February 24, 2013

Favorite Death Scenes Part 5

Peepholes have always somewhat creeped me out. Perhaps it could be that I find the fisheye lens to be particularly disturbing to my already warped brain chemistry, I'm not really sure. That, and I've never been all too fond of pressing my eyeball against something to get a closer look. Is that what you call science? How about some better technology already. What, are you waiting for evolution to give our eyes X-Ray vision!? Ever since I was a child, people have been shoving my face into View-Masters and Kaleidoscopes, Microscopes and Telescopes, Virtual Reality Headsets and Binoculars. Fuck binoculars! I crawl through girl's windows like a real creeper and have no use for such tools of restraint. Sorry I went off on a tangent there. Peepholes and more notably the acts of voyeurism concerning them have been focal points of numerous films and television programs. It's almost as if the motion picture industry was obsessed with this invention. And horror film directors, the really good ones anyways, seem to be intent on bringing as much eye violence into your field of vision as possible. 

Which brings me to Dario Argento's 1987 film Opera, aka Terror at the Opera. That's where the connection between peepholes, eye violence and voyeurism comes in, with the viewer playing the role of voyeur as this shockingly gruesome event plays out. Betty was an alternate who became the lead in Macbeth after the original singer's "accident" left her notes a bit... flat! ;) Soon she's caught up not only in the pressure of rising to fame and thriving for excellence, but also the anxiety and sheer terror of being stalked by an obsessive maniac who's killing everyone close to her. Enter Myra (Daria Nicolodi), Betty's agent and friend, who comes to her aid during a desperate and confusing time. Locked in an apartment together, with perhaps a killer posing as a detective inside and outside, the lights go dim and there's a knock at the door.

Myra clings to a knife while pressing her face to the door and demands that the strange man show his face. He insists that he's an officer of the law and shines a flashlight off an ID that gleams so brightly you can't see a thing. She accuses him of lying and says that "anyone can get one of those" and that "it's a fake!" With all the muffled tenacity of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, the man responds with "Look, my gun!" and shows his weapon.

Myra starts flipping out and gets a bit more demanding, "No! Not the gun. I want to see your FACE again!". By this point the man has had enough. He presses the barrel up against the peephole and squeezes the trigger, blasting a shot right through Myra's fuckin' eyeball. The bullet exits out the back of her skull and rips apart the telephone in the background, ending any chance of Betty calling the police. How unlucky.

The awesomeness of this scene alone is amplified to an even more interesting and disturbing realm by the special effects involved, and a story shared by actress Daria Nicolodi. In the extras (Conducting Dario Argento's Opera, as well as in other documentaries about his films) we're shown the large scale model of what they used as the inside of the peephole. A huge, long open cylinder was built with a thin pane of glass in front and a firing mechanism that shot an over-sized bullet through it at hyper speed. A special camera that filmed at a very high FPS rate was required to capture this incredibly short but ambitious SFX shot. This is one of the cool little things that Dario Argento is known for going out of his way just to do for the sake of doing what he dreams and having fun.

At the time of this film's production, Daria Nicolodi was convinced that Dario Argento had concocted some kind of diabolical plan to assassinate her on set and make it look like an accident. The falling out and end of their personal relationship had been a harsh and humiliating time for Daria. Problems with Argento's behavior towards her supposedly started during Tenebrae (which furthered her agitation from being continuously not cast in roles she desired, stemming as far back as Suspiria), but her breaking point was during the filming of Phenomena where she was made to look "sixty years old" and had to perform in "stupid and dangerous stunts" involving a chimp. She was convinced that Argento was trying to ruin her. Now they want to strap real dynamite to the back of her head and shoot a blowgun with a condom full of blood in her face.

She accepted this role because she loved the death scene, and was also able to re-write her own dialogue. It's obvious from reading interviews with her and listening to her speak on these documentaries that she was terrified by a few of the scenes she had to perform in. If Argento was out to get her (or if it was just some unfortunate politics), or if he was really out to KILL her... well, I don't think we'll ever know the absolute truth regarding this. Who knows? Maybe it's a mix of all three of those things. Bottom line is that I love this beautiful woman as an actress and she's one strong lady for staying true to the cinema even though she got screwed over on a few roles she was meant for. We'll always have Deep Red and Shock. Watch the scene HERE!

1 comment:

Randroid said...

Great choice here. Didn't know about the behind the scenes drama but always wondered how they made this scene work. I'd be scared too...

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