Another Nine Nights of Argento #6 – “Door into Darkness: The Tram”

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Here we go again! For my third annual Halloween trek through horror master Dario Argento‘s frightful filmography, I’m glopping through a gory grab bag of the Giallo madman’s screenplays, TV work, and other obscure treats.

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With four nights remaining in this year’s Giallo marathon, it’s time to turn to the Dario Argento‘s directorial work for the small screen.

In 1973, the Italian TV station RAI aired a short series of hour-long anthology suspense tales with Argento taking on host duties as a kind of camera-shy Cryptkeeper who smokes a lot and spends half the time looking down at his script. Of the four episodes aired, Argento only directed this second entry (under the alias Sirio Bernadotte), although he allegedly did significant re-shoots on the third episode Eyewitness as well. Bringing to mind a middle-of-the-road season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, it’s probably best the series only ran four episodes, as they tended to be clunky, meandering affairs with little of the tension that Argento brought to The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, his high-water mark of the time.

The setup for The Tram is admittedly gripping. A commuter train rolls into its final station with the fresh corpse of a beautiful woman stuffed under the seat. The most Italian cop in the world grooves onto the scene in aviator glasses to put together the pieces and figure out whodunit. As a pure police procedural, The Tram is mostly successful, especially as our hero gathers together every passenger from the night of the murder and recreates the victim’s last ride.

Unfortunately, the whole thing unravels in the third act, culminating in the goofiest foot-chase of Argento’s career, which involves a beautiful but brainless Italian woman running a few feet and then flopping on her ass over and over again until you pray for the killer to catch up to her, if only to end the scene. Add to that an awful soundtrack of 70’s acid jazz and a total cop-out of a wrap-up, it’s easy to see why Door into Darkness is an oft-forgotten footnote in the Argento canon.

Next Up: DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? (2005)

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Categories: Dario Argento, Director Spotlight, Features

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