Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Dario Argento

Why do I like many of the films of Italian horrormeister Dario Argento, and dislike others just as much? Part of this is Argento's over-reliance on gore (although this can be very effective in some movies) and his acceptance of screenplays that, to be charitable, need a lot of polishing that they don't always get.

On the other hand, if you study Argento's films, especially his great ones, you can easily see that the Italian giallo filmmaker is miles ahead of the hack (no pun intended) directors of "mad slasher" schlock like, say, most of the Friday the 13th films and their ilk. His films generally have plenty of style, and his best movies are undeniably creepy and suspenseful and have some kind of (slightly demented) mind behind them, as well as some bravura sequences.

Argento never got mainstream respectability, like Hitchcock, but Argento is not in Hitchcock's league as a filmmaker. Some of his fans are simply interested in the gory shock scenes (Argento tends to cater to them too much) even though there are those of us who also enjoy the twisting plots and tense moments that are virtually in all of his movies. As Argento got older, he perhaps tried too hard to capture the young American mad slasher/splatter movie crowd even though he was capable of far greater things. Argento has never quite fulfilled his potential despite such memorable films as Deep Red and Trauma. (Argento's first film was the creditable The Bird with the Crystal Plumage in 1970).

Argento's other films are of varying quality. Great: Sleepless. Good: Phenomena; The Card Player; Cat O'Nine Tails. Mediocre: Four Flies on Grey VelvetBad: Do You Like Hitchcock?; Giallo. And there are others.

Argento's films were clearly influential on such diverse movies as The Eyes of Laura Mars and 88 Minutes, among others. Argento, who is now seventy-five, last directed Dracula 3D, and his next film will be the serial killer thriller The Sandman.

Below you will find reviews of some of Argento's other movies, as well as a write-up on a book about the director and his work.


angelman66 said...

Bill, thank you for reminding me of this fascinating filmmaker. I do remember that my favorite of his films was the now-little-scene Eyes of Laura Mars. I thought it was great. I look forward to checking out these recommendations.

William said...

Argento's work influenced "Eyes of Laura Mars" but he didn't actually direct that one. But all of these are worth a look -- with my eyes closed for some of them!