On this day in horror history, master of horror Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria) was born in Rome, Italy in 1940. The son of a film producer and a photographer, Argento began working as a critic while he was still in high school. He didn’t attend college but instead began working as a screenwriter, collaborating with Bernardo Bertolucci on Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West.
His directorial debut was the giallo The Bird with the Crystal Plumage in 1970. It was a major hit in Italy and Argento followed it up with two more giallos The Cat o’ Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet. These three films are referred to as his “Animal Trilogy.” Argento then directed his masterpiece Deep Red, the best giallo ever made. The film made Argento famous internationally and inspired directors such as John Carpenter on Halloween. Argento’s next film was Suspiria, the first of “The Three Mothers” trilogy about three ancient witches residing in modern times.
The second film of the trilogy was Inferno. After Inferno, Argento helmed Tenebrae. He then attempted to combine giallo and supernatural fantasy in Phenomena (aka Creepers) starring a young Jennifer Connelly and an old Donald Pleasence.
Opera followed in 1987. Set during a production of Macbeth, the film was hit by real-life misfortunes Argento suspected were caused by the “curse” on the Shakespearean play. Argento’s father died during its production, Vanessa Redgrave quit, and the cast and crew were plagued by several accidents and mishaps.
The 1990s and early 2000s Argento helm films like The Phantom of the Opera, Trauma, Two Evil Eyes, The Card Player, Do You Like Hitchcock, and Sleepless with Max Von Sydow. It’s worth noting that The Stendhal Syndrome, starring his daughter, Asia Argento (xXx) was the first Italian film to use CGI.
Argento has directed two episodes of Showtime’s Masters of Horror: “Jenifer” in season 1 and adaption of the F. Paul Wilson’s short story “Pelts” for season 2.
In 2007, Argento finished his Three Mothers trilogy with The Mother of Tears, starring Asia Argento, Daria Nicolodi, Udo Kier, and Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni. Around that time, he had started working on a 3D remake of Deep Red, but the film was scrapped after the commercial failure of Giallo with Adrien Brody. Instead, Argento went on to direct Rutger Hauer and Thomas Kretschmann in Dracula 3D.
On top of directing all of those classics, Argento also penned the screenplays for Lamberto Bava’s Dèmoni and Dèmoni 2 and produced George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, providing the soundtrack by Goblin and overseeing the European release.
Director Luca Guadagnino recently helmed a remake of Argento’s Suspiria.
Dario Argento for Empire Magazine by Peter Strain