Genre: Giallo • Thriller
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi
Duration: 107 min.
A young operata is stalked by a deranged fan bent on killing the people associated with her to claim her for himself.
Opera also known as Terror at the Opera, is a film written and directed by Dario Argento. At the time, it was both his largest budget production and his most commercially successful film to date.
It's a visually grandiose spectacle. Right from the opening moment, inside a majestic opera house with a view of an orchestra and cast rehearsing an avant-garde version Verdi's Macbeth reflected off of a squawking raven's eye in closeup. All the way to the bizarre sunlit final shot in the rolling Swiss hills, with a radiant Cristina Marsillach who to my eyes has a startling resemblance to Irène Jacob from The Double Life of Véronique. It is evident that Argento has put those extra dollars to great use.
Indeed with the help of cinematographer Ronnie Taylor's (Academy Award winner for Gandhi) steady hand; some of the most elaborate set pieces, largest crowds of extras, and technically difficult sequences he's ever attempted; and the combined efforts of Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Claudio Simonetti, Bill Wyman, and Terry Taylor on the incredibly lush soundtrack; Argento manages to create a stylishly violent opus that comes very close to matching the best of his work.
There's also the most terrifying device of torture he's ever concocted. A strip of needles that the killer tapes beneath Betty the heroine's eyes after he ties her up, in order to force her to watch him dispatch those closest to her, lest her eyelids be torn to shreds. A sadistic challenge thrown down to the audience to keep our eyes open, as some of these shots are seen in a most unsettling first person POV.
Of course the film is not without the usual Argento faults in the form of an incomprehensible storyline, and some use of glaringly fictitious science to solve crimes. There's also an uncharacteristic ending sequence that is hard to view as anything other than haphazardly slapped on. However, the strength of the memorable images that come before it, and believe me there are many, showcase the talents of a master of horror who was still at the top of his game.
— Bonjour Tristesse