Director Dario Argento had secured his reputation as a master of horror and the genius of giallo with a series of grisly inventive films including Suspiria and 1985’s Phenomena was at the tail end of a run of well received films. In her first lead role he cast rising US star Jennifer Connelly a strikingly attractive teenager who had only appeared in a small role in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America. It was quite an undertaking added to which she would be shooting in a foreign country with a director whose detractors would often accuse him of misogyny in his films.
Phenomena told the tale of Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly), daughter of a world-renowned movie star, who arrives in the so-called “Swiss Transylvania” to attend an exclusive girls’ school. However, a vicious killer is targeting the pupils, and sleepwalker Jennifer finds herself in the assassin’s headlights when her nocturnal wanderings cause her to witness the death of a fellow pupil. Aided by paraplegic entomologist John McGregor (Donald Pleasence) and her own uncanny ability to communicate telepathically with insects, Jennifer sets out to track down the killer before she herself becomes the latest victim…
It’s a typically extreme scenario for an Argento story and with all this going on its a wonder that parents were not rushing to take their daughters out of the school pretty sharpish but this is an Argento film where sanity is left at the front door to the cinema.
For Connelly it was not an easy shoot with a director whose English was poor and some typically bizarre scenarios several of which included a razor wielding chimpanzee. Working with animals is notoriously tricky and so was the case here when Connelly had to be rushed to hospital after the chimpanzee bit off part of her finger. The film is purportedly one of Argento’s favourite and there are the usual flourish of gorily creative set pieces with the film makers going to incredible lengths to use thousands of real life insects and which ended up blighting the nearby town where they had been shooting much of the film.
Donald Pleasance is as great as might be expected and by this point in his career when he was banging out films and in the year of Phenomena’s release he had four other films out also having been in eight films the previous year. Connelly was on the first steps of her career and her striking looks would see her cast in Labyrinth a perennial favourite still to this day.
Phenomana is now released on 4K blu-ray and was one of the last really great films of Argento’s golden decade of films and this re-release has all three versions of the film including the radically different “Creepers” cut released in the US.
This 4K UHD blu-ray is a limited edition with an excellent array of bonus features that include:
New 4K restoration of the original 116-minute Italian version, the 110-minute international English version and the 83-minute US “Creepers” version from the original camera negative by Arrow films
• 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray™ presentations of all three versions in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
• Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring two original pieces of poster artwork
• Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Mikel J. Koven, Rachael Nisbet and Leonard Jacobs
• Fold-out double-sided poster featuring two original pieces of artwork
• Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards
DISC 1 (4K ULTRA-HD BLU-RAY) – ITALIAN VERSION
- Lossless Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks, derived from the original 4-channel Dolby Stereo elements
• Lossless “hybrid” English/Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack★
• English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the hybrid soundtrack
• Audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of Murder by Design: The Unsane Cinema of Dario Argento
• Of Flies and Maggots, a feature-length 2017 documentary produced for Arrow Films, including interviews with co-writer/producer/director Dario Argento, actors Fiore Argento, Davide Marotta, Daria Nicolodi and Fiorenza Tessari, co-writer Franco Ferrini, cinematographer Romano Albani, production manager Angelo Iacono, special optical effects artist Luigi Cozzi, special makeup effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, makeup artist Pier Antonio Mecacci, underwater camera operator Gianlorenzo Battaglia, and composers Claudio Simonetti and Simon Boswell
• Archival interview with Andi Sex Gang musician Simon Boswell
• Original Italian and international theatrical trailers
• “Jennifer” music video, directed by Dario Argento
• Japanese pressbook gallery
DISC 2 (4K ULTRA-HD BLU-RAY) – INTERNATIONAL AND “CREEPERS” VERSIONS
- Lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks on the international version, derived from the original 4-channel Dolby Stereo elements
• Lossless English PCM 1.0 mono soundtrack on Creepers, mastered from the original 3 track DME magnetic mix
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary on the international version by Argento scholar and author Derek Botelho and film historian, journalist and radio/television commentator David Del Valle
• The Three Sarcophagi, a visual essay by Arrow producer Michael Mackenzie comparing the different cuts of Phenomena
• US theatrical trailer
• US radio spots
★ The 116-minute Italian cut features approximately six minutes of footage for which English audio does not exist. In these instances, the hybrid track reverts to Italian audio with English subtitles.
It makes this version of the release an absolute must buy for fans of the dazzlingly delirious Dario
Here’s the Phenomena trailer…..
Phenomena is released on 4K UHD BLU-RAY on 28th FEBRUARY 2022