Italian director whose films feature flashy direction, elaborate murder set pieces, and gothic suspense. Praised by fans as the Italian Hitchcock, panned by critics as a case of style over substance, Argento is revered in Italy as their premiere horror filmmaker. In the US, he is largely unknown, save for rabid cult followings. Famous American fans include Quentin Tarantino and John Carpenter.
Dario Argento is considered one of the masters of the giallo film, a genre marked by mystery killers, lurid characters, and elaborate death sequences. Though not the first to popularize the genre (that credit goes to Mario Bava, a director under whom Argento worked as an assistant), his innovations in style and content helped launch the giallo explosion of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
Dario Argento was born in Rome, Italy on September 7th, 1940 (though some sources claim it was 1943). His father, Salvatore Argento, was a film producer, so Dario grew up around the Italian movie business. By the time he was twenty, Argento was working as a screenwriter, and soon after was hired as an assistant director to Mario Bava. Finally, he got his big break in 1970, directing his first feature film, The Bird with Crystal Plumage.
The Bird with Crystal Plumage was a huge success. Not only did Argento follow it with two other gialli films with animal names in the titles, other Italian directors took his success as a cue to produce gialli vaguely related to animals, thus sparking the major giallo Italian film cycle. After this so-called ‘animal trilogy,’ Argento directed another giallo, Profondo Rosso, which marked a massive leap in directorial style. But after four films that worked within the same general form, Argento created what many consider his greatest film, Suspiria. A mix of gothic horror and traditional giallo, Suspiria took the Italian horror scene and Argento into new territory.
Dario Argento was a bona fide star in Italy, even garnering fans outside his home country. In 1978, he co-produced George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, even re-editing the film for Italian release as Zombi -- which helped spark the zombie film cycle in Italy. Along with directing more films, both supernatural and suspense, he helped produce up-and-coming Italian horror directors like Lamberto Bava and Michele Soavi. In 1993, he made an American film, Trauma, thanks to his growing cult reputation. He even made a brief but unsuccessful run at public office in Rome in 1997.
His filmography includes The Cat o' Nine Tails, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Inferno, Tenebrae, Phenomena, Opera, The Stendahl Syndrome, and Phantom of the Opera. His latest film, Non ho sonno (Sleepless), has been released on DVD and video. He is currently working on the second of three films for Cecchi Gori Films in Italy.
Though he and actress Daria Nicolodi never married during the years that they were together, they did have two children together, Asia and Fiore. Asia Argento has become an actress in her own right and something of a cult phenomenon. After her father cast her in several of his films, she gained notoriety in genre films, and is now filming millennium edition spy thriller XXX opposite Vin Diesel. Fiore has taken a much quieter route, at least in the film world. She has appeared in small parts in a few of Dario’s films, though not branching out to be involved in non-family related projects.