Each and every scene is a painting, a picture — the vent/railing/conductor cut/pan up is magic.
The plot? It’s almost immaterial. Even a Dario Argento juicer infomercial would be something to behold.
Apparently, the curse of “the Scottish play” translates to operas as well. This reviewer was not aware that the hex has connections to the Verdi opera: in 1988, a man apparently committed suicide at the Met, plunging from the top balcony during one of its productions.
In Argento’s Opera, understudy Betty is concerned that her lead role as Lady Macbeth is tainted by that long-standing curse that’s rendered Shakespeare’s creation, “the play that dare not speak its name.”
And she’s right to be nervous. A floodlight falls as she’s belting out an aria in her debut, as behind the scenes, members of the crew are mysteriously dying. In one of the private boxes, an attendee is strung up on a hat rack, much more convincingly than in the prologue to Hospital Massacre! (See it and other weapons in our book Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons). Betty’s suddenly also haunted by memories of her dead Diva mom.
But she’s got bigger fish to fry, namely, a gloved, masked killer who is skulking about, variously trapping Betty, tying her up and placing needles under her eyes. Thus, she’s forced to be a spectator while he goes about his grisly business. In one scene, absolutely gutting a stage manager in front of her like a stuck pig.
Ever the self-promoter, Dario entertained a William Castle-esque stunt, easily as cool as John Waters’ Odorama, itself derived from Smell-O-Vision: handing out pins attached to tape, for audiences to reproduce Betty’s experience from their seats. Too bad it never materialized.
As in Tenebre, Argento goes after his critics with gusto (the production’s director gets critical drubbings usually reserved for Dario) and there’s beautiful bloodletting that’s unparalleled in cinema.
The hallways, the camera movement, the corridors, the stairwells, the basements, the rain…All under Argento’s gaze, these are rendered beautifully.
**** (out of 5)