• Sleepless (Scorpion Releasing) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: March 16th, 2020.
    Director: Dario Argento
    Cast: Max von Sydow, Stefano Dionisi, Chiara Caselli, Gabriele Lavia, Rossella Falk, Paolo Maria Scalondro
    Year: 2001
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    Sleepless – Movie Review:

    After venturing away from Giallo territory with the release of his much maligned retelling of Gaston Leroux's Phantom Of The Opera in 1988, Dario Argento returned to the land of black gloved killers and sharp, shiny knives with Sleepless (also known as Non Ho Sonno or I Can't Sleep) in 2001. The results? Quite mixed, but enjoyable over all.

    When a woman was brutally murdered in 1983, killed with a musical instrument, Police Commissioner Moretti (Max von Sydow of The Exorcist and many a fine Bergman film) tells her son, Giacomo (Stefano Dionisi), that he'll bring his mother's killer to justice if it takes him the rest of his years. Fast forward seventeen years to 2001, and an aging Moretti still lives in the same town and has reached the age of retirement. He’s also suffering from memory loss.

    By a very strong coincidence, the killer from 1983 has returned once more, and he makes very short work of two girls to announce his return. This strikes Moretti as odd, because the police believed that the man they had caught, a dwarf who penned mystery novels, was the real culprit. However, the ‘dwarf killer’ died before he could be convicted in a court of law and proven beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt to indeed be the murder. Giacomo meets up with Moretti and the pair decide to work together to bring the murderer in. In order to do this, they'll have to decipher a series of clues that the killer leaves at the scene of the crime and cross reference it with an old nursery rhyme.

    Argento is definitely not breaking any new ground with this film. He lifts plenty of character traits and ideas from his earlier work and even a couple of the kill scenes look a little familiar when compared to some of his earlier Giallos like Tenebre and Deep Red. But, if you're going to steal from someone you might as well steal from yourself and Dario does do a pretty good job of it here. The action and intrigue move along quickly enough that the film is never boring, even if ultimately when you pay close attention to it (and keep his past films in mind while doing so) it isn't overly difficult to figure out.

    Max Von Sydow is fantastic in the lead role, and as always, he makes the most of the material that he is given to work with. Argento often tells his stories more with images and pacing than he does with expert dialogue or witty banter but even with that in mind, Max is very good as the aging Commissioner. He's a likeable and sympathetic character who truly believes in doing the right thing and helping people. Von Sydow looks the part and fits the role very nicely. Stefano Dionisi is decent enough here as well, while supporting work from the beautiful Chiara Caselli is just fine as Giacomo's harp-playing love interest. Roberto Zibetti is okay as Giacomo's friend Lorenzo, and it's nice to see Gabriele Lavia, who worked with Argento on Deep Red and starred in Beyond The Door, as Lorezno's father.

    When Argento returned to the Giallo genre with this film, so too did prog-rock champions, Goblin. Claudio Simmonetti and company do a fine job of creating a nice retro-sounding score that pulses and pounds along with the film's own rhythm to heighten tension and pacing. Their music works very nicely alongside Dario's patented over the top murder scenes, which once again are dramatic and artistic while proving to be pretty grisly at the same time.

    Sleepless – DVD Review:

    Scorpion Releasing brings Sleepless to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc with the feature taking up just over 36GBs of space on the disc. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and while there are occasional, and very slight, horizontal scratches noticeable from time to time if you’re anal retentive enough to look for such things, overall the image is in excellent shape. Detail and color are handled very nicely, the image always looks nice and film-like, and there are no noticeable issues with any noise reduction or edge enhancement. The strong bit rate keeps compression artifacts at bay, while skin tones and black levels all look spot on. Quite a nice upgrade over past DVD editions to be sure!

    24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks are provided in English and Italian with optional subtitles available that translate the Italian track. While some might feel that the film plays better in Italian, Von Sydow appears to be doing his own dubbing on the English track and that will, for some of us at least, make it the preferable option here. Either way, both tracks sounds very good. There’s plenty of distinct surround activity noticeable here, the rear channels really opening up the score and the effects quite nicely. Levels are nicely balanced and there are no problems with even a trace of hiss or distortion. Goblin’s score in particular sounds fantastic here.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary with film historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson. They start by speaking about how this was a bit of a comeback film for Argento after the flop that was The Phantom Of The Opera, and then go on to talk about the locations used in the film, the fetishistic photography used in Barbara Lerici’s introductory scene as well as her ‘enhanced figure,’ rumors about her ‘genetic providence,’ a noticeable throwback to older films Tenebrae, Deep Red and Suspiria, the quality of the opening scene on the train, the quality of the English dubbing in the film and the soundtrack work that Goblin did on the picture. They also cover the quantity and quality of the bloodshed in the film, the differences in quality between the English and Italian language options, how Von Sydow’s character serves as a surrogate for Argento himself, the quality of the cinematography and use of color in the film, some of the ragged edges in the film, how the film does approach parody in spots, the importance of the quality of Von Sydow’s work in the picture, the use of prosthetics and the pros and cons of doing so in this picture, and, of course, the film’s ending. It’s a good track, quite conversational and never scripted sounding, but still filled with a lot of insight into what works and what doesn’t as well as background information on the film and the people that made it.

    From there, we jump into a selection of new interviews included on the disc. The first of these is with director/screenwriter Dario Argento, a nineteen-minute piece called He Never Sleeps. Here Argento talks about returning to the giallo genre after some years away, where he got some of his inspiration from, shooting on location in Turin, working with the cast and crew (and with Von Sydow specifically) and more. Paolo Maria Scalondro is up next in the seventeen-minute Don’t Go To Sleep. He speaks about how he landed the part, his interactions with Argento and what it was like on set, some of the quirks of his character in the film and how much he enjoyed working in Turin. Screenwriter Franco Ferrini gets on camera in the ten-minute The Cop And The Parrot featurette to discuss where some of the ideas for the story came from and some of the influences that worked their way into the script, as well as what it was like collaborating with Argento on the film. Set designer Antonello Geleng spends sixteen-minutes talking about the film in Blood On The Tracks, where we learn what went into creating some of the sets used in the picture and the difficulties involved in getting the train sequence done properly. Last but not least, Gabriele Lavia gets thirteen-minute to talk about his work with Argento in Killed Three Times. Here he talks about his earlier collaborations with the director, what other projects he was involved with around the same time, doing a lot of work in the theater, and how happy he was to come back to work with Argento on this picture.

    Sleepless – The Final Word:

    Sleepless won’t ever overtake Argento’s classic giallo pictures in terms of popularity, influence or impact but it’s a pretty solid thriller with a great lead performance from Von Sydow, some decent supporting players and some impressive murder set pieces. Scorpion Releasing has done a really solid job bringing this one to Blu-ray, with a fine presentation and a nice selection of extra features. Recommended!

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