Dario Argento has been called many things, among of which is the “Hitchcock” of Italian cinema. The man has been responsible for many ‘trippy’ journeys to the macabre and the supernatural. His finest works have arguably been “Tenebre”, “Suspiria“, and “Inferno”. DEEP RED (1975) is one of Argento’s finest work, the film is methodical, relies on restrained suspense and it even pushes the envelope in blood and gore during this period of time.
The film begins with a flashback of an off-screen murder, then the film moves forward in time to an auditorium with a psychic as the focus of the forum. The woman starts to freak out and yells weird convoluted stuff to the audience. That same evening, a piano teacher named Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) witnesses the same psychic being “hatched” to death by her window. He rushes to the aid of his neighbor. For some reason, Marcus motivated to investigate this savage murder and a tenacious reporter named Gianna (Daria Nicolodi) joins him on his quest. The pair goes on to investigate a series of bizarre clues and brutal violence that will find them both in a situation more than they had bargained for.
Dario Argento definitely knew how to work his audience in this film. The man knows how to choose his shots and utilizes the widescreen frame to its utmost. Camera pans, extreme close ups, lingering shots and reverse zooms--further accentuated by his use of ominous lighting and grim atmosphere. “Deep Red” displays as to why Argento had become a legend among aspiring filmmakers, this is Dario Argento in his prime, and he shows that he has a remarkable feel for suspense.
The film focuses on the murder investigation rather than an abundance of blood and gore. Many would question as to how and why a simple pianist could have the skill of a seasoned detective, and that very subtle detail is there, if you paid attention to the film’s first act. Some viewers may say that some of its elements are undefined but trust me, Argento didn’t miss anything on this one. The viewer only needs to open his mind to the director’s methodical approach in this film. Remember, Marcus is an artist and sensitive.
The film does serve its fair share of freaky elements, that carries the Dario Argento “signature”. There’s a weird child with a smile that would give Damien pause, mutilated lizards, a very creepy mechanical doll, paintings that look like it used hell as a model and a dog fight. There are also some inventive “kill” sequences by costume jewelry, a lot of hatchet play, knifing, dragging and an elevator disaster. Surprisingly, there is a very small amount of nudity in this film. It’s actually only one scene and it’s not really in full view.
The film also has some nicely placed bits of humor, I guess to keep the audience in its toes. Gianna’s car is just so old and tiny and that scene with the arm wrestling is quite amusing and reflects the usual “battle of the sexes”. David Hemmings and Darla Nicolodi has a fair amount of chemistry, Darla’s antics are quite amusing and serves to lighten the film’s mood somewhat. Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) has a transsexual lover and even says one of the film’s amusing but memorable lines; “I love that guy, but he’s a downer.” Too bad, Marcus and Darla didn’t play diddle at all.
Now the film does have its share of flaws from its script. I rather found it a little hard to buy into the idea that only Marcus and Gianna were the only ones involved in this investigation. I somewhat wished that the film had more sequences on the police side of the investigation, after all they did manage to show. The cops weren’t as inept as I first thought but it does lack some credibility when the police barely had any screen time. The music score by Goblin is quite good and I’ve read that it inspired Halloween’s main theme.
“Deep Red” may have been made many years ago, but the film while a little dated can still stand on its own. Just keep in mind that this is a film made in 1975 and it still manages to serve up an interesting experience much better than the thrillers of today. This uncensored 126 minute director’s cut is actually a lot better than the censored version. The anamorphic transfer is quite good for a film made some 33 years ago and the 5.1 Dolby Digital track is quite powerful. The only complaint I have is that the extended scenes jump to the Italian language because they weren’t dubbed in English, which can prove a bit distracting at times. (Not sure what Language it was originally intended)
Despite some technical flaws and some things in its script opened some holes, “Deep Red” is an “artsy” whodunit feature that serves up the right suspense and is quite disturbing at times. The film is a cerebral experience that makes it far more than your usual “slasher” film.
Highly Recommended! [4+ Stars]