Dario Argento is a legend in the horror genre, but he’s also an incredibly hit or miss director. (Unless you’re someone who needs cohesive plots in movies, then all of his films are probably misses.) The label is probably befitting of many film-makers, but Argento stands apart in a singular way. The quality of most directors’ work ranges film to film with their best and worst mingling side by side throughout the years. Argento on the other hand created a string of brilliant films up through the mid eighties… and has been releasing garbage ever since.
UK label extraordinaire Arrow Video has been collecting, gussying up, and releasing editions of Argento’s work for a short while now. Their catalog includes DVD releases of his later (and therefore lesser) works, but they’ve also started producing sharp and beautifully packaged Blu-rays of his older classics. Inferno hit shelves last year (my review here), and Arrow has now followed it up with Argento’s 1975 serial killer thriller, Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso).
“I have entered into contact with a perverse mind!”
A British jazz musician named Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) witnesses a murder while visiting Rome and soon finds himself drawn into a search for the killer. His sleuthing draws the attention of a reporter named Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi) as well as that of the murderer. Dead bodies begin piling up even faster than the list of possible suspects as Daly’s quest finds him navigating a web of family secrets, creepy drawings, and red herrings.
The key to finding the killer rests in Daly’s foggy memory as he feels he’s forgotten something from the night of the murder. He saw something that his mind has yet to comprehend, and in a brilliant feat of camerawork and editing the audience has actually seen the same clue. It’s a legitimate mystery as opposed to a series of scenes leading up to a resolution out of left-field, and it probably stands as Argento’s most comprehensible film to date. Of course, Argento is Argento so don’t expect everything to make logical sense.
Multiple supporting characters weave in and out of the story, each of them a possible suspect, and he does a great job of making those suspicions valid as the story rolls onward. Well, at least until each suspect becomes the next victim. And they don’t go easy either… faces are boiled, flesh is cleaved, and one poor sap even gets his teeth repeatedly rammed against table corners and shelves. It’s fantastically violent at times and beautifully shot with a fine use of framing and colors throughout.
As if the visuals weren’t enticing enough the film also marks Argento’s first collaboration with Goblin composing the score, and they don’t disappoint. From a creepy children’s song that accompanies some of the killer’s actions to some exhilarating pieces during suspenseful chases, their score is exciting, evocative, and pretty damn catchy.
As with the best of Argento’s works Deep Red is filled with memorable set-pieces, especially those focused on the murders, but unlike many of them it also features a smart and engaging story. Hemmings brings an honest curiosity to his character and makes him one of the Italian director’s strongest and most interesting protagonists. Fans already know how good the film is, but non-fans should check it out as well as it’s more than just an excellent Argento film, it’s a fantastic thriller period.
As usual Arrow has added physical extras to the special care and features on the discs themselves. There is a reversible sleeve with alternate cover art, a fold-out poster, and a booklet featuring an essay by Alan Jones. The discs contain two cuts of the film, both remastered in HD from the same source, and they look fantastic. Some natural graininess appears sporadically throughout an otherwise sharp and clean image. An English language track is available for both versions, but the longer director’s cut sees it occasionally break into spliced Italian where no English dub exists. The ideal option though is to listen to the newly mixed DTS-HD Italian audio as it presents the dialogue and Goblin’s kick-ass score to their optimum effect.
Disc one is a Blu-ray featuring the director’s cut (127 min) and the following special features:
- Introduction by composer Claudio Simonetti
- Audio Commentary with Argento expert Thomas Rostock
- Rosso Recollections – Dario’s Deep Genius
- Lady in Red: Daria Nicolodi remembers Profondo Rosso
- Music to Murder For! Claudio Simonetti on Deep Red
Disc two is a Blu-ray featuring the International theatrical cut (105 min) and the following special feature:
- A Tour of the Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) shop in Rome with long time Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi
The Bottom Line:
My favorite Argento film remains Phenomena, but Deep Red has very quickly become a close second. The plot is straight-forward and surprisingly competent while still allowing time for brief excursions into the odd and surreal. Argento still manages to infuse the film with endless style both with the murder set-pieces and his use of Goblin’s score. This is a great film given a fantastic presentation, and it’s highly recommended for fans of the genre.
- Buy Deep Red on Blu-ray from AmazonUK