Retro Review: Deep Red (1975)

Released by Arrow Films

Directed by Dario Argento

Written by Dario Argento and Bernardino Zapponi

1975, 127/105 minutes, Not Rated

Released on Blu ray January 25, 2016 (UK)

Starring:

David Hemmings as Marcus Daly

Daria Nicolodi as Gianna Brezzi

Macha Méril as Helga Ulmann

Gabriele Lavia as Carlo

Clara Calamai as Mother

Spoiler-Free Review:

For viewers who’ve never seen Dario Argento’s Deep Red (Profondo Rosso, the original title given in Italian), the expectations surrounding the film are supercilious and many consider this his second best film, next to Suspiria. When word on the street is mostly high praise, one anticipates with such regard. Unfortunately, this can lead one down a misleading path. Deep Red succeeds in portraying a macabre tale Edgar Allan Poe would have loved, and goes beyond storytelling in Argento’s unique literary “art house” style of filmmaking. In the end, the dilemma of if one liked the flick can be a mentally enduring process, as several aspects of Deep Red are fantastic, while others are lackluster. Whether you love or hate the movie, the recent Arrow UK Blu ray release is an undeniable beauty and must have for die-hard Argento and giallo fans.

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Marcus Daly (David Hemmings ) is a jazz pianist from London, residing in Italy, whom witnesses a murder in his apartment complex. He becomes intrigued amid the death, and with the help of a journalist, Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodo), begins to investigate the murder guerilla style. As the clues slowly unravel, Argento does a solid job keeping viewers guessing who the killer is until the very end; although with a keen eye, the killer is revealed for a split second early on in the film.

The Blu ray 4K restoration of Deep Red capitalizes on the success originally found in the cinematography and effects of the film, especially the elegantly done murder scenes. Argento is a master at painting a picture with film, knowing when to follow and hold back with the camera. When scenes are dark, he keeps everything illuminated and visible at the same time, rather than being lost in the shadows and silhouettes. The bright colors explode on the screen, especially the symbolic and iconic “red” that splatters throughout the film. The murder scenes are done with executive precision, stroked by a virtuoso and leaving viewers with memories of the distinct kills. The local chosen in Italy, Turin, is considered “magical” to Argento; he also chose the city to film in due to its abundance of practicing Satanists (see the special features for more production notes and information tidbits). This adds ghastly elements to the staging, especially when Argento uses wide shots of the empty-looking city.

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The Arrow Blu ray edition of Deep Red has the 127 minute Director’s Cut and 105 minute Export Version (which misses out on 37 scenes). Most of the cut scenes contain interpersonal dialogue, subplot and subtext between Marcus and Gianna, and the gender role context surrounding the duo. This is an important aspect to the film, and speaks volumes about the way men and women view each other. Gianna is a woman who is independent from men, hence her reasoning for becoming a journalist. Marcus is a “sensitive” artist, he proclaims, thus shedding light on who his character is. He treats Gianna with some respect, as to not degrade her while she throws sexually charged advances at him, but he does question her intelligence at times— leading viewers to question his. There is a slight comedic element to their relationship that does clash with the seriousness of the giallo on display, but is necessary to convey the connotation behind the gender themes at hand. This is where the Export Version succeeds in editing (except some of the violence/gore is cut, which sucks). For viewers who are into analyzing movie dialogue for literary dissection, then the Director’s Cut is the way to go. To skip what many may call “cheez,” jump into the Export Version and save yourself 22 minutes.

Dario Argento’s signature thumb print is embedded throughout Deep Red, and his fanatics will take pleasure in this giallo classic. Whether or not it is his second best, because Suspiria is first for most, the movie is part of the giallo and Argento canons. The horror fan is not generic and many will probably endure the movie differently—it is understandable to not believe the hype and dislike the film. They may not like Argento’s style, or think the blood he frequents looks terribly fake; that’s cool. But it’s time to set the record straight: most of this confusion stems from the praise over the past 40+ years it has been around. On Rotten Tomatoes it holds a 95% fresh rating, but on IMDB is rated 7.7/10. No way do I consider this that “fresh.” The IMDB rating is more on par with where I grade the film, and do see weaknesses in some of the acting and in parts that have not delved deep enough into explanation and motive. This is not enough to detract from an interesting and skillfully made film, especially Arrow’s phenomenally put together 3-disc box set. An excellent score created by Italian prog-rock band, Goblin, is included on the third disc, an audio CD. The haunting melodies, especially the children’s song (the killer’s mark), accompanies the motion picture delightfully eerily and I couldn’t stop listening to the CD in my car after watching (tons of Goblin on Spotify too).

Not just with Deep Red, but in all forms of art, the experience and opinion is all in the eye of the beholder— just be careful of the hype from other’s eyes.

 

3.5/5

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