Blu-Ray Review: Phenomena

Dario Argento describes Phenomena as his favourite film. Free from the usual restraining elements of family or collaborators, he allows his imagination and inventiveness to run riot. Whilst this makes for a much more surreal and innovative experience, it’s fair to say that it’s not one of his most cohesive or coherent films he’s made. Argento also gets to indulge his love of new technologies, employing some beautiful sweeping Steadicam shots.

Jennifer Carvino (Jennifer Connelly), the daughter of a famous American actor and lover of insects, begins her studies at a Swiss academy for girls. She’s delivered by her chaperone Frau Brückner (Daria Nicolodi) into the arms of the intimidating headmistress (Dalila Di Lazzaro). Her new roommate Sophie (Federica Mastroianni) tells her about a murderer who has been targeting local girls. Whilst sleepwalking, she witnesses a murder and is found by the chimpanzee servant of forensic entomologist John McGregor (Donald Pleasence). Together, they’re determined to unmask the killer.

Phenomena is a distinctly strange film. Connelly, who subsequently goes on to star in Labyrinth, impresses in the lead role. The insect queen mythos Argento constructs around her is fascinating. However, he fails to make full use of the possibilities. As you’d expect, it looks beautiful; making full use of perspectives and camera angles. Whilst Phenomena’s individual elements are more interesting than the whole, it’s a gripping, mysterious and somewhat odd supernatural horror.

Limited Edition Contents:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Of Flies and Maggots, a new feature-length documentary including interviews with Dario Argento, actors Fiore Argento, Davide Marotta, Daria Nicolodi and Fiorenza Tessari, co-writer Franco Ferrini, cinematographer Romano Albani, production manager Angelo Jacono, assistant director Michele Soavi, special optical effects artist Luigi Cozzi, special makeup effects artist Sergio Stivaletti and more
  • Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
  • Jennifer music video, directed by Dario Argento
  • Rare Japanese vintage pressbook
  • Remastered soundtrack CD featuring the complete Goblin instrumental soundtrack, plus four bonus tracks by Simon Boswell and Andi Sex Gang
  • 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

The limited edition of Phenomena is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on Monday 8 May.

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