directed by Dario Argento
starring David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi
Deep Red (Italian title Profondo Rosso aka Deep Red Hatchet Murders aka The Hatchet Murders) is Dario Argento’s ultimate giallo thriller. Deep Red is also arguably the greatest giallo film ever made and its influence spread well beyond Italy showing in the work of John Carpenter, Brian DePalma, and Stanley Kubrick. The genre had been getting increasingly hysterical and Argento took this path and lapped the field creating a film that defies simple explanation and is fueled by some of the most potent and influential imagery in all of cinema. The film also shows Argento toying with elements of the supernatural which would be unleashed with his “Three Mothers” films Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980).
Dario Argento has built an intricate puzzle of a film that works on multiple levels and begins with an odd short scene involving silhouettes of stabbing apparently witnessed by a child. The scene has no context and appears in the middle of the opening titles. Once the film proper has begun we are introduced to a psychic Helga Ulmann, speaking at a theater, when she has a vision of a murder (the scene during the titles) and realizes the killer is in the theater but can’t recognize them. Marc Daly (David Hemmings) is drinking in a plaza when he witnesses a brutal attack on Helga in her apartment. Marc races to aid Helga but is too late to save her. The murder of Helga is one of the most stunning murder scenes ever put to film possibly only bested by the murder of Patricia at the beginning of Argento’s masterpiece Suspiria (1977). He does see the killer fleeing the building and when being questioned by the police Marc realizes that a painting in Helga’s apartment has been changed or replaced. The game in now afoot as Marc tries to reconcile what happened in Helga’s apartment and solve her murder.
Marc is soon joined by reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi). Marc and Gianna have a strange, juvenile rapport. They attempt to follow up on the scant clues available to them. They discover a story titled House of the Screaming Child. Marc thinks the author is a link to the mystery but she is murdered before Marc and Gianna can get to her. Marc does find a painting hidden behind plaster in an abandoned house which eventually enables him to unspool the mystery and figure out what his eyes saw during Helga’s murder that his brain couldn’t comprehend. The twists in the final act are not predictable but Argento has also not cheated and on multiple viewings you can see where the clues are shown. As per usual for Argento’s giallo films the hero not only proves utterly impotent in solving the mystery, but ultimately could be seen as making matters worse with his meddling. Marc’s life and psyche are permanently altered by his experiences as signified during the closing credits as he stares at his reflection in a large pool of blood.
Arrow Video has released a new 4k restoration of the 127 minute “director’s cut” version of Deep Red. The film was cut prior to international release, not for gore or nudity, but simply for running time. Having seen both cuts the Argento version is clearly the superior cut and additional footage helps lift the film from routine to extraordinary. The disc allows for the original Italian mono track, a 5.1 DTS-HD Italian track, and an English mono track that will drop into subtitled Italian for the scenes that cut apparently prior to any dubbing work. It makes for a slightly jarring viewing experience, but also makes it quite easy to determine what was cut from the film.
Deep Red marked the beginning of two relationships that would help mold and solidify Argento’s reputation for his most creative filmmaking period. Daria Nicolodi would become Argento’s muse and would star in five of his films and their daughter is the somewhat infamous Asia Argento. Nicolodi is also credited with helping Argento embrace the supernatural in filmmaking which unleashed his full imagination without the restraints of standard narrative structures. Suspiria, Inferno, and the newly reconsidered Phenomenon are the prime results of this partnership. The other relationship that began with this film is Argento and the prog-rock band Goblin who would score this and numerous other Argento films as well as scores for George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Lucio Fulci’s unofficial sequel Zombi (1979).
The disc isn’t skimpy with the extras. Thomas Rostock delivers an outstanding audio commentary which manages to keep up with the action on the screen while also providing needed biographical and critical points and not merely narrating the movie. One of the striking elements from the commentary is Rostock’s theory that the film functions are an allegory of Mussolini’s fascism and it’s effect on the following generations. There is a terrific short documentary by Michael Mackenzie titled Profound Giallo that works through various themes not only in Deep Red but Argento’s other giallo especially The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. The disc also includes older interviews with Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi, and Claudio Simonetti of Goblin.