If there’s been one saving grace to the home video market, it’s been boutique and collector’s releases of usually cult or genre films. Scream Factory, Vestron, and Grindhouse Releasing have been at the forefront with a variety of titles, but Synapse Films has certainly been giving them a run with their limited edition, blu-ray, steel book collector’s editions. Previous releases including DEMONS, DEMONS 2, and TENEBRE at limited qualities of 3,000 units. Needless to say, when I heard they were doing a collector’s edition of my personal favorite Dario Argento movie, PHENOMENA, I had to look into it!
PHENOMENA was Argento’s cinematic return post-TENEBRE and in many ways served as a distillation of his works. The forboding fantasy and female gaze of SUSPIRIA and INFERNO, the giallo murder mystery of DEEP RED and TENEBRE, and the animal focus of FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET and THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. It is a chimera of all of Argento’s signatures in one story. Though not his most well regarded of his filmography, it still holds a special place for many fans.
The plot follows young Jennifer Corvino (Played by pre-Labyrinth Jennifer Connelly), who has been sent to a Swiss boarding school for girls following her parent’s separation. She suffers from sleepwalking and the uncanny ability to communicate with insects… which leads her to accidentally witnessing one of her peers being murdered by a serial killer stalking the Alps! Now, with the assistance of the kindly, wheelchair bound, entomologist John McGregor, (Played by Donald Pleasance!) his helper monkey, and the insect world, she must find out the true identity of the killer before she too is silenced.
It’s a strange story, sure, but what Argento movie isn’t? And all that strangeness creates that wonderful surreality that is common to Argento.
The Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray comes with three discs with three separate cuts of the movie on two blu-rays and the soundtrack on a CD. The first is a brand new 116 minute version remix of the international 110 minute version created in-house by Synapse. Making it the longest cut of PHENOMENA yet! The 110 minute international version is also included, as well as the heavily cut American version that was released under the alternate title of CREEPERS. All versions have merit in their own right… though CREEPERS isn’t quite as fun due to being so deeply edited.
The transfers on all versions are simply astounding. Every cut in crystal clear clarity high definition. Quality so high that after showing the release to a friend, he actually thought it could have been a movie from last year! Synapse truly outdid themselves with this one, the sound quality being equally top-notch. As per usual, they have delivered nothing short but the best from a technical standpoint.
The special features are few, but well made. First off, there’s a full-length, vintage Dario Argento documentary DARIO ARGENTO’S WORLD OF HORROR which covers the productions of the horror maestro’s work from the late 70’s up through PHENOMENA. As well as commentary from Argento scholar and author of The Argento Syndrome, Derek Botelho along with film historian David Del Valle for further insight into the mind of the director. Aside from that, there’s a candid interview with one o the musicians behind the soundtrack, Andi Sex Gang, and trailers/radio spots. One of the best inclusions is a complete soundtrack CD that contains 16 tracks from GOBLIN as well as 4 from Andi sex Gang and Simon Boswell, creating the most definitive release of the haunting soundtrack yet! Lastly, the release comes with a comprehensive booklet featuring commentary on the film and production by writer Michael Gingold, former New Line Cinema publicist Gary Hertz, and technical specific notes from disc co-producer Vincent Pereira on the hard work that went into this release.
While lacking a few memorable special features from the Anchor Bay DVD release from 2008 such as Argento’s own commentary and some making of features, this is by far the most definitive release of PHENOMENA yet. Most especially on the technical quality front. Were m y TV any larger, it’d be like seeing it back in the cinema! I would highly recommend this Collector’s Edition to any fan of PHENOMENA, Argento, or just really crazy and fun horror.