Contrary to our others Cult Sirens, she’s not your typical classic bombshell. She’s actually more on the skinny side. Her filmography is not that abundant, even with many horror titles included. Hmmm… what justifies Daria Nicolodi’s presence here? Just the fact that she used to be Dario Argento’s partner, himself master of Italian horror cinema? Or only that I could never forget the sight of her cruel little teeth in my first viewing of Deep Red? Like it or not, she remains a pivotal feminine figure in European fantasy movies. Let’s figure out why.
She was born in Florence, Italy, June 19, 1950, daughter of a lawyer and a philologist. As a youth, a passion for the occult manifested itself, passion that can be attributed to her grandmother, who supposedly practiced white magic and manifested premonitory powers. This benevolent influence would be useful for Daria’s late career, in elaborating extravagant scripts.
She ran away from home to enroll in the National Academy of Dramatic Arts in Rome in 1967. Her theater debut would come soon. In 1969, she saw The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, a movie directed by Dario Argento and Daria decided to meet the first-time director at all cost. Her determination was rewarded and the two would meet, quickly realizing that they had many common interests. A romance soon ensued, and a professional relationship would result in some astonishing work. Contrary to popular belief, the two never wed, but their union produced actress Asia Argento (grazia!) in 1975. In 1973, Daria was cast in La proprieta non e piu un furto, directed by Elio Petri, with Ugo Tognazzi and Julien Guiomard. The film would be nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
In 1975, Dario directed Daria in Deep Red, also starring David Hemmings. She played journalist Gianna Brezzi, adding some humor to a movie notorious for its scenes of brutality. To fully enjoy her character (and the movie, needless to say), I suggest that you find the original cut and avoid the many dramatically shortened versions on the market, which results in an incomprehensible experience. At Daria’s suggestions, Argento included a rock score, hiring a young band by the name of Goblin (as Pink Floyd and Deep Purple were not available). After working with legendary Ennio Morricone for his previous films, Argento was delighted with the results and the world of Italian horror was never the same.
Mario Bava, the Master himself, called on Daria for his Shock, also known as Beyond the Door 2. Its story is one of revenge, as a man murdered by his wife and her lover takes possession of his own son’s body. An excellent performance by Daria.
Meanwhile, Daria began writing a story mixing elements of her grandmother’s stories in a style reminiscing of Thomas de Quincey’s, a 19th century author associated with the romantic movement of literature and poetry. Precisely, Daria would retain a part of de Quincey’s book, Confessions of an Opium Eater, “Suspiria de Profundis”, dealing with the Three Mothers, a trio of malevolent witches. Remembering one of her granny’s story about attending piano courses in an academy supposedly run by satanists, Daria succeeded in creating the basic script for the movie Suspiria. The music academy became a dancing one. Daria and Dario also traveled everywhere in Europe to choose inspiring shooting locations.
Daria was initially cast in the main role, Suzy Bannen, but the American distributor insisted for a more familiar actress for the US market (Jessicar Harper was the final choice, recently triumphant in Phantom of the Paradise). Daria eventually refused a supporting role. With sensibly the same inspiration, she wrote the script for Inferno, more or less a sequel to Suspiria, with numerous occult and alchemical references. This time, Daria had a small role as Elise Stallone Van Adler. The last part of this trilogy, conceived by Daria, is still not on celluloid to this day (and it’s a shame).
In 1982, Daria played Anne in Dario’s Tenebrae, mainly inspired by a nut who really tried to harass the director with threatening phone calls. Daria’s hysterics at the end of the picture remain memorable. And who could forget Mrs. Bruckner in Phenomena, still from Dario? The less said about the end the better, but this remains one extremely weird motion picture… including a razor-wielding chimp. Of course, Daria can be seen in the 1985 documentary Dario Argento’s World of Horror. The same year, she shared some screen time with Jack Lemmon and Marcello Mastroianni in Macaroni.
1987 was the year of Daria’s last collaboration in a Dario Argento movie, with Opera. She could be seen the next year in the uneven Paganini Horror and in 1989 Daria narrated Sinbad of the Seven Seas, with Lou Ferrigno. Since that time, Daria’s movie career has slowed down. Let’s mention that she worked with her daughter Asia in Viola Kisses Everybody. One of her last role to date is in 1998 for Mots d’amour, with a brief appearance by Gérard Depardieu.
Yellow Press, a British publisher, has made available a booklet on Daria titled Daria Nicolodi: Deep Red Diva. To be a North-American fan of Daria mainly means watching Dario Argento movies with her distinguished presence. Who knows when she could come out with new, strange scenarios, considering the fantastic images that swims in her head. She remains an enigmatic presence that always fascinated me with her unique creative spirit and inner potential that should be better known. Another style of Cult Siren, and a welcome one.
1973 La proprieta non e piu un furto 1975 Deep Red 1977 Shock 1980 Inferno 1981 Il minestrone 1982 Unsane 1984 Creepers 1985 Macaroni 1987 Opera; Delirium 1989 Paganini Horror; School of Fear; Sinbad of the Seven Seas 1993 The End Is Known 1997 Viola Kisses Everybody 1998 Notes of Love 2000 Scarlet Diva; Rosa and Cornelia 2004 Soleado 2007 The Third Mother