TERROR AT THE OPERA
D: Dario Argento
P: Dario Argento for ADC, Cecchi Gori Group, and RAI Radio Televisione Italiana//St & Sc: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini//DP: Ronnie Taylor//E: Franco Fraticelli//M: Claudio Simonetti//Art D: Gianmaurizio Fercioni//Costumes: Francesca Lia Morandini//Makeup: Franco Casagni
Cast: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Antonella Vitale, Barbara Cupisti, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cataldi Tassoni, William McNamara, Antonio Juorio, Carola Stagnaro, Francesca Cassola.
When opera diva Moira walks off the set of her latest production due to her disgust with horror film director Mark's unconventional stagings, her understudy Betty gets the chance of a lifetime. From the beginning however, the opera (a production of MACBETH) seems cursed as accidents and death seem to dog its every step. It is revealed that a killer is stalking Betty and he forces her to watch him murder her stagehand lover. The murders continue and culminate in the murderer revealing to Betty that he was a sexual slave to her mother and wants to renew that relationship with her. Trapped in the opera house and surrounded by the police, he decides to commit suicide and murder by burning himself and Betty alive. She escapes to the country with Mark but soon realizes the killer may not be dead.
OPERA ranks as one of Argento's greatest films in the Giallo genre. Indeed, after its completion, he decided to come to America to make films having one partial success (TWO EVEIL EYES) and one outright failure (TRAUMA). Fortunately, he came to his senses and returned to Italy where he made THE STENDHAL SYNDROME, a definite return to form. OPERA definitely took on a more personal bent when Argento recreated his own persona in actor Ian Charleson who plays the director attempting to go legit, but remains true to his horror genre roots. What really sets Argento's films apart from the pack are his murder setpieces and it's here that OPERA delivers the goods. Forcing actress Christina Marsillach's character to watch the grisly deeds by taping needles under her eyes, pretty much defines Argento's pathological need for the audience to not flinch when it comes to his brand of horror. Also, the bullet through the keyhole sequence never fails to get the appropriate reaction from anyone who's seen it. Unusual for an Argento film is the cinematography by Ronnie Taylor—crisp but noirish, it reflects a more mature Argento style that didn't need to pour on the colored gel effects. OPERA does fail on one point however, the use of anonymous heavy metal music for the film's murders. It jars you right out of the scene and leaves you shaking your head at its utter wrongness. Other than that, OPERA is damn near perfect.