Stagefright (1987) – Film Review
Director: Michele Soavi
Cast: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Domenico Fiore
By Sarah Morgan
As William Shakespeare once wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”
Quite. Unfortunately, old Bard Billy never got to traverse the weird and wonderful world of cinema, where titles come and go in the blink of an eye. Take Michele Soavi’s debut feature, for instance. Known in its native Italy as Deliria, it’s also been released under the names Bloody Bird and Aquarius and, more popularly, as Stagefright, which is how it’s being labelled for its Blu-ray release.
In one of the special features on the disc, Soavi claims his only film-making ambition was to work for Dario Argento, which he achieved when he worked as the Italian horror maestro’s second assistant on Tenebrae before collaborating with him on other projects.
However, when producer Joe D’Amato offered Soavi the chance to direct his own movie, he couldn’t resist. The result is a middling, giallo-style chiller which probably looked out of date on its initial big-screen outing in 1987, a time when the likes of The Lost Boys, Hellraiser, The Evil Dead and A Nightmare on Elm Street were moving the genre on somewhat. Now it’s got some retro appeal; while not as impressive as Argento’s finest films, it does mirror his style.
The story takes place in a theatre where a cast and its director are rehearsing a bizarre musical about a serial killer who strikes while dressed as an owl. What nobody realises is an insane actor has escaped from an asylum and made a beeline for the venue. He then sets about murdering those present before rearranging them in a grisly tableau on the stage.
“Impressive visual sense”
But one member of the cast has managed to evade his vicious clutches and is ready to fight back…
Although the run time is roughly only an hour and a half, Stagefright still feels like an hour-long episode of a TV series spun out to feature length. There’s even an utterly ludicrous coda that we could all live without. As a horror fan, I’m used to the need to suspend disbelief at times, but this takes the biscuit. Obviously one showdown between the heroine and the villain just wasn’t enough for Soavi.
It’s a shame because it spoils an otherwise decent movie that proves the then fledgling director already had an impressive visual sense. He went on to demonstrate that in several other movies, including The Sect and Dellamorte Dellamore, both of which are superior to his debut offering.
• New 4K restoration
• 'Staging the Fright' - Interview with director Michele Soavi
• 'The Theatre of Blood' - Interview with actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice
• 'The Last Performance' - Interview with actor David Brandon
• New subtitles
• Hard-of-Hearing Closed Captions
Stagefright is released on Blu-ray by Shameless Films, £18.50