Italian director Dario Argento has built a worldwide cult following for his audaciously gory horror movies, part of the Italian horror subgenre, giallo. His penchant for mixing vivid colors, expressionistic lighting, and copious amounts of blood have made him a standout among horror directors, but these same qualities have also made it difficult for him to branch out in different directions. Anchor Bay Entertainment now presents "Do You Like Hitchcock?," Argento's stylish homage to the Master of Suspense. Considerably more subdued than his most famous movies, this is nonetheless an intense and highly suspenseful outing that should be a treat for fans of both Argento and Hitchcock.
Filmed for TV as a pilot for a canned Italian series, "Do You Like Hitchcock?" follows a bookish film student named Giulio (Elio Germano). A lifelong voyeur, he spends much of his time spying on his neighbors from his apartment's rear window, especially the attractive Sasha (Elisabetta Rocchetti) across the street. One day, while renting some horror classics at the local video store, Giulio overhears Sasha discussing Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" (1951) with a young blonde woman. He watches as the two walk out of the store together, apparently quite chummy in spite of the fact that they only just met. The next night, Sasha's mother is brutally murdered in her apartment.
After some amateur investigation, Giulio comes to the conclusion that Sasha and her blonde friend have conspired to swap murders, each killing someone that the other wants dead, à la "Strangers on a Train." He tries to convince his girlfriend, Arianna (Cristina Brondo), that his suspicions are true, but she doesn't believe him and grows increasingly frustrated by his obsession with the matter. Nevertheless, believing that the murder of Sasha's mother will eventually be followed by another one, Giulio begins to follow the blonde woman in hopes of discovering who the next victim will be. The plot thickens, as they say, when he realizes that someone is actually targeting him.
By now, Hitchcock aficionados will already recognize many nods to the Master just from the premise. From "Rear Window" to "Vertigo" to "Dial M for Murder," Argento covers all of his great works. Moments of suspense are cleverly mounted, usually with very little onscreen action. Pino Donaggio channels frequent Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann through his haunting score. The film manages to create a palpable sense of paranoia and fear without resorting to gratuitous violence. Of course, we do get some memorably bloody scenes as only Argento could deliver them. Happily, Argento also picked up on Hitchcock's patented sense of humor, giving us plenty of small chuckles amid the terror.
Anchor Bay has delivered the film in a 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is quite a bit of fine grain, but it's not much of a problem. More troubling is the recurring ghosting, undoubtedly the result of a poor PAL-to-NTSC conversion. The image is also soft and features some occasional compression artifacts. Colors, on the other hand, are bold and deeply saturated. Reds, in particular, seem to pop off the screen. I'm sure Argento wouldn't have it any other way. Black levels are also rich, adding immensely to the night scenes.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, but the voices sound somewhat hollow. This may have something to do with the dubbing, but it is a little irksome. Apart from this, the audio sounds fine, displaying no distortion or background hiss. It won't give your system a workout, but there are no major deficiencies.
Special features are a pretty scarce on this disc. First up is a 6-minute featurette, "Do You Like Hitchcock?: Backstage." This is simply a montage of background footage, focusing mostly on Argento directing. There are no on-camera interviews or commentary of any kind. Furthermore, the entire crew speaks Italian, and there are no subtitles to translate. It's nice to see the director in action, but I would have liked to have known what he was saying.
Next is an interactive bio of Dario Argento, written by critic Richard Harland Smith. It's short and sweet, giving us a basic overview of his career and a filmography. Some trailers for Showtime's "Masters of Horror" series and some other Argento movies available from Anchor Bay bring a close to this DVD.
Once again, Dario Argento has given us a taste of his flair for stylish horror and blood-curdling violence. His ode to Hitchcock is a clever mix of old-fashioned mystery and his own brand of shock. "Do You Like Hitchcock?" is an airtight thriller with the touches of two cinematic geniuses that will most surely send a chill up your spine. With the film's taut suspense, witty humor, and alluring leading ladies, I'm sure Hitchcock would bestow his dry approval. Although Anchor Bay's release is a tad subpar, the movie alone is worth the price of admission.