Movie Review: “Stagefright” (1987) 4K Restoration

December 25, 2021

Written by Joseph Perry

Joseph Perry is the Film Festival Editor for Horror Fuel; all film festival related queries and announcements should be sent to him at He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.

Michele Soavi’s directorial debut Stagefright (AKA Aquarius; Italy, 1987) is already well known as one of the craziest entries in the slasher genre, and now it looks super thanks to Shameless Films’ terrific 4K restoration. The film combines giallo elements with the slasher approach and — a stage musical!

Alicia (Barbara Cupisti of Soavi’s later directorial features The Church and Cemetery Man) is an actress in a destined-to-bomb musical called The Night Owl, which is about a murdered prostitute who comes back to life to rape the man who killed her. Things only get more lurid from here, so hang on as the musical’s director Peter (David Brandon) goes off on a megalomaniacal trip after Alicia sneaks off to a nearby hospital to have her sore ankle checked with wardrobe mistress Betty (Ulrike Schwerk) — it’s a psychiatric hospital, and the young ladies unknowingly bring back to the theater Irving Wallace (Clain Parker), a psychotic former actor who has killed 16 people . . . and the body count is about to grow quite a bit.

With imaginative set design and cool visuals ranging from the killer’s owl-head mask to the musical’s wacky stylings (including a saxophone player dressed up like Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch) to some graphic, gory kills, Stagefright’s mise-en-scène is reason enough to check out this insane slice of fright fare, but the absolutely game cast is another reason. Some of the actors go for camp or scenery chewing while others play it straight and somehow it all works jaw-droppingly wonderfully.

Soavi, working from a script by George Cooper of Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper infamy, makes quite a splash at the helm here, and it is an intriguing start to a career that would lead to the aforementioned, much beloved fear fare slices of cinema listed above. If you have never seen Stagefright before, Shameless Films’ 4K restoration is a perfect way to dive in and if you are already a fan, here’s your chance to relive the film in all of its gory glory, looking and sounding quite stunning. 

Shameless Films presents Stagefright on Blu-ray and digital on demand 27 December, 2021.

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