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DVD Review: Door Into Darkness

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After bursting onto the Italian movie scene with the fabulous The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Dario Argento became something of a king when it came to theatrical thrillers (or giallos, as they are known as in Italy) and was soon being called “The Italian Hitchcock” by the ladies and gentlemen of the press in America. Crystal Plumage would prove to be the first installment in what is known as his “Animal Trilogy” and was followed by Cat O’Nine Tails and Four Flies On Grey Velvet, the latter of which was unavailable on home video in the U.S. for several decades and (as such) became one of his most requested titles and only recently saw the light of day in the States (for more info on that one, please see my critique here).

But there was another title that was in high demand. A title that probably outranked Four Flies On Grey Velvet in terms of “must have” for Argento-philes would be Dario’s brief venture into Italian Television in the early '70s: Door Into Darkness, a four-part series — with each installment running about an hour long — that was very much in the same vein as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the then-new Night Gallery with Rod Serling (amongst others). Think of it as giallo television.

Well, once again, thanks to the efforts of new video label Mya Communications, Argento fans may finally breathe a sigh of relief. Door Into Darkness is at last available on DVD in the United States. It's a two-disc set that presents two episodes per disc, starting with “The Neighbour” (“Il Vicino Di Casa”) and “The Tram” (“Il Tram”) on Disc One. “The Neighbour,” written and directed by Luigi Cozzi (the insane genius behind both Contamination and Star Crash), is a very Hitchockian story beginning with a despondent husband (Mimmo Palmara) strangling his nagging wife (off-screen). It isn’t long before his neighbors (Aldo Reggiani and the beautiful Laura Belli, both of whom win the Worst Parents Of The Year Award) begin to wonder if the man has committed uxoricide or not.

The second entry on Disc One is “The Tram.” It was actually conceived as a segment for Crystal Plumage but was never filmed due to time constraints. In it, Enzo Cerusico plays a police commissioner who gets a once-in-a-lifetime moment of Hercule Poirot-ness when he attempts to reconstruct the events leading to the brutal stabbing of a woman whilst on a crowded train. Argento writes and directs this entry under the pseudonym Sirio Bernadotte.

Disc Two begins with “Eyewitness” (“Testimone Oculare”), written and directed by Argento and Cozzi (with Roberto Pariante listed as director — although Argento re-shot most of it himself). Out of everything here, “Eyewitness” is the most giallo-esque installment. The story involves a woman (Marilù Tolo), a disappearing/reappearing body, and a mysterious figure who seems to enjoy playing hell with the poor heroine.

Lastly in the Door Into Darkness legacy is “The Doll” (“La Bambola”), but don’t get your hopes up: it isn’t about a killer doll or anything. Instead, this Mario Foglietti vehicle stars Erika Blanc as the first victim of an recently escaped killer from an insane asylum. And that’s about it, really. Actually, “The Doll” isn’t that bad — providing you like to watch people walk around. OK, so it is bad. Oh, well.

Regrettably, the original film elements from these four features no longer exist, so Mya Communications has gone straight to the RAI TV video masters in order to bring us Door Into Darkness on DVD. To say this series has seen better days would be an understatement, as the full frame 1.33:1 presentations are pretty dull-looking. Of course, there is no better way to see it, so don't start bitching, kiddies. The original Italian mono soundtrack comes through just fine, with optional English subtitles accompanying.

What’s even better than getting Door Into Darkness on DVD? How about the inclusion of Luigi Cozzi’s Dario Argento: Master Of Horror? Yes, that’s right — not only do you get one very rare TV show, but Mya Communications has thrown in the rather rare documentary to boot! Presented in its original 1.33:1 format, Dario Argento: Master Of Horror (1:20:36) is dubbed into English (most of it is, at least) and takes us behind the scenes with Dario on projects like Phenomena and Opera.

The wait is over. Door Into Darkness is here. And, even if you’re not Dario Argento’s biggest fan, this is always better than watching Dario’s god-awful interpretation of The Phantom Of The Opera. Plus, you get Dario Argento: Master Of Horror with this, too. Go on. Get it. You know you want to.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.