The Card Player (2004)

MAY 12, 2008


There aren’t too many Argento films left for me to watch, which is pretty great. This is the 10th I’ve watched for HMAD, and with the 2-3 I had seen before, I’d say I’ve gotten a good sense of his style and themes. Which is why I feel safe saying that The Card Player (aka Il Cartaio) is the least Argento-ish of his movies. Not that it’s bad, it’s actually a pretty good “serial killer taunts the police” movie. But that’s all it is in the end, and other than the Claudio Simonetti score (which is also atypical of the composer, as it is entirely electronic based, to the point where it’s essentially techno), there is nothing here that suggests the master is the one behind it all; no stylish touches that elevate it above any of its cinematic brethren.

But, as said, it’s still pretty good. I had fun trying to figure out who the killer was, and was wrong, so that’s good (I DID correctly assume that the killings were pre-recorded, so the “movie-killer-guessing” part of my ego was only partially deflated). And despite the relative lack of Argento’s visual style, it’s an immaculate looking DVD. Blacks are actually black, instead of the faded gray that a lot of movies (including Argento’s own Stendhal Syndrome) suffer from on their DVD. I almost thought I was watching an HD DVD at times, until I recalled that the poor format died before it got around to releasing obscure Italian horror movies.

It’s also got a nice autopsy scene that made me flinch a bit. The cop is taking a scalpel to the corpse’s eyes, sort of cutting mucous-y fluid away. Gah. There’s also a nice sort of scare when a corpse (maybe the same one, I already forget) “pukes” water into a guy’s face. Otherwise, though, it’s the usual cop/thriller/killer stuff – the killer comes to our heroine’s apartment, she falls for a fellow cop who ends up dead, etc. It’s actually pretty similar at times to that Untraceable movie. At least I think it is, I’ve forgotten just about everything about that movie already.

The extras are a mixed bag. There’s a lengthy interview with Argento, and another with Simonetti, that are quite good and informative (and in Italian, even though the movie is in English). But then there are two other featurettes that are wholly worthless, simply presenting (the same) behind the scenes footage over music. The second one, which is actually shorter, is a bit better, as it includes some thoughts from the lead actress, but it’s still hardly worth your time. Still, nearly 40 minutes of extras, plus trailers and a commentary (by Alan Joneszzzzzzz), is pretty sweet considering how good the picture looked. Say what you will about Anchor Bay’s tendency to double dip – their transfers are almost always top notch.

In my notes I took, er, note, of the fact that the hot broad from Do You Like Hitchcock appears as one of the victims. I don’t really have anything to say about it, but, yeah; the hot broad from Do You Like Hitchcock appears as one of the victims.

What say you?


  1. This film came so close to being great; I just wish it had gone all the way. Three or four things really bug me (the details of defeatng a foe at poker, the unbelievably enthusiastic response of the police when their ringer wins a hand, and the Perils of Paulene ending). Other than that, it was as you say a good straight-forward thriller. Yeah, it lacked the usual Argento flourishes, but it also lacked the nonsense that marred films like PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

  2. I quite enjoyed this one as well, and agree that it's very un-Argento in style. Obviously it's a giallo so it's still Argento, but the use of the card game and computers just isn't him.

    I haven't seen Do you like Hitchcock? as it doesn't seem to be availbe on region 2 DVD, which is weird. That's the only Argento film I haven't seen so I need to remedy that one.

    (Yes, I sat through the horrible Phantom of the Opera and still have no idea why he even bothered with that one. And the Mother of Tears DVD arrived the other day - and whilst being ok it's definitely not vintage Argento, and somewhat lacking in style and elegance... I preferred the Mater Lacrimarum that appeared in Inferno but I digress...)

    Out of interest, which Argento films haven't you seen?

  3. Well lets see... Bird with Crystal Plumage (in fact, nothing before Deep Red), Mother of Tears (not out here yet), Sleepless, and Two Evil Eyes. Not too shabby...

  4. I was starting to think I was the only one who liked this film; glad to see another good review of it. "Sleepless" is kind of in the same vein of being more of a crime procedural, but it definitely has more of an Argento flair than this one. Overall, I found "TCP" to be much better than a lot of Argento's latest offerings.

  5. I'll weigh in here as a dissenting voice. Didn't like this one at all... Argento can usually wring tension out of just about any scenario but even he couldn't make watching people sitting around watching computer card games very interesting. I thought it had its moments but was pretty bad overall.


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