This time it's Michele Soavi's Stagefright AKA Aquarius AKA Deliria AKA Blood Bird, the slightly Giallo style slasher set around a bizarre stage troop putting on an equally weird play in a big, old theatre.
COLOUR. 1987. 90 Mins
A troop of struggling thespians, under the strict guidance of their diva director, get locked inside a warehouse sized theatre over night with an escaped psychotic killer. They get picked off one by one in ever more gruesome ways. The play they are attempting to stage, features an owl headed serial killer and the madman on the loose quickly appropriates this outfit for himself.
It's immediately apparent, to anyone who knows the genre, that through his work with Agrento, Fulci and Lamberto Bava, Michele Soavi clearly learnt a great deal. Their influence is everywhere throughout the film, from the setting to the subject matter and, of course the gory deaths, although Stagefright never quite gets as gruesome, as mean or as innovative as previous work by those film makers. The film has rich cinematography, interesting sound design, a wonderful, dramatic score, intentionally theatrical performances and some violent set pieces, most notably one with a chainsaw, which are well executed and, for slasher fans, a delight.
It doesn't quite have the sense of dread or fear it needs to be truly successful and I found a lot of it a little slow and even grating at times but it's very well shot, excellently conceived and, in parts, a lot of fun.
For example, if you ever wanted to see Marilyn Monroe play fierce 80s sax while a man in a black leotard body suit and a giant owl head performs Flashdance over the body of a dead hooker then Stagefright is for you. It's just a shame that the ridiculous invention and startling images like that really only crop up at the very beginning and very end of the film, beyond that it's fairly standard but nice and bloody, slasher stuff. The climax to the film though is its most stylised and most unique sequence that, without spoiling anything, is a great combination of macabre and beautiful imagery with a nice healthy handful of suspense too.
Although the cast are really trying their hardest, belting most scenes out to the cheap seats, they were, probably, the weakest link for me. The line reading, especially, through a little bit of ropey overdubbing, is more stilted and awkward than most and I have seen tons of dubbed films before that didn't suffer from this problem. Also I felt that had we understood the play within the film better then they could've taken that leap and made the play and the reality relevant and had a bit more of a comment on life imitating art imitating life.
I must confess that, as an unabashed fan of Argento's Giallos from his heyday, I may have gone in with high expectations that, sadly, weren't exactly met but from the costumes, to the lighting, to the gruesome climax, it's certainly a visual treat and a worthy debut that is helped and enhanced by Blue Underground's incredible transfer.
BLU RAY REVIEW
The transfer on this disc is incredible. It's crisp with deep rich colours, nice blacks and very very low grain, if it wasn't for the hair and costumes then you could think it was made just the other day. The transfer has been made from the original, uncut negative and so nothing is left out for the true film fan and collector.
The audio compliments it perfectly too with a great, clear, nicely mixed 5.1 DTS-HD track.
If you are already a fan of the film then this is a definite purchase. Blue Underground do incredible work when it comes to restoration and remastering and this disc, in particular, one thing I noticed was just how good it looked.
The extras, a series of individual interviews with various people involved in the film from Director Michele Soavi, who would go on to work with Terry Gilliam and make the cult hit Cemetery Man, to composer Simon Boswell, are a great added value to this disc. Each one is insightful and interesting and the fact that they are there at all is surprising, welcome and shows a thoroughness to creating comprehensive discs.
If you're a fan of either Italian cinema in general or the Giallo genre then this is a disc you're going to want to own. It's an important, iconic title that's been given a strong, worthy Blu Ray edition.
5.1 DTS-HD; 2.0 DTS-HD
English SDH, French, Spanish
1.85:1 / 16x9
Theatre Of Delirium - Interview with Director Michele Soavi
Head Of The Company - Interview with Star David Brandon
Blood On The Stage Floor - Interview with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice
The Owl Murders - Interview with Make-Up Effects Artist Pietro Tenoglio
The Sound Of Aquarius - Interview with Composer Simon Boswell
Poster & Still Gallery