Deep Red (Profondo rosso) [Blu-Ray]
Director : Dario Argento
Screenplay : Dario Argento and Bernardino Zapponi
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 1975
Stars : David Hemmings (Marcus Daly), Daria Nicolodi (Gianna Brezzi), Gabriele Lavia (Carlo), Macha Méril (Helga Ulman), Eros Pagni (Calcabrini), Giuliana Calandra (Amanda Righetti), Piero Mazzinghi (Bardi), Glauco Mauri (Professor Giordani), Clara Calamai (Marta, Carlo’s mother)
Deep Red (Profondo rosso) was Dario Argento’s transition film, the bridge between his earlier trilogy of giallo films (Italian murder mysteries) and his later output of supernatural horror. It is also one of his best films, as it prefigures some of the elaborate stylistic devices that would come to consume his later work, yet is still deeply embedded in a tight, absorbing narrative.
Although Deep Red is first and foremost a murder mystery, it is tinted with elements of horror and the supernatural. The film begins at a conference of paranormal psychologists. While giving a lecture, a noted psychic, Helga Ulman (Macha Méril), senses that she is in the presence of a murderer who will kill again. She is right, but the twist is that she is the next victim. The murder is witnessed by Marcus Daly (David Hemmings, who played the lead in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup), an English jazz pianist living and teaching in Italy. He rushes up to Helga’s apartment, but by then it is too late; Helga is dead, and he catches a glimpse of someone in a brown raincoat leaving the building. The police cast a suspicious eye on Marcus, but it is obvious that he is not the culprit. However, he can’t shake his involvement in the case because something is gnawing at him: a missing painting. When he first entered Helga’s apartment, he saw a strange painting in the hallway. But, later, he swears that it is gone. “How can that be?” he asks his drunken friend, Carlo (Gabriele Lavia), who jokingly suggests that the painting is the key to the mystery (which, of course, it is).
The rest of the plot details Marcus’s slow investigation into the case. Naturally, each new lead he turns up is murdered by the unseen killer (in true giallo style, we only see black-gloved hands) before he can reach them. He is aided by a strong-willed journalist (Gianna Brezzi), but the obsession is purely Marcus’s. He is a driven man, and the film’s final image of his face reflected in a pool of blood suggests that he may have succumbed to the madness he has sought so desperately to unveil.
Like all of Argento’s films (even his bad ones), Deep Red is replete with astonishing and eerily hypnotic images, including an opening shot of a knife murder that we only see as a shadow on the wall and another scene where a gazing human eye suddenly appears out of the darkness of a closet. There is also the suggestion of ghosts and haunted houses, and the plot incorporates sealed rooms hiding rotting corpses, a creepy nursery rhyme, family murder, and psychosis, all of which are brought together into a tight, unified whole.
Even at its most excessive, Deep Red is a film in which Argento is completely in command of his material (some of his later films have the distinctly opposite feel, that the material has a life of its own and he has no control over it). He drops hints and clues, giving us creepy tracking shots of discarded children’s toys that suggest the murderer’s psychosis and leading us down blind alleys with false leads. He throws in bits of musical and visual humor, toying with our emotions. One moment the film is light and funny, the next it is gory and sadistic. Yet, Argento never misses a beat.
While Suspiria (1977) arguably has Argento’s best opening scene, it would be hard to top the multiple climaxes of Deep Red. The solution to the mystery is a brilliant sleight of hand, and I would be surprised if it weren’t the inspiration for a similar ploy in the feature-length pilot episode of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1990), in which a killer was revealed in similar fashion. Argento and his co-writer, Bernardino Zapponi (who frequently collaborated with Federico Fellini), are so slick with the narrative momentum and the manner in which killer’s identity is unveiled, that they can reveal in the end that we had already seen the killer during the initial murder scene. Argento and Zapponi take advantage of cinematic perception in a way that allows them to reveal their hand from the outset, but still win the game in the end.
|Deep Red Blu-Ray|
|This Blu-Ray includes both the 126-minute Italian version of the film and the 105-minute U.S. version.|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Release Date||May 17, 2011|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Deep Red has seen a number of video releases over the years on DVD, but Blue Underground’s new 1080p Blu-Ray transfer is the best I’ve seen so far. Detail is sharp, and colors are deep and nicely saturated (this is especially evident during the paranormal psychology conference, which takes place in a giant auditorium that is entirely red). There is a slight veneer of graininess to the image, which gives it a filmlike appearance, and I didn’t notice any signs of age or dirt, which is impressive given that the film is now more than 30 years old. In addition to the new transfer, the soundtrack has also been DTS-HD 7.1 surround, with generally good results. Dialogue is always clear, and the (somewhat) ostentatious music by the Goblin is clean and sharp. Bass levels are solid without being overpowering. Be aware that you can switch between English and Italian soundtracks, but some of the reinstated sequences in the director’s cut that had previously been left out of American cuts of the film either never had an English soundtrack recorded or else the soundtrack was lost. Therefore, the dialogue switches from English to Italian at unexpected moments, so it’s best to have the subtitles turned on.|
|Most of the supplements included on the Blu-Ray are repackaged from Anchor Bay’s 2000 DVD. These include a 25th anniversary featurette that is notably more substantial than the usual DVD featurettes. Co-produced by American B-movie splatter auteur William Lustig, a long-time friend of Argento’s, the featurette includes a fairly extensive interview with Argento about his career in general and Deep Red in particular. The members of Goblin also make an appearance, as does Argento’s co-screenwriter, Bernardino Zapponi. In addition to the original U.S. and Italian theatrical trailers, we also have two music videos for the theme music, one by Goblin’s and one by Daemonia (directed by Sergio Stivaletti)|
Copyright ©2011 James Kendrick
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