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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cine Beaverhausen: Dario Argento and the Modern Horror Film

Italy! Home of fashion, architecture and design... and the giallo films that are the inception of the modern horror film.

Giallo translates as yellow or, possibly, jaundiced in English. These films incorporate all of the categories of Italian fashion with blood, violence, and sometimes a little bit of sex.

Indeed, it can be argued that Alfred Hitchcock was the daddy of modern horror films when he made Psycho and The Birds back in the '60s, inspiring imitations and even remakes. But it was Dario Argento who pushed the envelope while acknowledging his debt to Hitch.

Born in Rome, Argento started as a film critic there, then started work with Sergio Leone before directing his own terror tales. My three favorites: Suspiria (1977), Phenomena ('85) and Opera ('87).

My lover at the time, Marty, and I saw Suspiria at the movies on its initial release. Marty pointed out how classic film star Joan Bennett looked drunk throughout -- and only knew when to stop when bumping into the fashionable furniture. Alida Valli's also in this film about a coven of witches running a ballet school. Jessica Harper headlines as our damsel in distress.

Phenomena stars a very young Jennifer Connelly who attends a creepy Swiss boarding school. Her psychic ability to communicate with insects comes in handy. Donald Pleasance co-stars. Very frightening climax.

And Opera is chilling but recommended for strong-at-heart horror fans.

All three are available now on dvd with plenty of extras. Warning: These films may give you nightmares.

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