September 17, 2023

TENEBRAE (4K) : Dario's Greatest Hits Album

1982 / 101 min 
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Back in the day, Dario Argento had a knack for giving his films cool sounding titles, even if they often had little to do with the actual plot. For example, there’s absolutely nothing in 1982’s Tenebrae related to Christianity. It’s just the title of the main character’s latest novel, which is about a serial killer.

Tenebrae is about a serial killer, too. While mystery writer Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is doing a book tour in Italy, a madman inspired by his writing begins slicing ‘n’ dicing, mostly people Neal knows. He also leaves the author cryptic notes trumpeting his handiwork. 

Returning to giallo for the first time since redefining the genre with Deep Red, Argento pulls out his usual bag o’ tricks…an unseen black-gloved killer, extended murder sequences, Daria Nicolodi, red herrings, a pulsating synth score by members of Goblin and an overwhelming emphasis on style over substance (or plausibility). It doesn’t come together quite as effectively this time around, perhaps because the director doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Watching Tenebrae is sort of like listening to a greatest hits album.

A Farewell to Arm.
Which is not to say the film isn’t enjoyable for fans. After all, sometimes we listen to a greatest hits album because we already know the songs. In that respect, Tenebrae works just fine. At this point in his career, Argento still knows how to put together intense, violent murder scenes, with the usual atmospheric build-up preceding each one. Sure, we have to put up with Anthony Franciosa (which no one deserves), but Argento himself is the true star. His name is ultimately more relevant to the film than its own title.

As with this year’s earlier release of Argento’s Phenomena, Synapse Films has put together another great 4K package for Tenebrae. This is the original uncut version, offered in both Italian and English, with a sharp & colorful transfer. An abundance of bonus features are also included, the best being a feature length documentary on the history of giallo. Being that he’s synonymous with the genre, plenty of Argento’s greatest hits are prominently featured and discussed. 




“YELLOW FEVER:THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GIALLO” - This is an excellent 90 minute documentary about the history of the giallo genre, featuring plenty of interviews with historians and directors. One thing is certain…Umberto Lenzi has a pretty high opinion of himself.  

“VOICES OF THE UNSANE” - Archival featurette.

3 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By Dario Argento biographer Maitland McDonagh; 2) By critics Alan Jones & Kim Newman; 3) By Argento expert Thomas Rostock.

INTERVIEWS - Individual archival interviews with actor John Steiner, author Maitland McDonagh, actor Daria Nicolodi, director Dario Argento and composer Claudio Simonetti.



UNSANE END CREDITS SEQUENCE - Unsane was the film’s title when first released in the U.S.



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