Wednesday, July 17, 2013

DBH Presents:The Eye of Argento-Part II:"The Stendhall Syndrome" and "Deep Red"

By Eric Polk-
Sup Reaps! After a real life intrusion(which I apologize for there not being a review yesterday), I'm back to fill your eyes with a double vision of a new-to-me Argento film and a revisit of a classic.

                                                  "The Stendhall Syndrome"(1995)                                      

In the new-to-me department, we visit a hybrid of a rape/revenge film and a crime drama mixed with classic Argento weirdness. Asia Argento(Dario's daughter) plays a detective on the trail of a serial killer in Florence, Italy. While nosing around a museum, she is stuck with the movie she's stuck with an actual case of Stendhall syndrome-a psychosomatic disorder which causes hallucinations when staring at piece of art for too long(Insert your own jokes).

After her recovery, she's kidnapped by the serial killer Alfredo who proceeds to torture and rape her. She escape but, naturally, the effects are quite traumatic going so far as to cutting her hair and putting on a blond wig.  In addition, she acts out her pain on a young French art student named Marie(It's a guy, you pervs!). She gets her revenge on her captor and rapist but sadly, even though she's in love and seeing a shrink to help with her ordeal,  she can't shake the monkey. Later, she discovers her lover dead followed by her shrink In reality, she's become possessed by the haunted memory of her hellish nightmare as well as her captor's dark spirit.

The part I've mentioned regarding her ordeal is the movie's strongest suit. Rape is, of course, not meant to be played for laughs or as plot device. Asia plays the victim role quite well and her decent into her insanity is rather strong. However, The Stendhall Syndrome's biggest problem is a lack of cohesion. It doesn't now what it wants to be. Does it want to be Death Wish, I Spit on Your Grave, or Pan's Labyrinth? It were as though, at times, Argento threw ideas at the wall to see what would stick. This is a trademark of his later work that often met with a critical rebuke from his fans.

One piece of criticism I have is the dvd transfer. It is really terrible, killing the visual beauty. I understand it's been released on Blue Underground but if you have Netflix, you'll most likely get the crappy Westlake Entertainment version.  Overall, if you can tolerate the poor picture quality, The Stendhall Syndrome is worth a look.

Now let's go to the lobby for a treat before our next feature.



                                                  "Deep Red"(1975)                                                                

For our next feature, I'm going to revisit what I feel is Dario Argento's breakthrough movie. By 1975, Argento had garnered a reputation as the Italian version of Alfred Hitchcock. With movies such as Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Cat of Nine Tails, he'd injected a fresh life into the crime drama sub-genre. With Deep Red, he incorporated the giallo aspect of the murder mystery and the payoff is fantastic. I first watch this movie back in 2009, but finally have had the chance to watch the Blue Underground release and I was blown away at its restoration. The colors are very striking, the way I feel Argento had intended for it to be.

The plot of the film involves an English jazz pianist(read that word slowly!) investigating a murder of a psychic medium he'd been privy to witness. Assisting him is a news reporter(played by Daria Nicolodi, Asia's mother) who quite frankly isn't that much of a help. Meanwhile, the murders continue. One, in particular, obviously influenced  Rick Rosenthal in the original Halloween II. With the help of a book describing a murder as a child sings, the pianist discovers a house containing paintings that were exactly like one that was missing at the initial murder scene along with a haunting secret in its walls. Unfortunately, the pianist is knocked out and when he comes to, he discovers the house is on fire. Bad wiring, I say :-)

An important twist happens when he's giving a drawing that's like one of the missing painting. When told the original copy was found in a school, the reporter and pianist head their only to met up with the killer...or is it?

Deep Red is a great, slow-builder of a thriller with some really strange but effective kill scenes. You need to be patient as everything unfolds to the great climax at the end, but I think you'll find your wait very rewarding.

Unlike other Italian horror films, the acting is actually quite good, nothing over the top. Word of warning:If you stumble across The Hatchet Murders, don't bother with it. It's a chopped up copy of  Deep Red. Get the Blue Underground version instead!

Tomorrow, I will examine a more recent Argento film featuring a big name star.

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