Dario Argento

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Dario Argento
Dario Argento 2014.jpg
Argento in 2014
Born (1940-09-07) 7 September 1940 (age 82)
Other namesSirio Bernadotte [1]
Marisa Casale
(m. 1968;div. 1972)
Partner Daria Nicolodi (1974–1985)
Children2, including Asia Argento
Relatives Claudio Argento (brother)

Dario Argento (Italian:  [ˈdaːrjo arˈdʒɛnto] ; born 7 September 1940) is an Italian film director, producer, screenwriter, actor and critic. His influential work in the horror genre during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in the subgenre known as giallo , has led him to being referred to as the "Master of the Thrill" [2] and the "Master of Horror". [3]


His films as director include his "Animal Trilogy", consisting of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971); his "Three Mothers" trilogy, consisting of Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980) and The Mother of Tears (2007); and his stand-alone films Deep Red (1975), Tenebrae (1982), Phenomena (1985) and Opera (1987). He co-wrote the screenplay for Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and served as George A. Romero's script consultant on Dawn of the Dead (1978), for which he also composed the soundtrack with his long-time collaborators Goblin.

Early life

Argento was born in Rome, the son of a Sicilian film producer and executive Salvatore Argento (1914–1987) and a Brazilian photographer Elda Luxardo (1915–2013), [4] who was of Italian ancestry. While still attending a Catholic secondary school as a teenager, Argento began working as a film critic, writing for magazines and as a columnist for the Rome-based newspaper Paese Sera [5] While working at the newspaper, Argento also began working as a screenwriter. His most notable works were for Sergio Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci and his collaboration on the story for the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West in 1968.



Dario Argento, Adriano Celentano and Enzo Cerusico in a pause during the shooting of The Five Days, 1973 Dario Argento, Adriano Celentano and Enzo Cerusico.jpg
Dario Argento, Adriano Celentano and Enzo Cerusico in a pause during the shooting of The Five Days , 1973

Argento began work on his directorial debut, the giallo film The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo, 1970), which was a major hit in Italy. Argento continued to concentrate largely on the giallo genre, directing two more successful thrillers, The Cat o' Nine Tails (Il gatto a nove code, 1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (4 mosche di velluto grigio, 1972). Along with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, these three films are frequently referred to as Argento's "Animal Trilogy". The director then turned his attention away from giallo movies, filming two Italian TV dramas and a period comedy, The Five Days (Le cinque giornate, 1973). Argento returned to thrillers with Deep Red (1975), frequently cited by many critics as the best giallo ever made. [6] [7] The film made Argento known internationally and inspired other directors to work in the genre. John Carpenter has frequently referred to the influence Argento's early work had on Halloween (1978). [8]

Argento's next film was Suspiria (1977), a supernatural horror. Argento planned for Suspiria to be the first of a trilogy about "The Three Mothers", three ancient witches residing in three different modern cities. The second film of the trilogy was 1980's Inferno . The Mother of Tears (2007) concluded the trilogy. [9]

In 1978, Argento collaborated with George A. Romero on Dawn of the Dead, earning a producer credit and also providing soundtrack work for the zombie film. Argento oversaw the European release of the film, where it was titled Zombi, which was much shorter and featured more of the score written and performed by Goblin. [10]


Argento in 1985 Argento 02.jpg
Argento in 1985

After Inferno, Argento returned to the more conventional giallo style with Tenebrae (1982). He then attempted to combine giallo and supernatural fantasy in 1985's Phenomena, also known as Creepers, which was one of Jennifer Connelly's earliest movies. [11] Phenomena also showed Argento's predilection for using new technology, as evidenced by the film's several prowling Steadicam shots. Both films received a lukewarm reception upon their release (although each has been positively reappraised since). [12]

Argento subsequently took a break from directing to write two screenplays for Mario Bava's son, Lamberto Bava: Dèmoni (1985) and Dèmoni 2 (1986).

Opera followed in 1987. Set in Parma's Regio Theatre during a production of Verdi's Macbeth , the production was beset by real-life misfortunes that Argento suspected were caused by the supposed traditional "curse" on the Shakespearean play. Argento's father died during its production, Vanessa Redgrave quit the project before filming began, he had problems working with his former long-time girlfriend and collaborator Daria Nicolodi on-set, and the cast and crew were plagued by several minor accidents and mishaps.

In 1987–88, Argento produced a TV series called Turno di Notte , which had 15 episodes. Nine of the shows were directed by Luigi Cozzi, the other six by Lamberto Bava. Daria Nicolodi and Asia Argento starred in several of the episodes.

Argento later produced and wrote the screenplays for two horror films directed by Michele Soavi, The Church (1989) and The Sect (1991).


Argento interviewed by Martin Sauvageau during the Festival International du Cinema Fantastique de Montreal in 1994 Dario Argento in 1994.jpg
Argento interviewed by Martin Sauvageau during the Festival International du Cinéma Fantastique de Montréal in 1994

In 1990, Argento co-directed Two Evil Eyes with George Romero, a two-story anthology film inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

In 1992, Argento filmed Trauma, starring his daughter Asia Argento, in Minneapolis, MN. It is largely a traditional giallo, but in an American setting. Like many of Argento's films, it contains an optical illusion witnessed by a character stumbling upon a murder, but he or she, like the audience, misinterprets the nature of the crime. This cinematic sleight-of-hand is one of Argento's recurring motifs.

His 1996 film The Stendhal Syndrome , in which a policewoman (played by Argento's daughter, Asia) who suffers from Stendhal syndrome is trapped by a serial killer in an abandoned warehouse, was the first Italian film to use computer-generated imagery. Moreover, the film's opening scene was shot in Florence at Italy's famed Uffizi Gallery. Argento is the only director ever granted permission to shoot there. The Stendhal Syndrome was distributed in the U.S. by cult B-movie distribution company Troma Entertainment.

In the early 1990s, Argento was interested in collaborating with Italian director Lucio Fulci on a horror film. Due to financial setbacks, the project was repeatedly postponed. In 1996, Argento was able to gather the funding, but was unable at that point to collaborate with Fulci who died in March of that year. The film was later directed by Sergio Stivaletti as Wax Mask , with Argento and Fulci both receiving co-screenwriting credits.

Argento later directed 1998's The Phantom of the Opera and 2001's Sleepless .

2000s and 2010s

Argento discusses his film Pelts at the Torino Film Festival in 2006 Dario Argento at Torino Film Festival 2006.jpg
Argento discusses his film Pelts at the Torino Film Festival in 2006

In 2004, Argento directs The Card Player , a giallo about a killer whose murders are conducted during Internet poker matches with the Rome police, earned a mixed reception; some fans appreciated the techno music score composed by ex-Goblin member Claudio Simonetti, but felt the film was too mainstream, with little of Argento's usual flourish.

In the 2005 TV broadcast of Argento's Do You Like Hitchcock? , the director paid homage to Alfred Hitchcock after decades of being compared to him by critics. Later that year, he directed an episode of Masters of Horror , a Showtime television series, called "Jenifer". For season two of the series, Argento directed "Pelts", an adaption of the F. Paul Wilson short story of the same name.

In 2007, Argento finished the final film of his Three Mothers trilogy, The Mother of Tears, which is set in Rome and centers on the titular "third mother", Mater Lacrimarum. Argento and Jace Anderson share writing credits for the film. Asia Argento was cast as the lead player, along with her mother and frequent Argento collaborator Daria Nicolodi in a supporting role. Udo Kier, who appeared in Argento's Suspiria, and Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, who appeared in three of his previous films, both have pivotal roles in the final Mothers chapter.

On 26 June 2009, Giallo premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival. The following month, he announced that he had started working on a 3D remake of Deep Red, [13] but subsequently this project was shelved due to the commercial failure of Giallo in Italian cinemas. He then announced his decision to write a new screenplay . [14] On 4 March 2011, it was announced that Rutger Hauer had signed on to play Van Helsing in Argento's Dracula 3D , which began shooting in Budapest later in the year. [15] It was released on 19 May 2012 to generally negative reviews.

Argento at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival Dario Argento Cannes 2017.jpg
Argento at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival


In 2021, Argento returned to acting and portrayed an unnamed father in Gaspar Noe's 2021 psychological drama film Vortex . The film screened in the Premiere section at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival to critical acclaim for his performance. [16]

In 2022, Argento directs Dark Glasses , in his first directorial work since the 2012 film Dracula 3D. [17]

Unrelated projects

In 2014, Argento was slated to direct The Sandman, which had Iggy Pop attached to star and a script by David Tully. The film successfully raised over $195,000 from over 1,000 backers on Indiegogo in December 2014. [18] However, filming has not commenced as of 2019, and the project producers have not updated the film's status to backers since August 2017. [19]

Italian director Luca Guadagnino helmed Suspiria (2018), a remake of Argento's 1977 film. The American screenplay is based on the original script Argento wrote with Daria Nicolodi, his former long-term partner.

In 2019, Argento announced that he was developing a female-led serial movie, consisting of eight episodes, for a streaming service. [20]

Other work

He is involved in operating a horror memorabilia store located at Via dei Gracchi 260 in Rome named Profondo Rosso, after his classic film Deep Red. In the cellar is a collection of his movies. The store is managed by his long-time collaborator and friend Luigi Cozzi. [21] [22] [23] [24]

He has contributed in the development of the survival horror video game Dead Space , and also in the dubbing of the Dr. Kyne character in the Italian version of the game. [25]

He is acting as an artistic director on Clod Studio's upcoming video game Dreadful Bond. [26]

Personal life

Argento in 1993 with his daughter Asia Asia Argento et Dario Argento Cannes 1993.jpg
Argento in 1993 with his daughter Asia

Between 1968 and 1972, Argento was married to Marisa Casale, the great-granddaughter of Italian composer, pianist and conductor Alfredo Casella. Argento and Casale had one child, actress and costume designer Fiore Argento (born in 1970).

Argento had a professional and romantic relationship with Italian actress and screenwriter Daria Nicolodi; they met in 1974 during casting for Deep Red, and their daughter Asia Argento was born in 1975. Nicolodi co-wrote Argento's Suspiria (1977) and appeared in Argento's Deep Red (1975), Inferno (1980), Tenebrae (1982), Phenomena (1985), Opera (1987), and The Mother of Tears (2007). Argento and Nicolodi separated in 1985.

An actress and director, Asia Argento's earliest screen appearances includes roles in her father's productions Demons 2 (1986) and The Church (1989) before being directed by her father in the films Trauma (1993), The Stendahl Syndrome (1996), The Phantom of the Opera (1998), The Mother of Tears (2007), and Dracula 3D (2012).

Works and criticism

Maitland McDonagh wrote about Argento in her book Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento (1991). Argento is also the subject of Art of Darkness, a collection of critical essays, reviews, promotional stills, and poster art edited by Chris Gallant. British journalist Alan Jones published Profondo Argento, a compendium of set reports, interviews, and biographical detail. English sound designer, writer, and musician Heather Emmett published Sounds to Die For: Speaking the Language of Horror Film Sound, which includes the first in-depth study of the use of sound in Argento's films. [27]

In 2012, Argento was highlighted in the retrospective Argento: Il Cinema Nel Sangue at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. The retrospective celebrated the influence of the Argento family on filmmaking in Italy and around the world. It highlighted Dario's contribution, as well as that of his father (Salvatore), brother (Claudio), ex-wife (Daria Nicolodi) and daughter (Asia). [28] [29] [30]

Critical decline

With the exceptions of The Stendhal Syndrome and Sleepless, all of Argento's films since the "golden age" of the 1970s and 1980s have been generally poorly received by critics and fans alike, including Argento scholars such as Maitland McDonagh. Fangoria wrote in 2010, "over the last decade, standards have slipped. For a filmmaker who was always so precise in his construction and cutting, his later films such as The Phantom of the Opera and The Card Player are sloppy, stitched together so carelessly that they leak vital fluid. Gradually, the kaleidoscopic style that once characterized his films has slowly blanched away." [31]



TitleYearCredited as
Scusi, lei è favorevole o contrario?
English title: Pardon, Are You For or Against?
Qualcuno ha tradito
English title: Someone's a Traitor
Oggi a me... domani a te! (Today It's Me... Tomorrow You!)
English title: Today We Kill... Tomorrow We Die!
Comandamenti per un gangster Yes
Commandos Yes
La rivoluzione sessualeYes
C'era una volta il West
English title: Once Upon a Time in the West
Une corde, un Colt... (The Rope and the Colt...)
aka Cemetery Without Crosses
Metti, una sera a cena (One Night at Dinner)
English title: The Love Circle
Probabilità zeroYes
La legione dei dannati (Legion of the Damned)
English title: Battle of the Commandos
Un esercito di cinque uomini
English title: The Five Man Army
La stagione dei sensi
English title: The Season of the Senses
L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo
English title: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
a.k.a. The Gallery Murders
1970YesYesYesMurderer's Hands (uncredited)
Il gatto a nove code
English title: The Cat o' Nine Tails
4 mosche di velluto grigio
English title: Four Flies on Grey Velvet
Così sia (So Be It)
English title: Man Called Amen
Le cinque giornate
English title: The Five Days of Milan
YesYesYesBandaged man with Tranzunto (uncredited)
Profondo rosso
English title: Deep Red
1975YesYesYesMurderer's Hands (uncredited)
Suspiria 1977YesYesYesYesNarrator (voice; uncredited)
English title: Dawn of the Dead
1978European Cut(Uncredited, European Cut)Yes
English title: Martin
(Uncredited, European Cut)Yes
Inferno 1980YesYesYesNarrator (voice; uncredited)
English title: Tenebrae, a.k.a. Unsane
1982YesYesYesNarrator; Murderer's Hands (voice; uncredited)
English title: Creepers
1985YesYesYesYesNarrator (voice; uncredited)
English title: Demons
Dèmoni 2
English title: Demons 2: The Nightmare Begins
English title: Terror at the Opera
1987YesYesYesYesNarrator (voice; uncredited)
La chiesa
English title: The Church, a.k.a. Demons III
Due occhi diabolici (The Black Cat episode only)
English title: Two Evil Eyes
La Setta (The Sect)
English title: The Devil's Daughter
Innocent Blood 1992YesParamedic
English title: Dario Argento's Trauma
La sindrome di Stendhal
English title: The Stendhal Syndrome
Il cielo è sempre più blu (The Sky is Always Bluer)
English title: Bits and Pieces
YesMan Confessing To Franciscan Monk
M.D.C. - Maschera di cera
English title: Wax Mask
Il fantasma dell'opera
English title: The Phantom of the Opera
Scarlet Diva 2000Yes
Non ho sonno (I Can't Sleep)
English title: Sleepless
Il cartaio
English title: The Card Player
La Terza madre (The Third Mother)
English title: Mother of Tears
Giallo 2009YesYes
Dracula 3D 2012YesYes
Suspiria 2018inspired by the 1977 film's script [32]
Vortex 2021Yes [33] Father
Occhiali neri (Black Glasses)
English title: Dark Glasses


TitleYearCredited as
Door into Darkness
Episodes: Il tram and Testimone oculare
Turno di Notte1987Yes
Ti piace Hitchcock?
English title: Do You Like Hitchcock?
Masters of Horror
Episodes: Jenifer and Pelts
Tutti pazzi per amore 2010YesUgo, presidente commissione d'esame
100 Bullets D'Argento2012YesD'Argento


1993 – The King of Ads (director)


Life time achievement award

Related Research Articles

<i>Suspiria</i> 1977 Italian supernatural horror film by Dario Argento

Suspiria is a 1977 Italian supernatural horror film directed by Dario Argento, who co-wrote the screenplay with Daria Nicolodi, partially based on Thomas De Quincey's 1845 essay Suspiria de Profundis. The film stars Jessica Harper as an American ballet student who transfers to a prestigious dance academy but realizes, after a series of brutal murders, that the academy is a front for a supernatural conspiracy. It also features Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé, Alida Valli, Udo Kier, and Joan Bennett, in her final film role.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lucio Fulci</span> Italian filmmaker (1927–1996)

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<i>The Stendhal Syndrome</i> 1996 Italian giallo film by Dario Argento

The Stendhal Syndrome(Ital. La Sindrome di Stendhal) is a 1996 Italian Giallo film written and directed by Dario Argento and starring his daughter Asia Argento, with Thomas Kretschmann and Marco Leonardi. It was the first Italian film to use computer-generated imagery (CGI). It was a critical and commercial success in Italy, grossing ₤5,443,000 Italian lira.

<i>Giallo</i> Literature and film genre

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lamberto Bava</span> Italian film director

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Goblin is an Italian progressive rock band known for their film scores. They frequently collaborate with Dario Argento, most notably creating the scores for Profondo Rosso in 1975 and Suspiria in 1977. Because their collaborator Dario Argento specializes in creating horror, suspense and slasher/giallo genre movies, scores made by Goblin in these movies often had eerie and ominous tones. CD re-releases of their scores have performed well, especially in Germany and Japan. Goblin returned with a series of live concerts in Europe in 2009 and in North America in 2013.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Daria Nicolodi</span> Italian actress and screenwriter (1950–2020)

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michele Soavi</span> Italian filmmaker, actor, and screenwriter

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<i>Phenomena</i> (film) 1985 film

Phenomena is a 1985 Italian supernatural horror giallo film directed by Dario Argento and starring Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, and Donald Pleasence. The plot concerns an American girl at a remote Swiss boarding school who discovers she has psychic powers that allow her to communicate with insects, and uses them to pursue a serial killer who is butchering young women at and around the school.

<i>Inferno</i> (1980 film) 1980 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento

Inferno is a 1980 Italian supernatural horror film written and directed by Dario Argento, and starring Irene Miracle, Leigh McCloskey, Eleonora Giorgi, Daria Nicolodi and Alida Valli. The plot follows a young man's investigation into the disappearance of his sister, who had been living in a New York City apartment building that also served as a home for a powerful, centuries-old witch. The cinematography was by Romano Albani, and Keith Emerson composed the film's musical score.

<i>Tenebrae</i> (film) 1982 Italian giallo film by Dario Argento

Tenebrae is a 1982 Italian giallo film written and directed by Dario Argento. The film stars Anthony Franciosa as American author Peter Neal, who – while in Rome promoting his latest murder-mystery novel – becomes embroiled in the search for a serial killer who may have been inspired to kill by his novel. John Saxon and Daria Nicolodi co-star as Neal's agent and assistant respectively, while Giuliano Gemma and Carola Stagnaro appear as detectives investigating the murders. John Steiner, Veronica Lario, and Mirella D'Angelo also feature in minor roles. The film has been described as exploring themes of dualism and sexual aberration, and has strong metafictional elements; some commentators consider Tenebrae to be a direct reaction by Argento to criticism of his previous work, most especially his depictions of murders of women.

<i>Deep Red</i> 1975 giallo film directed by Dario Argento

Deep Red, also known as The Hatchet Murders, is a 1975 Italian giallo horror film directed by Dario Argento and co-written by Argento and Bernardino Zapponi. It stars David Hemmings as a musician who investigates a series of murders performed by a mysterious figure wearing black leather gloves. The cast also stars Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril, and Clara Calamai. The film's score was composed and performed by Goblin, the first in a long-running collaboration with Argento.

<i>Opera</i> (1987 film) 1987 Italian film

Opera is a 1987 Italian giallo slasher film directed and co-written by Dario Argento and starring Cristina Marsillach, Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi, and Ian Charleson. The film's plot focuses on a young soprano (Marsillach) who becomes involved in a series of murders being committed inside an opera house by a masked assailant. The film features music composed and performed by Brian Eno, Claudio Simonetti, and Bill Wyman.

<i>The Three Mothers</i> Italian horror film trilogy

The Three Mothers is a trilogy of supernatural horror films by Italian filmmaker Dario Argento. It consists of Suspiria, Inferno and Mother of Tears. Each film deals with one of the titular "Mothers", a triumvirate of ancient witches whose powerful magic allows them to manipulate world events on a global scale, killing anyone who discover their whereabouts, and who are determined to rule the world.

<i>Mother of Tears</i> 2007 film directed by Dario Argento

Mother of Tears is a 2007 supernatural horror film written and directed by Dario Argento, and starring Asia Argento, Daria Nicolodi, Moran Atias, Udo Kier and Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni. The film has also been billed in English-speaking media as Mater Lachrymarum, The Third Mother and Mother of Tears: The Third Mother.

Ania Pieroni is a former Italian actress, known for The House by the Cemetery (1981), Tenebrae (1982) and Inferno (1980).

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Alan Jones is a film critic, broadcaster and reporter on the Horror Fantasy genre who has travelled the world to report on movies in production. His first assignment was the original Star Wars in 1977, after which he became London correspondent for Cinefantastique magazine (1977–2002) and reviewed for British magazine Starburst from 1980 until 2008. A film critic for Film Review and Radio Times, he has made contributions to the Radio Times Guide to Films, the Radio Times Guide to Science Fiction and Halliwell's Film Guide. He has also served as film critic for BBC News 24, Front Row on BBC Radio 4, and on Sky News programme Sunrise. He has worked for many of the long-established cinema magazines – Empire, Premiere and Total Film, an article in which – The Splat Pack – is credited for the first use of a term that is now part of film industry jargon.

<i>Wax Mask</i> 1997 film

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Further reading