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I only recently got to see Argento's "Opera" in it's true entirety for the first time in recent months thanks to the wonderful dvd release from the always classy Anchor Bay label. For years the only outlet I had to view this film was the grotesquely recut American version "Terror At The Opera"(snicker). I have always been of the opinion, even viewing the US version, that this was probably Argento's best piece of technical work. That became even more apparent with the dvd release: every second of the movie beautifully utilizes the 2:35 scope the director shot it in, and virtually each frame becomes eye candy. However, splendid as it may be to look at, I always felt "Opera" was one of the director's weakest efforts where script was concerned. Plainly put, some of the story lines, dialogue and character interaction is just absurd. It's only my opinion, so I am not even going to specify scenes so as not to warp anybody's perception of the film. You may take from it what you want to take from it. But I found these problems in the writing unavoidable and I imagine like minds will notice the same inconsistencies. That's not to say the entire film is horribly written-there are a few rather ingenious moments as well as what may be perhaps the most thrilling death scene Argento ever shot. Yes, I find his death scenes to be thrilling-I cannot help it if I am both sick and evil. Incidentally, I love this film. I think of "Opera" as a masterpiece with flaws, and while the writing gets sillier every time I watch, Argento's direction just looks more brilliant. I fully recommend this film to horror buffs and fans of highly stylized cinema.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Terror at the Opera" has some of the most imaginative camerwork and
nerve-volting horror I've ever seen. It's also one of the most frustrating
and maddening movies I've come across. I'll brake it down into what works
and what "don't".
*WARNING...SOME CRYPTIC SPOILERS AHEAD*
What works: 1) A masterstroke use of Ravens 2) Brilliant camerwork. 3) Three sadistic but unforgettable murder scenes. ( not the first or the last one. There's five total.) 4) Some surprisingly creepy and clever "red-herrings"
What does not: 1) The heroine does not react the way one would expect one to react. She's far too placid. 2) Idiot plot devices. ( why would you intentionally leave your front door open knowing there's a serial killer stalking you?) 3) Unforgivable lapses of logic that strain all credibility. ( Where did he get the dummy, and how did HE get out?) 4) Some big story holes. ( What's the deal with that brain? ) 5) Finally, an ending that feels like a way out-of-place, tacked-on afterthought. ( It should have ended with the Raven swarm, or at least by the "fire".)
Unfortunately, all these cons outweigh the pros. "Opera" comes across as an ambitious failure with some brilliant scenes.
I am a huge Argento fan, and I was somewhat disappointed with this film (especially the ending), but overall it is really cool and stylish. The plot deals with a beautiful opera diva named Betty being terrorized by a mysterious hooded killer after she makes her debut as Lady MacBeth. Soon, her boyfriend is savagely knife-murdered, and the killer makes her watch the whole thing by tying her up and pinning her eyes open. More murders occur as Betty tries to figure out who the mystery maniac is. The good parts about this movie: the cool music, the artsy, stylish camerawork, the lush colors, the gore murders, suspenseful scenes, great scenery, etc. The bad parts: the awful dubbing, motive of the killer unclear, and disappointing ending, a few other minor quibbles. The last few minutes are really kind of silly. Oh well. This is a really good movie though. If you are an Argento fan, do not miss it! Go for the unrated version!
The second best Dario film I've seen (after Suspiria), and actually a lot more coherent than that legendary earlier effort. Somebody is killing members of an opera company and is forcing a young woman to witness those murders (the killer's method of forcing her to observe is rather novel). Contains some quirky moments where one must exclaim, "Hey, it's Italian!" Seems to have three different endings; some floundering is evident. But overall it's a tremendously satisfying film, and the way they reveal the killer's identity is top-notch.
Not one of Argento's best, but still worth viewing for fans of the genre. Operas greatest assets are the excellent production values and some jaw-dropping kills, as well as Dario's usual craftsmanship behind the camera. However the film is diminished by bland characters and a horribly dated 80's hard rock soundtrack that plays during many of the films key horror scenes, all but ruining the suspense. Opera also suffers from a terrible end segment that feels more than a little tacked on, which is a shame because the intense climax was one of the films standout moments. As I mentioned before fans of the genre will probably be pleased, just don't go in suspecting Susparia 2.
I've enjoyed a lot Italian director Dario Argento's early films mainly
"The Bird with the Cristal Plumage" and "Deep Red" and a step below
"The Cat with Nine Tails" and "Four Flies on Grey Velvet". No doubt the
man showed real talent for horror thrillers in those ones with his own
scripts (aided by his then wife actress Daria Nicolodi) all based on
more realistic plots than those of his later works such as "Suspiria"
or "Phenomena" that included supernatural assets like witches or
persons communicating with insects. In his later works Argento seems to
have lost his "touch" for those creative and original plots (though not
his masterful handling of cameras); he focuses instead in most
truculent and blood splashing issues as a way to capture the viewers
attention ("Tenebbre" is also an example).
"Opera" delivers the director's unmatched shooting style, a correct atmosphere and some good moments (Cristina Marsillac tied up and gagged with pins in her eyes to force her to watch the brutal murders by a sadistic unknown killer, being an example), but the story is weak and lacks the imagination and surprise of Argento's early products. In fact all suspects are murdered one by one until just one of them stays alive and so you can't miss who he/she is.
The acting in "Opera" is average or below, but Argento never cared much about it; the performances were always a secondary issue for him always confident in his most skillful and truly original camera handling.
If you are an Argento fan you probably will not be very disappointed with "Opera" but the director is not as his best here.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director: Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria) Screenplay: Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini (The Church, Sleepless, Demons) Photography: Ronnie Taylor (A Chorus Line, Sleepless) Music: Claudio Simonetti (Phenomena, 'Goblin')
Story: Betty (Cristina Marsillach) is the Lady Macbeth understudy of a very stylized staging of Verdi's Macbeth opera. Betty's time to shine comes when the diva star breaks her leg before opening night when she is hit by a car running away in a tantrum. The famous curse of Macbeth takes a more sinister and calculating turn when right away the body count begins to rise. It seems Betty gets her first fan via a stalker who ties her up and tapes needles to her eyes to force her to witness the grisly murders of the people around her. Story: 3 of 5
Acting: Acting in a lot of these Italian films can sometimes be hard to judge. English, Italian, French, German, Spanish can sometimes all be in the same flick as they usually speak their native languages making dubbing rule of thumb and hard to judge. I usually cut them some slack in the area as a result. Acting: 4 of 5
Direction: Giallo maestro Argento enters again the genre helped pioneer. 'Opera' shows him at the top of his game with an exquisite blend of gore, tension and beauty. Direction: 4 of 5
Visual: This has to be one of Argento's best looking films. Gorgeously filmed by Taylor, 'Opera' features some stunning and inventive camera-work that keeps the film running fast and hard and keeps the eye-candy coming. The camera always seems to be in notion whether it is a wonderful shot of the camera going up a spiral staircase or a sequence towards the end of a bird's eye view of said bird circling the crowd at the opera house. Visual: 5 of 5
Audio: Frequent Argento collaborator Simonetti (through his various bands Goblin, Demonian and solo effort) compliments the screen action with zeal as his score touches from the classical (Verdi) to metal musings (with a little help from Brian and Roger Eno and Bill Wyman) and lends music muscle to the screen's bloody gristle. The sound design give you all that you need from stabbings to gunshots, fire to screams and masterfully remastered on the Anchor Bay disc in glorious 6.1 for every crunch and caw. Audio: 5 of 5
Technical: The editing keeps the film flowing and moving wonderfully. Combined with the camera-work, the editing help keeps the surreal dreamy imagery flowing. The exquisite opera house is one hell of a location and perfect for staging the horror version of Macbeth. One can't end a review of an Argento film without having to comment on the kills. Argento dispatches characters with glee this time around with a brilliant stabbing sequence, crow eye-gouging and the film highlight of a gun blast through a keyhole into the eye and out the back of the head shot that once again sends Argento's ex-wife Daria Nicolodi to the movie morgue. Priceless! Technical: 5 of 5
Wrap-up: A nearly flawless giallo that suffers from a slightly unnecessary epilogue in Switzerland that delivers all the visual thrills that Argento fans crave.
Overall: 4 of 5
This is standard fare from a director who as long been amongst my
Even though its very flat in comparison to a lot of his other work but its Argento and this may be biased but I'm gonna be giving it a good review anyway.
It does contain a lot of good ideas. The subtle voyeuristic element. The needles under the eyes. The gory and disturbing deaths. And the Argento cliché flashback.
Downsides include the heavy metal soundtrack, acting and the ending.
All the film is made worth it for the birds in the theatre sequence near the end.
A fairly good film from Argento but he as done better. A lot better!
Opera was filmed in synchronization with a variety of other mass media
productions (start point for Opera is the initial appearance of the
The Wizard of Oz (synch start points are third MGM lion roar, Dorothy's third knock on Tin Man's chest in the orchard, and Dorothy's third heel click; synchs with Gone With The Wind)
Prince of Darkness (synch start point is the music score start point)
Electric Ladyland (original release version songs and sequence only)
Rocka Rolla (original release version songs only)
Sad Wings of Destiny (original release ...)
Sin After Sin (original release ...)
Stained Class (original release ...)
Hell Bent For Leather (original release ...)
Point of Entry (original release ...)
Screaming For Vengeance (original release ...)
Defenders of the Faith (original release ...)
Turbo (original release ...)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Opera opens with a very close-up shot of a bird's ever-watching eye and
thus begins one of Argento's most bizarre, and enjoyable, features (my
second favorite in fact, behind Deep Red). Granted, at times, the movie
is pretty absurd (the lack of real concern after murders, the bird
attack, the burnt dummy, that ending
) but this is Argento's
fantastical world and once you come to terms with that, you'll find
that it works. I do not mean to completely dismiss these faults though,
rather that the artistry of the film more than makes up for them. For
example, the aforementioned bird attack is completely over-the-top in
theory, yet look at the wonderful execution of it; crows flying in
chaos, adding their enraged squawking to the driving rock beat, the
crowd in panic as seen through the circling, bird's-eye view
camera-work, and then the focused attack; aria of terror indeed.
Argento's amazing, flowing cinematography is on full display in Opera,
and clearly one of the film's highlights. I also enjoyed the soundtrack
of operatic themes and rock music, a nice contrast of music with each
used effectively (the rock kicks in with the murders in perfect timing
and gives the scenes a very frenzied feel). The sound effects deserve a
nod too, stabs, scissors, beaks, and all.
Inspector Alan Santini: "I've seen a lot of your movies. Yes, you're really an expert in this field. I'd be very interested to know your opinion."
Marco: "I think it's unwise to use movies as a guide for reality, don't you inspector?"
Inspector Alan Santini: "Depends what you mean by reality."
Being that this is a giallo, stylish murders are a must and Dario does not disappoint (the "bullet through the door" scene is quite possibly one of the greatest deaths ever shot, if you'll forgive the pun). The black-gloved, deep-voiced, pulsating brained (cool shots!) killer is cold and brutal, and having him tape pins under our heroine's eyes so that she was forced to watch the murders was a nice touch. That all said, as a giallo, Opera doesn't quite have as good of a mystery as it should. The killer is kept secret from the audience well enough but there's little effort in the film devoted to actually solving the murders. This, and the strange ending, could've used more work. Despite these problems though, Opera still manages to be a worthwhile and satisfying horror film.
One final note: it was nice to see a movie, for once, show the correct view through binoculars (just a circle, not two circles together)! Nice eye for detail, Dario!
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