Phenomena - Phenomena(blu ray + CD) [Arrow Video - 2017]From Arrow Video hereís a deluxe blu ray reissue of one of the great Dario Argento movies of the 1980ís Phenomena. The film blended together elements of Giallo, a teen girl with psychic powers, fairy tale imagery, and the expected gory murders- to make a film thatís both charming, inventive, and macabre quirky in only a way Mr. Argentoís cinema can be.
The release is a four disc set, and this takes in three Blu Ray's, & one audio CD featuring selected elements from soundtrack. Over the three blu ray discs, you get three different versions of the film- a newly created 4k version English/ Italian hybrid version of the film running 116 minutes. The originally 110-minute euro cut of the film. And the 83 minute US cut of the film, which had the alternative title of Creepers.
The films lead character is rich US teen Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly), who is sent to the so-called Swiss Transylvania to attend an exclusive girls boarding school. But unfortunately, the students of the school are been stalked & slashed by a black gloved killer. Jennifer enlists the help of paraplegic etymologist John McGregor (Donald Pleasence), and his chimp helper to track down the killer- along with the way we find out Jennifer has the uncanny ability to communicate telepathically with insects. Thatís the basic plot, but we have all manner of wacky & surprising turns along the way- like tripped-out sleep walking footage, deranged & deformed dwarfs, chimps with cut throat razors, swimming pools full of maggots, insect eye views. And very direct nods towards fairy tale imagery, with brutal killing peppered in here & there.
For many years now Phenomena has really stood as my favorite & most rewatched Dario Argento films, as it seems to bring together all the facets & elements of Mr. Argentoís work, and offer them up in a perfect packaging. At turns it suspenseful, quirky, macabre inventive, charming, and always very entertaining. I guess the only real thing missing is the more flamboyant buildings & settings of films like Suspiria & Inferno- but I now find both of those films a little over hyped & staged. Sure Phenomena has elements of dream logic & surrealism, but there are also ties to a more (semi) reality too. Added to this both Connelly & Pleasance give good performances, and Iíd go as far to say that Pleasance is his most charming & memorable here playing a wheelchair bound Scot.
So I was chuffed to bits when I saw Arrow were putting this out, and they certainly donít let fans of the film down. Aside from the three versions of the film, and the soundtrack disc. We get a nice lot of extras- first & biggest of these is a new feature length documentary entitled Of Flies and Maggots- this features basically everyone involved in the film, save Connelly & of course Pleasance who passed away a few years back. The Italian language with English subtitled doc really is the definitive story of the film & itís making. After this we a New audio commentary on the longest cut by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Film. This is certainly interesting & well research- the problem is Mr. Howarth clearly doesnít like the film very much, and through-out his commentary he picks out scenes/ elements he doesnít like. Bizarrely the only scene he really praises is when Connelly makes her self-sick!. So itís a pity that Arrow couldnít have found someone who was informative about the film, but also enjoyed it, because the commentary here often comes across as snide & snipping. We also get a new visual essay comparing the three versions of the film.
The other extra is, of course, the CD soundtrack, and this really only takes in previously available Claudio Simonetti/ Fabio Pignatelli cues. So sadly you donít get any of the more metallic moments from Iron Maiden Or Motorhead. But most disappointingly you donít get the extremely moody & haunting bass bound intro theme from of all people Bill Wyman- seemingly this has never been issued in a any form, and it really is a pity, as it sets the films mood perfectly. The soundtrack on offer here takes in twenty three tracks. And these are mainly a blend of pitter Ďní pattering & darting 80ís synth lines, swooping operatic female harmonies, synthic orchestration, tight Ďní bright electro percussion, and the occasional light rock guitar textures. Pace wise we go from fairly up-beat, to more mellow ethno ambient work-outs, to almost 80ís easy listening. Itís not a particularly distinctive or revolutionary as some of Argentoís 70ís soundtracks- but itís pleasing enough, fits the film, and works well on itís own- so itís a nice & worthy addition to this release
The whole thing is topped off with a sixty-page booklet, and new packaging taking in a card folder & two Blu ray cases- though I canít really comment on these, as we were just sent pre-press review copies. All in all, Arrow have once again delivered the goods with this box set- offering up the definitive & exhaustive edition of this classic slice of 80ís Dario Argento.Roger Batty