Tag Archives: dario argento

Heller-Nicholas On Argento

Heller-Nicholas on Argento

Dario Argento probably isn’t for everyone. Not only is horror the genre that seems to turn surprisingly large swathes of people off, but Argento’s brand of giallo is so specific and tonally distinct, if you’re not on board with the type of heightened gore and high-intensity colour scheme and hilariously abrasive music he employs, then you’re probably not going to get a lot out of the rest of his filmography.

But if you are going to tackle a career such as Argento’s, you need someone who knows what they’re doing to guide you through. And there’s nobody better for that than this month’s guest, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, who not only knows Argento’s films back to back, but quite literally wrote the book on him.

Her insight and unique perspective means that we were treated to a view of Argento unlike any other you’ll find out there. Case in point:

“I’ve always felt that Razorback was the Australian Suspiria. I’ve been laughed at a lot for that.”

It was also pretty fortuitous that when we suggested doing a mini-Hyphenate this month, not only was she up for the additional work, but turned out to be a huge fan of Herk Harvey… something we had not anticipated when we floated the idea to her. That, folks, is kismet.

Harvey was a horror filmmaker with a completely different sensibility to Argento, and unlike Argento, only made the one feature film. If you’re not familiar with his name or you haven’t seen Carnival of Souls, then this episode is going to whet your appetite in a big way.

We also broke a few rules with the reviews this month. We begin the segment with Woody Allen’s Irrational Man (which came out in August), then continue with Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room (which played at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August), and conclude with Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting On Existence (which didn’t play anywhere in Australia in August).

Our reviews are always tilted in favour of new works by filmmakers we’ve covered on the show before, but not all films get releases. And we so wanted to talk about Maddin and Andersson’s latest works, we thought we’d break a few of those self-imposed rules and make sure they didn’t pass us by. Because they’re both amazing creations from some amazing filmmakers, and it would be criminal to miss them.

Anyway, listen to the show. It’s a good one.

Other notes:

Outro music: score from Suspiria (1977), composed by Dario Argento, Agostino Marangolo, Massimo Morante, Fabio Pignatelli and Claudio Simonetti, and performed by Goblin

Hell Is For Hyphenates – August 2015

Film critic and author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas joins the show to look at three new films: IRRATIONAL MAN, THE FORBIDDEN ROOM and A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE. We then return to our semi-regular mini-Hyphenate segment to look at the fascinating career of Herk Harvey, director of the cult horror classic CARNIVAL OF SOULS. Then, Alex takes us through the cinema of the legendary Italian giallo filmmaker, Dario Argento.

The Dario Argento Cheat Sheet

Dario Argento

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

DA Films

THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970) and SUSPIRIA (1977)

To understand Dario Argento, there are two types of films you need to know about: his kaleidoscopic graphic novel-style horror, and his Hitchcock thriller pastiches. His first feature film, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, is probably the best example of his Hitchcockian aspirations. Although his next film, 1971’s The Cat O’ Nine Tails would go all-out with the To Catch a Thief references, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage wears its influences on its sleeve, and probably the best synthesis of the filmmaker he wants to be with the filmmaker he is. Once you’ve watched that, your evening will go from great to greater as you put on the next film: 1977’s Suspiria. Easily his best-known film, Suspiria abandons the Hitchcock riffing for a sensory supernatural horror experience that would become a mainstay of his filmography. These two films are the apogees of each approach, and will make for a seriously great evening of viewing.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, try 1975’s Deep Red, starring 1970s icon David Hemmings. Like Plumage, it combines his bright red horror stylings with a whodunit mystery. If you can’t get or have already seen Suspiria, try 1980’s Inferno. It might not be amongst Argento’s personal favourites works, but it is a total visual orgy that, like Suspiria, eschews Earthly culprits in favour of the supernatural.

The Hidden Gem: Want to watch something from off the beaten track? Check out 1973’s The Five Days. You can pretty much thank this film for Argento’s career: the historical comedy/drama performed so badly at the box office, he retreated to the somewhat ironic safety of horror. But let us suggest that it is actually a forgotten classic: at first, the story of a thief who accidentally becomes a revolutionary figurehead seems tonally muddled, but it really synthesises as it progresses, ending up as something really fun, really interesting, and not a million miles away from Sergio Leone’s Duck You Sucker! (1971). This is one that’s really worth checking out.

How to watch them in Australia: The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is available from most retail stores on DVD and Blu-ray via the Cinema Cult label. Suspiria is available to rent or buy on iTunes. Deep Red is available on Blu-ray for $10, or as part of a DVD set that includes Argento’s Phenomena and Tenebre for only $7, both released via Umbrella Entertainment. Umbrella also released Suspiria on Blu-ray, but at time of writing its website claims it is out of stock. Neither Inferno or The Five Days appear to be available on any format in Australia, so you’ll have to order those from overseas.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Alexandra Heller-Nicholas talking Dario Argento, will be released on the morning of August 31 (AEST).

Our Next Hyphenate Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Alex H-N
Author, broadcaster, critic and August 2015 Hyphenate Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Most film lovers are obsessive collectors. It’s just how our brains are wired. It’s why we have all the Godfather films on the shelf, even though we only ever watch the first two, or why we have every Pirates of the Caribbean film even though we only ever watch the first two Godfathers. So, in that spirit, we took notice when our friends at Plato’s Cave, the podcast that became a radio show whilst remaining a podcast, added a new host at the start of the year.

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas joined the show in March of this year, and was a great addition: funny and knowledgeable, she immediately shot up our wishlist of Hi4H guests. And not just because it will complete our collection of Plato’s Cave hosts. Although we won’t pretend there’s not something satisfying about that. But, like the bowerbirds that we are, the moment we heard someone talking cinema in entertaining and engaging manner, we had to nab her for our show.

And so we are extremely delighted that Alexandra will be guest hosting our August episode of Hyphenates. But which filmmaker will she be discussing?

None other than the Italian master of giallo horror, Dario Argento!

Directed by Dario Argento

Argento isn’t the only giallo filmmaker – giallo being that distinct type of Italian horror that often mixed detective story suspense with psychopathic slasher villains, employing elaborate camerawork and lurid colour schemes – but he is easily the best known.

After he collaborated with Sergio Leone and Bernardo Bertolucci on the script for Once Upon a Time in the West – and let that bizarre dream team tickle you brain for a moment – Argento made his directorial debut with The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, a huge box office hit in 1970. He then went on to make cult classics such as The Cat o’Nine Tails, Opera, Inferno and his most enduring work, Suspiria.

But what is it about Argento’s work that has captivated audiences – and Alex – so? And what hidden gems lie in the unexplored corners of his filmography? Join us on August 31 when we find out!

Dario Argento
Our next filmmaker of the month, Dario Argento