Phenomena – Italy, 1985 – overview and reviews

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Phenomena is a 1985 Italian horror feature film directed by Dario Argento (Tenebrae; Deep Red; The Bird with the Crystal Plumage; et al) from a screenplay co-written with Franco Ferrini.

The movie stars Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, Dalila Di Lazzaro and Donald Pleasence.

Sergio Stivaletti supplied the special effects makeup and Luigi Cozzi (Contamination) the visual effects.

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On September 12, 2017, Synapse Films released a 2-disc Blu-ray with three different versions of the film.

Buy: Amazon.com

  • Three different versions of Phenomena, all available in high-definition for the first time ever in one collector’s edition package!
  • Audio Commentary Track on Phenomena (110 Version) from Argento scholar and author, Derek Botelho and film historian, journalist and radio/television commentator, David Del Valle
  • Two completely different sound mix options on Phenomena (110 Minute Version), including the original 2.0 stereo mix, along with a rare alternate mix containing different sound effects and music cues
  • English/Italian Hybrid Audio and Complete Italian Audio Options for Phenomena (116 Minute Version)
  • Dario Argento’s World of Horror Documentary. A fascinating look at the early films of director Dario Argento, including Phenomena, Suspiria, Demons, Dawn of the Dead, Inferno and many more!
  • Interview with Andi Sex Gang
  • Phenomena International Theatrical Trailer
  • Creepers US Theatrical Trailer & Radio Spots
  • Optional English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard for Hearing on Phenomena (110 Minute Version) and Creepers Version)
  • Multiple optional subtitle selections on Phenomena (116 Minute Version), including one for just the foreign English language segments of the hybrid version, complete English subtitles for the entire feature, and complete English subtitles for the Italian version of the film.

On 8 May 2017, Arrow Video released a limited edition Blu-ray edition of the film as a sumptuous new 4K restoration of the film and a newly created hybrid English/Italian audio track on the full length 116-minute Italian version.

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Buy: Amazon.co.uk

  • Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of all three versions of the film: the 116-minute Italian, 110-minute international and 83-minute Creepers cuts
  • New 5.1 surround mixes of the Italian (116-minute) and English (110-minute) soundtracks in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio, derived from the original 4-channel Dolby Stereo elements
  • New hybrid English/Italian soundtrack for the 116-minute version in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo*
  • Italian soundtrack for the 116-minute version in lossless PCM 2.0 stereo
  • English soundtrack for the 110-minute version in lossless PCM 2.0 stereo
  • English soundtrack for the 83-minute version in lossless PCM 1.0 mono
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
  • The Three Sarcophagi, a new visual essay by Michael Mackenzie comparing the different cuts of Phenomena New feature-length documentary including exclusive interviews with co-writer/producer/director Dario Argento, actors Fiorenza Tessari and Davide Marotta, co-writer Franco Ferrini, production manager Angelo Jacono, special optical effects artist Luigi Cozzi, makeup artist Pier Antonio Mecacci and composers Claudio Simonetti and Simon Boswell
  • Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
  • Limited edition 60-page booklet containing new writing by Mikel J. Koven, Rachael Nisbet and Leonard Jacobs
  • Limited edition packaging featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp

Jennifer Connelly stars as Jennifer Corvino, the daughter of an American film star, who enrolls in a prestigious Swiss boarding school under the tutelage of the prudish Mrs. Bruckner (played by frequent Argento collaborator and former beau Daria Nicolodi).

Possessing a unique telepathic gift, Jennifer is capable of communicating with insects on an instinctive level, often while sleepwalking. This trait soon brands her a freak among her snooty classmates but makes her a valuable asset to entomologist Doctor MacGregor (Donald Pleasence), who is currently employing the innate forensic skills of insects to aid police in tracking a serial killer targeting the boarders at Jennifer’s school…

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For its American release, Phenomena was retitled Creepers by New Line Cinema and heavily edited to remove nearly thirty minutes of footage and went to US theaters and drive-ins in August of 1985.

The murder sequences were shortened by several seconds to remove gore, a sequence where the second victim is spotted and chased by the killer was removed, and two lengthy scenes (which make up the bulk of the missing footage) involving Jennifer Connelly’s character telling her roommate the story about how her mother abandoned the family on Christmas Day (as Argento’s own mother had done) and her character receiving a brain scan after the second murder was removed for the purposes of speeding up the flow of the film.

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Director Dario Argento said that his idea for the look of the killer child came from the real genetic disorder Patau Syndrome, which causes severe deformation of the face. For this reason, Argento calls the child Patau, even though he is never named during the film. The role of creepy Patau Bruckner was played by a 26-year-old dwarf in heavy makeup.

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The film’s soundtrack features original music by Goblin and Simon Boswell, providing some of his earliest film scoring work. Songs by Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Bill Wyman and Andi Sex Gang are also featured. The solo soprano voice in the theme song “Phenomena” as well as in “Jennifer’s Friends” and “The Wind” is Pina Magri.

Jennifer Connelly said in an interview that she was bitten by the chimp in this film. Apparently, during one scene, the chimp kept turning around and Dario Argento, not wanting to film the animal from behind, asked Connelly to place her hand on the animal to stop her from turning. But when she attempted to do so, the chimp became enraged and bit her, and then became very hostile toward Connelly for the rest of the film. It was even rumoured that it bit the tip of her finger off which had to be reattached in hospital.

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  • Four-panel reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Two sided fold out poster with new artwork
  • Exclusive collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on Phenomena by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento
  • High definition transfer of the Italian cut of the film
  • Original English* & Italian stereo audio
  • Brand new subtitle translation of the Italian and optional English subtitles of the English audio
  • “Dario’s Monkey Business: The Making of Phenomena” – a 50-minute long documentary featuring interviews with key talent behind the film including director Dario Argento, star Daria Nicolodi, underwater photographer Gianlorenzo Battaglia and more
  • “Music for Maggots” – an Interview with composer with Claudio Simonetti
  • “Creepers for Creatures” – Sergio Stivaletti live Q&A sessions from Dublin and Edinburgh

Buy all-region Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

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Reviews [contains spoilers]:

“Not a film for everyone, Phenomena plays better the second or third time around than it does on its initial viewing. Logic dictates that you’ll probably spend much of the first go around scratching your head wondering how this all came to be. Once you get over that, it’s much easier to appreciate this quirky picture on its own merits and enjoy it for the bizarre ride that it really is.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

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“Phenomena (a.k.a. Creepers) displays what is both Dario Argento’s battiest and most spiritual landscape. (Argento calls Phenomena his favorite film.) The whole of Phenomena is less than the sum of its parts, but the parts are often terrifying and exhilarating.” Slant

“You want a movie that steps outside the norm and plays by its own rules? Phenomena is it. Sure, it has its flaws but the overall result more than makes up for them. This flick is a bizarre visual masterpiece, filled with creativity, mood and gore. If I Know What You Did Last Summer is in your “Top 10 Horror List”, stay away! Others might appreciate it.” Arrow in the Head

“Though Argento’s plot is often confused and grotesque, he has a remarkably energetic visual style (mobile camera, slow-motion, careful lighting, creative editing) that is never boring.” TV Guide

“Jennifer’s sleepwalking plays to Argento’s strength in dreamlike storytelling and visuals, aided by Romano Albani’s (Inferno, Troll) cold cinematography. The film’s climax really gives the maestro free rein. It’s rife with memorable imagery, including a sequence that rivals Poltergeist’s pool of skeletons, a monstrous little kid reminiscent of Don’t Look Now, vicious animal attacks, underwater photography, blazing fire, and a surprise decapitation.” Broke Horror Fan

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Buy Goblin‘s soundtrack album at Amazon.co.uk

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Buy Dario Argento: The Man, the Myths & the Magic – Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

Cast and characters:

  • Jennifer Connelly … Jennifer Corvino
  • Daria Nicolodi … Frau Brückner
  • Dalila Di Lazzaro … Headmistress
  • Patrick Bauchau … Inspector Rudolf Geiger
  • Donald Pleasence … Professor John McGregor
  • Fiore Argento … Vera Brandt

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