Argento. Dario Argento is the master of Italian Giallo- a horror subgenre. His filmography (mostly on the strength of Suspiria) ranks him 98th and he’s definitely a style-plus auteur. That’s his case (and that’s why it may seem like I’m underrating him at #113 here). He has a single film that’s superior to anything made by Spielberg, The Coen Brothers, Cronenberg, Sirk, or Fincher. In fact, the only directors with a film rated higher on the all-time top 500 list than Suspiria- who I haven’t got to on my list of all-time directors- are Stanley Donen, Oliver Reed, Victor Fleming and Robert Wiene. The case against Argento is there’s a steep drop-off after Suspiria. Suspiria is the only film that landed in the top 100 of its respective decade from Argento. There’s also not a lot of depth here. He only had four archiveable films. That’s obviously a weakness.
Best film: Suspiria
- Splendid Eastman Colour 35mm
- Argento’s 6th film- he never touched this level (or really was that close) before or after
- Horror sub-genre “Giallo” (gore, eroticism, emphasis on visuals over story/dialogue, dubbing, paranoia, beautiful women, elaborate deaths)
- We have the florescent lighting and the rock score by Argento and the band Goblin set it apart- apparently Argento played it full blast on the set of the film to petrify the actors and create atmosphere
- Luciano Tovoli is the DP- from Antonioni’s Passenger– apparently he and Argento were inspired by some of early Disney’s (Snow White in particular) color schemes
- Grand set pieces (the school, hallways straight from Murnau or Caligari)
- So many standout visuals—we have the neon lighting which colors the rain/storm set piece in the opening—shot reflected in a puddle
- Much of the film is Harper walking in the dark in horrifying suspense, with stupendous visuals, and that score pounding in background
- I think that score is superior to 1978’s Halloween and that’s saying something. I also see a bit of that bass in the wonderful score to Apocalypse Now particularly when Sheen arrives at Brando’s camp on the boat
- Stain glass windows and wild expressionistic wallpaper
- Reds, blues, greens, but also gaudy golds, too
- Elaborate deaths
- Red gymnasium is a standout set piece
- When Harper’s character is talking to Udo Kier its absolutely sort of a Hutch moment in Rosemary’s Baby with Maurice Evans with them looking up the history of these characters—the character in Rosemary is even called “Adrian Marcato” and this is Helena Markos
- It’s absolutely packed with some of the best visuals of the decade, horror, or Italian cinema history- it’s actually so loaded that you have to pause and appreciate them because there’s another one coming directly after
- A Masterpiece
total archiveable films: 4
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Suspiria)
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (Suspiria)
most overrated: Nothing here for Argento. He only has two films that found a spot on the consensus TSPDT top 1000 and that’s Suspiria and Deep Reed. Suspiria (see below) is underrated and Deep Red is #966 and that’s close to where I’d have it.
most underrated: I’ve got Suspiria at #110 and the consensus has it at #366 so that’s the easy and only choice here.
gem I want to spotlight: Deep Rep. It’s easy Argento’s second greatest work and I’ve already selected Suspiria here above for most underrated and best film. The visuals here speak for themselves—jaw-dropping. It’s also on the list with Carpenter’s Halloween and Powell’s Peeing Tom for films that influenced the first-person POV shot and slasher genre.
stylistic innovations/traits: Argento borrows from Bava, Hitchcock and Polanski (not to mention a whole heaping of German Expressionism) but deserves full style-plus auteur credit for making one of cinema’s most beautiful films. He’s synonymous with the horror sub-genre “Giallo” (gore, eroticism, emphasis on visuals over story/dialogue, dubbing, paranoia, beautiful women, elaborate deaths). The florescent lighting is loud, bold and stunning. He’s an expressionist and I mention the Germans before but it’s hard not to think of Murnau’s Nosferatu or Wiene’s Caligari. That’s a clear art Deco influence and Argento clearly influenced a generation after him- Lynch is probably the first that comes to mind- but how about the coloring via lighting from Peter Greenaway, Nicolas Winding Refn, Spring Breakers from Harmony Korine.
- Deep Red
- The Bird with Crystal Plumage
By year and grades
|1970- The Bird With Crystal Plumage||R|
|1975- Deep Red||HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives