Director: Dario Argento
Script: Dario Argento & Barnardino Zapponi
Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Meril, Eros Pagni, Giuliana Calandra, Glauco Mauri
Running time: 127 minutes
Marcus (David Hemmings) is a jazz musician who sees what he thinks is a murder being committed on his way home late one night. Rushing into the apartment block, where the assault happened, he narrowly misses encountering the murderer, but he does find a body.
The next day, at a parapsychology conference, Helga, the medium on ‘display’, becomes aware of an evil presence in the room and somewhat unwisely declares her 'discovery' in public and is shortly thereafter quickly dispatched because of her tenuous knowledge of the murderer’s crime.
After having been questioned by the police Marcus is sure that there’s something else that he’s missing in his recollection of events from the previous night, but he can’t quite put his finger on it. He questions his drunken friend, Carlo, about the fateful evening, as he was also nearby at the time, wallowing away his sorrows sitting on the wall of a fountain, but he only recalls hearing a scream, and seems unconcerned by this revelation, saying: ‘who knows, maybe a rape?’!
As more people begin to die, Marcus becomes obsessed with finding the killer as he senses that he already either knows the murderer or, at the very least, holds the key to uncovering who they are.
His investigations lead him to a remote farmhouse, where another woman is brutally murdered, and then onto a decaying mansion where he finds some disturbing clues as to the killer’s identity. He also finds that the groundsman’s daughter is a 'psychopath in waiting' too – she does enjoy sticking hair pins through live lizards after all (in a scene that had been cut from the original British release - but that’s a different story, for another time)!
Since so much has already been written over the years about Deep Red and its somewhat convoluted story-line, I’ll stop there and leave it for potential viewers to discover its rather ‘deep’ and archaic delights.
It goes without saying that Arrow Video have really delivered the goods here with the film's luscious photography being beautifully restored, with a nicely crisp soundtrack accompanying the vibrant visuals. And, of course, while we’re talking about the soundtrack I must mention Goblin’s fantastic score for the movie; it’s really one of their very best, from a back catalogue of many great soundscapes.
Acting-wise Deep Red is dominated by David Hemmings’ nuanced performance of a man who fears to dig into the dark corners of his own mind, afraid of what he might find there, but knowing that he must try and remember, in order to possibly save lives in the future.
Argento, as with most of his pre-1990’s works, has a terrific eye for shot composition, and for setting up truly memorable set-pieces of murderous mayhem. There’s a nicely composed shot, for example, where Carlos and Marcus shout a conversation to each other as they stand either end of a huge, imposing fountain sculpture. And, as per usual, Dario almost fetishises murder, and the tropes that make up this sub-genre of film; namely close-ups of eyes, gloved hands and knives.
There’s also great use of locations (and I presume sets), which all really enhance the look and feel of the film. The crumbling mansion, is a stand out example. And, as Hemmings’ character wanders about its interiors, Goblin increase the eeriness with an almost Mike Oldfield-like score. In fact, at one point, the music ends abruptly when he kicks over an empty bottle, but then it starts up again when he enters a different room, thus increasing the already high levels of tension.
Deep Red stands out from many of Dario’s other films as having a fairly coherent story-line, and although the film is very stylish, it’s certainly not the case that the movie is all about style over substance, about which many of Argento’s later films seemed to focus on. And I think because of this Deep Red is certainly one of the best giallos ever made and is certainly one of Argento’s most rewarding films, although, personally, I do prefer Suspiria.
Deep Red is definitely the sort of film that you can watch time after time because you always miss something on viewing it the first few times, and because of its layered nature it rewards multiple viewings, and what better way of doing so than by checking out this special edition by Arrow Video.
Arrow Video are distributing Deep Red on DVD and Blu-ray. As per usual with Arrow Video there are numerous extras on the disc including:
Profondo Giallo - a 35 min documentary where Michael MacKenzie talks about the film, its themes and its legacy; comparing it with Argento’s other giallos.
Rosso Collection – Argento talks about Deep Red (12 mins) and talks about his own family life, and being somewhat oppressed by his own father.
The Lady in Red – an interview with actress Daria Nicolodi (19 mins), where she reveals that Dario had originally planned on filming the movie in 3D.
Music to murder for! – Interview with Claudio Simonetti (14 mins) who explains how he, and his group The Goblins (as they were named then), got involved in working on the scores to a number of Argento’s films. He reveals here that the score was inspired by various progressive rock bands such as Gentle Giant, ELP, King Crimson and Genesis.
Profondo Rosso: From Celluloid to Shop – A mini documentary about the shop of the same name run by fellow Italian film director Luigi Cozzi (14.5 mins), who now owns it. The shop hosts a number of props from films such as Demons, The Stendhal Syndrome, Star Crash, Opera, The Church, Two Evil Eyes and Phenomena.
Italian trailer (1.49 mins) – which consists mainly of stills from the film.
The Export Version of the film, which is longer than the Director’s cut, at 1:44:53. This is accompanied by another, more standard type of trailer, which probably, like so many trailers, shows a bit too much.