Die hard Argento fans (myself included) were quick off the mark (fuelled by excitement) when word came out that Argento's latest opus 'Non Ho Sonno' (or 'Sleepless' as it would be known in the English speaking market) was debuting on DVD from his native country of Italy complete with an optional English audio track (as well as English subtitling for the Italian track also!) Soon after word got out that M.I.A. (Missing In Action) where planning a special release of the movie for the UK market and speculation inevitably rose about potential cuts to this latest line of Argento's bloody thrillers. Could M.I.A. get the film through the censors intact and would they bring to the UK DVD market a release that could surpass the well-received Italian release? Happily the answer to both of these questions is a resounding 'Yes!'

But first we must look at the movie itself. Those of you that read my opinions of the movie following the Italian release can skip ahead to the next section (where I take a close look at the disc itself) as although my feelings are pretty much the same, on repeated viewings I'll admit I've grown even fonder to the film than I did on initial viewing...

The Film

'Sleepless' is everything fans of Argento could have hoped for...'an old school giallo movie' that follows retired police inspector Moretti (played by Max Von Sydow) who finds himself embroiled in investigating a serial killer case he thought was closed years before. The problem being that the 'dwarf killer' as he was known is presumed dead and buried - so is it a copycat killer or has the original killer resumed his murderous ways?

Yes, Argento fans should rightly be grinning from ear to ear with this welcome return to the giallo genre by the Italian Hitchcock but is this the long awaited 'return to form' (as some have been plauding) or is it just a rehashed trip down memory lane? The truth is probably a middle ground of both.

Argento truly does deliver the goods at times in the movie with some great suspenseful moments; in particular the opening scenes are excellent and will grip you on your first viewing. And the script reads like it was written back in the hey-day of the giallo scene and brought out of hiding for this cinematic revival. And all the elements are here for a true return to form for the surviving grand master of Italian horror - great script, Argento directing, long time associates Goblin providing the stunning soundtrack and Sergio Stivaletti delivering the blood in some tasty gory moments - but why did it all leave an uneasy feeling with me?

The sad truth is that although 'Sleepless' is indeed a great film I couldn't help feel that at times it was just a greatest hits 'cut and paste' pastiche of Argento's earlier work. The signs are there throughout the movie with elements/shots/scenes lifted from Tenebrae, Deep Red et al that long time fans will easily pick up on. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing (and will be unnoticed to newcomers to his work) but at times they don't have the impact that the original versions had and seem worryingly like a director that's either ran out of ideas or is just going through the motions to appease the demands of obsessive fans (which is a shame really as films like the vastly underrated 'Phantom of the Opera' showcased Argento's growing development as a film maker in brilliant style).

As I said though, there are many great points to the movie that do make it very worthwhile, mostly Argento's direction is lovely (if maybe a touch like a low-cal softer version of what we're used to from him), Max Von Sydow steals the show with an excellent performance that outshines the rest of the cast and Goblin's main theme for the movie is great (and happily used often and well throughout the film!) Stivaletti's effects are on the main brilliant (I love this guy's make ups) but I couldn't help but feel awkward at one scene with Argento's overlong camera shot panning down a hallway rug (complete with two shots of vacuum cleaner in action!) building up to a shot of a pair of ballerina's feet twirling (as she is strangled) only for a prop head to be dropped to the floor! That said, on repeated viewings it does bring (what is hopefully intentional) light relief very much in the vein of exactly what Hitchcock used to do in the old days. And on the whole, the film is a highly enjoyable experience that will undoubtedly please Argento fans no end!

The Disc

Now here's where M.I.A. really do come up trumps with what is most surely the definitive essential release of this movie on DVD that you'll find in any regional market. Firstly you should take note that this release is presented as a double disc set, and set at a single disc price! And if that isn't enough then just look at what you get for your money...

The film print itself (on 'disc 1') is almost perfection with a strong detailed anarmorphic widescreen print (sharp, vibrant and colourful) that is not only fully uncut but contains an improved (over the Italian version) 5.1 surround sound English audio score. Sure the Italian subtitled track isn't here but considering that a) Argento films these movies with the casts multilingual vocal tracks for redubbing (and this English version retains Max Von Sydow's great original vocal performance) and b) this lovely remastered English audio track is simply stunning - then there really should is no room for grumbling!

Also contained on 'disc 1' are the extras that were present on the Italian release...there's the Italian theatrical trailer and the fun (but all too brief) 'Behind the Scenes' documentary filmed on the movies set that is presented here with full English subtitling (which was greatly missed from the Italian release). And as ever expected on such DVD releases, there's some nice Argento bio/filmography pages as well as a stills selection.

Now let's move onto 'disc 2' - what we get here is a very welcome addition indeed...the recently produced hour long documentary 'Dario Argento - An Eye For Horror' that debuted at London's 'Fright Fest' late last year. This documentary presents a loving overview of the great mans career with not only interviews with Argento himself but stars of his movies including Jessica Harper, Piper Laurie and his beautiful daughters Asia and Fiore, as well as some infamous fans of his work like John Carpenter and Alice Cooper. The documentary follows his career from the early days working with Sergio Leone, the legendary 'Dawn of the Dead' collaboration with George Romero, to his thoughts of being labelled 'The Italian Hitchcock' (don't listen to anyone - he is! Go on Dario - please finish 'The Kaleidoscope Murders' for Alfred?) to his latest opus (screening on disc 1!) Add to that some memorable clips from his classics, 'An Eye For Horror' is simply a stunning and perfect addition to this set that will enhance its all round pleasure no end! This second disc is also presented in a flawless anarmorphic widescreen with a 2.0 stereo audio track and like its disc 1 counterpart also contains a nice stills gallery.

The package as a whole is a tour de force for the UK DVD market and following last years great 'Witchfinder General' release (from Salvation/Metrodome), 'Missing In Action' have risen to the challenge and shown that they too can impress the UK genre fans with not only a stunning presentation but a great value one too! 'Sleepless' is essential viewing for Argento fans (and newcomers to his work) and M.I.A.'s set is the definitive package. Don't miss out - buy it now!

Review by Alan Simpson

Released by M.I.A.
Region 0 (PAL)
Running time - 117 mins
Ratio - 1.77:1 Anarmorphic Widescreen
Audio - Dolby 5.1 Surround
Extras :
Theatrical trailer, Making of, Dario Argento biography and filmography, Production stills gallery, 'An Eye For Horror' documentary, Stills gallery