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Monday, April 15, 2024

Tenebrae (Standard Edition) (4K UHD Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements


A writer investigates when a crazed serial killer inspired by his novel begins slaughtering beautiful women.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Dario Argento‘s Tenebrae (Tenebre) has become a cult classic with good reason over the years. Released in 1982, the Italian filmmaker’s slasher/thriller drove the genre into new places that his American counterparts had yet to discover.

American author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) heads to Rome on a P.R. tour promoting his latest novel and ends up embroiled in a crime investigation involving a serial killer obsessed with his writing. Neal soon begins receiving anonymous letters in yellow envelopes from the killer and is being questioned by the local investigator, Inspector Germani (Giuliano Gemma). Not content to let it rest, Neal decides to investigate on his own with the help of his assistant, Anne (Daria Nicolodi) and his newly assigned young errand boy Gianni (Christian Borromeo). Their investigation leads Neal and Gianni to the home of a talk show host who ends up axed to death right in front of Gianni. And the twists keep coming, as we find that Neal’s agent, Bullmer (John Saxon) has been having an affair with his ex-fiancée Jane (Veronica Lario). As Neal readies to leave town, at the request of Germani, Bullmer is stabbed to death in broad daylight as he waits to meet Jane. Gianni, meanwhile, has an epiphany that he never has a chance to reveal as he is strangled to death in his car. And the death toll keeps racking up. Who could the killer be?

Argento’s film, despite its unimpressive acting, is rife with riveting set pieces. The violence is taken to unbelievable heights, especially in the final act, yet tempered by the Euro-stylism that pervades throughout, thanks to cinematographer Luciano Tovoli. The tight shots on floors and doorways and the killer stalks his victims, the use of modern architecture, cool surfaces of glass and steel – these all play into the removed visual beauty of the film. The killings are also well executed. A woman slashed across her through crashes through a glass and hangs, for instance. Then there is a brilliant shot where we see the flash of the straight razor dripping with blood as the killer is cleaning it off, or another where the killer uses it to break a light bulb.

Argento also fills the film with surreal flashbacks or dream sequences from the killer’s mind. An obsession with red shoes, or a scene where a beautiful woman in red shoes kicks the killer and rams her shoe heel down his throat as a group of men hold him down. This adds an uneasy, psychological bent to an otherwise straightforward murder mystery.

  • Tenebrae (1982)
  • Anthony Franciosa and Daria Nicolodi in Tenebrae (1982)
  • Daria Nicolodi in Tenebrae (1982)
  • Anthony Franciosa and Daria Nicolodi in Tenebrae (1982)
  • Tenebrae (1982)
  • Mirella Banti in Tenebrae (1982)
  • Mirella Banti in Tenebrae (1982)
  • Tenebrae (Standard Edition) (Synapse Films)

The Video

Tenebrae has always looked good on home video, at least going back to my first encounter with it on the 2014 UK Blu-ray SteelBook release from Arrow, perhaps due to the incredible cinematography and high production values and the excellent condition of the source. This 4K restoration from Synapse, presented in its original 1.85:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision is masterful, with a fine layer of grain, crisp details, and vibrant colors, like reds and cool blues and greys. The specular highlights glisten nicely from the Dolby Vision grading, like a blinding flash of light on the killer’s blade or the various ambers and oranges in the vivid, three-dimensional flames of a fireplace. This is truly a stunning presentation of this film and the reference version at this point.

The Audio

Both English and Italian dubs of the film are included in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono and present the sound with full sounding dialogue and punchy score.

The Supplements

This Standard Edition release from Synapse Films comes with strong collection of bonus features, including three commentaries, one with Alan Jones and the very amiable Kim Newman, which is my favorite of the three. What this release DOES NOT HAVE over the Limited Edition is the “Unsane Edition” 90-minute US edit of the film on a third disc, Illustrated collector’s booklet, the fold-out double-sided poster featuring original Italian and Japanese poster art, and the six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards.

  • Commentary by Alan Jones and Kim Newman
  • Commentary by Maitland McDonagh
  • Commentary by Thomas Rostock
  • Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo (1080p; 01:29:24) – Feature-length documentary charting the genre from its beginnings to its influence on the modern slasher film, featuring interviews with Dario Argento, Umberto Lenzi, Luigi Cozzi, and more.
  • Being the Villain (1080p; 00:16:22) – Newly edited, career-spanning archival interview with actor John Steiner.
  • Alternate Opening Credits Sequence (1080p; 00:02:14) – Rare version of the film’s opening scene, featuring alternate footage.
  • “Unsane” End Credits Sequence (1080p; 00:01:51) – The closing credits as presented in the alternate US cut of the film, featuring the Kim Wilde song “Take Me Tonight”.
  • Archival Featurettes:
    • Voices of the Unsane (1080p; 00:17:16) – Archival featurette containing interviews with writer/director Dario Argento, actresses Daria Nicolodi, and Eva Robins, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, composer Claudio Simonetti, and assistant director Lamberto Bava.
    • Out of the Shadows (1080p; 00:12:20) – Archival interview with Maitland McDonagh, author of Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento.
    • Introduction by Daria Nicolodi (1080p; 00:00:13)
    • Screaming Queen (1080p; 00:16:05) – Archival interview with actress Daria Nicolodi.
    • The Unsane World of Tenebrae (1080p; 00:15:14) – Archival interview with writer/director Dario Argento.
    • A Composition for Carnage (1080p; 00:10:05) – Archival interview with composer Claudio Simonetti.
  • Promotional Materials:
    • International Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 00:03:14)
    • Japanese Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 00:02:09)
    • Italian Promotional Materials (1080p)
    • German Promotional Materials (4K)
    • Spanish Promotional Materials (1080p)
    • Japanese Promotional Materials (4K)
    • US Promotional Materials (1080p)
    • Miscellaneous Images (1080p)

The Final Assessment

Tenebrae looks and sounds gorgeous in this 4K release, and if you are someone who is more concerned with the content over the collectibles, then this standard edition version, with the original unedited theatrical cut of the film will be right for you, and you can save a few bucks on an equally gorgeous, wonderfully rendered disc. Synapse has an undeniable winner with this release.

Tenebrae (Standard Edition) is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo September 26, 2023, from Synapse Films.

  • Rating Certificate: R
  • Studios & Distributors: Sigma Cinematografica Roma | Synapse Films
  • Director: Dario Argento
  • Written By: Dario Argento
  • Run Time: 101 Mins.
  • Street Date: 26 September 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono | Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH | English

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A writer investigates when a crazed serial killer inspired by his novel begins slaughtering beautiful women.Tenebrae (Standard Edition) (4K UHD Review)