By Steve D. Stones
Dario Argento has often been referred to as “the Italian Alfred Hitchcock” by fans and film historians. Both Argento and Hitchcock are masters of suspense and horror. The difference in the two directors is that Argento often injects his films with gruesome violence that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat. His direction credits include – Deep Red-The Hatchet Murders, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Tenebrae, Cat O’Nine Tails, Creepers, Suspiria, and the 1987 film Opera (AKA Terror At The Opera).
Opera is the story of a young opera singer who takes over the leading role in a stage production of Verdi’s Macbeth. The young singer is an immediate sensation with opera fans that bring her flowers and gifts to show their devotion. One obsessive fan lurks around the opera house in a disguise, much like Erik The Phantom in The Phantom of The Opera.
The obsessive fan in disguise is a killer who ties and bounds the singer, forcing her to watch as he murders some of her friends involved with the opera production. He tapes sharp pins below her eyelids, forcing her to witness the murders. Close up shots of her eyes show the pins puncturing her eyelids.
Argento uses some of his trademark camera techniques in Opera by showing viewers the point of view of the killer, as if the audience participates in the murders. One particularly effective sequence shows the point of view of a black crow flying over the opera patrons. The crow attacks the killer sitting in the audience, pokes out his left eye and then eats the eyeball. This is a gruesome scene that is not for those with a weak stomach.
Blue Underground Entertainment released a beautiful widescreen DVD print of Opera in 2007, with digitally mastered THX sound and picture quality. The DVD also includes a 36 minute documentary of the making of Opera with interviews with director Dario Argento, cinematographer Ronnie Taylor and star Daria Nicoldi. This release is a must have for any serious collector of Argento’s films. It’s unfortunate that so many poor quality prints of Argento’s films are floating out in the marketplace to be bought. With Blue Underground, you will always get a high quality print of any film they sell.
Watch Opera with Argento’s other great masterpiece – Suspiria. Argento would return to the opera genre in 1998 with The Phantom of The Opera, starring his daughter Asia in a leading role.