Marco Baddini's production of Macbeth is suffering from a number of unfortunate accidents which seem to be related to the opera's illustrious curse. After the lead is struck by a car, a beautiful young ingenue assumes the role of Lady Macbeth in her stage debut, but an unseen admirer will go to any length to ensure her success! OPERA is a refreshing return to form for Italian director Dario Argento, and it is one of his more artful, stylish, and technically accomplished Gialli. Here, he combines the power and grace of the opera house with his own frenetic energy and violent murder sequences. Argento could not have picked a more appropriate backdrop for the film, since Macbeth already contains such a fierce character drama and a rich history of problematic productions. The stage is then set for him to unleash his next black-gloved killer, although the curse of Macbeth would strike closer to home throughout the course of its making.
Argento creates a number of striking images that are contrasted by the utter horror in OPERA. From the elegant set designs to the extravagant deaths, every frame of the film has a painterly quality about it. That being said, he also slips in a few self-serving scenes that are beautifully composed but completely unnecessary. The first trails a bullet from the barrel of a pistol through an eye-hole and then out the back of one character's head. The next involves a series a swooping crane shots that are used to imitate the raven's eye view as the birds search for the killer.
As with many of Argento's pictures, the soundtrack plays a huge role in the final production of OPERA, making this one of his strongest scores since SUSPIRIA. With Goblin disbanded, Argento would only go back to Claudio Simonetti for two arrangements (including the main theme). In addition to the classic operatics that were taken from Macbeth, he also cranks up the volume during several Heavy Metal tracks that play over the murder sequences. While this adds to the excitement and terror, the jarring shifts in music are more painfully artificial than they had been in DEEP RED or TENEBRE.
OPERA's killer is more sadistic than ever, not only eliminating his victims in a variety of gruesome fashions, but also forcing poor Betty into watching him kill by tying her up and taping sharp needles beneath her eyelids. The theme of voyeurism is essential to the plot, and plays into every aspect of the film. Unfortunately, OPERA is no less contrived than any of the director's other thrillers, and the gory centerpieces still take precedence over the actual storytelling, itself.
While many fans often choose to ignore many of Dario Argento's films following his 'decline' with PHENOMENA in 1985, OPERA should be considered one of the director's last great works, and one that is sorely overlooked despite the fact that it is one of his more accomplished achievements.
If you liked OPERA, check out:
TENEBRE, DEEP RED, THE STENDAHL SYNDROME.