Argento, Dario

(1940-)
   Screenwriter, director, producer. Internationally renowned for his stylish horror films (gialli), Argento has often been called the Italian Alfred Hitchcock, while the brilliant visual style of his films has also earned him the title of "the Fellini of Horror."
   After writing film reviews for the Roman daily Paese sera, Argento moved to screenwriting in the mid-1960s, first collaborating with veteran writer Sergio Amidei on Alberto Sordi's comedy Scusi, lei e favorevole o contrario? (Pardon Me but Are You For or Against, 1966), and later working with Bernardo Bertolucci and others on the script of Sergio Leone's Cera una volta il West (Once upon a Time in the West, 1968). He achieved immediate fame, however, with his directorial debut, L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, 1969), a giallo clearly influenced by the films of Mario Bava and the popular German Edgar Wallace crime films, but already displaying Argento's own inimitable style. His second film, Il gatto a nove code (The Cat o' Nine Tails, 1971), another sleek mix of horror thriller and detective fiction, firmly established all the Argento hall-marks: the blackgloved, almost supernatural killer, the gruesome and long, drawn-out murder scenes, and the obsession with eyes and sharp objects. These trademarks all appeared again, to great effect, in the third of the "animal trilogy," Quattro mosche di velluto grigio (Four Flies on Grey Velvet, 1971).
   After Le cinque giornate (Five Days, 1973), an uncharacteristic film set in the Risorgimento period and dealing with political themes, Argento made what many regard as his best and most unnerving horror thriller, Profondo rosso (Deep Red, 1975). Two years later with Suspiria (Dario Argento's Suspiria, 1977), loosely based on a work on witches by Thomas De Quincey, Argento moved more decidedly into the supernatural horror genre. Having by this stage set up his own production company, SEDA Spettacoli Produzioni, Argento coproduced and collaborated on George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978). After the film was finished Argento reedited it, added a musical score by Goblin, and released the film in Europe as Zombi (Zombie: Dawn of the Dead, 1978), which achieved huge box office success and spawned a host of imitations. His next film, Inferno (Dario Argento's Inferno, 1980), with a number of sequences designed and shot by Mario Bava, was a hallucinatory excursion into pure nightmare but curiously did very poorly worldwide, prompting Argento to return to the giallo format for his next film, Tenebre (Tenebrae, 1982, also known as Unsane in the United States). Argento's next effort, Phenomena (1985), a gory thriller that revolves around a young girl who has a psychic affinity with insects, was cut by almost 30 minutes when it was released in America under the title Creepers.
   After a number of other projects, which included filming a fashion show for Trussardi and an advertisement for Fiat cars in Australia, Argento teamed up with Lamberto Bava to produce and cowrite the gruesome supernatural horrorfest Demoni (Demons, 1985) and its sequel, Demoni 2: L'incubo ritorna (Demons 2: The Nightmare Is Back, 1986). Opera (1987), the story of a musical understudy stalked by a murderous psychopath under the influence of too many viewings of A Clockwork Orange, performed very poorly in theatrical release in Italy and in most other countries was released only on video. Nevertheless, in the next two years Argento cohosted a television program for giallo afficionados and produced 15 episodes of Turno di notte (Night Shift, 1988), a series of short films about the dark adventures that befall cab drivers at night.
   After teaming up again with George A. Romero to codirect Due occhi diabolici (Two Evil Eyes, 1990), Argento directed Trauma (1993), the first of his films to be made completely in the United States and starring his daughter, Asia Argento. La sindrome di Stendahl (Stendhal Syndrome, 1996) again used Asia to play a young policewoman afflicted with this condition who is brutally raped a number of times before taking a gruesome revenge on the psychopath. Two years later, Il fantasma dell'opera (The Phantom of the Opera, 1998), a fairly brutal retelling of Gaston Leroux's classic story, flopped miserably at the box office and was generally panned even by afficionados. More recently, however, Nonhosonno (Sleepless, 2001) and Il cartaio (The Card Player, 2004) have revived Argento's reputation as the undisputed master of the Italian horror thriller.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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