• Opera

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: January 23rd, 2018.
    Director: Dario Argento
    Cast: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, William McNamara, Antonella Vitale, Daria Nicolodi
    Year: 1987
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    The Movie:

    At the end of her performance of Macbeth, opera singer Mara Cecova is hit by a car meaning that her understudy, Betty (Cristina Marsillach), will now get her time in the spotlight. She’s ready for it, however, and after her first night goes off without a hitch, it’s obvious that she’ll do well. Her director, Marc (Ian Charleson), has plenty of confidence in her and her agent, Myra (Daria Nicolodi), only sees a bright future ahead for her client. What she doesn’t realize is that there’s someone up in the top box seat watching her, a lunatic who kills an innocent usher unlucky enough to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Later that night, while hanging out with her boyfriend Stefano (William McNamara), Betty is abducted by an assailant who binds her to a chair and tapes needles under her eyes. The killer does this so that she has to watch as he knifes Stefano. The killer then unties her and takes off. Betty tries to find out who this killer is and what he’s after before he strikes again. Inspector Santini (Urbano Barberini) heads up the case, but it’s clear that the killer has got Betty on his mind…

    Opera is a pretty fine film, moving along quite nicely as it does to an odd mix of Claudio Simonetti’s instrumental score, operatic sequences and some heavy metal selections (some of which works better than others). The pacing is stronger than in many of his other pictures and the violent set pieces with which he’s made a name for himself are some of the most creative and sadistic in all of Argento’s cannon. The slow motion ‘bullet through the peephole’ shot in this picture remains one of the most startling moments in the director’s entire filmography! There are logic gaps that are hard to overlook (frequent and common with giallo films) and the ending remains a loopy one, but Opera more often than not shows Argento firing on all cylinders. If he frequently seems more interested in staging and shooting the opera rather than the murder and the mystery, so be it, at least it’s done remarkably well.

    If the narrative has a few holes in it, on a visual level at least Opera is pretty much flawless. Argento’s use of Steadicam shots gives the film a truly sweeping and epic feel that much of his earlier work either wasn’t able to capture or didn’t call for – at least not to the extent that we see it employed in this picture. The opera house where much of the film takes place is presented with a great amount of care. Argento’s flair for capturing the beauty of classic architecture is given ample opportunity to flex, ensuring that the audience take in all the minute details to really get a feel for just how majestic this old building is. There are moments here where the camera movements are so perfect that you can’t help but let yourself get swept up in the melodrama of it all and this makes it very easy to forgive Opera for its minor shortcomings.

    Ultimately this is one of those films that lets Argento do what Argento does best and which earned him his fan base to begin with, which is to combine those gorgeous visuals with some memorable music and fantastic camerawork and creative violence for a sort of cinematic freefall. The film is never quite out of control but you can’t quite say for sure how it’s going to end – and for horror and giallo fans, that’s a very good thing indeed.


    Opera looks fantastic in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen, touted on the packaging as being derived from a ‘brand new 2016 2K scan with over 45 hours of extensive color correction done in the states.’ There’s been talk online about a ‘wobble’ in certain parts of the film detracting from the experience, but honestly, to this writer’s eyes it was a very minor issue (I don’t think I’d have noticed if it hadn’t been pointed out) – but in the interests of writing an honest review, it’s mentioned here. But really, don’t let that dissuade you, this is otherwise a gorgeous picture. Detail is remarkably strong and there’s a fantastic amount of depth to the image. Skin tones look nice and natural and color reproduction seems spot on. We get nice, deep black levels throughout but no crush or obvious compression artifacts and as such, shadow detail remains impressive. The image is nice and clean and shows no serious print damage but at the same time it retains an impressively film-like texture with nice, natural film grain present throughout. The image also appears to be free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. This looks great.

    English language audio options are offered up in DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo options. The 5.1 mix opens things up a bit during the opera scenes and in how it places some of the sound effects used in the film, while the 2.0 mix sounds more ‘true to source.’ Both options are properly balanced and free of any distortion, though some echo can be heard at times. Some hiss comes and goes in the mix as well. The actual quality of the English dubbing is less than perfect but that’s no fault of either mix on this Blu-ray. The music in particular really benefits from the lossless upgrade here, it sounds quite a bit more intense than it has in the past. There are no subtitles or alternate language options provided.

    Extras start off with a twenty-two-minute interview with Dario Argento himself in which he talks at length about the film and how it stands as one of his favorites from his own filmography. He talks quite affectionately about the inspiration behind the film, the role that Macbeth plays in the film, the difficulties of working with live animals, difficulties in getting certain shots and quite a bit more. The disc also contains an interview with William McNamara that clocks in at seventeen minutes where he speaks about how he got the role, having to do double duty on this shoot and on a TV series he was working on at the same time, what it was like working with Argento on the film, Opera’s legacy and its importance in his career and other related topics. Both interviews are nicely shot, well put together and quite interesting.

    Outside of that we get three different trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    It’s worth noting that later this year Scorpion Releasing will be putting out a more feature-packed special edition release of the film that will include alternate versions and audio tracks as well as more extra features than are included on this retail edition.

    The Final Word:

    Opera holds up well, weird ending and all, more than two decades since it debuted. There are moments here that absolutely rank as high as anything else Argento has done before or since and the setting really lets the director cut loose with some interesting ideas and set pieces. Scorpion Releasing’s Blu-ray is a good one, presenting the film in excellent shape and with a few interesting interviews in its supplemental package.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. cmeffa's Avatar
      cmeffa -
      Thanks for covering another release of a great film.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Excellent review, Ian. It's a shame the Italian track isn't included as it has some interesting differences to either English dub (the closing narration is in the third person, for example, enhancing the fairy tale-like qualities of the story) and, as with some of Argento's other films, the sound mix on the Italian track is a little more atmospheric.
    1. Scorpion's Avatar
      Scorpion -
      Quote Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
      Excellent review, Ian. It's a shame the Italian track isn't included as it has some interesting differences to either English dub (the closing narration is in the third person, for example, enhancing the fairy tale-like qualities of the story) and, as with some of Argento's other films, the sound mix on the Italian track is a little more atmospheric.
      italian track, as well as the Canne track, will be in the deluxe edition. I cant get into why the italians were not in the standard , but will be in the deluxe