Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

La porta sul buio: Il vicino di casa (1973) [filmed in 1971] (TV)

... aka: Dario Argento's Door Into Darkness: The Neighbor
... aka: Door Into Darkness: The Neighbor
... aka: Neighbor, The
... aka: Vicino di casa, Il

Directed by:
Luigi Cozzi

Because of the international box office success of THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1969), which garnered Hitchcock comparisons from some critics, and THE CAT O' NINE TAILS (1970), which did fairly well in Italy, RAI (Italy's only TV channel at the time) brought director Dario Argento on board to host, produce, sometimes write or direct and generally oversee the horror / suspense tales on the series La porta sul buio ("Door Into Darkness"). It's hard to say with any certainty what the ratings were like, but they apparently weren't impressive enough to extend the series beyond just four episodes. However, that may have more to do with the fact that the episodes were filmed in 1971 (while Argento was working on FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET) but not actually released until September 1973. Either way, this four-episode series, with episodes contributed by Luigi Cozzi (an assistant and writer on Four Flies), Mario Foglietti (who wrote the story for Four Flies), Roberto Pariante (the assistant director on both Bird and Four Flies) and Argento himself is worth checking out, especially for fans of 'The Italian Hitchcock' and giallo thrillers. They're all reasonably budgeted, run about an hour each, contain equal parts mystery and terror and (regardless of credited director) have Argento's distinctive stamp on them.


Surrounded by cameras, Argento himself opens Il vicino di casa ("The Neighbor") by introducing the series, claiming all of the episodes are "directed by different people, yet pervaded with a common atmosphere." He also explains the title "Door Into Darkness" is meant to allude to people's fear of the unknown. In a clever segue into the actual story, we then see Argento standing by a broken down car. He hitches a ride from a young, happily-married couple; Luca (Aldo Reggiani) and Stefania (Laura Belli), who drop him off where he needs to go and go about their way. The film then follows the couple. Excited about starting their new life, Luca (a monster-movie-loving writer for a kid's magazine) and Stefania (new mother to their infant son) have just rented the bottom portion of a beachfront duplex and arrive there at nightfall before any of their utilities have been turned on, deciding to just rough it for one night. Well actually, they don't have much of a choice since they get their car stuck in some mud. Luca has a battery-operated TV, so they settle down for a viewing of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN... little realizing their upstairs neighbor Alberto (Mimmo Palmara) has just murdered his wife.


Because of some water leaking in through their ceiling, Luca and Stefania head upstairs to inform their neighbors and end up discovering the corpse of the wife in the bathtub. After unsuccessfully trying to get their car out, and knowing their friend will be arriving with their furniture in the morning anyway, the couple decide to stick it out until then and just lock themselves inside their apartment and wait for dawn. Unexpected problems arise after Luca realizes he's left his lighter upstairs (oops!) and must venture up there to retrieve it...



Overall, a nicely-done little suspense tale. It was the first episode aired and, according to its director, was Argento's personal favorite of the lot. Hell, it might actually be the best thing Luigi Cozzi ever made; not so surprising when you realize this is the guy behind such films as the schlocky spaghetti space opera STAR CRASH (1979), the critically panned 1983 version of HERCULES with Lou Ferrigno and the extremely silly female-rock-band-goes-to-hell tale PAGANINI HORROR (1989). There's moody lighting, some interesting directorial touches, likable lead characters and a tall, creepy and enigmatic psycho (who eventually plots to bury his new neighbors alive!). As a added bonus, there's some elaborate camerawork. One unbroken shot begins inside a home, exits through the window, trails along the outside of the house to the beach and ends up at the protagonists car. There's also an interesting back-of-the-legs-while-walking shot from the point of view of someone being carried over the killer's shoulder and some images seen in negative.

All four "Door Into Darkness" episodes; Argento's THE TRAM, Pariente's EYEWITNESS, Foglietti's THE DOLL and this one, have been released to DVD on 2 disc sets from three different companies; Dragon Entertainment, Mya Communications and No Shame. The one I saw was from Dragon and includes German or English subtitles (which do not seem to cover all of the dialogue) and interviews with Argento and Cozzi. Sadly, the original film elements of all four episodes are missing, forcing them to use the lesser-quality RAI TV video masters. Since Dragon released only 3,000 copies of the box, it's been out of print for some time now.

★★★

La porta sul buio: Testimone oculare (1973) [filmed in 1971] (TV)

... aka: Dario Argento's Door Into Darkness: Eyewitness
... aka: Door Into Darkness: Eyewitness
... aka: Eyewitness
... aka: Testimone oculare

Directed by:
Dario Argento
(uncredited)
Roberto Pariante

Impressed with the box office success of his horror-thrillers THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1969), CAT O' NINE TAILS (1970), RAI (the only television channel in Italy at the time) brought director Dario Argento on board to host, produce, sometimes write or direct and generally oversee the horror / suspense tales on their proposed series La porta sul buio ("Door Into Darkness"). I've seen conflicting stories about whether or not the ratings for the series were any good, but I'm doubtful they were through the roof or this probably would have lasted more than four episodes. Argento brought along some of his colleagues to help with the series, including Luigi Cozzi (an assistant and writer on Four Flies), Mario Foglietti (who wrote the story for Four Flies) and Roberto Pariante (the assistant director on all three of Argento's earliest genre films), each of whom directed an episode, along with Argento himself. All of the tales are reasonably budgeted, run about an hour in length and contain equal parts mystery and terror. Each (regardless of the director) also has that distinctive Argento stamp on it when it comes to the presentation, camerawork and score.



Roberta Leoni (Maril├╣ Tolo) is driving down a barren stretch of country road late at night when a woman jumps out in front of her car. She doesn't hit the girl but upon examining the body, Roberta notices the woman has been shot in the back... and whoever did it is creeping out of the bushes with a gun. Roberta manages to get away and runs to a nearby tavern. The police show up to interview Roberta and take her back to the scene of the crime. There, it's explained to her that they've found no body, no blood and no evidence of any crime having been committed. The best Inspector Rocchi (Glauco Onorato) can do is check missing persons records until he's able to get some concrete evidence. Roberta's husband Guido (Riccardo Salvino) is also skeptical of his wife's story. The two go out to celebrate their anniversary, and return home only to find that an intruder has broken in but not actually stolen anything. While Roberta is out shopping the next day, someone attempts to kill her by pushing her in front of a truck. She's also been receiving phone calls where the caller hangs up right after she answers. Despite Roberta's nail-biting, chain-smoking, neurotic behavior, Inspector Rocchi comes to the conclusion that she's not crazy and promises to help her, but there's not much he can actually do.



While her husband is out and Roberta is all alone in their isolated home, she receives yet another threatening phone call. The voice on the other end tells her, "You've gone too far... Now I'm coming over to kill you!" Before she even has a chance to phone the police, the killer cuts her phone line. Thankfully, Guido returns home just in the nick of time. He comes up with a plan to hide his car to trick the killer into thinking Roberta is all alone, then when the killer's about to strike, he'll emerge from the darkness and shoot them. But things don't end up going quite as planned. At least for Roberta.




For the most part, this is a well-made and well-acted thriller. There's some suspense and decent camerawork, including good use of POV shots and one Argento-esque one sitting behind a tea cup on a tray as it approaches Roberta. Though the sole director credit for Testimone oculare goes to Pariante, apparently Argento took over the reigns at one point during production (sans credit). It was written by Argento and Luigi Cozzi, who unfortunately throw a wet blanket over the proceedings at the very end with a predictable twist ending that everyone except the leading lady can probably see coming from about the twenty-minute mark.



All four "Door Into Darkness" episodes (Argento's THE TRAM, Cozzi's THE NEIGHBOR and Foglietti's THE DOLL and this one) have been released to DVD on a 2 disc sets from three different companies; Dragon Entertainment, Mya Communications and No Shame. The one I saw was from Dragon and includes German or English subtitles (which do not seem to cover all of the dialogue) and interviews with Argento and Cozzi (who claims in his interview that Argento had to step and reshoot most of this segment because he was unhappy with what Pariante had done). Sadly, the original film elements of all four episodes are missing, forcing them to use the lesser-quality RAI TV video masters.

★★1/2
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...