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Sometimes it is difficult to fathom why certain European directors have large followings in America, since their films are difficult, if not impossible to see in this country. Dario Argento is one of the best known Italian horror directors, yet his films have either been horribly butchered by American distributors, or just never given very wide release. Argento fans can rejoice because William Lustig and Anchor Bay Entertainment is making uncut versions of the Italian horror master's works available on DVD.

TENEBRE ($30) is a prime example of a Dario Argento film, given a less than sterling release in America, since it had more than ten minutes of footage hacked out and was re-titled UNSANE by its distributor. Since TENEBRE combines elements of mystery, psychological horror and graphic violence, it is difficult to reconcile the film with mainstream American tastes. However, those individuals who are familiar with the Italian film genre known as giallo, will find TENEBRE a rewarding experience. The plot of TENEBRE concerns American author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa), who goes to Rome to promote his new book Tenebrae (yes, that's how it's spelled in the movie and on the title card).

However, as he arrives in Rome, someone begins imitating the murders contained in Neal's novel. Of course, the police investigations turn up nothing, which induces Neal to take an active role in the investigation. Like any good mystery, TENEBRE has its share of plot twists and red herrings. The murders are rather graphic, but that's what Argento fans have come to expect. However, since TENEBRE is more plot driven than some of Argento's better known films, one will find the lapses in logic a bit more noticeable than they are in films like SUSPIRIA and THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, which are exercises in style over substance. The cast of TENEBRE also includes John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Christian Borromeo, Mirella D'Angelo, Giuliano Gemma and Veronica Lario.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has done a rather good job of bringing the uncut and uncensored version of TENEBRE to DVD. The Letterboxed transfer accurately recreates the film's 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, however it lacks the 16:9 component for wide screen televisions. Other than a couple of instances of mild film grain, the transfer is clear and sharp. Colors look good, but they are not exemplary since TENEBRE is not a new movie. Film stocks from the early eighties reproduced colors differently than they do now and TENEBRE exhibits the telltale look of a movie from that period. There are a couple of instances where contrast is a bit harsh, but it usually is quite satisfactory. Digital compression artifacts never made their presence known on the DVD.

The film’s soundtrack has been re-mixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 with pleasing results. While the music reaps most of the benefits from the re-mix, the track is fairly active with a number of sound effects emanating from all of the discrete channels. Of course, TENEBRE doesn’t sound like a movie fresh off theatrical release, but the overall effect of the Dolby Digital re-mix is surprisingly good. English Dolby Surround and Italian monaural soundtracks have also been encoded into the DVD.

The interactive menus contain animation and music, as well as providing the standard scene and soundtrack selection features. Access to the DVD’s extras is also provided through the menus. An audio commentary featuring Dario Argento, musician Claudio Simonetti and journalist Loris Curci is the chief supplement. This commentary track is somewhat lacking in detail, when compared to other tracks, plus it tends to get rather sparse towards the end of the film. Other supplements include a theatrical trailer and two brief production featurettes.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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