Review for Tenebrae
Dario Argento is one of those Italian Directors that seemed to always court controversy with his films. His 'Giallo' films became infamous with mixing erotocism and horror, as well as elements of crime and mystery.
Tenebrae is one of his most famous films, mainly due to the fact it became a Video Nasty in the UK and was not released uncut until over twenty years after its first release. When compared to most of those films like I Spit On Your Grave or Cannibal Holocaust you wonder what exactly the BBFI saw in this film that warranted this.
This film almost feels like a suspense than anything else. Peter Neal is promoting his latest work in Europe, but he is unaware that he is being stalked by his ex-wife. When he arrives in Rome a girl is killed and this is seen to be inspired by his books. This leads to a slew of other murders al seemingly inspired by his work. Detective Giermani is put on the case and it is up to him to find out who is doing this and why.
As I said, despite the obvious slasher elements, this is more of a murder mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie. The character of Giermani could quite easily be Hercule Poirot and at times there is a mix of that and Columbo about his portrayal. Anthony Franciosa as Peter Neal and John Saxon as his literary agent Bullmer are great and the one thing I would say is that the acting all around is excellent. The problem I found is that it was obviously filmed with a dubbed in voices. This is typical of the European style of the time, but it does get very distracting as you notice time and time again the voice almost, but not quite matching the movements of the mouth. However, this is a minor quibble and certainly not something to make the film unwatchable.
Argento is a very gifted film maker and as he is both Director and Writer he knows every beat of the film and where they should be. I found the film flowed well, with no awkward moments or lulls where boredom could set in. Comparing this to other slashers at the time would almost be like comparing an Asylum film to a Jerry Bruckheimer production. It is clear that despite the immense amount of nudity and the generous amounts of blood, this is not a film to put in with those. I can understand why many people say that it is a master work and it is certainly one of Argento's best.
If you are a fan of the film or Argento then I would highly recommend this Blu-ray simply for the extras. As well as the usual stuff such as the original trailer it includes two commentaries. One from critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman and the other from Thomas Rostock. It is a shame that no one actually involved are included, but these are both fine and the Jones/Newman one is very interesting if you are a fan of the film and its creation.
An interview with Actress Daria Nicolodi, Composer Claudio Simonetti and Dario Argento about their recollections from the film are nice and make up for that lack of commentary. Simonetti is also shown playing in his bang Goblin a live version of the theme music which is both bizarre, but also very effective and after you have heard that theme on the title screen for more than a few minutes will not get that first part out of your head.
Finally Maitland McDonaugh gives a very informative interview about Argento. It is actually surprising that she wasn't asked to provide a commentary too. These extras are all great, however I would say that they really should have provided subtitles as the sound on some of them go low and high all the time and this is very annoying.
Tenebrae is a film that I would recommend to all fans of Argento and especially to those who enjoy a good murder mystery. It is strange talking about what was once a 'Video Nasty' as a simple murder mystery, but that's exactly what it is. If you enjoy the daily dose of Midsomer Murders, then this is definitely something you will want to watch.