It’s been a long wait for Dario Argento’s U.S.-based fans to get a qual­i­ty blu-ray edi­tion of Tenebrae.  Sure, there were some European discs that those with mul­ti-region play­ers could turn to but they all their draw­backs, often in the area of the trans­fer itself (click here to read Mondo Digital’s astute assess­ment of past inter­na­tion­al tenebr-blu2Tenebrae blu-rays).

Thankfully, the per­fec­tion­ists at Synapse picked up the blu-ray rights for those patient U.S. fans.  Their ver­sion was first released as a deluxe steel­book set sold exclu­sive­ly through the Synapse web­site but now a scaled-down but still impres­sive retail edi­tion has been released for sale through a vari­ety of out­lets.  In either ver­sion, it’s a real achiev­ment in A/V qual­i­ty and boasts some tan­ta­liz­ing extras, to boot.

The rights own­ers for Tenebrae would not make the orig­i­nal ele­ments avail­able for a new scan so Synapse took the best of the exist­ing European hi-def mas­ters and gave it a thor­ough, frame-by-frame cleanup to weed out DNR issues and do addi­tion­al col­or cor­rec­tion.  The results offer a gor­geous ren­di­tion of Luciano Tovoli’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy, main­tain­ing the clar­i­ty cre­at­ed by the film’s high-key light­ing scheme while also draw­ing out its rich col­ors, par­tic­u­lar­ly the reds and the blues.

tenebr-04There’s also an option to watch the film with some English lan­guage insert shots for news­pa­pers, etc., via seam­less branch­ing: the­se bits are in HD and look as good as the main source mate­ri­al.

Sound options con­sist of loss­less English and Italian sound­tracks, the lat­ter with English subs, and both are viable lis­ten­ing options that sound nice and robust, par­tic­u­lar­ly in how they han­dle the film’s syn­th-heavy rock score.

The retail edi­tion does away with the lin­er notes book­let, sound­track CD and bonus DVD includ­ed in the steel­book ver­sion but still offers plen­ti­ful extras.  What fol­lows is a quick run­down of what you can expect…

Commentary: Film crit­ic and Argento expert Maitland McDonagh con­tributes a new com­men­tary track for this film and it’s a feast of info and opin­ions for the director’s fans.  She takes a scene-by-scene ana­lyt­i­cal approach that is informer by her deep knowl­edge of Argento’s work.  She has fun with the film’s quirks but is sophis­ti­cat­ed in how she pars­es its themes.  She also laces in some inter­est­ing triv­ia (Theresa Russell dubbed Daria Nicolodi for the English lan­guage ver­sion!) and even has some tales of inter­view­ing Argento him­self.

tenebr-05Yellow Fever (1:29:24): this doc­u­men­tary fea­ture from Calum Waddell offers a chat­ty and infor­ma­tive stroll through the his­to­ry of the gial­lo, com­bin­ing input from a vari­ety of Italian hor­ror direc­tors (Argento, Ruggero Deodato, Luigi Cozzi, Umberto Lenzi) along with sev­er­al crit­ics (McDonagh, Kim Newman, Alan Jones, etc.) and even a few mod­ern film­mak­ers like Bruno Cattet.  It sketch­es out the genre’s ori­gins in pulp mys­tery fic­tion and Hitchcock films before out­lin­ing how Mario Bava pio­neered it and Argento per­fect­ed it to cre­ate a pop­u­lar and oft-imi­tat­ed Italian gen­re.

As one might expect from its inclu­sion here, Yellow Fever skews heav­i­ly in Argento’s direc­tion, includ­ing some crit­i­cal but fair assess­ments of Argento’s con­tro­ver­sial lat­ter day work (sur­pris­ing­ly, his close friend Cozzi is amongst the most crit­i­cal towards his recent work).  That said, there are cur­so­ry men­tions of Lucio Fulci and tenebr-06Lenzi’s work as well as inter­est­ing sec­tions where the con­trib­u­tors get to pick/describe favorite gial­li and grap­ple with the accu­sa­tion that the gen­re is inher­ent­ly misog­y­nis­tic.  Look out for Lenzi, who is oft hilar­i­ous as he cri­tiques Argento while trum­pet­ing his own work, and fas­ci­nat­ing analy­sis of some key titles from the loqua­cious and insight­ful Richard Stanley.  While not total­ly defin­i­tive — that would require anoth­er half-hour or may­be a short form doc­u­men­tary series — there’s plen­ty of fun and info for gen­re fans here.

Additional Extras: an alter­nate open­ing cred­its sequence with English lan­guage cred­its, the U.S. clos­ing cred­its that uti­lize a hyp­notic new wave song by Kim Wilde, the inter­na­tion­al trail­er that plays up plot and sus­pense with­out spoil­ing the bloody high­lights and a wacky Japanese trail­er from a VHS source that is blood­ier.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Tenebrae, click here.