Something's going on here. They just sent me two more I-Talian horror movies. Regular readers of my ramblings -- all, um, ONE of you -- will remember reading about Torso and Autopsy awhile back. This time around the movies are by a fella by the name of Dario Argento. He's one of these guys that everyone says is a true genius, and that his movies are terrific, but they must be more into high-brow horror than this East Texas son.
There's no question Dario is an ar-teest. He monkeys with the camera more one dare think humanly possible: long pans, lingering close-ups, reverse zooms ... ominous, grimly lit sets. No wonder the guy's a hero for a lot of genre filmmakers. But there's something to the legend, as Argento has a remarkable knack for suspense, and on occasion, terror.
Until the next shipment from Italy arrives, we'll have a look at Deep Red and Inferno (1980, 106 minutes).
The movie: This is the one where Dario says, "Screw it all. I'm making this one for ME!" Probably sounds more dignified in Italian. One thing's for sure, if "The Three Mothers" ever makes it on Oprah's book club, there's gonna be a mess of dead folks turning up. Rose Elliot (Irene Miracle) got her copy from the antique dealer who lives next door to the creepy New York City apartment building she's living in. The deal is, the book is in Latin, and when she DOES translate it, she's all confused about its meaning. Rose is pretty sure it has something to do with the building where she lives, and these three mothers: Tears, Darkness and Shadows. So, she up and decides to start snooping around, even after the antique guy, Kazarian, told her not to. Anyway, she accidentally drops her keys in a puddle in the basement, only it turns out there's a flooded room below, so naturally she skinnys through the narrow hole in the floor and swims down to retrieve her keys ... but she ain't alone down there. Her brother, Mark (Leigh McCloskey of TV's "Dallas"), comes from Europe to look for her and gets caught up in the same mystery. The camera just sorta soaks up the scenery as the flick drifts plot wise. There's a lot of shots of people wandering the innards of the apartment building, and of chicks who look soulfully into their male protector's eyes and coo, "I'm scared." It's enough to make a grown man sick. After awhile, you start to wonder if Inferno is a horror movie or a 106-minute Calvin Klein commercial with a body count.
Notables: No breasts. 10 corpses. Water-logged corpse (extra gooey). Kitty petting. Gratuitous sports writer. Blouse ripping. Knife through the neck. Window-pane as guillotine. Evil wind. Cat attack. Rat attack. Dangling eyeballs. Fireball free fall. Hypodermic closeup. Maniacal laughter. Kitty drowning.
Quotables: Crippled antique dealer, Kazarian, who screams, "Rats are eating me! They're eating me alive! ... Help me!"
Time codes: Irene Miracle enters a wet T-shirt contest, sorta (13:00). Sack'o'Cats (1:14:00). It wouldn't be an Argento picture without goofy music (1:32:00).
Audio/Video: Two things that really stand out in this, and Deep Red, are the films' cinematography, and their musical score. Both are preserved beautifully on this disc. New Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks have been mastered. The video transfer itself is remarkably sharp and presented in its original widescreen format (1.85:1).
Extras: Uncensored director's cut. Brief interview with director Dario Argento.
Final thought: Stylish, but dang near incomprehensible. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.