I wasn’t expecting anything from this film and that’s the reason it’s sat, unwatched on my shelf for 10 years. Many of Argento’s recent films have not been up to the standard which he set early on in his career, but there was something about this film that’s just kept me away.
For the first 45 mins, I was pretty wrong about my wariness. It was quite good. Beautifully shot and interesting to see Argento envisage a turn of the century piece. There’s a few grizzly murders, a few nice bits of choreography and the setting all looks good. Even Asia seems to be putting in a good performance. Sadly, it all starts slipping away. Characters start doing strange things and the whole film turns into a huge mess of preposterousness. Julian Sands gives this big speech about growing up in the sewers with his friends the rats. I think it’s from this point that it goes wrong. There’s a crazy scene where the Phantom has an erotic moment with a few rats, which is the oddest thing I’ve ever seen. A tramp leads an army of police through the tunnels, which all seemed a bit Benny Hill and left me checking my watch with 20 minutes still to go.
It wasn’t all bad though. There are some moments of genius. A young girl watching a murder from behind her fingers is beautifully framed and there is also a very impressive dwarf decapitation after an accident driving a mechanical rat catching buggy. (the inclusion of this scene is still vague).
Argento has made such a huge contribution to the genre, but it’s hard to see why here.