Opera (1987)
By: CJ on September 5, 2003  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Simitar (Australia - USA Import) All Regions, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD Surround EX, English DD 6.1 DTS. 107 minutes
The Movie
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini and Daria Nicolodi
Screenplay: Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini
Music: Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Daniel Lanois, Claudio Simonetti and Bill Wyman. Classical music by Puccini and Verdi.
Tagline: The last note is a real killer
Country: Italy
AKA: Terror at the Opera
Dario Argento returns once again to the arena of the savage Giallo with his 1987 film Opera. Full of stylish violence, nonsensical plot twists and an aurally assaulting soundtrack, this is pure Argento.

The plot, though somewhat muddled at times, tells the story of young Betty (Cristina Marsillach) who takes up the lead role in Verdi's operatic rendering of Macbeth after the leading lady breaks her leg following a road accident. However, things are never straightforward in Argento's films, and soon our heroine finds herself the target of an obsessive and homicidal psychopath. This fiendish killer however has strange motives and forces our heroine to watch as he slices and dices his way through her friends and associates. He ensures that she sees everything by taping a row of pins beneath her eyes so that she cannot close them, and so has to endure being the spectator to his (or her?) grisly acts.

Argento drives things along at breakneck pace and there's never really any time to reflect on the ludicrousness of it all. It looks great, it sounds great – but the film never really gives any satisfactory explanation as to what has driven the killer to such extremes. That is to say, an explanation is given (which I won't give away), but it all seems rather flimsy and the film tends to fall apart at the climax. Having said that, it's a thrilling ride and one that's well worth taking. This may not be Argento's greatest work, but it's still a hell of a lot better than most directors could accomplish on their best days. The violence is stylish and almost balletic, which perfectly suits the mood and tone of the piece. The acting is first rate and the pounding score, which mixes everything from prog rock, heavy metal and classical music, really does create a cinematic delirium.

The plot does tend to get bogged down in itself at times and it seems that Argento is struggling to tell the story effectively without thoroughly confusing the viewer. Rather than closely analysing it, this is a film that you need to let wash over you and carry you along. It's a rollercoaster ride with plenty of thrills along the way, but lacking any real sense of logic. However, those familiar with Argento's work will be fully aware that logic is never the most important thing in his films. Argento is primarily concerned with striking visuals, stylish set pieces and drawing the viewer into his surreal and bizarre world of light, colour and sound. Argento's films are dreamlike and nightmarish, and Opera is no exception. The direction is fluid and kinetic and the violence is stylish and shocking – typical Argento; and make no mistake, nobody does it better than him.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, despite its obvious flaws; but these flaws are easily overlooked in view of how well put together the film is. It's not quite as good as Argento's output from the 70's, but it's still a damn good film. I can think of far worse ways to spend your time.
The picture quality is outstanding and really breathes new life into this film. It's quite obvious that a lot of time and care has gone into this DVD presentation to ensure that it's the last word on this movie. Colours are deep and vibrant, the image is pin sharp and there's not a blemish in sight. A completely faultless transfer – I very much doubt that this will ever look better (until HD DVD comes along, that is!).
Anchor Bay have provided both a Dolby Digital Surround EX (basically for 5.1 receivers) and 6.1 DTS. Both are excellent sound presentations and enhance the viewing experience to a tremendous degree. Neither audio track exhibits any noticeable problems and gives crisp, clear definition and superb sound reproduction, especially the music.
Extra Features
Included with this presentation is a 36 minute documentary entitled 'Conducting Dario Argento's Opera' which features interviews with Dario Argento, cinematographer Ronnie Taylor, animatronics artist Sergio Stivaletti, composer Claudio Simonetti and stars Daria Nicolodi and Urbano Barberini. It's an interesting documentary providing some nice insights into getting Opera to the screen. Well worth a watch. Also included are a music video by Simonetti's band Daemonia, theatrical trailers and a Dario Argento bio.

Overall it's a very worthwhile package, and if you opt to pick up the Limited Edition release you also get an extra disc containing the soundtrack CD.
The Verdict
A minor masterpiece from Argento, but as I've already said, it's a bit short on logic. If you can overlook some of the more silly plot developments, what you'll find is an amazingly creative Giallo from the true master of the form. Sadly, it will always ultimately be compared to his earlier work, and in that regard it does fall short. Despite that, Opera is still a highly unique and original work and one that has stood up well over time. The violence is still pretty outrageous, even by today's standards, and Dario does direct with a masterful hand and with lots of creative flair. The camera work is never stale and static and Argento certainly delivers plenty of stuff that has never been before. If you're a fan, you'll undoubtedly love it (and will probably already own this DVD), and for those who are undecided I would definitely recommend giving it a chance.
Movie Score
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