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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Slasher > Thriller > Giallo > Italy > Stage > Mystery > Western > Terror > Children > Clown > Dario Argento's Opera (1987/Music Box/Scorpion Blu-ray)/Don't Torture A Duckling (1972/MVD/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/Stephen King's IT (2017/New Line/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

Dario Argento's Opera (1987/Music Box/Scorpion Blu-ray)/Don't Torture A Duckling (1972/MVD/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/Stephen King's IT (2017/New Line/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: A- Picture: B+/B+ & B-/B+ Sound: B+/B+ & B-/B+ Extras: C/B/B Films: B

Here's three thrillers from three masters of suspense to know about...

Dario Argento's Opera (1987) has always been a favorite of mine and it's nice to FINALLY see it get a Blu-ray release. Nicely restored, however a bit light on extras disappointingly, this is the best the film has looked with this new 2K remaster from the original source materials.

If you haven't seen it, Opera is a brutal thriller with some disturbing imagery that's become nothing short of iconic in the world of Italian Horror cinema. Such sequences as POV shots of crows flying into the audience, razors taped under eyes to prevent them from closing, and giallo visuals have become a staple of Argento's work. This is no doubt an important film in his career and one that every Italian Horror fan should see.

Opera stars Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina and Cataldi-Tassoni.

Behind the scenes of a grand operatic version of Verdi's Macbeth, several grisly murders start to occur. When the lead of the opera quits, opera singer Betty (Marsillach) takes over the role however, she soon finds herself the target of a killer/obsessed fan. Things get intense when this man kidnaps her, forces her to watch her friends be murdered in front of her, and terrorizes her. However these killings seem to be similar to some of Betty's nightmarish childhood flashbacks. Does Betty know this killer? Who could it be?

Presented in 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and a great sounding English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, this 2K remaster is pretty sharp. The film's beautiful cinematography is more detailed than before with rich contrast and deep blues. This is definitely an upgrade from the standard definition DVD version. The soundtrack is amazing as well with a great synth horror score by Claudio Simonetti, '80s heavy metal music, and of course opera tracks from Verdi's Macbeth.

Special Features include...

Rare interview with director Dario Argento never-before released to U.S. audiences

Brand new interview with star William McNamara

Fans such as myself are very happy that Argento's films have been landing on Blu-ray disc over the past year or so and many of which we have reviewed elsewhere on this site. These titles include Arrow's Bird with the Crystal Plumage, three releases from Synapse Films (Suspiria, Phenomena, and Tenebre), and Blue Underground (The Stendhal Syndrome) all with great looking and sounding HD presentations and this one is no exception. It's just a shame it doesn't have more extras, nicer packaging, and other goodies.

If you're hankering for more Opera, then you will have to seek out the Anchor Bay release from many years back which included the soundtrack CD and other extras.

The label is also putting out The Church and The Sect, both of which are films Argento produced rather than directed and that we hope to cover soon.

The infamous Italian horror filmmaker Lucio Fulci (The Beyond) has been given a well deserved spotlight in recent years with many of his more obscure films being released on the HD format from big labels such as Severin (Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties), Arrow, and others.

One of his most renowned thrillers, Don't Torture a Duckling (1972), has now gotten the grand HD treatment from Arrow with a host of new extras that's highly recommended for the horror fan in your life.

The film stars Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian, Irene Papas, Marc Porel, and Georges Wilson. Duckling centers around a reporter and a promiscuous young woman - both of which get entangled in a series of child killings in a remote southern Italian town. Things get more complex when each local frowns upon newcomers and a dark secret is ever present.

This combo pack features both the 1080p high definition Blu-ray and anamorphically enhanced standard definition DVD with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and a 5.1 Italian DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless track (on the Blu-ray, lossy Dolby Digital on the Blu-ray). While I haven't seen other versions of the film on disc, I have read that this is the best transfer currently available at the time of this writing.

Special Features include...

New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films

The Blood of Innocents, a new video discussion with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film

Hell is Already in Us, a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger

Interviews with co-writer/director Lucio Fulci, actor Florinda Bolkan, cinematographer Sergio D'Offizi, assistant editor Bruno Micheli and assistant makeup artist Maurizio Trani

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Timothy Pittides

First pressing only: Collector's booklet with new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and Howard Hughes

Definitely a disc that Fulci fans won't want to miss out on!

You'll float too...

One of the most successful horror remakes in recent years is Warner Bros new spin on Stephen King's IT (2017), which marks the first official feature film adaptation of the material and serves as the first part of a two part film series. Of course, not every Stephen King adaptation is good, we've had plenty of misfires in recent years such as Carrie (2013 theatrical film remake) and Cell (2016), but hopefully IT will start a trend and more great King adaptations (and remakes) will start coming in.

The infamous 1990 television mini-series, which starred Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown, has until now been the definitive version, however this version has fans divided over which one is actually better. While there's no question that Curry's performance is groundbreaking, Pennywise here is played very well by Bill Skarsgard (Atomic Blonde, Battlecreek) who definitely made the character his own. (I personally think that he would be a good candidate for the Joker for future Batman films as well.) The original IT is also available on Blu-ray from Warner in various formats and is also included in a new boxset called King of Horror, which features two classic King films.

Directed by Andres Muschietti (MAMA), the film also stars an ensemble of young actors including Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip), Sophia Lillis (37), Finn Wolfhard (TV's Stranger Things), Wyatt Oleff (Guardians of the Galaxy), Chosen Jacobs (Cops and Robbers), Jack Dylan Grazer (Tales of Halloween) and Nicholas Hamilton (Captain Fantastic).

Set in the 1980s, the small town of Derry has a terrifying curse that resurfaces every 27 years... with this curse comes several missing children that usually turn up dead. When a group of 'loser' teenagers band together soon after the disappearance of one of their friends, they start noticing a terrifying clown named Pennywise (Skarsgard) who starts stalking and threatening them. Pennywise is more than just a guy dressed up as a clown though... he's a shapeshifting demon that's capable of becoming their greatest fear. Will they make it through the night against Pennywise... or will these kids meet an early grave?

Presented in 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR/Dolby Vision (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on 4K UHD disc that dramatically expands the color palette and contrast range, and uses dynamic metadata to automatically optimize the picture for every screen, the presentation here is beautiful to behold.

The sound mix is a superior 11.1 Dolby Atmos lossless track (showing up as Dolby TrueHD 7.1 sound on older systems), which immerses you into the film the most effective of the other included mixes. IT has a very unnerving soundtrack and score that certainly helps set the tone for the film.

IT is cinematically and gorgeously shot and has a dark, yet stylistic look that is very well crafted and on point. Also included is the lesser 1080p high definition Blu-ray of the film with similar specs and a digital UV copy.

Special Features include...

Pennywise Lives! - Discover how Bill Skarsgard prepared to portray the primordial creature known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown

The Losers' Club - Get up close and personal with the teenage stars of "IT" as they bond together during the production,

Author of Fear - Stephen King reveals the roots of his best-selling novel, the nature of childhood fear and how he created his most famous monster, Pennywise

Deleted Scenes - Eleven deleted or extended scenes from the film.

Also available is the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and a collectible steel book version, which has already proven to be a hard to find collector's item.

While there haven't been too many details on the sequel film as of this writing, I'm sure the next installment will be as huge of a success as this one was. This is the rare case of a horror remake being effective, scary, and true to the original source material. The 4K Ultra HD presentation is demo disc worthy as well, especially in the opening scene with Georgie and Pennywise and during some of the film's surreal moments.

All in all, I would highly recommend checking this film out. It's well done and has solid performances all around. One of the better horror remakes as of late.

- James Lockhart



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