Sunday, December 6, 2009

Underrated Performer of the Week: Daria Nicolodi, the Original (Italian) Scream Queen

Most Italian film fans will likely remember actress Daria Nicolodi as the longtime partner of horror director Dario Argento. She is also the mother of actress/director Asia Argento, who has starred in films of varying countries -- including France and the U.S. -- as well as several of her father's movies.

But Nicolodi was a talented actress. She provided a number of impressive performances in Argento's movies. She was quite charming and supplied much of the comic relief in her first film with Argento, 1974's
Deep Red (initially released in America as The Hatchet Murders, although a hatchet never appears in the film). She made the most of her smaller roles in Inferno (1980) and Opera (1987/aka Terror at the Opera), and she was excellent in Phenomena (1985/aka Creepers) and Tenebrae (1982/aka Unsane), the latter film as the leading lady.

However, Nicolodi made two wonderful contributions to the world of cinema. One was a commanding performance in Italian maestro Mario Bava's 1977 horror film,
Shock (originally released in the U.S. as Beyond the Door II, a pseudo-sequel to an Exorcist rip-off). Not only is Nicolodi superb as the protagonist, but she also appeared in what was Bava's final film. Nicolodi's other contribution was conceptualizing and co-writing Argento's Suspiria (1977). Suspiria, concerning witches and black magic at a dance academy, is undoubtedly Argento's most popular film (and perhaps his most successful). It was also the start of his infamous "Three Mothers" trilogy, followed three years later with Inferno, and the concluding film, Mother of Tears, released after nearly three decades in 2007.

Nicolodi has also appeared in Delirium: Photo of Gioia (1987, directed by Mario Bava's son, Lamberto Bava), 1991's The Sect (aka The Devil's Daughter, directed by Argento protege, Michele Soavi), and Scarlet Diva (2000), written and directed by her daughter, Asia Argento. The Italian actress last appeared in Mother of Tears, portraying the mother of the film's star, her real-life daughter.

It's unfortunate that Nicolodi was overshadowed by her partner's success as a film director, and even her daughter has achieved at least more notoriety than her mother. Daria Nicolodi was an extraordinary artist, a natural in front of the camera. Dario Argento will always be remembered for his horror movies, but one cannot watch a movie such as
Deep Red and miss Nicolodi's standout performance. Her acting accomplishments will become as timeless and renowned as the films themselves.


  1. Sark, this is a wonderful tribute to an actress whose work is not as well-known as it should be in the U.S. I have only seen a handful of her films, but she certainly made a strong impression in PHENOMENA (I've even seen the edited U.S. version CREEPERS) and TENEBRAE. In the former film, her portrait of the disturbing Frau Brückner nicely evolves from normal to genuinely creepy and makes for a tension-filled climax.

  2. Sark, this is such a beautifully written, heartfelt tribute. Thank you!

  3. Sark, i still think you should write a book. Awesome review.

  4. Thanks for the article ;)

    Carlo Ottavi

  5. Sark, I read this post again after reading your recent post about Zombie. You mentioned Dario Argento in it. I like his movies and have seen Suspiria and the other two movies in the Tears of the Mother trilogy. I read this post and put Deep Red in my Netflix queue. I look forward to watching it. Your excellent article got me intersted in seeing the movie.

  6. Sark, I saw Deep Red last night and really enjoyed it. Daria Nicolodi gave a fine performance as the reporter girlfriend of David Hemmings. Deep Red is an excellent movie with many clever clues as to the murder's identity. Your post has inspired me to watch several of Argento's movies that I did not know about. Enjoyed your post.

  7. I'm so glad someone mentions Daria's unique talent. Thanks. I also think she looked fantastic...