Tenebre (DVD)

Tenebre DVD Review (click for larger image)Reviewed by Kryten Syxx

Starring Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, John Steiner, Daria Nicolodi

Directed by Dario Argento

Distributed by Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

Author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is riding high on the hog. His book is #1, and he gets to fly out to Rome for a publicity tour. The money is rolling in, the fame is plentiful, and the fans are … sometimes too into his work. OK, way too into his work!

Someone is murdering women in Rome with a straight razor and stuffing pages from his latest literary creation down their throats. The police are baffled, and hunting down a suspect is proving difficult when the killer leaves almost no trail to follow. Peter isn’t helping matters out much as he has his own deep, dark secret that is raging to be revealed.

Tenebre is a straight up giallo flick from Dario Argento; the violence, gore, and sexuality are heavy and make for a fun time as one would expect. However, the characters and story surrounding the goods are not strong enough to grab one’s attention during the breaks in blood splatter.

Tenebre (click for larger image)Peter Neal should be a heavily developed character by the end of the movie, but he stays mainly in the background until the last 20 minutes where he ::SPOILERS:: loses his mind and starts offing people after the murder of the real killer. That’s just a little too abrupt for my tastes. We’re given hints on and off via dreams of delusions that Peter did something bad at one point, but the emotional connection or payoff feels light and botched.

Misused or underused is a term that carries on to other characters that clearly had potential for being fleshed out. The two inspectors that sort of flirt on and off never see their relationship become anything more than an afterthought. Here’s another ignored opportunity to have the audience impacted by the death of characters.

Death happens in Tenebre just to happen.

Is Tenebre good for blood and boobs? Sure is. Can it entertain as a whole? Not really; that is what “>Phenomena (review) is for.

Tenebre’s special features don’t outshine the film itself but are good despite the underwhelming flick. Voices of The Unsane lets Dario and Daria Nicolodi express their experiences of filming this one. This featurette is part behind-the-scenes and part making-of; some special effects shots are explained and cast decisions are explored. Short and to the point.

The Roving Camera Eye of Dario Argento is a behind-the-scenes look back at how some of the memorable camera work was achieved in Tenebre. This featurette appears to be quite old, so we’re not sure where it had appeared before. Either way, we’re shown how the shot where the camera floats 180 degrees around a two-story house is achieved with the thanks to a special telescopic arm. It’s impressive, but the featurette is only a couple of minutes long with no further explanation given or other examples shown.

Tenebre (click for larger image) Want to know how to make effective sound effects for your own film? Then check out the Creating the Sounds of Terror special feature. Another short supplement that simply shows how to make effective stabbing, chopping, and sneaking sounds with common household items. It’s just like an episode of Mr. Wizard but with more murder!

Again, like on the Phenomena DVD, the audio commentary is hard to hear and dead for long periods of time. Dario does answer some questions that quite a few fans have probably wondered (i.e., why do his films often contain a majority of violence towards women?). Too bad it’s a real bitch to hear or understand his comments due to the levels being off. Think of it as a Dinner for Fiends: Creepy is loud and I sound like I’m talking through a speaker phone that’s located in a room across the hall from my location.

Though this film isn’t one of Argento’s strongest, it has that great 1970s giallo style, lots of nudity, and brutality that can make hardened genre lovers wince. Tenebre also comes packed in the box set with Phenomena and three other films. Check ‘em out below.

Special Features

  • Brand-new remastered widescreen (1.85:1) transfer, enhanced for 16×9 televisions
  • Audio commentary with writer/director Dario Argento, music composer Claudio Simonetti and journalist Loris Curci
  • Voices of The Unsane featurette
  • The Roving Camera Eye of Dario Argento featurette
  • Creating the Sounds of Terror featurette
  • Alternate end-credit music
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Dario Argento biography

    3 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features
    4 out of 5

    Discuss Tenebre in the Dread Central forums!

  • Get Your Box of Dread Now
    *US Residents Only .

    Mike Phalin

    Mike Phalin is a contributing writer, reality television star and engineer.

    • The Butcher

      Even with the glaring plot hole at the end of the film (no spoilers!), I still count this as one of Argento’s absolute best. The chase scene with the girl running from the doberman is right up there with INFERNO’s underwater scene and SUSIRIA’s barbwire scene.

    • mansuave

      I seem to be in the minority, but I think TENEBRE is Argento’s absolute best.

    • Kryten Syxx

      Having not seen the previous DVD release of Tenebre, I cannot really tell you what was missing. BUT, Dario mentions during the commentary that what he was watching appeared to be edited and scenes were missing.

      Even the music at the end of the film was not what he expected, and was pretty upset about it. So much so that he made Anchor Bay change it and put the unwanted tune on as the special feature listed above.

      The Phenomena DVD boasts that it is the uncut version, while Tenebre doesn’t.

    • Caterpillar

      The most important question is if this is finally the uncut version of the film or if it’s identical to the previous Anchor Bay release, which was missing a number of dialogue scenes.

    • Caterpillar

      If they were able to fit the commentary from the old DVD onto this one then it must indeed be the same truncated version.