Phenomena (1985) Arrow DVD Review

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Phenomena (1985)
Arrow Review

 

“Why don’t you call your INSECTS!
GO ON!
CALL! CALL!”

Dario Argento’s 1985 offering stars a young Jennifer Connolly (star of the excellent Labyrinth 1986) as the daughter of a famous actor who is sent to a girls boarding school in Switzerland.

Struggling to fit in with the other girls she also has to contend with someone killing young girls in the area.
Along the way she befriends a wheelchair bound entomologist John McGregor (played by Donald Pleasence with a very convincing Scottish accent) and discovers her ability to control insects.

First thing to get out of the way is the script. It is mostly ok if cheesy at times but can seem like it was written in Italian first then translated by Google.
Performances fair much better with Donald Pleasence showing his quality and Jennifer Connolly putting in a very credible showing especially as she is in most of the scenes and must’ve had quite the demanding filming experience given some of the scenes she had to endure (as well as a Chimpanzee biting off the tip of her finger).

Dario is on top form with stunning visuals and imagery for the dream sequences or the murders which are nicely gory and largely different to each other.
The who-is-the-killer aspect manages to keep you guessing who it could be up until a certain point at the end where the film all but tells you but it is the right time for the reveal.

Overall this is one of my favourites but how is the Arrow release?

Well sadly I don’t have the Blu-ray edition, only the DVD, so I can’t really comment on the 4K restoration that much but still, the DVD picture quality is very nice indeed.
The audio now has a 5.1 surround sound mix and mostly holds up well with only some of the dialogue suffering from an echo effect on the odd occasion but this could be in the normal stereo mix too as it is how the sound came out anyway, I didn’t check. The music however sounds phenomenal with no pun intended.
Hearing Iron Maiden or Motörhead combined with the Goblin soundtrack blasting out of my speaker setup (but not too loud as have to think of the neighbours) as someone is thrown through a window is an absolute treat.

There is also a music video called Jennifer by Claudio Simonetti and directed by Dario Argento included.

This has a few scenes with no English audio which were omitted from older UK and US versions so they are dubbed in Italian. I’m told the picture quality here is supposed to be poorer but I didn’t really notice that so maybe the restoration helped with that issue.

Also on the disc is a documentary which is longer than the film and interviews mostly everyone bar Jennifer Connolly which is filled with lots of interesting stories and titbits on the making of Phenomena.

Very pleased I own this and my only real criticism is that I don’t own the Blu-ray.

Full details below the trailer.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
• New 5.1 surround mix of the Italian soundtrack, derived from the original 4-channel Dolby Stereo elements
• New hybrid English/Italian soundtrack in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo*
• Italian soundtrack in PCM 2.0 stereo
• 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
• Of Flies and Maggots, a new feature-length documentary including interviews with co-writer/producer/director Dario Argento, actors Fiore Argento, Davide Marotta, Daria Nicolodi and Fiorenza Tessari, co-writer Franco Ferrini, cinematographer Romano Albani, production manager Angelo Jacono, special optical effects artist Luigi Cozzi, special makeup effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, makeup artist Pier Antonio Mecacci, underwater camera operator Gianlorenzo Battaglia, and composers Claudio Simonetti and Simon Boswell
• Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
• “Jennifer” music video, directed by Dario Argento
• Rare Japanese vintage pressbook
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp

* The 116-minute Italian cut features approximately six minutes of footage for which English audio does not exist. In these instances, the hybrid track reverts to Italian audio with English subtitles.