AUGUST 5, 2007
Argento and Troma, together at last! I love that I live in a world where Alone in the Dark has two DVD releases and yet a film from one of the greatest horror filmmakers of all time has an introduction that includes Lloyd Kaufman pushing Toxic Avenger 4 and almost falling into a subway entrance.
Yes, for whatever reason, Argento’s mid 1990’s film The Stendhal Syndrome couldn’t get a better distribution than Troma, who has given the film, in addition to the usual Troma bullshit you have to suffer through on all their DVDs, the absolute worst video transfer I have ever seen for a relatively new film.
Having apparently been left out in the sun and bathed in milk, this transfer is an abomination to the AV world and an insult to Argento. I can overlook the lack of an anamorphic transfer, but not the fact that all of the blacks look a yellow-ish gray or that there is absolute no detail in anything on screen. It basically looks like a VHS bootleg. Granted, it’s not one of his best films, but no director, least of all a true master like Argento, deserves to have their film shown in such a manner. Luckily, Blue Underground is re-releasing the film this fall (that's the version in the Amazon link, for the record); hopefully the transfer won’t be such an ocular affront.
The extras are nothing to write a blog paragraph about either. Despite being billed as a “Special Edition”, most of the extras are about Troma, not the film (or none of the above: “Ruggero Deodato remembers Cannibal Holocaust” - ??? That movie’s not even a Troma release!), and the two that actually do pertain to the film are poorly shot and edited. Whatever.
The film itself is OK. The story is fine, and the Ennio Morricone score is phenomenal, but as a whole the movie is a bit overlong. Also, one can’t help but be distracted that the director’s daughter Asia is in the film, playing a character who gets raped twice. What the hell did they talk about on the set? “Hi Dad, what are we filming today?” “You, crying, while you are being raped.” “OK, sounds good, don’t forget today is Mom’s birthday.” It’s just odd.
I was disappointed that the titular syndrome wasn’t used very much in the film after the first half hour. I find it to be a pretty fascinating affliction (and it’s real) and I think more could be done with it, instead of the rather bland gender reversal motifs that make up most of the film. As someone who suffers from a few odd syndromes himself (such as benign fasciculation syndrome, which causes certain muscles to randomly and rapidly contract, or twitch, for hours or even days on end), I would like to see more horror films use random diseases as a backdrop. I bet Wes Craven could make a great movie about carpal tunnel.
Also I should note, as every other review of this film does, that this was the first Italian film to use digital effects. It shows.
What say you?