on November 16, 2001
Dario Argento movies aren't noted for their plausibility or realism, and this entry is no exception. Critics and fans have complained endlessly about Argento's earlier work (SUSPIRIA and DEEP RED) being classic examples of the horror genre, whilst his latter efforts (TRAUMA and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) sadly lacking in any department. This 1987 production has the unfortunate position of being sandwiched in between the 'old' Dario and the 'new'. The story has a young opera singer taking over the leading role in a 1980s 'style over content' rendition of MACBETH. Unknown to her, she has attracted the attention of a crazed fan who first kidnaps her, then forces her to stand and watch as he butchers and murders her friends, lover, etc. in front of her very eyes (in a clever trick - the killer cellotapes needles under her eyelids to keep her watching the graphic carnage). The film goes on like this for about an hour, (a) the killer shows up (b) he kidnaps the singer and (c) a murder scene (accompanied by a terrible heavy rock soundtrack which destroys any tension the film had built up). Argento uses Point of View camerawork, which at first is diverting, but at around the 20 minute mark you become lost and wish he would have held back on this device.
Argento's 'inventive murder' sequences which have trademarked the directors work are evident in OPERA. The show-stopper has to be the bullet through the key hole scene, which is truly stunning. Infact, all of the film is technically excellent and inventive, it's just a shame the screenplay isn't very involving and the UK 'Cockney style' dubbing never helps the viewer connect to the characters in the movie. The film isn't disturbing or particularly that gory (which in itself is strange, as the movie has been unavailable in the UK for a long time - I hope the BBFC and Anchor Bay remedy this soon), and one wishes that the cast would act a little more naturally, ie: When the singer witnesses the graphic stabbing of her boyfriend, she hardly seems to be bothered about the whole event! (I don't know, perhaps the translation was wasted on me after all!)
Anchor Bay's 2 disc edition is another triumph. The transfer is superb and the movie looks like it was just made, and not 14 years old. The trailers are interesting to see how the marketing differs in the Orion released US version to the original italian ad. An informative documentary holds things together and a bonus disk offers the soundtrack (which I really should get around to playing one time!) All in all, a great disc for Argento fans, but if you are a casual horror fan looking for cheap thrills - this movie ain't it.
on August 13, 2002
I agree that this is a great film but be very careful about buying a used copy. The manufacturer has recalled copies because of a manufacturing problem which caused many of the disk to be unplayable. I bought two used and neither works. I finally just returned one to the company and finally could watch this film. Buy a new copy and save yourself alot of time.
on February 22, 2012
Wow. What a pleasant surprise, if that can be said about a film which features several decidely unpleasant DEmises. I can't believe I let lukewarm reviews make me put off seeing this one for so many years! I thought it was great!
Now, don't get me wrong, I love Argento's films like SUSPIRIA and DEEP RED for what they are- often fever-pitched, nightmare-logic, saturated color labyrinths. However, OPERA has a solid narrative which almost completely makes sense without suffering for it. Also, almost all the acting is quite good and I found myself truly caring about almost every murder victim, unusual in my experiences with Argento's other films. It was an added layer of characterization which enhanced everything else about the story.
My only significant problems with the story were a few significant lapses in common sense judgement- I won't be spoiling anything by saying that, once again, I found myself wondering why someone who's been threatened by a stalking maniac wouldn't turn on every light in their apartment. And, occasionally, the heroine shows a distracting almost blase' attitude after witnessing some truly horrible events. This may have been intended to show her in shock, but, if so, I felt it wasn't entirely successful.
One aspect which didn't bother me nearly as much as I expected was the occasional use of loud, generic Italian heavy rock music. It's SO infrequent and for me it actually works within Argento's contrasting images (and the wonderful editing) of beauty and brutal violence. In an ideal world, I'd like him to have chosen something, well, BETTER, but, it didn't spoil or distract me from immersing myself in the movie experience.
The camera-work, lighting, set design and editing are SUPERB without being distractingly "hey look! this is arty!" Almost everything works without being too carefully melded together. The violence is shocking as ever, almost more so in places where we only HEAR what is being done to someone. The music overall is PERFECT. And the ending, while puzzling, was more thought-provoking than outright annoying.
This is the work of a true, dare I say it? maestro with more to share and show and tell than to prove and shock with. I look forward to watching it again and again.
Oh! And, the dubbing isn't half-bad either! QUITE the accomplishment for this type of and era of film.
on November 27, 2001
(Italy - 1987)
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Super 35)
Theatrical soundtrack: Dolby Stereo
Borne from an abortive attempt to mount his own unique stage version of Verdi's 'Rigoletto' in Macerata in 1985, director Dario Argento transforms the backstage setting of a magnificent opera house into the lair of a psychopathic killer in OPERA (1987), his last truly great film until SLEEPLESS in 2000. Spanish model-turned-actress Cristina Marsillach plays the young ingenue who's suddenly thrust into the lead role of a dramatic new theatrical presentation of Verdi's 'Macb...', er, I mean, 'The Scottish Play' (ahem!), whereupon she's immediately targeted by a hooded, black-gloved maniac who abducts her at regular intervals, ties her up, and forces her to witness the brutal murders of various friends and colleagues.
Fans will relish the familiarity of Argento's voyeuristic obsessions and the frequent references to his earlier productions, while everyone else will simply marvel at the visual and thematic excesses conjured by the movie's outlandish backdrop (it was filmed at the spectacular Teatro Regio Opera House in Parma, just outside Milan). The overripe production design by Davide Bassan and Gianmaurizio Fercioni fills the wide Super 35 frame with a feast of classical architecture which often threatens to overwhelm the stick-figure characters, and Argento allows the operatic theme to dominate virtually every aspect of the production, transforming a Gothic nightmare into an ultra-modern shock-machine, brilliantly captured by Ronnie Taylor's constantly roving camerawork. Outside of his splendid efforts for Richard Attenborough (GANDHI, CRY FREEDOM, etc.), OPERA represents one of Taylor's most innovative achievements, utilizing state-of-the-art techniques to convey the director's wildest flights of fancy, most notably a vertiginous 'raven's-eye-view' of the opera house towards the end of the film as it swoops and dives across the audience in search of the killer. Veteran editor Franco Fraticelli (who's worked with almost all of Italy's major directors since the 1950's, from Argento to Wertmuller) also excels himself here, cutting the film to the rhythm of a deafening music score which combines classical opera and thrash metal to disorientating effect, hurling the narrative forward with unstoppable force.
Despite widespread reports of her temperamental flare-ups during production, Marsillach is restrained but effective as the focus of the killer's attention, while Ian Charleson (CHARIOTS OF FIRE) makes the most of his role as a hard-bitten movie-turned-opera director. Elsewhere, though most of the international cast speaks English throughout, the performances of William McNamara (COPYCAT), Coralina Cataldi Tassoni, Urbano Barberini and Daria Nicolodi in crucial roles are compromised by fairly obvious dubbing, though the results aren't too distracting. In a fascinating documentary which accompanied the original US DVD release, Argento explains that the cynical, loveless people described in his script (co-written with Franco Ferrini, a longtime Argento collaborator) were his response to the AIDS crisis which dominated headlines throughout the 1980's, undermining the foundations of interpersonal relationships and transforming the carefree sex act into a potentially lethal activity. This extraordinary revelation explains much about the characters and their motivations, particularly Marsillach's odd, low-key response to the horrific murders.
OPERA contains some of Argento's finest set-pieces, especially the infamous 'keyhole' sequence (referenced by John Woo in HARD TARGET , a hundred times less effectively) which forms the breathtaking centrepiece of a terrifying scene in which Marsillach is stalked through her unlit apartment by the maniac. Though inevitably reduced on the small screen, the director's bravura technique remains wholly intact, though an early sequence in which a number of ravens are abused by the killer looks uncomfortably realistic.
on January 5, 2002
I'm almost at a loss for words... Like others, I didn't think anything could top "Suspiria" but in my opinion, this one does. The two-disc (DVD and soundtrack CD) is another wonderful Anchor Bay package.
First of all, the picture is WONDERFUL. Although a 1987 film, it looks like it is a contemporary brand-new picture. It's the cleanest DVD for the Dario Argento films. The sound is very engaging and has total clarity. The fidelity on the soundtrack CD is a bit dated, but is clear and is an added bonus.
I'm not going to dwell on what happens in this movie, but be assured that there are so many weird elements in it and they are photographed in style. Only a genius could think of and blend these elements together the way Argento did. The camera angles are superb!
Argento usually has a nice-looking female lead in his pictures although they are plain rather than stunningly beautiful. Christina Marsillach is a total beauty, so if you like watching a beautiful woman in a horror film you won't find anyone better.
By the way, the Anchor Bay DVD's do not play well on older DVD players. I now own several Anchor Bays, mostly Dario Argento films, and since getting a newer 16x I can play them all.
on December 5, 2001
Don't expect any "out of your seat jumper"scenes or super gore in this movie,remember,this is an Argento movie and he is one of the few Italian directors that doesn't have to use extreme gore closeups or hard core death scenes to get your attention.This movie is 2nd to his masterpiece, "Susperia". Opera is not a slow film with a dragging story line that takes forever to build up.From the opening Argento moves in for the kill and grabs the viewer,and then rocks your brain with bold effects and stunning camera wizardry.I highly reccomend the unrated version with the extra sountrack disc.You just don't see horror like this any damn more...what a shame.
Since I'm an Argento review virgin reviewing Argento (at the coercion of some fellow Amazon denizens) during our annual Horrorween month celebration, I'll start from the beginning. I happened across Suspiria one night on cable. "Love at first sight" is the only pertinent phrase to describe the feeling. That is how I discovered Italy's macabre national treasure, Dario Argento. Since then we've crossed paths often, be it his collaborations with personal hero George Romero, the B-movies he's produced like Demons, or the occasional giallo -a genre he owns like no other, but is hot and cold for me- but I've never been able to recapture that "this is the greatest thing ever" feeling I got from "Suspiria". The closest were his entries into Showtime's outstanding Masters of Horror series, Jenifer and Pelts. And now here we are, with the first feature-length Argento-directed film since that fateful night that I have enjoyed front to back.
"Opera" is the story of a singer, Betty, who is forced to stand in for the injured star of a production of Shakespeare's Macbeth, a play that has long been believed to be cursed. She owns the role and becomes an overnight sensation. Then the killing starts. A masked assailant begins a horrific ritual of tying up our protagonist and taping a row of needles under her top eyelids so that she is unable to even blink without drawing blood. He then lies in wait and proceeds to brutally kill whatever friend or lover attempts to come to Betty's rescue before cutting her free and going on his merry way. Why? Well that's complicated; best to let you figure that one for yourself. You've got your brutal Argento-rific deaths, your pack of birds not to be f#@ked with (quoth the raven, "mmmmm, eyeballs yummy!"), some really cool opera scenes, your creepy little girl spying on people in her apartment building through an air-conditioning shaft, and yes, your utterly inappropriate blasts of 80's heavy metal music. I haven't decided if it's obnoxiousness is charming or annoying, but I'm glad Argento represents.
Cristina Marsillach is beautiful. The girl is as captivating as they come whether she's in full-on opera garb belting it out, conversing with her co-workers, enjoying the beauty of nature maybe a little too much, or running braless down the street from her mysterious stalker. She is just a joy to watch in this film. The opera itself is very cool too. Argento added another layer of cred by making the director of the production a horror filmmaker crossing over into theater. The giant skulls and live croaking ravens on the stage set look absolutely killer and the costumes are pretty sweet as well. The tension in the film is well-played and the release is always a blast. Argento's trademark technicolor lighting gets a little bit of a workout in a scene or two. I don't know why it is so creepy and cool when it should just be a distraction, but I love the visuals that are created by this out-of-order color scheme that Argento likes to play with at times. Often imitated, never duplicated. Thought I was going to talk about horrible deaths first didn't ya? I'm not that shallow. Or am I just saving it for later to make you think I'm not?
Wait's over. "Opera" features some amazing deaths. Gotta love the ol' knife through the lower jaw and into the mouth gag. Get's 'em every time! Then you've got your close-ups of knife entering flesh which never stops being unnerving, and of course the fight with a clothes iron over a little gold trinket. Seriously. But the show stopper here is a work of true and utter genius. It's a death that has inspired countless others in it's artfulness, inventiveness, and (almost) unexpectedness, and is even more impressive when you consider that modern filmmakers need a million dollars worth of CG to attain anything close to the same effect today. Italian horror filmmakers really are a breed apart. That scene will likely put me off of peepholes for some time.
I wish "Opera" was perfect, but it just isn't so. First off, giallos (and slashers in general) aren't really my thing, though I do appreciate them. On the other hand, I must say that I also loved What Have You Done to Solange? so perhaps the genre is growing on me. There are a few parts in "Opera" where the scenes played out in such a fashion that I was literally annoyed by what I was watching. The battle for the trinket is one such scene. I don't demand realism, but don't be stupid either. No one is fighting a masked assailant over a crummy bracelet knowing that people have been murdered while their friend is mysteriously tied up in front of them. And nobody is going down for the count because a clothes iron hits them in the back either. Awful sequence. It also kind of robs the killing scenes of their emotional impact when we are hearing cheesy metal the whole time and we're supposed to be feeling for poor Betty being forced to watch. The needles under the eyelids didn't actually look very convincing, the ending was kind of odd, and I guessed who the killer was the first scene he was in. I can't even point to a specific reason why, I guess I just knew by some ingrained understanding of film conventions. Maybe Queen B's horrible sixth spoiler sense has rubbed off on me somehow. Dread the thought.
This is my second favorite Argento film that I've seen so far but there are, of course, more to see. This is an entertaining film of any genre and fans of Argento, murder, mystery, and murder-mysteries need to give this a shot. It stops short of being a masterpiece, but it's not that far off, either. Woopak (he's got you all in check!), and Mackshere: this one's for you guys.
on July 12, 2001
Dario Argento had been an opera lover for a long time and for a while thought about setting a movie in the world of opera. The result was this grand Argento showcase, OPERA( a.k.a TERROR AT THE OPERA). His last two movies before OPERA which were TENEBRAE(a.k.a. UNSANE) and PHENOMENA(a.k.a. CREEPERS) were a little more focused on the plot than most of Argento's films. But this time Dario strictly focuses on the style of this movie rather than the substance which is the main flaw of this movie. Had the script been more and better developed this could have turned out to be a masterpiece. But even without a great script it still manages to be a thrilling and technically speaking an imprseeive movie. It features great camera work, great special effects( not to mention gory, one example being a very graphic shot of a person being blowed away by a bullet and it going straight through the eye and out the back of the head and that's nothing!), and also some great heavy metal music if you are into that. The plot has some similarity to the plot of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. It's about a young opera understudy(Christina Marsillach) who's career is given a boost when the star of an opera production of Macbeth mysteriously is run over and she has to sub for her. Thereafter she is pursued by this mysterious psycho and she is forced by the murderer to watch the deaths of her many acquaintances in a cruel and unusual manner... by having needles placed under her eyelids so she can't close her eyes and she is also tied against something so she can't escape! With the help of the director of her opera show(Ian Charleson) she starts to track down the murderer and she also ends up finding out why the murderer has been commiting these sadistic acts toward her. It may not be as appealing to non Argento fans but i think his fans will not be dissappointed. It's a great showcase for Argento's grand and baroque style. It's filled with some of his signature elements: graphic violence, heavy metal music, and fancy camera work (keep an eye out for a crane shot of a bird flying around the opera house and the whole flight is seen from his eye and it's set to a pounding heavy metal song.)Some of the music was scored by Argento's frequent collaborater Claudio Simmonetti. ALso keep an eye out for Argento's girlfriend Daria Nicolodi as the manager of the young opera understudy. This was her last collaboration with Dario.
"opera" is one of argento's most memorable films, again not because of the needlessly excessive and at times just revolting violence, but because of the real fear and terror that the mysteriousness of the killer generates and his twisted relationship to the 'protagonist' female who he physically and mentally terrorizes. obviously this has nothing more to do with realism than any of argento's other movies--i seriously doubt the killer could get this girl with these things on her eyes THAT many times in all those convenient situations he happens to successfully stalk her in--but this goes without saying for his fans, including myself, and does not bother me. the fascinating thing is the comment argento is making on our relationships to one another and how they are, no matter how superficially convincing the facades may be, not what they seem, and are often rooted in depravity and brutality be it of a mental if not physical kind.
what takes away from it, though, is the horrendous and ultra cheesy soundtrack that argento pasted on the film. it's really bad heavy metal that has no place in any of the scenes, and if you didn't know argento, you'd think that it was a deliberate joke or partial parody on the part of the director. that's him, i guess. lots of odd idiosyncrasies, the laughable soundtracks being the more harmless one.
for those who have a taste for the campy and demented, "opera" is another argento treat.
on December 8, 2008
After seeing Opera for the first time, the impression you get is that it is definitely a case of style over substance as a lot of other reviewers have pointed out. But really if you've seen Argento's previous work you'll come to recognize this as a trait we all know and love.
The cinematography alone makes this film a must see for any horror fan. I get shivers down my spine whenever I see the opening title, it is just so dramatic not to mention the soundtrack is amazing.
The murders are fantastic: Brutal, Un-relenting and masochistic without adding a lot of silly gore to make it over the top and just gives it a dark evil feel.
I notice a lot of reviewers are complaining about the Heavy Metal tracks used throughout the film. May I remind you this was 1987? This was a time when metal ruled the airwaves hence it is not out-dated (not even by today's standards). If you ask me, Metal belongs in horror movies. It just makes them that much more fun not to mention the music flows very well with the dark gothic theme of the film.
This ranks on my top ten list of favourite horror films of all time for sure. I highly recommend this title as it is an important film in the horror genre of the 1980's. Along with Demons I'd say it was one of the best films made in that decade. Don't miss it.