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A report from a Yugoslavia screening of Dario Argento's LA FANTASMA DELLA OPERA

This is what makes the Web so Cooooool. Today Father Geek wakes up and there's a story straight from war torn Yugoslavia about a screening of a Horror story by one of the great director's in the genre. What a wakeup call...

Hi there!

I've been your regular reader for the past 3 years, but since I live in the most isolated country there is (Yugoslavia, what else?) I was not in position to snoop anything of interest to you. Actually, most of the time I had to fight to stay alive and, well, sane... Now, I may be wrong, but I think that Dario Argento's latest hasn't yet been released over there or it's only direct to video, or sth. So, if you haven't seen his PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, I guess some of your readers would like to know what's it like.

Unfortunately, my first contribution to your site is not a praise of a great film. LA FANTASMA DELLA OPERA is just a moderately interesting horror flick that might have a few interesting things in it for horror fans, and it is worth seeing , but Argento fans will certainly be disappointed.

The way I see it, this classic story can be made in only two ways to be great: either as a serious gothic melodrama with good characters and stress on the Romantic/Gothic element, or as a baroque visual rollercoaster in the vein of Tim Burton. Argento appears to have chosen it to tell a story about the seductiveness of the Dark, Evil, etc. and in this respest it IS interesting and slightly inovative. BUT, it is almost spoiled by many misguided and/or totally unnecessary elements: silly 'characters' being dispatched in mostly banal and too brief ways (sometimes you can't even be sure WHAT exactly happened) and none of the murders comes even close to the elaborate set-pieces we're used to in Argento's major works.OK, there is some gore, but the clumsy way it's handled, it reminded me of Fulci's later works. Some stuff is both silly and gruesome, and I guess the the tongue being bitten off will probably be cut in the USA. Also, there's totally needless and pointless nudity and sex, both in the scenes when Asia Argento and Julian Sands (the Phantom) 'do it' and in another one (that might also be cut or trimmed in the USA) that takes place in a brothel, with surprising full-frontals by women (one of them enormously fat), girls, men, boys, etc. There are also many other instances of totally misplaced grotesqueness that simply doesn't work here (for ex. when an ugly rat-catcher constructs a special vehicle for catching rats and rides with it through the subterranean Phantom's kingdom...)

In this version the Phantom does not wear a mask, and is not disfigured (Julian Sands is pretty creepy in this role, with long blond hair and a spectacular black cloak).Also, he telepactically communicates with his chosen beauty, who readily obeys. A strange divergence from the original is in the fact that the Diva, Christina's opponent (and in no other version as repulsive as here) doesn't die: she gets her enormous bossom scratched, and is later hit in the head, but is NOT killed, whereas the Phantom -should I reveal it?- is killed by an extra (a cop)...

All in all, this is another disappointment from Argento.

Anyway, I have another bit of info about him: his next film will almost certainly be made here, in Yugoslavia. That is, unless we're bombed again, or something like that. The script is currently being translated from Italian, and as soon as I find out more about it, I'll let you know if there's potential in it for Argento to make sth great.

If you use this, call me...

Dr Benway

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