Argento’s 1982 Tenebrae, starring Anthony Franciosa as an American writer in Italy whose popular crime fiction inspires a razor-wielding maniac to embark on a killing spree, has been one of my favorite oddball Horror films since around 1997 or 1998, when I first bought the edited cut, titled Unsane, on VHS (for damn near thirty bucks, via mail order).
I always thought the Anchor Bay DVDs looked pretty horrible, so the recent Synapse Blu-ray, color-corrected and unsqueezed, was a very pleasing revelation and well worth the money.
Years ago, I read a review, I can’t recall where, that claimed the movie was intended by Argento to look bright and washed-out, i.e. like crap. I never really believed that, though. Argento’s other films, up to this point, had always been visually pleasing, often amazingly so. It didn’t make sense to me that the director would intentionally make this film so visually flat and unappealing.
This new transfer vindicates my doubts. This edition of Tenebrae finally looks like the Argento flick I always thought it should.
The extra features on the new Blu-ray, compared to the Anchor Bay DVD, aren’t as good. Missing is the AB commentary by Argento and a journalist who pesters the director about the ‘meaning’ of certain things in the film (i.e., “here again, we have the red shoes, what do they mean?”); Argento, mildly annoyed, finally tells the journalist he’s reading too much into things and that he should “just watch” the movie.
The Blu-ray’s audio commentary by an Argento scholar, who actually wrote a book on his films, too often devolves into a moment-to-moment audio description of what you’re watching onscreen. I expected more trivia, more intellectual analysis, and less “I love this moment” type fawning. I’d much rather have an ‘expert’ speaking from notes than rambling incessantly. Stephen Prince’s DVD audio commentaries for Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs and Cross Of Iron , not to mention the Tim Lucas tracks on the Bava discs, are each good examples of well-prepared, informative expert commentaries.
There’s also a feature-length documentary on Giallo filmmaking, which, frankly, didn’t interest me. I’ve seen several Giallos and found most of them pretty forgettable. Argento’s contributions to the genre are worthwhile, but the others are just so-so.
That said, I didn’t buy the Blu-ray for the special features. I rarely do nowadays when I make a disc purchase. Very seldom anymore do I find myself interested in hearing people talk about the movies they’ve made; the movie has to be unique in some way and the participants have to approach their commentary or interview in an honest, unflinching manner. Considering most participants in these kinds of features don’t want to risk being sued, or sabotage their film careers, that kind of commentary’s pretty rare.
Blu-ray/DVD extra features are just added bells & whistles to me. The picture and sound quality come first.
When it comes to Tenebrae, it now joins my “5x” movie club, meaning a title I’ve now purchased five different times in varying formats. I’ve owned Tenebrae twice on VHS, twice on DVD, now finally on Blu-ray. And that’s it. I’m not buying this one again.
I mean it.