Review: Phenomena 4K UHD Limited Edition
4K UHD Blu-ray: Phenomena (1985)
Another great 4K UHD release from Arrow Films, and this time it’s the 1985 Dario Argento directed classic Phenomena, which comes packaged complete with a host of special features that will keep you entertained and enthralled for many hours.
Jennifer (a very young Jennifer Connelly in only her 2nd credited onscreen appearance) is the daughter of a famous actor and is transferred to a Swiss boarding school. Unbeknown to her, there have been a series of unsolved murders in the area which she inadvertently gets involved in the solving of the crimes. This is in part due to her empathy to insects and her telepathic abilities to communicate with them. This ability draws her to entomologist John McGregor (played wonderfully by the great Donald Pleasence) who is confined to a wheelchair and has a chimpanzee as a companion. Will the killer be caught, or will the murders continue?
By the time it came around to making Phenomena, Argento had already directed many exceptional movies and was at the top of his class in the horror/Giallo genre. Phenomena continued this run and is a masterclass in how to fully engage an audience both visually and aurally. There is the usual gore splattered throughout, including a rather disturbing scene in which Jennifer is trapped in a pool which contains rotting pieces of dismembered flesh and crawling maggots, but it is the way in which the narrative is pushed forward with sweeping camera moves and a pounding soundtrack which ranges from heavy metal to etherial operatic singing which keeps you transfixed throughout its entire running time.
While we are on the subject of running time, there are 3 different versions in this limited edition release:
- 116 minute Italian version.
- 110 minute International version.
- 83 minute version which was released in many countries as ‘Creepers’.
Each have their own merits and it is fantastic that Arrow have given the viewer the opportunity to choose whichever version they want to see. I’ve watched all 3 versions and it is very interesting to see from an editing and story telling point of view as to what was cut out.
The acting is superb throughout the entire cast, with an exceptional performance from Jennifer Connelly. Her slow paced and considered delivery of her lines, reflect the almost dreamlike world in which she lives, which is also seen visually with her propensity to sleepwalk and enter into an alternate existence. She is also subjected to quite a few physical traumas (the aforementioned flesh and maggot filled pool being just one) and deals with the situations with the fortitude of someone twice her age.
Donald Pleasance revels in his role and holds your attention despite the antics of his chimpanzee assistant who often inadvertently tries to steal the scene. Add to this another fantastic performance by Daria Nicolodi (Argento’s longtime personal and professional partner, though at the time of making Phenomena their dual partnership was strained to breaking point) and you have a movie that excels on all levels.
The 4K transfer retains the film grain but reveals picture details I haven’t noticed before, specifically in the darker scenes (of which there are a lot in this movie), and the colour palette pops in the daylight scenes, bringing to life the cinematography by Romano Albani and the original vision of Argento.
The special features are superlative, with special mention going to the ‘Of Flies and Maggots’ documentary which I have now watched twice and still marvel at the stories being told.
Phenomena, like a lot of Argento’s movies, is one where to get the most out of it you must fully open yourself to the full sensory experience and let your eyes and ears absorb what is before them. Yes, there are plot holes. Yes, the logic behind it all may seem erratic at times, but the journey it takes you on is one which lives long in the memory.
If you need any more persuasion to buy, there’s a scene where the chimp goes crazy with a cutthroat razor. NOW has it got your attention?
By now it feels as though I should have a button that automatically types ‘another essential purchase‘ when reviewing releases by Arrow Films, but when they keep giving us all exceptional packages like this, there is no more to be said.
Limited Edition Contents:
- New 4K restoration of the original 116minute Italian version, the 110minute international English version and the 83minute US “Creepers” version from the original camera negative by Arrow films
- 4K (2160p) UHD Bluray™ presentations of all three versions in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
- Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative
- Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Mikel J. Koven, Rachael Nisbet and Leonard Jacobs
- Foldout doublesided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative
- Six doublesided, postcardsized lobby card reproduction artcards
Disc 1 – Italian Version:
- Lossless Italian DTSHD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks, derived from the original 4channel Dolby Stereo elements
- Lossless “hybrid” English/Italian DTSHD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack*
- English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the hybrid soundtrack
- Audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of Murder by Design: The Unsane Cinema of Dario Argento
- Of Flies and Maggots, a featurelength 2017 documentary produced for Arrow Films, including interviews with cowriter/producer/director Dario Argento, actors Fiore Argento, Davide Marotta, Daria Nicolodi and Fiorenza Tessari, cowriter Franco Ferrini, cinematographer Romano Albani, production manager Angelo Iacono, 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 international theatrical trailers
- “Jennifer” music video, directed by Dario Argento
- Japanese pressbook gallery
- Lossless English DTSHD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks on the international version, derived from the original 4channel Dolby Stereo elements
- Lossless English PCM soundtracks on Creepers, mastered from the original 3 track DME magnetic mix and presented in two variants: 1.0 mono and an alternate 2.0 mix with stereo music.
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary on the international version by Argento scholar and author Derek Botelho and film historian, journalist and radio/television commentator David Del Valle
- The Three Sarcophagi, a visual essay by Arrow producer Michael Mackenzie comparing the different cuts of Phenomena
- Rare alternate 2.0 stereo mix on the international version, featuring different sound effects and music cues
- US theatrical trailer
- US radio spots
* The 116minute 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.
Released 28th February 2022.
Review by Dave from discs kindly supplied by Arrow Films via Fetch Publicity.