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Opera (1987)

When diva Mara Cecova (a role originally intended for Vanessa Redgrave then rewritten to be shot largely from a Steadicam POV) literally breaks a leg, understudy Betty (Cristina Marsillach) is thrust onto the stage for the opening night’s performance of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Betty is a hit but also gains the attention of a psychotic fan who starts gorily murdering members of the production while forcing Betty to watch by taping needles under her eyes to keep her from closing them.

Suspects include sadistic director Marco (Ian Charleson), his model girlfriend Marion (Antonella Vitale, Argento’s girlfriend at the time), wardrobe mistress Giulia (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni), and Betty’s own agent Mira (Daria Nicolodi) but even Inspector Santini (Urbano Barberini) is a little bit off.

As the body count builds, Marco comes up with a very theatrical way of exposing the murderer (who has also run afoul of the live ravens used in the production) and the closing night promises to be memorable.

Dario Argento’s camera is on full charge here: it slithers, glides, skids and-in one outrageous sequence- pulls a 1,800-degree spin around an opera house from a raven’s POV.

This is Argento’s most propulsive horror, a roller coaster into the depths of hell so startling that you can even forgive the needlessly tacked-on ending.

Cristina Marsillach
Ian Charleson
Inspector Alan Santini
Urbano Barberini
Daria Nicolodi
Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni
Antonella Vitale
William McNamara
Signora Albertini
Barbara Cupisti
Antonino Iuorio
Alma’s mother
Carola Stagnaro
Francesca Cassola
Maurizio, the raven trainer
Maurizio Garrone
Maria, the assistant director
Cristina Giachino
György Gyõriványi

Dario Argento