01st Feb2019

‘Opera’ Blu-ray Review (CultFilms)

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Antonella Vitale, William McNamara, Barbara Cupisti | Written by Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini | Directed by Dario Argento


Good god… Dario Argento is wildy over-rated isn’t he? Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Suspiria and now Opera, three so-called “classics” of Argento oeuvre released on to Blu-ray with great fan fare but all three of which have left me cold. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a couple of Argento movies – Deep Red and Phenomena (though I prefer the Creepers cut), however I can live without the rest. I much prefer the work of his proteges Lamberto Bava… and Michele Soavi in particular.

The plot of Opera goes something like this: When young understudy Betty takes the lead role in a new operatic production of Verdi’s Macbeth, she soon attracts the attention of a knife-wielding psycho who forces her to watch – with eyes pinned open – as he brutally despatches her friends and colleagues with sadistic delight. Can Betty free herself from this unending nightmare or does a more terrifying fate await?

Obviously inspired by Grand Guignol, Opera sees Argento vearing from tightly plotted detective giallos into more Hollywood-inspired territory, pilfering from a multitude of sources: including the slasher movie. Speaking of slasher movies and Michele Soavi, he was the supervisor of special effects on Opera – and it shows, the effects work has more in common visually and thematically with Soavi’s slasher-inspired work on Stagefright rather than Argento’s giallo-style murders, though Argento is still obsessed with stabby objects and black gloves!

Though I’d like to believe we can all live without those goddamn crows and “Heidi” (aka the films heroine Betty) running across the German hills to prog rock at the close of the film! Of course we’re not here to talk about the movie, but more this new Blu-ray release from CultFilms, who put out Argento’s Suspiria in a similarly restored package last year.

In terms of image quality this iteration of Opera will take some beating. The blacks look deep without any crushing, the contrast and colour look superb for a film made in this era in Italy, especially when you compare it to the scenes shown on the restoration feature and even the original Arrow Video DVD release (a disc I had in my collection which remained unwatched until comparing it to this Blu-ray). The restoration has given the film a new lease of life, really providing more detail to the scenes set in the titular opera – makimng the in-film production look as grandiose as it would be in reality.

For those interested in both the making of and restoration of Opera, this release features three fantastic, informative featurettes: ‘Aria of Fear’: a brand new candid interview with director Dario Argento, revisiting his work from a fresh viewpoint; ‘Opera Backstage’: a unique behind the scenes documentary about Dario Argento directing Opera; and a Restoration-specific featurette showing how the film was restored from raw scan to the regraded, restored and reframed final vision – with sequences from the film presented side-by-side in both formats.

A fantastic presentation of a mediocre film, CultFilms’ release is sure to please fans of the film but certainly won’t convert anyone to new fans. Opera is out on Blu-ray now.


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