his niece gave him the idea to write a script involving anorexia as well as his decision to use Asia Argento as the lead in the picture. He talks about shooting in the United States, about why his characters live where they live, and about working with Tom Savini. There's some great behind the scenes footage here as well as plenty of clips from the film to illustrate various points but the meat of this segment is the input from Dario who tells some very interesting stories about the cast (and about Asia's not eating well before the film!) and the production.

On Set With Tom Savini (8:03) is a collection of video footage that the effects man shot while working on the film in August and September of 1992. We get a look at some of the effects work as it is in progress and we get to peek in on Dario and the cast as they're working in front of the cameras. There's some interesting stuff in here and it's a shame that Savini didn't provide a commentary or narration to put it all in context. Regardless, it's a rare glimpse behind the scenes of the film and a welcome addition to the DVD.

Also included on the DVD is a selection of Deleted Scenes (4:35) that were trimmed from the theatrical version of the picture. Some are presented in Italian with burned in English subtitles, others in English. These are simply extended bits of dialogue and characterization and honestly they wouldn't have helped the picture much had they been left in. These scenes were likely taken from the work print that's circulated for Trauma for a while, but puzzlingly, not all of the scenes from the work print that are missing from the theatrical cut have been included here.

Rounding out the extra features is the film's original theatrical trailer (2:03), a poster and still gallery, a Dario Argento biography, trailers for other Anchor Bay titles, static menus and chapter selection. All the extras on this disc are anamorphic.

Alan Jones provides another excellent commentary for The Card Player. He gives a nice overview of the film and places it in its proper context alongside Argento's other gialli. He details the history of the film, talks about the casting problems that happened early on in the production (Asia Argento was supposed to play the lead) and he talks about some of the recurring 'Argento themes' that pop up in this picture and those that came before it. Like his commentary for Trauma, it can be a little bit dry in spots but it really is packed with excellent information and listening to this track does help you to appreciate the picture more, even if it doesn't necessarily make it a better movie.

Playing With Death (13:07) is an interview with Argento where he discusses the symbolism of the card game used in the film and how it's really a metaphor for life. He talks about where he got the inspiration for this film, how he researched the picture, what it was like working with Stefania Rocco and the difficulties of shooting in Rome at night in the dark. He also discusses the importance of the score, and about shooting some of the key scenes in the film. All in all, this is quite an interesting talk with the man and it's always fascinating to get his unique perspective on his own work.

Composer Claudio Simonetti gets his due in Maestro Of Fear (16:55), a nifty interview with the man who created the soundtrack for this and many other Argento films. Simonetti explains how he started working with Argento decades ago and how their relationship has grown over the years. Throughout the discussion we learn about his scores, why they sound the way they do, and how he goes about composing them and we also get a few snippets of some performance footage and some behind the scenes shots making this a pretty interesting supplement.. Also worth watching is Behind The Scenes (5:24), which is essentially a bunch of random footage shot on the set of the film with narration and interview clips from Argento and his leading lady overtop to provide context. There's nothing here we don't already know from the commentary or the other featurettes but some of the footage is interesting, particularly when we see some of the fake corpses being worked on.

Rounding out the supplements are the film's theatrical trailer (2:07), a promo segment made up of random behind the scenes footage and a few clips from the film shot to generate interest in distribution (9:11), an Argento biography, and trailers for other Anchor Bay DVD releases. Static menus and chapter selection are also included. Again, all of the extras on this disc are anamorphic.

Do You Like Hitchcock? doesn't fare as well as the rest of the discs in this set in terms of supplements, but it does at least contain a single featurette entitled Do You Like Hitchcock?: Backstage (6:23, anamorphic widescreen). All this is, however, is a collection of random behind the scenes footage (without any English subtitles) sans narration. There's no context here at all and while it's interesting enough to see Argento directing, it would have been nice to learn exactly what was going on in this footage. Menus and chapter selection are included, as are trailers for other Anchor Bay DVD releases, and a Dario Argento text biography.

Final Thoughts:

If Anchor Bay had done a better job on this release instead of releasing five of Argento's films with sub-par transfers this collection would certainly come highly recommended. As it stands, however, this collection is really only worthwhile for those who haven't picked up the single disc releases. The problems with the video are a big strike against this set, and the two new featurettes aren't enough to make the material worth a double dip. On the flip side, Argento's films - even some of the lesser entries in his filmography - are interesting and hold up well to repeat viewings. While the Argento loyalists had certainly hoped Anchor Bay would do a better job than they have with 5 Films By Dario Argento, more often than not the films themselves are quite enjoyable. Overall, it's only fair to go with a middle of the road recommendation for a middle of the road release - rent it.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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