Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crankenstien's take on Dario Argento

           There’s this constant debate between horror fans, which one is better Lucio Fulci or Dario Argento? And if you are an avid reader of this blog, you may be wondering why I've neglected to review any of the works of Argento and consistently praised Fulci? I just think that his work is overly reviewed and overanalyzed, however don't get the wrong idea, I am a huge fan of his but feel strange reviewing these films without a new perspective!  So in this entry I will put in my two cents about Dario Argento!
            I have to admit that I prefer the visceral horror, schlockiness and abundance of rotten maggot infested corpses that Fulci brings to the spectrum over Argento’s hyperstylized, overly violent high tech goth also with a heavy dose of maggots. There is a lot more to poke fun of in Fulci's work then the professionalism of Argento.
           Now that I think about it, I like both of them a lot, but Argento’s films are so highly regarded by film scholars and critics that Fulci comes off like the punching bag that needs more support and I’ve always found his films more watchable repeatedly then Argentos. I'll wait to re-watch Argento films in the theater or in pristine condition (on a Blue-underground DVD), because its is all about the quality and subtext. Deep Red is one of my all time favorites. Fulci has that cheesiness, combined with the supernatural and I find the ineptness more compelling.

Galen Ross

          I once read an article in Fangoria about what a feminist Argento is. During the filming of Dawn Of The Dead, which he produced, he visited the set to see what was going on and Romero had to hide Galen Ross because he was afraid if Argento found out there was only one woman in an all male overly testosteroned zombie slug fest he would take his money out of the project! He often has women at the forefront of battles against witch conspiracies (in three films), solving mysteries (Phenomena and Deep Red) and most often the male characters are pretty dense and one-dimensional. The killer is often times female (as in Deep Red and Phenomena). I admire the use of frightening puppets (as in Four Flies On Grey Velvet and Deep Red). He shares the same flaws as Brian Depalma (both have been accused of copying Hitchcock) and their early efforts are legendary, but the later works suffer and pale in comparison. In my opinion both directors can never recapture that compelling magic they harnessed in the beginning of their careers and many other horror directors are struggling with this stigma.         
Fulci on the otherhand is a raving misogynist, when confronted with this question, he has never been clear on how he really views women. It seems that he just hates actors in general (laughing at the suffering the zombies go through in many of his films, calling them walking flower pots)! I mean if you force an actress like Daniela Doria in City Of The Living Dead to ingest real sheep guts and then have her vomit them out, you are clearly getting off on abusing your talent for the sake of art. This type of realism can only be blamed on the Neorealist school of Italian cinema that each director working in the field can equally share the influence. During Phenomena, Jennifer Connelly's finger was bitten off by the razor chimp and then surgically re-attached without it interfering with the film, that should be blamed on the animal trainer not the film maker. Both directors have a fetish for extreme graphic close-ups of eyeballs and weapons plunging into them.          Fabio Frizzi’s brilliant electronic choral tones inject the Fulci screen with substance and depth and Goblin’s thundering, whispery bass heavy rock electrify Argento’s films and I am a ravenous collector of both composer’s works. Argento started out writing for different westerns (he has a writing credit for Once Upon A Time In The West) and began in the Giallo genre (which I detest)! For me he really didn’t hit his stride until Deep Red came along. According to Psychotronic (#18 1994), Dario wanted to use Pink Floyd to score the soundtrack for Deep Red but they were unavailable. He instead found Goblin  and they have started a bond that continued on through out the 70's and 80's and its band leader Claudio Simonetti has scored almost all Argento projects, with the exception of Keith Emerson taking over for the score on Inferno.
          In Deep Red, David Hemmings plays a similar photographer as the one in Blow-Up and along Daria Nicolodi (with a soft dubbed voice, thankfully), they solve the stabbing of a psychic. In that Psychotronic issue, Argento also mentions that Udo Keir while filming Suspiria invited Argento to a party with Fassbinder and David Bowie, the film was made in parts of Munich. Argento mentions that he thought Bowie might have been a Nazi, not sure, because he loves Germany so much! I also feel the need to defend Dario’s unfair reputation as a junkie, because anytime I go to the Castro Theater during Midnites For Maniacs, Jessie Ficks never fails to mention that he thinks Argento is a heroin addict and I have never heard this information anywhere else, I have to assume its total bullshit! Don’t believe this rumor if you happen to hear it, because it has never been confirmed!

            I first learned about Argento through Fangoria and Suspiria in the US in the early 80’s there was an epidemic of butchered videotapes and you were deprived of the artist's original vision and only left with these shitty censored versions, that is if you could find them at all! When I ordered Deep Red from Chas Balun it was from a Japanese laserdisc under the title Suspiria 2 and it’s completely unrelated, as it turns out Inferno is actually Suspiria 2 sort of. Almost all of Balun's collection was duped from laserdiscs and thankfully all of Argento's work has been restored on DVD.
            Argento is a testament to the work of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, the use of creative lighting and frightening imagry is incredibly captivating, I love and respect his work, I just have more to say as a critic in regards to Lucio Fulci. Then again I just wrote a long assed essay on Argento, I am a huge fan of both directors. As for his recent efforts they have all been disappointing to me and don’t get me started on his recent popularity with the hipster crowd (Bleaccchhhh)!! And as  the total film snob that I am, I have to count Opera (from 1987) as his last good film, even with its flaws.           

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