|Mar 7 2018
Argento directs Profondo rosso with great style and deliberation, drawing viewers into various set-ups with a roving, nervous camera. This came two years before his tour de force Suspiria, but he's already in full mastery of the extensive giallo toolbox. As usual in the genre, realism is of minor importance, such as when a dying woman wants to write her killer's identity using her finger on bathroom tile and starts with the words, “It was...” Here's a lifehack for you. When mortally wounded write the crucial info like Yoda would: “________, it was.” Afterward, if you have time, you can add any other material you consider important.
Despite the movie's quirks Argento manages to make a winner, at one point even recreating Edward Hopper's famous Nighthawks painting just for the sheer visual fun of it. Hemmings is a big plus too, sleuthing and channeling his inner jazz hepcat. Often in giallo overly convoluted clues make the identity of the killer impossible to guess. In this case the villain is revealed almost immediately—but only for those with sharp eyes. Others will have to wait for the usual climactic unveiling. Then rewind and watch the first murder again. Argento is a sneaky devil. Profondo rosso premiered in Italy today in 1975. See a truly brilliant poster for the film here.
|Feb 1 2018
Suspiria piles the horror stylings on—from Dario Argento and his surreal direction, to Luciano Tovoli with his baroque lighting schemes and supersaturated colors, to the maggot wrangler who produced many more maggots than could have been reasonably expected, to the scorers (Argento among them) who came up with a percussive and discordant soundtrack that could rattle a bomb disposal robot. The first murder is nothing short of operatic, complete with a shot of a knife piercing the victim's exposed heart. The only real question going forward is whether Argento can possibly keep reaching such heights. And the answer is Suspiria, its brilliance outshining its flaws, is a classic for a reason. The poster above is a classic too. It was painted by Mario de Berardinis to promote the film's premiere in Italy today in 1977.
|Feb 28 2017
Above, the original Italian poster for Dario Argento's horror thriller L’uccello dale piume de cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which premiered in Rome today in 1970 and has since become an iconic example of the giallo genre. We talked about the film, and shared the Spanish posters back in 2010. You can see those here.
|Jan 28 2016
Based on a 1949 novel of the same name by Frederic Brown, Screaming Mimi stars Anita Ekberg as a traumatized burlesque dancer who can’t shake the memory of being attacked by a knife-wielding maniac. She’s committed to a mental institution, where her psychiatrist promptly falls in love with her and helps her escape and create a new identity. Now dancing at a club in Laguna Beach, California, she’s the hottest draw in the area and her former doctor is her lover and protector, but also smothers and dominates her. Can the anonymity last? Of course not.
Enter stage right an entitled horndog who won’t take no for an answer. After Ekberg survives another knife attack, the new man in her life—who’s also a reporter—has all the justification he needs to trail poor Anita everywhere she goes, as the doctor meanwhile tries to protect her fake identity and keep her and the reporter from falling into bed together. Chances of success? Probably not very good.
Screaming Mimi is an interesting noir—it was fertile enough to serve as inspiration for Dario Argento’s L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage—but its b-movie budget really shows and we think Philip Carey is miscast as the reporter/hero. Carey has no charm at all in this, which renders Ekberg’s interest in him unbelievable. But his performance will be a treat for patrons of the Noir City fest—most will probably remember him from his twenty-four-year stint as the repulsive Asa Buchanan on the soap opera One Life To Live.
|Jun 7 2013
After focusing on Italian paperback artists lately, we thought today would be good for getting back to poster artists—namely Sandro Symeoni, who we’ve marveled at before. Symeoni veered from the realistic to abstract in style, and this very graphic poster for Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso, aka Deep Red, sees him working in the latter mode, which we’ve also noted on pieces like the Suono Libero album sleeve, viewable in panel four here. This is also a clear homage to Saul Bass’s famed Vertigo poster. For a look at many more Symeonis, just click his keywords below. Profondo Rosso, by the way, premiered in the U.S. this week in 1976, and is well worth a look for fans of Argento and/or giallo.
|Feb 11 2013
Above are three excellent posters for Dario Argento’s Il gatto a nove code, aka, Cat o’ Nine Tails. Only one bears a signature—P. Franco, who in everyday life was Franco Picchioni. We suspect he painted the others as well. With posters this great, plus Argento at the helm, we had to watch the movie, but while it’s a serviceable giallo with an interesting central murder mystery, it’s nothing to write home about. But it does have Karl Malden doing a bang-up job as a blind ex-newspaperman and James Franciscus as a solid lead.
And then there’s the heavenly French creature known as Catherine Spaak. You have to work pretty hard to somehow make a love scene featuring this stunner possibly the worst ever filmed, but Argento manages to make her romp with Franciscus as erotic as watching a hardware store clerk stack two wooden planks. Want your kids to avoid premarital sex? Have them watch this scene. They won’t even have a clue what happened.
The title of the movie refers to neither a cat nor a nine-tailed whip, but rather to the many leads that need to be investigated before the mystery can be unraveled. It could also describe Argento’s struggle to weave an involving narrative. In the end, even with his stylish direction framing the story, it’s Malden that carries this movie to the finish line. Plus he has a sword cane, which is always a bonus. Many Argento fans use the term “underrated” to describe this effort. That’s a euphemism for strictly average. Il gatto a nove code premiered in Italy today in 1971.
|May 17 2010
Japanese poster for Italian horror master Dario Argento’s 1977 giallo Tenebre, released in Japan as Shiadô, or Shadow.
|Feb 19 2010
Above we've posted two Spanish one-sheets for El Pajaro de las Plumas de Cristal, aka L’uccello dale piume de cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. This was horror grandmaster Dario Argento’s first film, a thriller in the Hitchcockian mode about an American in Italy who witnesses an attempted murder. The police make him stay in the country, the would-be killer soon begins stalking him. After an attempt on his life he realizes unmasking the maniac himself is probably his best defense.
This was the beginning of a storied career for Argento. In subsequent efforts, he would explore realms of gore Hitchcock probably never dreamt of, but in this early effort he relies on mood to achieve his goals, and the English language version mostly succeeds despite the distraction of some less than breathtaking dubbing. Overall, we consider this well worth a viewing, imperfections and all. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage premiered in Italy today in 1970.
Turning to the poster art, it was painted by another grandmaster, Spanish illustrator Francisco Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, who worked under the pseudonym Jano—aka Janus, the two-faced Roman god of doorways, arches, beginnings and endings. Jano painted thousands of pieces beginning in the 1940s, and we’ve cobbled a few more together and posted them below for you to enjoy this lovely Friday. More on Jano later.
|Oct 4 2009
We thought we'd go a bit more modern with our femme fatale today with this production still of American actress Theresa Russell from her 1984 remake of The Razor's Edge. It isn't a pulp style movie, but this shot certainly has the hallmarks. Russell also appeared in such films as Dario Argento's 1982 thriller Tenebre, the 1980 art film Bad Timing, and the 1987 murder mystery Black Widow. We won't be seeing her here again probably, but this was a nice appearance.