Dario Argento (born 7 September 1940) is an Italian horror director, producer, and screenwriter best known for his unique visual style and seminal work in the giallo sub genre. Though never particularly coherent or well-written, his films remain quite frightening and very cool to look at when he's at the top of his game. Widely considered to be at his peak during The '70s and The '80s, with Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso) and Suspiria usually cited as his best work, and Trauma as the last really watchable film he made (though The Stendhal Syndrome is slowly becoming appreciated).
He also wrote or co-wrote a number of scripts, most notably Once Upon a Time in the West (alongside Sergio Leone and Bernardo Bertolucci).
His daughter Asia Argento has appeared in many of his films.
His filmography includes:
- Today We Kill... Tomorrow We Die! (1968) (writer only)
- The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
- The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971)
- Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)
- Deep Red (1975)
- Suspiria (1977)
- Inferno (1980)
- Tenebre (1982)
- Phenomena (1985)
- Opera (1987)
- The Church (1989; Writer and Producer)
- Two Evil Eyes (1990; the "Black Cat" segment.)
- Trauma (1993)
- The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)
- The Phantom of the Opera (1998; widely regarded as the worst version made)
- Sleepless (2001)
- The Card Player (2004)
- Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005)
- Mother of Tears (2007)
- Giallo (2009)
- Dracula 3D (2012)
- Vortex (2021) - which he acted in a leading role.
- Dark Glasses (2022)
He also directed two episodes for the TV series Masters of Horror: "Jenifer" in season one, and "Pelts" in season two.
Tropes commonly associated with this director include:
- Acquitted Too Late: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Deep Red, Tenebre.
- Bizarrchitecture: Argento's films might best be described as a series of set pieces designed to spotlight strange architecture and colors, a trait he shares with Alfred Hitchcock.
- Boarding School of Horrors: Suspiria (1977) and Phenomena.
- Body Horror: Even aside from all the mutilations, there are a number of disfigured or otherwise weird looking people in these movies.
- Color Motif / Color Wash: Red and blue, as you can see in Suspiria (1977). Profondo Rosso is also a good example.
- Creator Cameo: Several of Argento's films feature an opening narration. In the original Italian, the narrator is Argento himself. See also Hand of Death below.
- Creator Killer: Dracula 3D's Box Office Bomb is the main reason why Argento hasn't directed anything for a long time, with Dark Glasses being his first film in a decade.
- Darker and Edgier: His films were already pretty dark to begin with, but in Tenebre and Opera, he diverged from his colorful signature style in favor of a bleaker, harsher approach. The Stendahl Syndrome is particularly harsh.
- Diabolus ex Machina: This is what governs his universe. Characters in his films often die for seemingly no reason.
- Dull Surprise: Someone in just about every movie, though the protagonist of Opera may be the worst offender.Betty: I should never have taken that part. Why why did I do it.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: His debut The Bird with the Crystal Plumage in 1970, is the only one of his films that features a lighthearted epilogue for all important characters that explains all that transpired compared to all his other works that end abruptly after (an often just as abrupt) climax with the survivors often left staring at their enemies demise and leave viewers wondering What Happened to the Mouse??
- Executive Meddling:
- Argento's reputation as the most censored man in films; the bulk of his films have been heavily cut for US release, most notably Suspiria (most of the major murder scenes are hacked up to remove just about all of the gore) and Tenebre (released as Unsane) not only lost about ten minutes of key scenes (including the film's two big set piece scenes and the series of flashbacks that explain the killer's motives) but also tact on a disco song over the end credits...
- Similarly, Inferno was sat on for nearly six years before being dumped onto the US market via a video release, Opera was denied a theatrical release when Argento refused to cut an epilogue scene / gratuitous Shout-Out to "The Sound of Music," and Paramount ruthlessly kept "Four Flies on Grey Velvet" from ever seeing the light of day on home video or DVD, and was considered by many to be his only "lost" film until it was finally made available on an official DVD release for the first time, uncut, by MYA Communication Company... In 2009, almost 40 years after after its original release.
- Some footage was actually missing in the MYA DVD release (to their credit, it wasn't censorship, but print damage) and, once again, where thought to be definitely lost for good. Known amongst Argento fans as the legendary "missing forty seconds," in 2012 Shameless Screen Entertainment announced their DVD and Blu-Ray release (in order to celebrate the film's 40th anniversary) will have this missing forty seconds.
- Gorn: A good chunk of his movies are definitely not meant for people with weak stomachs, with Suspiria and Tenebre infamously notable for their gory violence.
- Hand of Death: The creepy (to some people, at least) thing is that Argento used to do all his "black gloves" shots as Insert Cameos, standing in for the killer.
- Meaningful Background Event: One trademark of the giallo genre, especially Argento's pictures; the characters — and the audience too — only get a brief glimpse of something that they don't realize was important until later, and are stuck trying to remember it for the rest of the film.
- Police Are Useless: Pretty much universal.
- Production Posse: Frequently works with Daria Nicoldi, his daughter Asia Argento, and the Italian prog-rock band Goblin.
- Rule of Scary: This, as opposed to logic, is what dictates the course of an Argento plot.