Michele Soavi acted for a veritable who’s who of Italian horror filmmakers (including Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Lamberto Bava) before turning to directing, so it’s no surprise that their influences can be found all over Stagefright, his exuberant but thin debut behind the camera. As in Bava’s Demons, the action is mostly restricted to a claustrophobic setting cannily chosen for the genre’s frequent themes of spectatorship and heightened sensation. The Italian title, Deliria, is apt: In the opening scene, a provocatively attired woman is attacked by seemingly disembodied gloved hands, and loud music plays as the camera pulls back to reveal a theatrical stage. The Night Owl, an avant garde “intellectual musical,” is being rehearsed, and, as if the snippy director (David Brandon) didn’t already have his hands full with divas and clunky numbers, a maniac is set loose in the locked theater with a full arsenal of chainsaws and power drills. Soavi is no stranger to the dreamlike, spiritual qualities of horror, as his subsequent efforts (The Church, Cemetery Man) prove, though Stagefright proceeds as a rather earthbound taster of winky genre self-reflexivity, arranging the remains of the killer’s victims across a soundstage for a tableaux that would be witty if it had anything to say about the giallo’s singular penchant for violence as spectacle. Soavi’s most original decision here is to frame his gorefest as a spoof of the Warner Bros. musicals of the ‘30s, with their hoariest cliché—the leading dancer with a twisted ankle—used to usher in an ax-wielding maniac rather than an ingénue’s big break. Such impudent touches distinguish Soavi from the average Argento imitator, even if his film remains a jaunty freshman’s seminar next to the complex dissertation of Opera.
Not nearly as delirious as Argento's, Soavi's palette is well preserved in Blue Underground's transfer, keeping the film's original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The sound, available in both 2.0 and 5.1 surround, has a punchy fullness.
A nicely detailed bio of the filmmaker and the movie's theatrical trailer are the only extras.
Skimpy on the extras, Blue Underground nevertheless provides Soavi's spunky freshman effort with an agreeable presentation.