BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
I first saw Dario Argento’s Phenomena when it was released here in the United States as Creepers. That version – heavily edited by 30-minutes (for no other reason than to save Americans from actually thinking) – was essentially one long music video. Goblin and Simon Boswell scored the movie and heavy metal artists like Motörhead were featured. The film was, in fact, my first REAL exposure to the mighty Iron Maiden.
Now, I had seen the ass-kicking tees from the band and I knew their mascot’s name, but never had I REALLY listened to them prior to Creepers. There were the hits, of course, but my peripheral interest in Maiden all changed after this movie. They became THE band. To this day, when the guitar intro of “Flash of the Blade” hits the speakers, I simply cannot get the image of a frightened Jennifer Connelly, in virgin white, trying to get out of a locked room.
But what about the movie itself? Well, I found it visually striking and moody as hell; it will change a person if allowed. It definitely left its imprint on me, but I paid it little attention in the years that followed because the story and the poor dubbing wrecked it. Truly, a movie about a young girl who can communicate with insects and uses her newly discovered powers to chase down a serial killer is bound to be memorable but somehow, I mistakenly thought, the Italians had bungled it. The truth was that America, thanks to the extreme edits New Line made, never got to see what everyone else did.
Thanks to the home theater market, that has changed. Anchor Bay educated us on DVD in the early 2000s. Arrow Video did the same on blu. And now, thanks to Synapse films, the full 116-minute English/Italian hybrid cut of Phenomena is made available here. In fact, with this release, you get all three cuts of the film, including the misguided and poorly-named Creepers version.
What makes Phenomena so insanely unique – apart from its weirdly sane insect-centered story – are three things: its beautiful steadi-cam use, the Swiss alps location, and its cast. Connelly isn’t alone in her search. There’s Fiore Argento whose early on-screen death sets the tone right for the murder mystery plot that follows and Federica Mastroianni as Jennifer’s best friend at the isolated all girls boarding school she is sent to.
But it is the use of the late Donald Pleasance as a wheelchair-bound entymologist (with his own chimpanzee assistant) who helps Jennifer tap into her powers of communication and in hunting down the murderer that gives Argento’s film EXACTLY the amount of gravitas it needs. Pleasance is such a wonder. He guides her and praises her successes, filling her with the mental support she needs to see the strange job of following a fly to rotting human flesh through to the very end – no matter how shocking and gut-wrenching it is.
Shot by Romano Albani (Inferno, Troll) and pieced together by Argento’s editor of choice Franco Fraticelli, Phenomena is true wonder. It is also Argento’s personal best. He felt it to be perfection. I can’t say that I feel any differently about the film. Seen now in its’ full unedited version, the film is a solid slice of science fiction by way of horror and a serious of fatal stabbings.
The many insects in the film swarm the screen and the sky. They black out the moon, but Connelly’s grace saves us all from the demented dangers found deep within Phenomena. See its evil rise with the next full moon on blu-ray with this uncensored release.
MPAA Rating: Not rated.
Runtime: 116 mins
Director: Dario Argento
Writer: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence, Daria Nicolodi
Genre: Horror | Mystery
Tagline: It Will Make Your Skin Crawl.
Memorable Movie Quote: "He was diseased; but he was my son! And you have... Why didn't I kill you before?"
Theatrical Distributor: New Line Cinema
Release Date: August 2, 1985
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: November 15, 2016
Synopsis: A young girl, with an amazing ability to communicate with insects, is transferred to an exclusive Swiss boarding school, where her unusual capability might help solve a string of murders.
Home Video Distributor: Synapse Films
Available on Blu-ray - November 15, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.66:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0; Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set
Region Encoding: Region A
Synergy films proudly presents Phenomena on blu-ray with a stunning remastering job in 1080p brilliance. The 1.66:1 transfer is loaded with bonus bits never noticed before in the background and in the skin. Details are finely tuned. Black levels are deep and respected for their differing shades. The color, while not bright (by design), is naturally saturated and expressive. A new layer of clarity equally illustrates the Swiss location and its sets.; shadows are livelier, effects are also vibrant. And those beautiful mountains in the background are to be envied. The electronic and heavy metal minded soundtrack is housed within an expressive DTS-HD MA 2.0 English/Italian Stereo soundtrack.
Argento scholar and author, Derek Botelho and film historian, journalist and radio/television commentator, David Del Valle, provide the film’s commentary for this release. It is an interesting listen and will please Argento’s fans.
This beautiful Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray SteelBook, with only 3000 units produced, contains three different cuts of the film all re-mastered in stunning high-definition. Outside of the commentary, there’s also a fascinating look at the early films of director Dario Argento with conversations about Phenomena, Susperia, Demons, Inferno and many more. Containing candid interviews and awesome behind-the-scenes footage, the documentary gives viewers and fans a look into the mind of Italy’s Master of Horror. An interview with Andi Sex Gang follows. There is also an exclusive CD – containing the 20-track soundtrack by Goblin and company – created specifically for this release, and a collector’s booklet with liner notes from writer Michael Gingold and former New Line Cinema publicist Gary Hertz, along with technical notes about this release from Vincent Pereira complete this unique and amazing Special Edition package.
- Phenomena (116 minute version)
- Phenomena (110 minute version)
- Creepers (83 minute version)
- Dario Argento’s World of Horror
- Interview with Andi Sex Gang
- International Theatrical Trailer
- U.S. Theatrical Trailer & Radio Spots
- Phenomena CD Soundtrack