Cat O' Nine Tails + Deep Red + Inferno (1970/75/80/Dario Argento/Blue
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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