A late and offbeat entry into the giallo/slasher field, Michele Soavi’s eighties shocker is as visually stylish as you’d expect and more entertaining than you remember.
Rehearsals are underway for a new musical that features an all-dancing cast and a prancing Owl-headed character. Unfortunately, the artistic side of things is cut up by an escaped murderer who adopts the Owl costume and starts slaying the troupe. With all the doors locked, who will survive the night?
Soavi’s feature directorial debut proves he learned a lot while working with Dario Argento and Aristide Massaccesi (aka Joe D’Amato, who produces here). The movie’s pedigree is heightened as the script was written by Luigi Montefiori (Anthropophagus himself, George Eastman) and the appearance of Giovanni Lombardo Radice (Cannibal Ferox) as a wonderfully camp dancer. David Brandon (Delirium) is the show’s director, who gets increasingly frustrated by all the murder but is determined to get the production finished, and is fantastically acerbic. The Owl costume is suitable effective, adding an extra eeriness to the murders, but the real star is the cinematography of Renato Tafuri (Opera), although some of the more inventive, flowing motion moves are the work of Soavi, who improvised since they had no steady cam. There’s a fun story behind that, which is relayed in one of the three bonus features on Shameless’ Blu-ray. Soavi’s section is a lengthy and fascinating insight into the making of the film and his place in the Italian film industry.
The Blu-ray also features an interview with Radice, which is subtitled and very interesting, and the final chat is with lead actor David Brandon, who is very open about his experience in the movie - particularly when it comes to the scene with the chainsaw! While that’s all the extras, they are worth watching and provide enough information for fans of the film. Shameless’ release presents the film well, with strong definition since this is a new 4K restoration. It’s nice to have the movie with the option of an Italian language track, too.
If you’ve never come across Stagefright before, now’s the perfect chance to wallow in the deranged Owl goodness.
Stagefright is available on Blu-ray from Shameless on December 27th.