Review: Deep Red

Aka: Profondo Rosso
DVD / Blu-ray review (region 2)
Starring David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Meril
Release date: Out now

After a medium is brutally murdered, pianist Marcus Daily (Hemmings) follows a series of clues in the hope of revealing the killer. His investigation involves a disappearing painting, a dilapidated old house and a children’s tune…

Dario Argento’s strange, beautiful 1975 giallo remains one of his best movies. As is often the way with this genre, solving the central mystery of the gloved killer’s identity is less important than the stylised visuals, elaborate kills and weird details.

Mark, as played by Blow-Up’s David Hemmings, is an interesting, not entirely likeable protagonist. He takes himself very seriously, and seems to see everything as a challenge to his masculinity; when journalist Gianna (Nicolodi) beats him in an arm-wrestle he’s incensed (“That was an absolute arm off the table!”).

The murders themselves are protracted and very disturbing, whether it’s a woman being drowned in a bath of scalding water or a victim’s head being bashed against the corner of a table. Yet despite the ugliness of the violence, this is a beautiful, dreamy movie. Argento frames every shot like a painting, often paying direct homage to specific works (most famously Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks). The camera rarely stays still for too long, prowling around spacious piazzas and elaborate apartments filled with striking details (creepy paintings, a giant shell, a Star of David table), while Goblin’s score – a mix of sinister synths, nursery rhymes and high-voltage funk – reflects the strange, shifting tone.

It’s a complex film that cries out for weighty extras, and Arrow have done a decent job. There’s a detailed commentary from Thomas Rostock, a booklet by Alan Jones and interesting interviews with Argento, Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti, and star (and Argento’s ex-partner) Daria Nicolodi. The latter offers an amusing summary of Argento as “egocentric, narcissistic and a complete hypochondriac!”

There’s also a brief featurette on Rome’s cult shop Profondo Rosso (run by Starcrash director Luigi Cozzi), a pull-out poster and two versions of the film. The first is the dubbed, tighter international theatrical cut; the second is the longer Italian-language Director’s Cut. It’s a good package for a great film. Matt McAllister

VERDICT: 9/10
Violent murders, beautiful visuals and surreal flourishes: one of Argento’s best.

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