Michele Soavi’s Stage Fright (1987) is one of the most entertaining Italian giallo films ever made that is not
directed by Dario Argento. This stunning
directorial debut by the man who was frequently Mr. Argento's second unit
director on previous films only gets better with age and easily lends itself to
repeat viewings despite being somewhat marred by a disappointing ending. The film is beautifully lit and photographed and
is a slasher film that one can call truly lurid in its execution, but at times
it is also very funny. It boasts a premise that is formulaic to be sure, but its
very simplicity works in its favor. Plus, the idea of being trapped inside a
building with no possible way out is one that anyone can find frightening. Stage
Fright calls to mind Lamberto Bava’s Demons
(1986) which follows a similar plot (folks who band together to ward off an
intruder and cannot find an exit) and the mammoth Metropol Theatre. In fact, Mr.
Soavi played the metal-faced punk in Demons
who handed out the invitations. He’s also the young cop in the police car
outside the theater in Stage Fright,
redubbed dialog and all. The film has
the usual charms one has come to expect of the Italian horror cinema of years
gone by: quirky character banter, quotable lines, off-the-wall camera moves,
and a phenomenal musical score, here done by Simon Boswell and Stefano
Filmed in April and May of 1986 right after Russia’s Chernobyl nuclear disaster
(one of the characters in the film even writes out a check dated April 26, 1986
– the very day of the Reactor 4 meltdown), Stage
Fright’s opening credits play over some strange sound effects, slow
footsteps, a door opening, someone forcing a mop into water, a cat meowing and
screeching, etc. The film then opens on a shot of Lucifer, the stage manager’s
black cat who happens to be running through a stage play that is in rehearsal.
His appearance cannot go unnoticed. Before the dawn arrives, more bad luck than
one can shake a stick at will befall the entire cast of this production.
Lucifer seems to be the harbinger of bad luck for the entire group. David Brandon, the photographer in Photo of Gioia (1987), stars as Peter
Collins, the director of this theater troupe of amateurs rehearsing for the
play that is opening much sooner than he lets on. Described by one of the young
women as an intellectual musical, “The Night Owl” is the story about a murdered
prostitute who comes back from the dead and rapes her own killer. Nice, huh?
Peter tries to get his cast together and in synch with the music but they’re
all over the place. Unbeknownst to him
and the others, Alicia the leading lady (Barbara Cupisti) and Betty the
wardrobe mistress (Ulrike Schwerk) sneak out in the hopes of finding treatment
for Alicia’s twisted ankle. Naturally, they go to a mental institution because
psychiatrists are doctors, too, aren’t they? Naturally, it’s pouring.
Naturally, the institution houses Irving Wallace, an actor who went crazy and
killed 16 people. And naturally, Wallace manages to escape and find refuge in
Betty’s car that very night! Amazingly, Mr. Soavi makes no effort to conceal
Wallace’s face from the audience; we know what he looks like, and he is
frightening. After the police interrogate everyone, Peter decides to use
this horrible incident to his advantage. Unfortunately, the real killer is hiding in the theater that they cannot
Reliable Giovanni Lombardo Radice, aka John Morghen, plays Brett, the perpetual
theatrical prankster with the effeminate voice. He meets his death brutally as
well through a case of mistaken identity.
The ending is truly bothersome, because it throws in the usual tongue-in-cheek
horror movie ending staple that became so prevalent in the genre’s lesser
Don’t let this one disappointment stop you from seeing Stage Fright. What the ending lacks in the way of logic is more
than made up for in mood, music, sound effects, and the constant drone of thunder
from outside the theater. All of these
elements mix to make Stage Fright a
terrific slasher film.
new Blu-ray from Blue Underground is a revelation and worth the upgrade, not
just for the beautiful image, but also for the wealth of extras that the disc
has to offer. This is the first time
that this film has been available in the United States with any extras to speak
Theatre of Delirium – Interview with Director
Michele Soavi (approx. 19 minutes). I must admit that this is first time I have
actually seen a sit-down discussion with Mr. Soavi (pronounced mic-KELL-ay
so-AHV-ay), a director who showed tremendous promise with this first
feature. His subsequent offerings have
been hit or miss and he now seems to work solely in the realm of Italian
Head of The Company – Interview with
Star David Brandon (approx.
12 minutes). This is an interview with
one of my favorite actors in the film. Mr. Brandon played Peter the stage manager, whose dictatorial style is
what holds the group of amateurs together
as they are dispensed with one by one Ten Little Indians-style.
Blood on The Stage Floor – Interview
with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice
(approx. 14 minutes). This actor is
better known internationally as John Morghen and has appeared in a wealth of brutal
horror films for Ruggero Deodato and Lucio Fulci. Here he speaks of his experience making the
film, and his annoyance with one of the actors who was not a trained
The Sound Of Aquarius – Interview with
Composer Simon Boswell
(approx. 18 minutes). This piece shines
a light on the film’s score, which is one of my favorite scores and was once
released on the Lucertola label in a limited pressing of 1200 copies and how
Simon Boswell the composer came to score the film. The score is terrific.
The Owl Murders – Interview with
Make-Up Effects Artist Pietro Tenoglio
(approx. 11 minutes) is interesting in that Mr. Tenoglio has nearly 60 credits
to his name as a make-up artist, yet he is not as well-known as Sergio
Stivaletti who contributed effects to many other contemporary giallo films,
such as Demons (1986) and Opera (1987). I am glad that he is given his due here.
requisite theatrical trailer and poster/still gallery rounds out the
this on Blu-ray is a must for fans of this film. The dark, sub-par transfer from the Eighties
has been upgraded to a gorgeous and colorful palette which makes me yearn for
the now bygone days of Italian horror cinema.