Deep Red (1975)
By: Paul Ryan on July 21, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 125 minutes
The Movie
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Meril, Eros Pagani
Screenplay: Dario Argento, Bernadino Zapponi
Country: Italy
AKA: Profondo Rosso

Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) is a British-born, American-raised Jazz pianist based in Rome. During a night on the town with his bandmate and friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) he witnesses a brutal murder of a woman at a window in his apartment building. Whilst being questioned by police at the crime scene he encounters Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), a feisty investigative reporter. Together, they become obsessed with solving the crime, which escalates with subsequent gruesome murders. Before long, the mysterious killer begins stalking Marcus and Gianna and the blood flows...

One of Argento's best thrillers, Deep Red is a classic of the Giallo genre. Like much of the Italian maestro's work, this is a thriller that works with an almost dreamlike logic. Filled with disturbing, memorable imagery (the nightmarish mechanical doll is a standout), gruesome murders and bravura camerawork, Deep Red works best on an emotional level. The actual mystery is not as tight as it could be and some of the dialogue is a touch stilted (a casualty of translation, no doubt) but that can be overlooked as the film is so incredibly stylish and well-crafted. David Hemmings of Blow-Up notoriety is terrific as the pianist and has a great chemistry with Daria Nicolodi (who in real life became the director's partner for many years). While most of the supporting Italian cast are dubbed (and with American accents, despite playing Italians) they still make a strong impression, particularly Gabriele Lavia as the boozy Carlo.

This edition of Deep Red was reconstructed in 2000 by filmmaker/DVD guru/Argento admirer William Lustig, restoring 12 minutes of previously cut footage. This mainly restores little character moments throughout rather than much in the way of plot. These scenes only exist with Italian audio and are presented with English subtitles. One guesses that the approach MGM later took in rounding up surviving actors and sound-alikes to re-dub the extended footage in their restoration of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly either wasn't considered or was too costly. Given that David Hemmings passed away in 2003 this is a bit of a missed opportunity. However the change in language from scene to scene isn't that much of a distraction once you get used to it.
Deep Red is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and one really can't imagine viewing this film any other way. After years of pan and scan video releases Argento's compositions (via Luigi Kuveiller's camerawork) finally get room to breathe and look truly amazing. This is a generally clear transfer with only one major downside. The transfer is an NTSC to PAL conversion and carries the visual gremlins inherent in such a process, such as a distinct softness to the image and reds (how about that?) that look occasionally garish and unnatural. All that aside, this is certainly the best the film has looked in Region 4.
Dolby 2.0 Stereo is what you get here. The audio is a mixed bag for a variety of reasons. Like many Italian films of the period with multi-lingual casts, some actors have been filmed in English and others in Italian, with all the audio looped into English in post production. As such, audio sync varies wildly throughout. In the 12 minutes of reinstated footage, characters who've been speaking English suddenly lapse into Italian, sometimes mid-sentence. Also, given the film's age, some of the audio is a touch muffled from time-to-time, especially in later scenes where Goblin's electronic music score is featured.
Extra Features
A solid, if eclectic selection is on offer.

Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror (56.49, 4x3 Letterbox) - This is an excellent British-made documentary covering Argento's life and career, which is included on all of Umbrella's Argento DVDs. Every one of Argento's films is covered right up to the production of Sleepless. Argento's daughters Fiore and Asia give some insight into Dario's personality, whilst John Carpenter and George A Romero are among the filmmakers who offer some critique on his creative methodologies. The concluding anecdote by Michael Brandon (star of Four Flies on Grey Velvet) is worth the price of admission alone. Great stuff.

Dario Argento Interview (12.59, 4x3 Full Frame) - Not so much an interview as a promotional video for Argento's Profondo Rosso store and museum. A dubbed (and very badly translated) Argento speaks a bit about his career (with the titles of his early films mistranslated into The Cat With Nine Tails and Four Grey Velvet Flies!) then goes on to plug his little shop of horrors. We also get brief interviews with Goblin front man Claudio Simmonetti and the store's co-owner, director/FX man Luigi Cozzi. Mostly, we get footage of the shop, which is located in Rome, its wares and an appearance by Tim Burton. The address and details of the shop turn up on screen frequently and the whole thing becomes very dull.

25th Anniversary Featurette. (10.50, 4X3 Windowboxed) - Now this is the business. Assembled in 2000 by Anchor Bay, this is an extremely interesting retrospective on the film. Argento, co-writer Bernardino Zapponi and the members of Goblin weigh in with their memories of the films development, production and reception. There are many fascinating stories to be had here. An enjoyable and very worthwhile featurette.

American Trailer (2.43 16:9) and Italian Trailer (1.51 4x3 Letterbox): If you ever wanted a textbook comparison between how Americans and Italians market their movies, look no further. The American Trailer is all sound, fury and spoilers (do not watch this before you see the film!), and sells the film as pure schlock. The Italian trailer is another matter entirely. There is no dialogue, just eerie sounds and lingering images as the cast names silently appear on screen. Subtle, elegant and very unsettling.

Bonus Argento Tailers: Promos for The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, The Cat O' Nine Tails, Tenebrae and Phenomena round out the package.
The Verdict
Deep Red is as vivid as its title. A stunningly directed, genuinely unsettling thriller that ranks as one of the best Italian horror films ever. Umbrella's DVD has its flaws, but is uncut and has enough interesting features to make it well worth your time and spare change.
Movie Score
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