Studio: Blue Underground
Theatrical Release: July 27, 1987 (Italy)
Blu Ray Release: September 23, 2014
Director: Michele Soavi
Review by James Klein
Michele Soavi’s directorial debut is a beauty. Having worked with Italian masters of horror Lucio Fulci, Lamberto Bava, and Dario Argento, Soavi’s first opportunity to direct a feature length film was sure to be something special and thankfully he didn’t disappoint. Having been influenced by his peers as well as Alfred Hitchcock, Stagefright is a mix between Italian giallo and American slasher.
In a rather silly but yet humorous opening, a street walker is attacked by a stranger and is yanked by her assailant into a dark alley but when the killer jumps out of the dark and starts to dance, the camera pulls back and the audience sees this is a stage production and not actually real. Soavi sets up the premise fairly quickly and while cliche, the viewer is introduced to various flamboyant actors and actresses, all of which don’t seem to care for the demanding and hot tempered director Peter (David Brandon). In a brash move, he quickly fires main actress Alicia (Barbara Cupisti) with one week to opening night because she quietly left the stage to see a doctor about her twisted ankle.
While Alicia was seeing a doctor about her ankle, unbeknownst to her a psychiatric patient (who happens to be a former actor himself) overhears her talking about the play she is performing in. When he breaks loose from the hospital, he decides to take “center stage” while dispatching the cast and crew one by one in various gruesome methods. Because Peter had locked the doors to the stage thus keeping everyone inside, cast and crew are now stuck in this claustrophobic setting bringing an added uneasiness to the film.
Like most Italian horror films to have come out of the 70’s and 80’s, the plot is ridiculous but more so coherent compared to previous Italian horror films. However it isn’t story that fans are craving; it’s the various nasty kills by the masked killer (he wears a giant bird head that is used in the play which happens to look both silly and strangely creepy at the same time). Stagefright is produced by Italian sleaze master Joe D’Amato so one has to expect some nasty kills and a few bare breasts to make an appearance.
Thankfully, under the direction of Soavi, Stagefright is looks very atmospheric and beautiful. Camera tilts and pans as well as usage of light (the movie has a blue tint to it, giving off a cold, surreal feel) reminded me of a Hitchcock film. Throw in some imaginative kills and Stagefright also reminded me of a arty Friday the 13th film. It’s very rare one can witness a gory slasher film with so much style and talent behind the camera, boosting the film above others in the genre.
Blue Underground’s blu ray of course looks fantastic; it’s Blue Underground! The picture is crisp and clear with its 1080p transfer making a mockery of past DVD releases. I always thought that exterior scenes were done on a sound stage because the picture looked so dark but I guess I was wrong as one can tell these scenes were most definitely shot outside. There are two audio options: 2.0 Stereo and the 5.1 surround which I happened to enjoy more because of its fullness and clarity. There are also a slew of interviews with Soavi, Brandon, co-star Giovanni Lombardo Radice, composer Simon Boswell, and make up artist Pietro Tenoglio. Rounding out the special features is the theatrical trailer and a poster/still gallery.
Stagefright is a must see for fans of Italian horror. Now if only Blue Underground could get their hands on Soavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore (aka Cemetery Man ).
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