I’m currently working my way through Blackhorse Entertainment’s ‘Dario Argento: the Ultimate Collection’. This six-DVD box set is very nicely presented, but nonetheless I have to take umbrage with it.
For starters, only two-thirds of its contents were directed by man himself: ‘Demons’ and ‘Demons 2’ were helmed by Lamberto (son of Mario) Bava, with Argento co-scripting and producing. Yes, I know that Argento therefore influenced the style and content of these films – and that, in the early stages of Bava’s career, Argento was his mentor – but damn it, if a box set advertises itself as the Dario Argento Ultimate Collection, or the Martin Scorsese Ultimate Collection, or even the Brett Eisner Ultimate Collection for Christ’s sake, then surely it’s not unreasonable to expect all of the films contained therein to be directed by said individual. And besides, if you need a couple of Argento-produced fillers to round the set out, then Michele Soavi’s ‘The Church’ and ‘The Sect’ are better choices.
So what are we left with? Well, we have Argento’s first two films, ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’ and ‘The Cat O’Nine Tails’, as well the magnificent ‘Deep Red’ and the preposterous ‘Phenomena’.
Which brings me to my next gripe: if you have the word ‘ultimate’ in the title, make damn sure the content justifies it. ‘Bird’ is a striking debut, ‘Cat’ remains one of Argento’s most under-rated works, and ‘Deep Red’ is a straight-up masterpiece … but where ‘Suspiria’, where ‘Tenebrae’, where ‘Opera’? In another box set, that’s where! And – quelle surprise! – I’m still waiting for Amazon to get it to me. Final gripe: I've not watched every disc yet, but the quality of those I have has been shocking - the sound is crackly; the prints grainy and subject to ghosting. Fair dues, what I paid for the set brings the individual disc price down to a shade under £3.00, but still it comes back to the words on the cover: Ultimate Collection. Put simply: it isn’t.
Nevertheless, the Argento-fest, such as it is, kicks off tomorrow … so don your black gloves, pour yourself a glass of J&B and prepare to stalk the shadowy reels of that most visceral and operatic of sub-genres, the giallo.