Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Argento that Got Away: Profondo Rosso: il Musical

How did Profondo Rosso il Musical fly entirely under my radar? I mean, it’s not as though I would have flown to Italy to see it, but I can’t believe I had no idea it even existed until a few days ago.

Were you to have asked me which Argento film I thought best suited to adaptation into a theatrical musical, I’d say Suspiria. The narrative is stylized and dreamlike the existing score is strong and it’s set at a ballet school, so dance numbers would flow naturally from the narrative. And that art nouveau fever-dream production design is just screaming to be adapted into spectacular stage sets.

I would not have suggested Deep Red, but lo and behold, it was Profondo Rosso il Musical that premiered on January 21, 2008, at the Teatro Civico in Vercelli , a Northern Italian town best known for its lavish annual carnivale. The show went on to play dates in Varese, Sassari, Novara, Castiglione, Savona, Lugano, Venaria and Assisi before winding up in Milan’s Teatro Smeraldo five months later, hard on the heels of Hair.

Argento was credited with the production’s artistic supervision, and longtime collaborators Claudio Simonetti and Sergio Stivaletti provided, respectively, the music and special effects. Profondo Rosso il Musical, was hyped in typically breathless Italian pre-release pieces as a hybrid of France’s legendary Theatre du Grand Guignol and such tongue-in-cheek horror musicals as Little Shoppe of Horrors, The Phantom of the Paradise and, of course, The Rocky Horror Show.

Conspicuous by its absence was any mention of Carrie (1988), easily the closest precedent — a serious work of dramatic musical theater based on an acclaimed horror movie. But of course, it was also a disaster of legendary proportions (you can see a clips — including the climactic horror-at-the-prom scene on youtube — though the video quality is pretty poor, the train-wreck appeal is off the scale.

Profondo Rosso il Musical starred Italian-French actor/singer Michel Altieri — one of those European sensations who never cracked the US market — in Hemmings’ role.
Yes, Altieri, like Detective Altieri in Opera (1987) and diva Carlotta Altieri in Phantom of the Opera (1998), which is one of many reasons I at first assumed that Profondo Rosso il Musical was an elaborate in joke.But no, the guy’s name really is Altieri; he started out in a 1990s Euro-boy band and was supposedly handpicked by Luciano Pavarotti for a secondary role in the 2000 Italian production of Jonathan Larson’s Rent, though that may be pure press puffery. In any event, the exceptionally pretty Mr. Altieri came to Profondo Rosso fresh from a hugely successful run in Italian playwright Tato Russo’s 2002 musical version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. You couldn’t make it up… at least, I couldn’t.

The musical included all the film’s main characters — doomed psychic Helga Ulmann (Claudia Donadoni); ballsy reporter Gianna Brezzi (Silvia Specchio, in the role originated by Daria Nicolodi); Mark’s fragile friend Carlo (Alberto Pistacchia) and his possessive mother (Maria Maddalena Trani); unfortunate writer Amanda Righetti (Alessandra Azimonti) and poor Professor Giordani (Claudio Lobbia), whose big death scene is hijacked by a mechanical doll — along with dancers and a trio of mysterious figures in masks.

To be honest, it sounds like a total disaster, and I haven’t been able to track down anything that suggests otherwise. But oh, what I wouldn’t give to have seen it!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Leigh Bowery and Lady Gaga: Separated at Birth?

In recognition of the fact that the '80s are already well into their second-time-around spin recycle, I feel compelled to point out that Our Lady Gaga of the damnably catchy synth-pop earworms and mad, camp, outrageous-to-know Leigh Bowery were truly separated at birth (and yes, that's a call out to Spy magazine in its glory years; who knew it limped along until 1998?).

Sure, Bowery was a plus-sized man from Sunshine, Australia (uh-huh, Sunshine), and Lady Gaga is a slim-hipped little gal (as in gal; this hermaphrodite stuff is beyond played out) from New York City. She's the quintessential viral-marketing friendly fame monster; he was a self-made, totally original party monster. Leigh and his art-rock group Minty aimed to offend and did (though the right combination of MTV-worthy visuals and uncompromising Minty-ness produces this thoroughly commercial result); Lady Gaga's shows are the essence of controversial chic — you don't get six Grammy nominations by being really, truly, seriously offensive.

Which is, of course, where the "separated at birth" part comes in. That said, I could watch Telephone six times in a row tonight and start all over again tomorrow in the morning. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

*UPDATE* The Museum of Air Sickness Bags

When I first discovered this site, it was experiencing some technical problems caused by its host (anyone who reads Miss Flickchick regularly knows I've had similar problems and can empathize). But curator Steven J. Silberberg kindly sent me an email that his online museum is now back up and running they've been ... so to experience the amazing world of airsickness bags, dive right in here!

Thank you, AOL, for posting those distracting top "news" items where I can't help but see them every time I log on or open my email. Yes, the overwhelming majority are either redundant or pointless, but every once in a while they lead me somewhere weird and wonderful.

Like this morning, when a feature reporting the rumor that the airline industry may try to save some money by eliminating airsickness bags led me to the Air Sickness Bag Virtual Museum, curated by one Steven J. Silberberg.

I had a lot of trouble navigating the site, but the Gift Shop works fine and it's a kick. My favorite Barf-bag poster by far is the hurling reindeer.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dario does Dracula?

So, the news from Cannes is that Argento's next movie will be a 3D version of Dracula that hews closely to Bram Stoker's novel. Argento seems to have been thinking about 3D for a while; last year a flurry of rumors had him making a 3D remake of Deep Red. There's no casting, but Dracula is apparently supposed to start shooting in January 2011.

I'd like to be thrilled, but the best I can manage is cautious optimism. After all, Argento was profoundly influenced by seeing the 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera, but his own 1998 Phantom was, shall we say, deeply flawed. Back in the '70s Argento talked about making a WWII-era Frankenstein that equated the monster's creation with the rise of Nazism; it got to the script stage and attracted the attention of Timothy "One-Time Bond" Dalton. Co-writer Luigi Cozzi claims the project fell apart because Universal executives decided that "Frankenstein was dead and anyway, no one who wanted to see a horror movie cared about politics."

But I've never heard Argento express the slightest interest in Dracula. Still, you never know...

Monday, May 10, 2010

RIP Lena Horne, actress, singer and trailblazer...

The extraordinary Lena Horne died last night at the age of 92, and it's a sign of the times that she's being given her due in newspapers and web publications everywhere.

Horne broke mainstream entertainment ground for African-American singers, actresses, dancers and other performers at a time when challenging the racial divide had real — sometimes brutal — consequences. And unlike the equally bold but less-resilient Dorothy Dandridge, Horne lived to see generations of younger artists benefit from her courage and determination.

And she was never less than fabulous. So a moment of silence, please, for the kind of star they just don't make any more. Lena Horne fan site.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Shocking! Controversial! The Human Centipede and Elm Street remake

My reviews of The Human Centipede, the sick and twisted Dutch horror film everyone's talking about, and the remake of Wes Craven's classic A Nightmare on Elm Street are online. Check them out and let me know what you think...

High Noon...with Sheriff Terminator!

Cheap joke? Yeah, sure: High Noon with an android sheriff... how much film-geek snarkier can you get?

But it's also pretty clever: This clip has been kicking around for a while, but now that it's come to my attention I feel compelled to share it. Check it out here.