Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tenebre (Dario Argento, 1982)

Try to refrain from teasing Doberman Pinschers and always make sure to check the pulse of demented serial killers after they have supposedly slit their own throat with a razor. I don't know 'bout you, but I think these two pieces of advice will probably help four, maybe five people in the audience. In other words, they're not the kind of situations most of us will encounter over the course of your average day. However, there are literally millions of dark-haired Italian women out there, most likely dressed in all white, who will watch Tenebre in the hope that they might be able to pick up a few tips here and there on how to survive an attack by a razor-wielding psychopath with a grudge against society. Unfortunately, judging by the number of dark-haired Italian women who are stabbed, slashed and sliced to death in this movie, you could view it as a sort of guide pertaining to what not to do when confronted with a faceless killer wearing black gloves. I was going to suggest that maybe the dark-haired Italian women should arm themselves–you know, with a weapon of some kind. But then it dawned on me, in the film's most famous death scene involving a dark-haired Italian woman, the dark-haired Italian woman in question is holding–what I presume–is a loaded hand gun. The poster-girl for serial killer preparedness, the dark-haired Italian woman holding the loaded hand gun–get this–ends up losing the very hand she is holding the loaded hand gun with. I'm no forensic pathologist, but you can't cut off someone's hand with just one swipe from a razor. It's true, you can't. But who said the killer is using a razor? Uh, you did. Oh, yeah, that's right, I did. Well, the killer is now using an axe. And, as we all know, axes are perfect for chopping off hands. They're also perfect for redecorating a bland-looking white wall. Come again?!? I'm not following.

You see, when the axe cuts through human flesh, torrents of blood spew through the air. And if the person whose been hacked with an axe is standing next to a wall–preferably a white wall–it will instantly turn red. Getting back to my original point, if you're a dark-haired Italian woman and you were hoping to get some helpful pointers on how to survive an elaborately staged murder scene in a Dario Argento film, you're plum out of luck.

According to this film, which features the talented one two punch of Lamberto Bava (Delirium: Photo of Gioia) and Michele Soavi (Stage Fright) as first and second assistant directors (the latter appears as an actor as well), you're only chance for survival is to stand near a pointy avant garde sculpture and hope it falls in a manner that ends up putting the assailant permanently out of commission.

Why are you trying to give dark-haired Italian women tips on how to survive a Dario Argento film? I don't like to see people killed, especially attractive, dark-haired Italian women. Really? I don't buy it. In fact, the only reason you're watching this film is to see attractive, dark-haired Italian women murdered. I'm shocked that you would think that. Okay, try to imagine Tenebre without its four signature murder sequences. Oh my God! I'm not watching that. Fine. I like to watch attractive Italian women with dark hair murdered on film. Is that so wrong? You know what, don't answer that.

Besides, just as many men are murdered in this film than women are. I know, that doesn't exactly make things any less awkward. But still, it's comforting to know that men are murdered as well. Of course, the scenes involving men are nowhere near as stylish or exhilarating as the one's that feature dark-haired Italian women buying it.

Oh, in case you're wondering, the reason I call them "dark-haired Italian women" is because that's what they are. But the real reason has more to do with the fact that I don't know their names yet. What I mean is, I'm not familiar with the actresses who play the victims, and each time I call them "dark-haired Italian women" I feel as if I'm getting closer to knowing who they really are.

The film opens with a writer Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa), one who specializes in sleazy murder mysteries, ridding to the airport, oh, let's say, LaGuardia, on his bike. As he's about to get on a plane to Rome, we notice that Jane (Veronica Lario), a dark-haired [possibly] Italian woman dressed all in white, is watching the author with much interest.

Meanwhile, in Rome, Elsa Manni (Ania Pieroni), a dark-haired [definitely] Italian woman dressed all in...wait a minute, her skirt is clearly pink. Whew! That's a relief. I thought for a minute there she was about to get murdered. Why are you looking at me like that? I thought you said only dark-haired Italian women dressed all in white are the one's who get brutally murdered in this film. And, from where I'm sitting, Elsa is not wearing all white. Let the scene play out first, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Caught shoplifting a copy of Peter Neal's latest book "Tenebre," Elsa manages to weasel out of being charged by promising to have sex with the store's detective at a later date. Hitching a ride home on the back of a friend's motorcycle, Elsa's troubles aren't over as she has to contend with the grabbing hands of an unwashed derelict. Kicking him in the balls with her dark pumps, Elsa is able to get behind the gate of her home in time before the unwashed derelict can start grabbing at her again. Taking off her dark pumps (the real hero in the altercation with the unwashed derelict - Dark pumps. The very best there is. When you absolutely positively must kick the balls of every last unwashed derelict in the room, accept no substitutes), Elsa proceeds to remove her...

Stop! Don't remove your pink skirt that's pleated near the bottom. Don't you get it? Once you take off your pink skirt that's pleated near the bottom, you'll be wearing nothing but clothes that are white. Bah, what's the worst that could happen? Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wearing nothing but a white top, Elsa notices her phone isn't working. And just as she's about to turn around to do something Italian, a razor is being held to her throat and black gloved hand is stuffing pages of "Tenebre" into her mouth. I don't think I have to tell you what happens next.

Greeting Peter Neal at the airport in Rome is his agent, Bullmer (John Saxon), and a group of reporters, including Tilde (Mirella D'Angelo), a staunch lesbian who doesn't like the fact that her girlfriend, Marion (Mirella Banti), fucks dudes for money on the side.

You know this film needs? It needs some Daria Nicolodi. Oh, wait, there she is. Playing Anne, Peter Neal's secretary, Daria Nicolodi, you'll notice, has red hair, yet she's dressed in all white. I'm confused. I mean, it doesn't say anything here about redheaded Italian women dressed all in white. Oh, man. I don't know what to think now.

At any rate, when Peter Neal, Anne, and Gianni (Christian Borromeo), Peter Neal's youthful assistant, arrive at the hotel, two detectives, Det. Germani (Giuliano Gemma) and Inspector Altieri (Carola Stagnaro), are waiting for them. Informing the writer about the gruesome manner in which Elsa Manni was murdered (like I said, pages from his latest bestseller were stuffed into her mouth), the police also show him a menacing note from the killer that was sent to his hotel room.

While technically not a brunette, the gorgeous Eva Robin's (Bad Inclination) appears during these strange flashback  sequences that take place on a beach; hence the reason she's credited as "Girl on Beach." Dressed in a white dressed and wearing red pumps, Eva Robin's is surrounded by a bunch of faceless boys. One of them slaps her hard in the face, causing the other boys to tackle him. As they pin him to the sand, Eva Robin's strolls over and proceeds to shove the heel of one of her red pumps into the mouth of the boy who slapped her. (Red Pumps. The very best there is. When you absolutely...) I don't know what this has to do with anything. But I'm guessing it's a painful memory pulled directly from the mind of the killer.

All right, I think I've waited long enough. The electro score by Goblin is one of the best I've ever heard. Seriously, I'd put it up there with Wang Chung's To Live and Die in L.A. score and Chuck Cirino's score for Chopping Mall in terms of synthy greatness. And while we heard the theme from Tenebre during the opening credits. It doesn't really get a chance to display its utter awesomeness until Mirella D'Angelo and Mirella Banti are confronted by the killer in their swanky home, where the former is attacked while putting on a t-shirt–a white t-shirt–and the latter is attacked while wearing a towel–a white towel.

However, before the attack occurs, we given an extended tour of the roof of their house. And it's during this tour that I really started to appreciate the throbbiness of Goblin's score. It can't say enough good things about the music in this film, as it's the type of music I wish every movie had as its soundtrack. And when I say "every movie," I mean, every movie. Even Driving Miss Daisy and Edward Penishands.

You would think that the confrontation between the killer and the two dark-haired Italian women in their home would be the pinnacle of this film's greatness. Think again, pal. Sure, the camera angles, the music, the intensity of the violence featured in the previous scene are nearly impossible to top in terms of being iconic, but a plucky actress named Lara Wendal and a resolute Doberman Pinscher are going to try, nonetheless.

Playing Maria Alboretto, the daughter of the landlord of the building Peter Neal is currently living in, Lara Wendel's decision to taunt the Doberman Pinscher that barks at her during her walk home from a disastrous date with her boyfriend (Michele Soavi) will come back to haunt her.

She doesn't know it yet, but the Doberman Pinscher she is currently poking at with is a stick is the dog shit when it comes to jumping fences. After multiple attempts, it finally makes over the first fence, and just like that, the best dog chase sequence in slasher film history is underway. Now, some audience members might be shocked to learn that dog in question is 100% real. That's right, there's no CGI tomfoolery to be found during this epic chase.

Even though I might have missed a few along the way, I think at least four fences are scaled during this particular chase. Well, actually, if your numbers are correct, that's not entirely true, as Maria doesn't quite make it over the fourth fence. Oh, yeah. She doesn't, does she? Yeah, I forgot about that. Either way, the music cue that occurs when a black gloved hand lifts a razor in anger is fantastic. And the piece of music that accompanies the final leg of Lara Wendel's ordeal is called "Flashing" and it's just as amazing as the film's theme song.

Granted, I've seen and appreciated many forms of cinematic arterial spray over the years. But the type employed during the film's bloody finale was simply ridiculous. And I mean that in a good way. To call it "spray" doesn't seem to do it justice, as it's more like an arterial gusher. At first, I felt sort of bad for all people murdered in this film. Then it dawned on me. No, I don't feel sorry for them, I actually envy them. That's right, envy. Think about it. Who wouldn't want to be killed in such an elegant manner? To be killed in the gruesome mode the people are killed in this movie would be a honour and a privilege. I know, murder is wrong and junk, but if you're going to go, why not go in style?

While I'm currently in the process of re-watching some of Dario Argento's essential films, I can't imagine any of them coming close to topping the icy perfection of Tenebre. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to crank the film's soundtrack while slowly pacing back and forth in a menacing fashion. I do have a pair of black leather gloves, but I don't own an open razor. So, instead, I'm using an old feather duster. Watch out dark-haired Italian women the world over, I'm going to straight up dust your ass.

video uploaded by macalus1


  1. I love you. And your reviews. I want your words in my mouth and down my throat. I want to choke on your hidden intentions and gargle on your obvious unmentions.

  2. I like where your head is at. :D

  3. I love you, too, Yums. :) IT'S A YUM-YUM LOVEFEST!

    I just saw a picture of Rob Ford celebrating after winning an arm-wrestling match with Hulk Hogan. OH MY EYES!! Far scarier than anything in an Argento movie.

    Hey, it's almost TIFF time! woo woo woo woo

  4. Love is in the air / Everywhere I look around / Love is in the air / Every sight and every sound. :)

    Don't look at pictures like that, nothing good can from it. ;)

    For this year's TIFF, I've decided to hang out in Keningston Market more. I hear it's wear the so-called "hip" like to be seen.

  5. I first saw "Tenebre" on vhs years and years ago. Only it was in Italian with Japanese subtitles. My Japanese reading wasn't that good yet, so I had a hard time figuring out what the hell was going on at points.

    I actually got into Argento from the "Worlock" video. Over the years I've tried to watch all the films that were used to make the video. Has taken some time but am almost there.

    "Suspiria" will always be my personal favorite Argento film. "Tenebre" is definitely his coldest and cruelest. In interviews he said it was supposed to take place in the near future. Not sure that works as well when watching it today, but the dislocated iciness of the atmosphere shows through. It could also be criticized as just being stylish set pieces (some extremely Rube Goldbergian) strung together without much narrative tying them together. But everything slinks forward so stylishly and at such a menacing pace that it works.

    Oh, and maybe you already knew this, but Ms. Eva Robin's is transgender:'s

  6. The first time I saw the "Worlock" video was projected on a movie screen at a nightclub.

    Yeah, I talk about Eva Robin's cock in my review of Bad Inclination.

  7. "You may already knew this." I need to start proof reading.

    You saw them on the Too Dark Park tour? That must have been mind snurgling.

  8. I got the gist of what you were saying.

    I did see Skinny Puppy on their Too Dark Tour. "Mind snurgling"? Ha! Actually, you're not that far off, as I recall the machine gun drum noise on "Harsh Stone White" was with me days after the show... snurgling with my mind like a motherscratcher.

  9. I am so insanely jealous of you right now. I really needed to have been born ten or fifteen years earlier. Would have simplified a lot of things in my life.

  10. I felt same about the folks who saw SP during their previous tours.

    I used to see Too Dark Park tour t-shirts every once awhile throughout the 90s and early 2000s... but not so much anymore. :(

    Oh, and I didn't buy one because I wasn't in the position at the time to spend 30 Canadian dollareedoos on a t-shirt.