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The Curator of Schlock #329 by Jeff Shuster

Tenebrae

Also known as Tenebre. Someone needs to learn how to spell.

I tried mentioning the coffin filled with ashes to Jervis, but he flew the coop before I could say anything. He left a note behind, something about a sick grandmother. Jervis prepped a rack of lamb in the fridge with instructions on reheating. He even included mint jelly. Mmmmm. Mint jelly. Still, I don’t like being in this mansion all by myself. I hear funny noises at night.

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We’re kicking off another Giallo Month and it’s not like I need an excuse to enjoy these macabre Italian thrillers in the heat of August. Tonight’s movie is 1982’s Tenebrae from director Dario Argento. I have to say if you wanted to get into Giallo movies, Tenebrae would be a great place to start. The man who kicked off the genre returned in 1982 to direct what is one his best films. Also at the helm on the soundtrack side are former members of Goblin: Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, and Massimo Morante. If that isn’t enough to sell you on Tenebrae, this movie made it on Great Britain’s list of video nasties. You couldn’t even buy a copy of Tenebrae over there until 1999.

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The movie begins with an American writer, Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa), taking a trip to Rome, Italy to promote his latest thriller, Tenebrae. He’s greeted in Rome by his assistant, Anna (Daria Nicolodi), and his literary agent, Bullmer (John Saxon). Bulmer is excited that Tenebrae has remained on the bestseller list for twelve weeks straight and is even more excited about the new fedora he purchased. Seriously, this Bullmer guy is truly obsessed with his hat. This is 1982! Were men wearing fedoras back then? Not that I can remember. Maybe in Europe?

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Anyway, Peter Neal’s arrival in Rome coincides with murder, murder, murder! Yes, there’s a psycho serial killer on the loose. The first murder is a shoplifter named Elsa. The killer tears pages out of Tenebrae and shoves them down Elsa’s throat before slitting said throat with a razor blade. The next murder is that of a young feminist critic of Peter Neal that labeled Tenebrae “a sexist novel.” She also gets her throat slit.

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One segment of this film is real nightmare fuel for those of you out there with dog phobias. A teenage girl named Maria walks home after a date gone wrong and is alarmed by a barking doberman pinscher behind a gate. She tries scaring him off with a stick to no avail and smartly steps away only to be alarmed when the canine jumps the gate and dashes down the street after her. After running through a park and fending off the beast, she sneaks into the garage of the closest house only to discover it to be the home of the serial killer. Yeah, things aren’t going to work out well for Maria.

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Naturally, Peter Neal gets involved in trying to solve who the murderer is since the Italian police department is dumbfounded as it usually is in these movies. I won’t spoil the rest of the movie, but things are not as they seem. Tenebrae is one of Argento’s better movies. I’d put it in his top five.


JOHN SAXON

1936-2020

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John Saxon is a favorite of this blog for movies such as Battle Beyond the StarsCannibal Apocalypse, and Black Christmas. He may be gone from this world, but he will never be gone from The Museum of Schlock. I expect to encounter him in several more unearthed cinematic gems. Rest in peace, John Saxon.


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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.