Dario Argento considers Phenomena is favorite of the films that he has made. I have to agree with the man. The film is loaded with beautiful imagery and has enough scary moments to keep you on the edge of you seat. This set from Arrow includes three versions of the film plus some of the best special features of the year.
Disc 1: 116-Minute Version Italian Version
Commentary by Tony Howarth
An Italian Cinema expert, Mr. Howarth gives an information packed commentary track that isn’t stuffy and prewritten like so many film expert tracks. Mr. Howarth delivers the information as if he was talking to us directly and has an ease to him. He clearly loves what he does for a living as this comes through the track. This is one of my favorite commentary tracks of 2017.
Italian Theatrical Trailer (2m 36s, HD)
English Theatrical Trailer (2m 36s, HD)
Both of these trailers are the same except in different languages.
Jennifer Music Video (4m 11s, SD, 1.66:1, 4x3)
Performed by Claudio Simonetti , directed by Dario Argento, and starring Jennifer Connelly.
Couldn’t really tell you is going on in the video, but the song is great.
Japanese Pressbook (14 Images)
Just an image gallery
Disc 2: 110-Minute International Version
The Three Sarcophagi (31m 2s, HD)
Michael Mackenzie compares the three versions of the film and also covers the creation of the English/Italian hybrid track that was created for the 116-minute version of the film. This is the best extra of this release and I wish that more companies would do this. Mr. Mackenzie goes into a lot of detail when comparing the three versions of Phenomena. He shows that the 116-minute and 110-minute versions are not that much different, even though they have a difference of 6 minutes between them. He also goes into detail about how the 83-minute, U.S. release was created. His talk about the hybrid track was foreign to me as I don’t know that much about some of the stuff that he was talking about, but I am a learner so I watched it and hopefully learned something. We need more features like this.
Disc 3: 83-Minute Creepers Cut
Of Flies and Maggots (2h, HD)
This is an exhaustive look at the making of Phenomena. Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini, Michele Soavi, and many others are on hand to share stories and talk about the various aspects of the making of Phenomena. Everything is talked about here and the only thing that is missing was an interview, even one from the set, with Jennifer Connelly. I have no idea what she thinks about this film and would love to find out.
Disc 4: Complete Soundtrack on CD
THE PACKAGING ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Since their release of The Hills Have Eyes in September of 2016, Arrow has been releasing many of their “Limited Editions” in very sturdy “chip boxes” and Phenomena is no different.
The outer box is thick and sturdy giving the contents inside a lot of protection. The front of the box is an artist illustration of Jennifer Connelly’s character sitting in bed surrounded by fireflies. It is a simple image, but one that I like. The artwork is done by Candice Tripp who also did the artwork for Arrow's release of Donnie Darko and the upcoming The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. You can see work at www.candicetripp.com
The spine of the box has the title of the film in white font. The spine is huge due to everything that is in the box.
The back of the box is the usual Arrow info dump. Tech specs, special features, etc.
Going inside the box we are presented with three things:
The first is a double wide clear blu-ray case that houses the Italian and International versions of the film.
The cover art is doubled sided with commissioned artwork on one side and the film’s original theatrical poster on the other side. This poster art is from the foreign releases of the film, but the poster is in English.
The back of the box is left blank, which I found kind of weird, but this goes into the outer box so I am not going to be looking at that often.
The discs are rather plain with white text on a black background informing us which version is on what disc.
The second blu-ray case contains the U.S. version of the film, retitled to Creepers, and the film’s soundtrack.
The artwork here is again doubled sided with commissioned artwork on one side and the film’s original U.S. poster on the other.
The discs have the same, plain artwork as the other discs.
We also get a slip of paper giving us information about the included soundtrack, like a track listing
and producer credits.
Last, but not least, is the 60 page booklet. Inside, you will find essays by Mikel Koven, Rachael Nisbet, and Leonard Jacobs, along with information about the three versions of the film as well as stills from the film, and information about the restoration.
The 3 blu-rays are REGION B (locked) and the CD can be played anywhere.
THE PICTURE ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Arrow has gone back to the original camera negative (OCN) and restored the film in 4K. This is for all three versions of the film and, WOW, this is an impressive transfer. The picture is vibrant and alive, colors pop off the screen, and flesh tones accurate. Blacks are deep and the film grain is present and accounted for and never gets in the way. This is the first time I have ever seen this film, but I could tell right off the bat that I was in for something special and when I looked up comparisons online, I was taken aback by how good this restoration looks versus other releases.
THE SOUND ⭐⭐⭐1/2
Arrow has given has many different tracks for the different versions and the one that I listed to was LPCM 2.0 track for the 110-Minute version. Dialogue was crisp and clear and there no distortions to the track at all. The track is not that lively, even when the killings are happening, so the track doesn’t get too much of a work out. I did like the sound design though and felt that this track handled it very well.
THE FILM ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly, Labyrinth), daughter of a world-renowned movie star, arrives in the so-called “Swiss Transylvania” to attend an exclusive girls’ school. However, a vicious killer is targeting the pupils, and sleepwalker Jennifer finds herself in the assassin’s headlights when her nocturnal wanderings cause her to witness the death of a fellow pupil. Aided by paraplegic entomologist John McGregor (Donald Pleasence, Halloween) and her own uncanny ability to communicate telepathically with insects, Jennifer sets out to track down the killer before she herself becomes the latest victim…
Dario Argento say that this is his favorite film of his and I will have to agree. I haven’t seen that many of his films, but I do like this one the most. Could it be the fact that it was shot in English so there is no pesky and sloppy dubbing? That plays a small factor. Could it be that it has the great
Donald Pleasance in a big role? Yes that is definitely part of it. Could it be the film that Argento seems to have the best grasp of? Yes.
All of these reasons are valid for liking the film. First off, Argento cast two incredible actors in the lead roles: Jennifer Connelly, who would become lust of young men everywhere when she rode a stationary horse in Career Opportunities, and Donald Pleasance, who we all wanted to protect us with the same care that he displayed in Halloween. These two actors are great here and their scenes together are some of the highlights of the film.
The second thing to look at is the photography. All of Argento’s films look great, even the ones that he has made over the last twenty years. In Phenomena, Argento uses a stedicam for the first time and you would never know it. The way that the camera glides through the action is amazing and his sured hand in giving us everything that we need to know is the sign of a director that doesn’t talk down to his audience. Sure, the first half of Phenomena is slow and doesn’t make much sense, but the second half clears up everything that we had doubts about. Argento is a filmmaker who wants to wind up his audience and then let them loose later on.
Phenomena is a fantastic film that is a lot of fun to watch. The film has some genuinely scary moments and some really bizarre turns, but you go along with it because the film is so fascinating. Arrow has done an incredible job with this set. We get all three versions of the film, each on their own separate disc, along with top notch video and audio. The special features, while not in abundance, make up for that with quality. This is a truly remarkable set and one that I think will be on my top ten list on the end of the year.