The Stendhal Syndrome (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

In Florence, several hundred times a year, people viewing the Renaissance masterpieces grow dizzy and fall or faint. Psychologists call this condition the Stendhal Syndrome because in 1817, Stendhal walked into a Tuscan Church and suffered a loss of equilibrium, Stendhal wrote in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio Calabria. "On leaving the Santa Croce church, I felt a pulsating in my heart. Life was draining out of me, while I walked fearing a fall."

In the first scene of Dario Argento's movie, Anna Manni (Dario's daughter, Asia) experiences such a severe case of the Stendhal Syndrome that she passes out, cuts her lip, and doesn't seem to know who she is when she recovers her balance.  Outside the museum, a seeming stranger named Alfredo returns her forgotten purse. We find out in time that the woman is a detective and that she is pursuing a rapist/murderer, who happens to be the man who returned her purse. No, it isn't an unlikely coincidence. It was a set-up. Alfredo is stalking her as she stalks him. In fact, in the course of the first half of this film, Alfredo rapes her multiple times, and also forces her to watch him rape and kill others. (In artistic slo-mo, no less)

Why doesn't this continue in the second half of the movie? Because Alfredo is dead. They catch and kill him

What? Then how can the film keep going? Because it becomes a completely different movie.


Although the film has several rape scenes which are shown in lingering detail, and Asia herself is raped while tied down.

But in every case, the rapist leaves his victims fully dressed. I guess the director was a bit shy about this since the prmary victim was his own daughter.

The abuse she suffers at the hands of her assailant causes a severe psychological trauma. She rises from her hospital bed, dons a wig, and assumes Alfredo's identity, thus enabling him to continue his crime spree even after his death.

Strange flick. It seems like about five different movies, each of which has only a tangential relationship to the others. There is a red herring sub-plot with the detective's psychologist. There is a seemingly unrelated sub-plot with her weakling ex-boyfriend. There is a flashback story to the first time she experienced the Stendhal Syndrome as a child. It was never clear to me exactly what the Stendhal Syndrome really had to do with the rest of the movie. It seemed as if Dario just thought that was an interesting concept, and forced it into the plot. It would have been essentially the same movie without it. Except with a different title! 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Commentary by director Dario Argento (in English and Italian)

  • widescreen letterbox, 1.85

  • Interviews with Dario Argento and Troma president Lloyd Kaufman

Dario didn't do much of a job at making the pieces fit together neatly, but it is a movie with a superb visual sense, and that can be fun to watch. Unfortunately, the DVD transfer is shabby, and the movie is badly dubbed by a group of what seems to be non-actors. I might recommend this movie to you as a rich visual feast if there was a good DVD version available, but with this Troma issue, I just can't recommend it, because the film's only real strength (the visuals) is spoiled by the poor quality of the transfer, and the inept dubbing puts the entire package below the Mendoza line.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D+ in this version, but could perhaps be as high as a C+ if they ever issue a subtitled version with a great transfer. See main comments

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