Dario Argento, Italian-horror king, directed this over the top and gleefully sadistic version of the classic phantom of the opera story, with Cristina Marsillach (reportedly the most difficult actress Argento had ever worked with) taking on the role of a hapless soprano at the center of a string of murders. Opera is set in the Regio Theatre, following a production of Verdi’s Macbeth. When the lead is injured, her understudy, mousy Betty (Marsillach), takes the role but finds herself bringing nothing but death to the production as a stalker picks off the rest of the cast and crew.
The film’s most famous moments come as Betty is forced to watch the murders after the killer has taped pins under her eyes– a sly joke in and of itself, as Argento reportedly became irritated when audiences would look away from the gore in his films. While the mystery of who the killer is isn’t all that interesting, the process of the elaborate, borderline ridiculous murders, one after another, keeps the suspense constantly ratcheted to a 10.
While not as famous or critically hailed as ballet-horror tale Suspiria (1977), Opera was one of Argento’s most successful films. Stylish, gruesome and clever, Opera is manic, like Phantom on PCP. The disturbing murders are only a small part of the film’s elaborate visuals, from the release of 140 live crows (of which only 60 were retrieved) to Marsillach’s dripping, golden costumes. Add in a score by art rock master Brian Eno, of all people, and Opera is a bloody good feast.
Britta R. Moline 11/26/11