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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 11/15/99



Dario Argento's Phantom of the Opera
1998 (1999) - Medusa Films (A-Pix Entertainment)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Dario Argento's Phantom of the Opera Film Rating: D

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/B+

Specs and Features

100 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, video commercial, Julian Sands interview, photo gallery, cast and crew info, Fangoria magazine article (Brother of Horror by Martin Coxhead), film-themed menu screens with sound and animation, scene access (12 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: Spanish

I'm a big fan of Dario Argento. You gotta love Deep Red and Suspiria. Hey, I even dig that Jennifer Connelly fest Creepers (aka Phenomena), with all those bugs and Donald Pleasance. I can't say I'm a big fan of Dario's adaptation of Phantom of the Opera though. There's something about it that keeps me from connecting with it. Sure, Dario's daughter Asia's in it. She's a good actress, and she's a very appealing piece of eye candy. Julian Sands is in it, and he's a good actor as well -- not bad to look at either. Hey, I think I just nailed why I don't dig Argento's Phantom. The Phantom here, played by Sands, in a good looking, long-blonde-haired guy. No scars, no mask, no bad Broadway songs either (okay, that last one is a good thing). The one quirk, besides the murderous anti-social demeanor, of Sands' Phantom, is his love for masturbation while covered with rats. That's an image I can live my life without seeing again.

Argento's Phantom is a pretty accurate adaptation of the original Gaston Leroux story. Beneath the Paris Opera house, a Phantom lurks, taking victims and forcing the owner to abide by his whims. Currently, he's fancying young Christine (Asia Argento), an understudy with a nightingale's voice. He wants her to become a star, and will do anything for her... as long as she's willing to do anything he wants. Slowly, he gains control over Christine's mind and she does his bidding. Argento goes off in his own direction, by making the Phantom a man raised by rats instead of a tortured genius wrecked by a competitor. In this version, he's nothing more that a serial killer without any real agenda. Throw in some wacky supporting characters with a taste for pedophilia, incredibly well done special effects, and really bad acting by everyone aside from Asia and Sands, and you have a movie that looks good with the sound off. It's something that horror fans will want to rent to fast forward to some of the gruesome effects shots, which are stomach-churningly real.

This DVD is from A-Pix - a company that's trying hard to put out quality product. They've put out only a couple of DVDs so far, but this is one of their better attempts. It's a dual-sided flipper, with full-frame on one side and an anamorphic widescreen transfer on the other. Both sides show a few spots of digital compression problems, but it's a very enjoyable picture. Colors are generally dark, which I would think was the filmmaker's intent, and the fleshtones are spot on. The sound is pretty good as well. It's DD 5.1, and fills up the room. There are shrieks, splats, and a few musical performances, so the sound lovers out there will be happy. Folks looking for a few extras will find a photo gallery (nothing too impressive), well-written filmographies of the principles, a horrible looking theatrical trailer, a commercial for the video release, an interview with Julian Sands, and a Fangoria article about Claudio Argento (the producer and Dario's brother). It's all pretty good and rounds out the disc well, doing exactly what DVD should do in the first place -- offer more than just the movie.

Horror fans may not be satisfied by this, and Argento fans will definitely not be satisfied. But for the people out there who want only the most out of their DVDs, this is a special edition that gives a little extra. It's worth checking out just for that.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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