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Dario Argento
Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence, Daria Nicolodi
Writing Credits:
Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini

A young girl who has an amazing ability to communicate with insects transfers to an exclusive Swiss boarding school where her unusual capability might help solve a string of murders.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Dolby Vision
English/Italian Hybrid DTS-HD MA 5.1 (Italian Version)
Italian DTS-HD MD 5.1 (Italian Version)
Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 (Italian Version)
English DTS-HD MA 5.1 (International Version)
English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Alternate Mix (International Version)
English DTS-HD MA 2.0 (International/Creepers Versions)
English DTS-HD MA 1.0 (International/Creepers Versions)
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 115 min. (Italian Version)
110 min. (International Version)
83 min. (US Creepers Version)
Price: $49.95
Release Date: 3/14/2023

• Three Versions of Film
• Audio Interviews with Film Historian Troy Howarth (Italian Version)
• Audio Interview with Film Historians Derek Botelho and David Del Valle
• “Of Flies and Maggots” Documentary
• “The Three Sarcophagi” Featurette
• Alternate Audio Mix for International Version
• Music Video
• Trailers
• Japanese Pressbook
• Radio Spots


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Phenomena [4K UHD] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 27, 2023)

Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly made her film debut with 1984’s Once Upon a Time in America and became widely familiar to audiences with 1986’s Labyrinth. However, 1985 boasted her first lead role via an Italian horror flick called Phenomena.

The daughter of a famous actor, Jennifer Corvino (Connelly) arrives at an exclusive Swiss boarding school. Jennifer possesses a supernatural ability to communicate with insects.

Jennifer also sleepwalks, and this leads her to encounter Scottish entomologist Professor John McGregor (Donald Pleasence). As they become friends, a serial killer stalks the area, so they pair up to solve the crime.

Wow – that sounds like a weird conglomeration of plot elements. Phenomena starts like a standard slasher flick, as the opening sequence shows a brutal assault on a pretty young woman.

We then learn about the investigation and meet Dr. McGregor before Phenomena suddenly shifts focus to introduce Jennifer and her unusual connection to insects. This makes the movie turn into something about a girl from a broken home – briefly, at least.

Eventually the awkwardly developed dual sides mesh, of course. Can Phenomena connect all these disparate components into a coherent and compelling whole?

Nope. Though it comes with some potentially interesting moments, Phenomena becomes such a disjointed mess that it never threatens to connect.

Given that Phenomena comes from an experienced and oft-praised director, it turns into a surprise that the end product feels so incoherent. However, Dario Argento fails to find a way to turn all his ideas into something workable.

Really, the massive melange of story beats turns into the biggest issue here. Phenomena melds so many genres that the final result feels mushy and confused.

We get a standard slasher flick mixed with a Carrie-like character and a coming of age drama about a poor rich girl from a broken home. Argento provides enough thematic material for three or four movies.

Given all those elements, Phenomena seems surprisingly slow and dull. Large chunks of the movie just ramble without real purpose, and the competing plot beats never coalesce.

At its heart, Phenomena suffers mainly because it can become so silly. Try as he might, Argento can’t pull off the side that features the Girl Who Talks to Bugs, so that major narrative element seems more laughable than anything else.

Connelly does pretty well as our lead, at least. While I can’t claim her work foreshadows the talent she’d display as an adult, she does seem self-assured and natural much of the time.

Too bad Connelly finds herself stuck in a misshapen melange of story nuggets that becomes a goofy mess. Every once in a while the movie threatens to break out of its disjointed stupor, but this never happens, so we’re stuck with a dull and absurd flick.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C-/ Bonus A-

Phenomena appears in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. The Dolby Vision presentation became fairly appealing.

Sharpness usually looked good. Some interiors could feel a bit soft, but the slightly ill-defined moments didn’t seem too off, so the film mostly felt accurate.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. With a nice layer of grain, noise reduction didn’t appear to turn into a problem, and print flaws remained absent.

Colors opted for a natural palette and mostly seemed strong. For the most part, the tones looked well-rendered, and the disc’s HDR added a bit of punch to the hues.

Blacks seemed dark and deep, while shadows largely appeared smooth. Some low-light shots could come across as a tad dense, but those failed to become an issue.

HDR delivered extra power to whites and contrast. Honestly, this was a better image than I expected for an Italian horror flick from the mid-1980s.

The “Italian version” of the film came with two separate DTS-HD MA 5.1 mixes. One offers solely Italian dialogue, while the other provides a mix of English and Italian.

Given that Phenomena comes from an Italian crew and screened for Italian audiences, one might assume that the Italian soundtrack would become the way to go. However, the actors here delivered their lines in English, so that felt like the most appropriate mix.

Why does the 4K include an English/Italian hybrid? Because only Italian audio exists for scenes exclusive to the Italian cut. This means the dual-language version mainly brings us English dialogue with only a few minutes of Italian.

The mix favored music and spread the score/songs across the five channels in a somewhat clumsy manner. This meant the music spread around the room in a way that lacked great separation.

Effects also popped in an awkward manner that made them a bit distracting. In the end, the soundfield felt clumsily integrated.

Audio quality showed its age, with music that tended to sound somewhat harsh and trebly. The score and songs didn’t demonstrate much low-end and often came across as oddly rough – especially the pop/rock tunes we got.

Effects came with similar issues, as they tended to seem somewhat shrill. Distortion didn’t become a serious concern, but these elements seemed rougher than anticipated.

Dialogue also became a problem, as speech demonstrated bouts of edginess and never felt especially natural. Even for its era, the 5.1 audio seemed subpar.

Three editions of Phenomena appear here. On Disc One, we get the original Italian version (1:55:14), while Disc Two provides both an International Cut (1:50:03) and Creepers (1:23:05), the retitled US release.

How do these differ? We view the 115-minute Italian cut as the standard, and the “International” version simply delivers minor edits. It basically trims insubstantial bits here and there, so it remains largely similar to the Italian rendition. Oddly, a lot of the cuts come from only a few frames here and there.

With a much shorter running time, obviously Creepers provides substantial differences from the other two. Given that it loses more than 32 minutes from the Italian version, one can expect wholesale omissions.

Given that I find the 115-minute cut to seem slow and tedious, Creepers theoretically could work better for me. Nonetheless, it so drastically alters the director’s original vision that I can’t endorse it.

Two audio commentaries appear, and the first comes from film historian Troy Howarth alongside the 115-minute Italian version. He provides a running, screen-specific look at story and characters, the work of writer/director Dario Argento, other cast and crew, music, production notes and his view of the film.

A veteran of the format, Howarth delivers a good chat. While I might like a little more about the actual shoot, he still covers a lot of useful topics, and I appreciate the fact he tells us what he doesn’t like about the film since so many of these tracks reflect nothing but praise.

To accompany the “International Version”, we get a commentary from film historians Derek Botelho and David Del Valle. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific view of Argento’s work, cast and crew, various production domains, genre topics and their thoughts about the film.

Expect a decent but not enthralling commentary here. Botelho and Del Valle touch on a reasonable number of subjects and offer some worthwhile notes, but they don’t give us a substantial expansion of Howarth’s track, so this one can feel a bit redundant.

One contrast: while Howarth praises the performance from Donald Pleasence, Botelho and Del Valle seem much less positive about his work.

Also note that Del Valle confidently claims the creators of Poltergeist with theft, as a scene in Phenomena’s third act resembles one from the other film. However, since Poltergeist shot three years before Phenomena, Del Valle gets it backward.

On Disc One, a 2017 documentary entitled Of Flies and Maggots spans two hours, 13 seconds. It brings notes from writer/director Dario Argento, writer Franco Ferrini, executive producer Angelo Iacono, special optical effects designer Luigi Cozzi, cinematographer Romano Albani, special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, makeup artist Pierantonio Mecacci, underwater camera operator Gianlorenzo Battaglia, assistant director Michele Soavi, composers Claudio Simonetti and Simon Boswell. and actors Daria Nicolodi, Fiore Argento, Davide Marotta, and Fiorenza Tessari.

“Flies” looks at the project’s roots and development, research, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, photography, various effects, makeup and costumes, the use of insects and animals on the shoot, and music.

With two hours at its disposal, “Flies” receives plenty of room to explore the production, and it does so well. We get a nice view of the film’s creation via this detailed program.

A music video for the song “Jennifer” by Claudio Simonetti comes next. The tune itself feels awfully reminiscent of John Carpenter’s Halloween theme and the footage looks terrible, but the inclusion of unique footage of Jennifer Connelly makes it intriguing.

Disc One ends with “Promotional Materials”. This domain includes two trailers - one Italian, one international and a Japanese pressbook. The latter covers 13 screens and becomes a cool addition even if I can’t read the Japanese text.

As we shift to Disc Two, The Three Sarcophagi provides a 31-minute, two-second “visual essay”. Arrow producer Michael Mackenzie becomes the sole participant here.

Mackenzie compares the various cuts of the film and also gives us info about the English/Italian “hybrid mix” that accompanies the 115-minute Italian version. He gives us good insights about these issues, especially when we see direct contrasts between the different iterations.

Alongside this disc’s “International Version”, we find an Alternate 2.0 Mix. As described here, it “features a slightly different mix compared to the default presentation of the International version, consisting of unique music cues, more prominent foley and extended effects”.

Will most viewers care about that? Probably not, but diehard Phenomena buffs may enjoy it.

Finally, Disc Two’s “Promotional Materials” concludes the set. It includes a US trailer and two US radio spots.

Because it presents the first lead role for Jennifer Connelly and it comes from a famous director, Phenomena boasts some historical value. Unfortunately, the end product gives us a silly and barely coherent mix of genres that never works. The 4K UHD comes with generally positive picture and a nice collection of bonus materials, but audio seems iffy. Fans will enjoy this solid package, but I admit the movie leaves me cold.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 3
0 3:
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