Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > Supernatural > Italian > Cat O' Nine Tails + Deep Red + Inferno (1970/75/80/Dario Argento/Blue Underground Blu-rays)

Cat O' Nine Tails + Deep Red + Inferno (1970/75/80/Dario Argento/Blue Underground Blu-rays)

Picture: B/A-/A-     Sound: B-/B+/B-     Extras: C/C/B-     Films: C+/B+/B+

Many thanks go out to Blue Underground for their efforts to see that classic genre efforts are well represented on Blu-ray.  While it is sad to report that their Blu-ray of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (reviewed elsewhere on this site) has recently fallen out of print and been supplanted (for now?) by a version with inferior picture quality from Arrow Video, Argento fans can at least console themselves with the fact that we now have three more excellent high-def releases of the maestro's work to line our shelves with.

Cat O' Nine Tails, the second film with Argento in the director's chair, is another Giallo like The Bird With The Crystal Plumage before it.  Its structure is very much like other Euro-thrillers of the period, but features some inventive camerawork and editing that sets it apart from the riff raff.  Shades of Hitchcock in the film are easily identifiable, but one can see that Argento was crafting a style all his own, and that he, too, would be influential on the future works of fellow up and comer, Brian De Palma.


Ennio Morricone returned from Argento's previous film to provide the score, and would work with him again on the conclusion of what would be called his “animal trilogy”, Four Flies on Grey Velvet. The music here proves to be an excellent soundtrack that draws from such different scores as those he provided for Once Upon a Time in the West and Danger: Diabolik, both from 1968 and reviewed elsewhere on this site as well.  The contrast is striking, but the strangeness of it adds just the right punctuation to the film - and I can't imagine it being quite as good without it.

We next have Deep Red – the film most often considered to be Argento's masterpiece.  It looks more gorgeous here than seen before, and is available completely uncut and with the original Italian language track.  There is also the truncated English dubbed version, most often seen here in the U.S. on public domain collections as Deep Red Hatchet Murders, or just The Hatchet Murders.  There are several audio options, and if one wishes to, they may watch the full 126 minute version with English audio... however, the scenes that were cut from the shortened version are still in Italian, and are subtitled.

Though it could be considered sacrilege, I actually have a slight preference for the English version, as it's punchier and seems to move along better with some of the fat trimmed.  Most of the excised portions do little to further the plot, and are only small pieces of a scene that were intended to add humor, which is better than having the scene taken out wholesale.


With or without the extra 20 minutes, everyone can agree that this is really where Argento came into his own.  The film can be seen as a prototype for the slasher genre that was to dominate horror in the early '80s, but nothing beats the over the top gruesomeness of the final scene... not that people (including Argento himself) wouldn't spend the better part of the next decade trying to outdo it.


The picture quality on the Blu-ray of Deep Red is especially good, with stunning clarity and brilliant color. The added sharpness defines many details seen in close-up shots, from fabrics and other textural surfaces, to the delicate lines on skin.  It's almost unheard of to see details of this sort in this era of filmmaking, where such things would be construed as imperfection.  Better to blur everything smooth and erase as much as possible in post, that is, if the camera you're using can even capture it effectively to begin with.


At last we come to Inferno, a supernatural horror film that, though at times confusing, still deserves its standing as a genre classic.  The film is a thematic sequel to 1977's Suspiria (also reviewed on this site) and carries on the story of The Three Mothers... three witches who live in far-flung corners of the Earth.  The one focused upon in this film is Mater Tenebrarum - the Mother of Darkness, who happens to reside in New York.


Like Suspiria, the film uses a selective color palette focusing on bright shades of blues and reds. The effect is similar to what would be seen a few years later in Creepshow, where it was there used to accentuate the comic book style of certain shots.


Picture quality on these releases is top notch, beating out all other editions to have come out to date.  There are still some problems here or there on them, but with any luck, we'll see further improvements down the line, but I wouldn't wait to hold out for that possibility on this format.  Aspect ratios for Cat O' Nine Tails and Deep Red are in 2.35:1, while Inferno is presented in 1.85:1.


Sound quality is also good, with English options for each film in DTS-HD - Cat O' Nine Tails being in 2.0 Mono, and the other two in new 7.1 mixes.  Italian language tracks are also available for each film, but in inferior compressed Dolby mixes, excepting Deep Red, which has the Italian track featured in 7.1 DTS-HD.  While I don't think each and every track needs the latest and greatest multi-channel mix, I do believe that each of these discs should have preserved a lossless audio track in the original language, rather than offering something of lesser quality than the dub.


Extras on the discs are fairly scant, with no commentary tracks on any of the films, and only some short interview segments instead.  Inferno has a couple extra ones that focus on the stars of that film, which is nice to see, and Deep Red has some music videos.  One of which is merely a recent live recording of the band Goblin in the studio, circa 2010 performing the title track, and the other being an exceptionally cheesy cover of the same song.  Overall, I was expecting something a little more meaty for the supplements here, but something is always better than nothing I suppose.

Of the three films covered here, Inferno would be my personal favorite.  It goes beyond being a mere mystery and into the realm of the bizarre rather quickly and in doing so, conjures up a more complex and interesting plot.  One must wonder what the result would have been like had Dario been able to complete the last film in this series in a timely manner.  Had it come sooner and been more fitting than 2007's disjointed Mother of Tears, this middle chapter might be better looked upon today.  As it stands, opinion on the worth of the film is still rather divided, though I suspect that the future may bring more acceptance to it, and even a greater amount to the concluding chapter as well.



-   David Milchick


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com