Although, to the uninitiated, the frequently used analogy "the Italian Hitchcock" may offer a quick and tidy summation of director Dario Argento's enduring career, this overused comparison ultimately fails to give Argento due credit for his undeniable originality and natural talent as a filmmaker. His often disturbing and horrific films possess a transcendent visual beauty that, in addition to carrying the flame for such Italian cinematic legends as Mario Bava, combines with his talent for weaving supremely menacing mysteries to create waking celluloid nightmares that burn themselves into the audience's psyche.
Born in Rome to prolific Italian film producer Salvatore Argento and fashion model Elda Luxardo, it was obvious from the beginning that young Dario was meant for a career in the film industry. Though, by all accounts, he led a relatively normal childhood, it was his early years that found the future director developing a marked fascination with dark fantasy. Inspired by the works of the Brothers Grimm and Edgar Allan Poe, it wasn't long before young Argento's vivid imagination began to run wild. Argento became a critic for Rome's Paese Sera while still a Catholic high school student, and, feeling restricted by having to critique the films of others, he decided to put his knowledge to good use by writing a screenplay. After gaining his initial writing credits with a handful of Westerns and crime dramas in the mid- to late '60s, a collaboration with Bernardo Bertolucci and Sergio Leone resulted in the classic Once Upon a Time in the West and began to open many doors for the ambitious young screenwriter.
Argento penned numerous screenplays in the following few years, eventually adapting Frederick Brown's novel The Screaming Mimi, which he decided to direct. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage proved a highly stylized mystery that scored a box-office hit on both sides of the Atlantic. That film and Argento's follow-ups, The Cat O' Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972), were dubbed the "Animal Trilogy" by fans and critics. Though neither of the latter two proved the box-office draw of his debut, they nevertheless showed an impressive talent emerging.
Taking a break from the giallo to direct the Italian-centric comedy Western The Five Days in Milan (1973), as well as some television work, it wasn't long before Argento was back to his old bag of tricks -- this time finding more success than ever. Released in 1975, Profondo Rosso (aka Deep Red) eschewed the melodic scores of Morricone for the all-out aural assault of Goblin. Both unconventional and severely unsettling, Goblin's music would continue to accompany many of Argento's subsequent films, not the least of which was his subsequent film, Suspiria.
Scored before filming even began, it is rumored that Argento blasted the terrifying Suspiria soundtrack as actors played out their scenes in order to create an unmistakable air of discomfort. (As was usual for Italian films of this period, no synch sound film was used, making it easier to dub films for international audiences.) Essentially combining the giallo with supernatural horror, Suspiria was inspired by the writing of Thomas DeQuincey and offered Argento the chance to collaborate on a screenplay with then-girlfriend Daria Nicolodi (who had previously starred in Profondo Rosso). A nightmarish visual and auditory assault, Suspiria terrified audiences worldwide and stood alongside Profondo Rosso as the apex of Argento's career. It was soon announced that Suspiria would be the first installment of a planned trilogy, often referred to as the "Three Mothers" films.
Following duties as producer on director George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Argento returned to the director's chair with Inferno (1980), the second chapter in the Three Mothers series. Inferno proved a worthy successor in the eyes of many fans, and although the title of his next film, Tenebre (