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Dario Argento
Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi
Writing Credits:
Dario Argento

An American writer in Rome is stalked and harassed by a serial killer who is murdering everyone associated with his work on his latest book.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Dolby Vision
Italian DTS-HD MA Monaural
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $49.95
Release Date: 9/26/2023

• Audio Commentary with Authors/Critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman
• Audio Commentary with Argento Expert Thomas Rostock
• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Maitland McDonagh
• “Yellow Fever” Documentary
• “Being the Villain” Featurette
• “Voices of the Unsane” Featurette
• “Out of the Shadows” Featurette
• “Screaming Queen” Featurette
• “The Unsane World of Tenebrae” Featurette
• “A Composition for Carnage” Featurette
• Introduction by Daria Nicolodi
• Alternate Opening Credits Sequence
• Promotional Materials


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Tenebrae [4K UHD] (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 6, 2023)

When I last spent time with the work of filmmaker Dario Argento, I watched 1985’s supernatural thriller Phenomena. Next up for me? 1982’s Tenebrae, Argento’s effort that immediately preceded Phenomena.

American novelist Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) travels to Italy to promote his novel Tenebrae. Soon after his arrival, someone murders shoplifter Elsa Manni (Ania Pieroni).

It turns out Neal’s visit and the crime offer a connection, as the killer uses methods featured in Neal’s book as inspiration. While the psychopath goes on a bloody spree, Neal and police detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma) work to find and stop this person.

Given its focus on a young woman with psychic powers, Phenomena offered a bit of a departure from the usual bloods and guts giallo entries usually found from Argento. Actually, earlier works like 1977’s Suspiria and 1980’s Inferno also veered from his standard MO, but Tenebrae took Argento back to his roots.

Which doesn’t seem like a bad thing, as Argento’s best efforts appear to fall into this mold. Granted, I never saw his original Suspiria, so I can’t judge, but this kind of bloody thriller feels like it fits the Argento wheelhouse more cleanly.

Does Tenebrae become a strong thriller? To some degree, though Argento’s fetishses get in the way.

By that I mean Argento devotes an awful lot of running time to excessively extended “kill shots”. Actually, the violent moments themselves don’t go on too long, but the build-up drags.

I get that Argento likely thought the gradual build to the actual slaughters would add tension, but he just takes things too far. The slow push toward often takes so much time that it becomes tedious rather than tense.

That issue aside, I like the basic Hitchcock-esque vibe we get here. Well, Hitchcock with plenty of gratuitous nudity, but still, Tenebrae tells a tale in that mold, and it pursues this angle well.

Tenebrae also comes with a reasonably clever plot, as the notion of the serial killer who uses a novel as a guide offers intrigue. I won’t call this the most clever twist in the history of movies, but it brings a spark to the movie that a more standard thriller might lack.

It also comes with a playful sense of self-awareness. Argento knows in what genre he dabbles, and he ensures an occasional wink at the audience.

Nothing about Tenebrae rises above its origins, but even with some draggy scenes, the movie still largely works. It gives us a fairly intriguing serial killer tale that brings enough clever material to succeed.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

Tenebrae appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. The movie boasted an appealing Dolby Vision presentation.

Sharpness satisfied. The occasional interior could lean a little soft, but the majority of the film brought positive accuracy and delineation.

I witnessed no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes failed to manifest. Grain felt normal, and outside of some gate hair/dirt around the perimeter during the opening credits, print flaews remained absent.

Tenebrae went with a natural palette, and the colors popped in a pleasing manner. The tones looked vivid, and HDR gave them added zing and dimensionality.

Blacks felt deep and dense, while low-light shots offered good clarity. HDR brought extra power to whites and contrast. I felt pretty happy with this very nice image.

Though shot in Italy by a mostly Italian cast and crew, the movie’s English DTS-HD monaural soundtrack became the better choice. As with most Italian productions, most of the dialogue got re-recorded later, but the lines were clearly spoken in English on the set, so the English rendition fit the performances best. <> Actually, I got the impression at least some of the movie’s dialogue came from the set. For instance, some lines between Franciosa and Saxon during his press event felt much more “on the fly” than I’d expect from looped material.

Whatever the case, the monaural audio held up well over the last 41 years. Of course, the dubbed speech could seem on the unnatural and “canned” side, but these elements always remained more than intelligible, and they showed only a little edginess at times.

Music displayed nice pep and range, while effects seemed perfectly adequate. The foley work didn’t always appear especially convincing, but these components never suffered from notable distortion. Ultimately, the soundtrack worked fine for an Italian movie from 1982.

As we shift to extras, we three separate audio commentaries, the first of which comes from authors/critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters, cast and crew, genre domains, production notes and thoughts about the film.

With this chat, we get a good overview of various domains along with the participants’ views of the movie. While they like it, they don’t make this a praise-fest, as they comment on its flaws. Expect a pretty brisk conversation.

For the second track, we hear from film historian Maitland McDonagh. She brings a running, screen-specific view of story/characters, genre domains and Argento-related topics.

Some of this repeats from the prior commentary, and McDonagh tends to narrate the movie too much, especially during its first half. McDonagh proves more effective when she gets into issues with the release of Argento films, and the track picks up during the flick’s last 45 minutes, but it seems inconsistent.

Finally, we get a commentary from Argento expert Thomas Rostock. During his running, screen-specific chat, he discusses story/characters as well as cinematic techniques and interpretation.

Given Rostock’s status as an “Argento expert”, I thought he’d spend a lot of time with the filmmaker’s overall catalog and how Tenebrae connects. Instead, he gets into similar ground covered in the first two tracks.

That doesn’t mean Rostock brings no fresh insights. However, I sense a fair amount of overlap across all three commentaries, and inevitably that makes the last one I screened the least compelling. On his own, Rostock does fine, but after two other non-dissimilar chats, his conversation can feel a bit redundant.

A documentary called Yellow Fever runs one hour, 29 minutes, 24 seconds. It brings remarks from McDonagh, filmmakers Lucio Fulci, Ruggero Deodato, Umberto Lenzi, Dardano Sacchetti, Richard Stanley, Luigi Cozzi, Jace Anderson, Bruno Forzani, and Darren Ward, film historians Mikel Koven, Kim Newman, Shelagh Rowan-Legg, Alan Jones, and John Martin, and actor Barbara Bouchet.

The program examines the roots/influences of the giallo genre and it development as well as staples of the format and various examples. This doesn’t turn into an exhaustive history, but it gives us a more than competent overview.

A mix of featurettes ensue, and Being the Villain lasts 16 minutes, 22 seconds. It brings an interview with actor John Steiner.

Here Steiner covers his career. He barely touches on Tenebrae, but Steiner offers so many interesting tales that this doesn’t matter.

Voices of the Unsane spans 17 minutes, 16 seconds. This one involves Argento, director of photography Luciano Tovoli, composer Claudio Simonetti, assistant director Lamberto Bava, and actors Daria Nicolodi and Eva Robins.

“Unsane” tells us about cinematography, violent scenes, effects and their staging, music, and cast and performances. While not the most concise “making of”, “Unsane” nonetheless brings a reasonable collection of notes.

Next comes Out of the Shadows. Maitland McDonagh reappears for this 12-minute, 20-second reel.

She discusses aspects of the film, its themes and it genre. Inevitably, some of this repeats from her commentary, but nonetheless McDonagh adds worthwhile info.

An Introduction by Actor Daria Nicolodi fills a whopping 13 seconds. Nicolodi tells us she felt scared as she made Tenebrae and hopes we enjoy the movie. There – I saved you 13 seconds, as you now don’t need to watch the intro!

We get more from the actor in Screaming Queen, a 16-minute, five-second piece in which Nicolodi chats about aspects of her career. She gives us a good take on these topics.

The Unsane World of Tenebrae occupies 15 minutes, 14 seconds. This archival featurette gives us more from Dario Argento.

The filmmaker tells us about aspects of the film’s creation. We get another useful reel here.

A Composition for Carnage runs 10 minutes, five seconds. We get a chat with composer Claudio Simonetti.

As expected, “Carnage” covers Simonetti’s work on Tenebrae as well as thoughts about movie violence. I’d like more about the music but this still turns into a decent chat.

Alternate Opening Credits Sequence goes for two minutes, 14 seconds and indeed shows some footage that varies from the actual release. In addition, Unsane End Credits Sequence occupies one minute, 51 second and lets us see the finale of the US cut. Both offer intriguing variations.

Under Promotional Materials, we locate both “International” and Japanese trailers. We also get still galleries of ads from Italy (9 images), Germany (38), Spain (9), Japan (16) and US (3). “Miscellaneous Images” completes this domain with nine movie stills.

A second disc provides a Blu-ray copy of Tenebrae. It includes the same extras as the 4K.

Note that this set’s Blu-ray differs from previously release BDs from Synapse. It doesn’t appear that this 2023 Blu-ray will get a separate release outside of this 4K package.

Part of the overstuffed serial killer genre, Tenebrae never quite excels. Nonetheless, it becomes a pretty enjoyable thriller, one with enough cleverness to keep us engaged. The 4K UHD boasts very good picture, era appropriate audio and an extensive collection of supplements. This turns into a fine release for a generally entertaining tale.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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