CAPSULE: In 1987 Dario Argento, one of Italy's best- known horror directors, used PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as the inspiration for a story of a maniac stalking the members of an opera company. This is one of Argento's most graphically horrific pieces. As a film of the Italian "giallo" genre, it has its share of jump scares and gory scenes, but an instantly forgettable plot. An unworthy story is packed newly released Bluray package with lushly beautiful restored photography and great use of color. There is less for the mind than there is for the eye. Which is appropriate since eyes are a major visual theme of this film. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
First, some basics for beginners interested in seeing the film OPERA produced, written, and directed by Dario Argento.
Who is Dario Argento? Argento was one of two highly respected horror film directors from Italy. (The other was Mario Bava.) From the 1960s into the new century these two were ahead of a small pack of horror directors.
OPERA was made in 1987. It was clearly influenced by the popularity of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. This film almost seems like a version of that play done in the style of a giallo.
What is a giallo? Originally it was a type of crime novel. There were a series of them from one publisher and they could always be recognized by their yellow book covers. The word "giallo" is Italian for yellow. Giallo has come to mean a gory and graphic crime story with a villain usually being a maniac who has no problem slicing his victims. OPERA is one such giallo. This film should not be confused with Dario Argento's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Nine years after it was made Dario Argento made a film he could claim was an adaptation of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, though it also was excessively gory and graphic and was barely more faithful to PHANTOM OF THE OPERA than is OPERA. OPERA (a.k.a. TERROR AT THE OPERA) has been rarely seen in the United States, but now is being released on Bluray with beautiful photography and restored color.
Argento's film starts out as if it will be an updating of the story of "The Phantom of the Opera." But after about fifteen minutes it is telling its own story. Cristina Marsillach plays Betty, a singing student who gets the opportunity to play the lead in a production of Verdi's "Macbeth". Almost immediately there are murders at odd times with no recognizable pattern. We are introduced to N-1 characters that are really red herrings and one character who is the murderer. We are not given much in the way of clues as to who the murder is and what his (or her) motive is. In the end all is revealed in one scene in which the real killer gets talkative. (This is all fairly standard giallo fare.) Until then, the killer wants Betty to see all his murders so puts duct tape over her mouth and a row of needles in her eyelids so if she closes her eyes she destroys her eyes. Speaking of eyelids, did I mention that eyes are a major theme of the photography? During through the course of the film we are constantly looking at eyes. In the very first scene we are looking at the opera house reflected in the eyes of a raven.
An interesting side-note: The story has the opera company bringing into the opera house live ravens to have as stage decoration for their opera. They create absolute havoc. But it is rumored they caused the fictional opera company not nearly as much havoc as the ravens created on Argento's real set. A raven is an amazingly intelligent animal, and one thing you do not want to have to deal with is a large and intelligent bird.
The color restoration is beautiful and Bluray shows off the color splendidly on home video. The singing is beautiful also. It is a pity the story was not more engaging. I rate OPERA a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Release: Bluray debut on January 23, 2018. Of note, Dario Argento wrote and produced the 1991 film THE SECT which also has restored color now and is bring released on Bluray.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093677/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/terror_at_the_opera
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2018 Mark R. Leeper