Anchor Bay presents
Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) (1975)
"Maybe the painting was meant to disappear because it represented somethingimportant..."- Carlo (Gabriele Lavia)
Stars: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi
Other Stars: Gabriele Lavia, Macha Meril, Eros Pagni
Director: Dario Argento
Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (extreme gore and graphic violence; probably a hard 'R')
Run Time: 02h:06m:00s
Release Date: 2000-05-23
DVD ReviewItalian director Dario Argento has long endeared himself to horror/thriller afficiandoswith his long string of cult classics. Argento films like Suspiria,Tenebre, and Inferno are widely considered as top-notch examplesof the genre, and even earned him titles like "The Italian Hitchcock." However,often overlooked in his early career is Deep Red (Profundo Rosso)despite the fact it is talked of by many as his best film. Although Dario Argento'scareer as a director began with the murder mystery/thriller genre, the decline inpopularity with such films in the late 1960's made him briefly leave it until 1975 withthe production of Deep Red. The film struck a chord with the viewingpublic in Italy making it one of the most successful horror films there, as well as oneof the most memorable. I've often heard that many of Deep Red's aspectsstill haunt the pop-culture in the same way that Americans might reference horrorcharacters like Hannibal Lector or Norman Bates.
The film begins (set in Rome) with a public display of the abilities of psychic HelgaUlman (Macha Meril), She entertains the audience reading people's thoughts andfeelings. Suddenly, she becomes deeply distressed when she senses the presenceof a person in the audience that she refers to as a dark, evil killer. Later thatevening, jazz pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) is having a night stroll with hisfriend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) when they hear a scream. When Marcus investigates,he witnesses the murder of Helga Ulman and finds himself unable to help her orcatch the killer. Marcus finds himself as a partial suspect in the murder and thenbecomes a target for the killer when over-anxious reporter Gianna Brezzi (DariaNicolodi) places his picture in the newspaper announcing he's a witness. Convinced he saw something the night of murder that would solve the mystery,Marcus enlists the help of Gianna in trying to piece the clues together himself. Unfortunately, as he gets closer to uncovering things, he discovers the murderer iskilling off people who can help and is moving closer on Marcus himself.
The film follows a common Dario Argento theme: the smallest details are often themost important. Although this motto works well as a plot device in several Argentofilms, it also describes his approach to filmmaking. Deep Red fills itself withengrossing features like stylized camera angles, moody lighting, impressive setusage, and memorable murder sequences. There's also the classic musical scoreby Italian band Goblin (who went on to work on several Dario Argento projects toamazing effect) which adds it's own effect to the film's style. All of these elementscould be enough to make a suspense thriller classic on their own, but DeepRed seems to become more than the sum of its parts. Even I found myselfamazed at plot nuances and visual features that I had forgotten in the few yearssince I last saw the film. Of course, part of me wants to discuss these things, butleaving them to be viewed says much more. In later movies, Argento would usemany of these things to more exaggerated and louder quantities, but in DeepRed it all seems to be measured to a careful degree. While some might beturned off by the brutality of the murders in the film, it's hard to imagine the filmwithout that aspect of violent tension.
Performances in the film are a good deal of the entertainment. David Hemmings(who was still very popular from his work in Blow Up) works well as thetypical Argento "loner witness" who desperately seeks the truth, despite the dangersto himself. The supporting cast is also filled with strong inclusions, and even veryminor parts seem memorable after the film. Daria Nicolodi's first screen appearanceis one of her best. She takes the role of the pushy Gianna Brezzi and makes itmemorably charming. Of course, Nicolodi's role would later expand to being wife ofDario Argento, as well as collaborating on many of his later films. While I haveheard occasional criticisms of casting a British actor (Hemmings) in the lead role insuch an Italian style film, his detatchment from the rest of the cast as well as Italianculture seems to make him the perfect victim, as it were.
Working with an original print, Anchor Bay assembled Deep Red into it'sfully uncut form. The American release of the film (called The HatchetMurders) was drastically cut, removing signifcant portions of violence andcharacter development. In fact, much of Daria Nicolodi's humorous role is gonefrom the U.S. prints, and in Italy, the film still underwent some cuts that dissatifiedDario Argento. This new DVD release marks the first time the film has actuallybeen seen in it's "director's cut" format, and the results are very interesting foranyone who's seen the previous versions. It's pretty easy to tell where the bulk ofthe cuts were made since the footage in those cuts was omitted before U.S.distribution. As a result, only Italian dialog (dubbed in) remains as the soundtrackfor those sections. In the end, the presentation allows a new dimension ofappreciation for the film as the original U.S. version cuts made the plot a littleconfusing and the only available Italian cuts were very poor quality bootlegs ordubs.
While Deep Red was certainly a landmark in the evolution of Italiansuspense cinema, what makes it stand out is it's subtlety. Some films gain theirstatus from doing something really big or going way over the top in ways peopledon't expect. The brilliance here however, is how detail is crafted on a muchsmaller scale. The film doesn't build up to extended action sequences and overuseof sensational violence, but rather tries to take the common elements of the genre,and use minor twists to add surprise and keep one guessing.
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: After years of extremely poor pan-and-scan prints of this film, the restoration workon Deep Red is nothing short of amazing. The film is now properlywidescreened (at 2:35:1) and looks amazingly sharp and crisp. Colors are verysolid and bleed-free. Blacks and dark colors are amazingly well represented with nofogging or pixelization anywhere. In fact, I dare say that if the film wasn't identifiableby its stars and clothing as a 70's era film, it would look new. All the dirt, artifacts,and negative problems I vividly remember from all the VHS copies I had ever seenof the film are simply gone. Anchor Bay used a print that must have been utterlypristine, because the result is astounding. Even zooming in on the picture to full frame doesn't reveal any hidden pixel problems or background shimmer. You havenever seen the film look this good, probably even in theatrical prints. In fact, if youwant a good comparison, the relatively poor (but understandable) quality of thetrailers on the disc is pretty much what the movie USED to look like.
Image Transfer Grade: A
|DS 2.0||English, Italian||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: In keeping with Anchor Bay's tradition of upgrading older movies into Dolby 5.1whenever possible, Deep Red delivers another impressive sound mix fromAnchor Bay and their new sound work partners, Chace. Of course, the film isn'texactly filled with the kind of on-screen action that usually warrants full surroundtreatment, but rather than overemphasize sound-effects and ambient noise into thesurround channels (which sometimes happens when Mono films are 5.1 upgraded),the film's soundtrack is basically beefed up and richer sounding. Most dialog andsound effects are confined to the fronts and center channels, but subtle usage ofthe surrounds is where the new sound work really succeeds. Things like footstepsand echoing voices are used to great effect. The musical score is also enhancedby using the surrounds to support the front channels. In general, the end result ofthe new sound work makes it sound like it might if you were in a theatre. Ratherthan overdoing anything, placement is subtle and only used for enhancement ratherthan precise imaging. This works very well overall and certainly sounds better thanthe Mono. The same sound work has also been done on the Italian language track. It should be noted that some portions of the uncut print did not have English dialogrecorded for it (or it was lost) so there are sections of the English languagesoundtrack where Italian is used and subtitles come into play.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Unfortunately, Anchor Bay's original plans for having a commentary track did notmaterialize. Instead, they interviewed Dario Argento, Bernardino Zapponi (who diedshortly after), and members of Goblin for a short, 11-minute retrospective. Althoughthe featurette is informative and interesting (especially to see Goblin back togetheragain) it feels terribly short. I can't help but think that certainly more time was spentinterviewing these people that would have made for a larger documentary. Also,some of the featurette borrows a little material from the similar featurette on AnchorBay's release of Argento's Inferno. Regardless, it's still a nice feature ofthe disc since everything in the featurette is current (it wasn't assembled from stockfootage interviews). The disc also has the U.S. trailer and the Italian trailer. Thesemake an interesting viewing just for comparisons in how the marketing differed ineach country. There is a talent bios section with information on the central cast andcrew..unfortunately supporting actors are not included. While I'm impressed withthe overall presentation of this classic film on DVD, I can't help but think that thereare some elements missing from the disc (like posters, photo stills, etc..) that couldhave been added. But despite my gripes, the work AB did to put together thefeaturette is enough to tell me that they cared enough to at least do something forthe fans.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsAs a huge Dario Argento fan, I was worried that when and if any of his moviesmade it to DVD, they'd be thrown out onto the format with mediocre transfers andpathetic presentation. When I learned Anchor Bay (whose reputation is stellar) wasgoing to put out as many Argento films as possible, I knew the films were in goodhands. The result is an impressive presentation of a classic horror film. Despitethe fact I think a few more extras could have been included, the image and soundquality alone speak for themselves. Deep Red as a film has much to offerthose who appreciate horror films with more subtle depth to them. It might not havethe flash and the same kind of sheen as modern thrillers, but it's age actually haslittle effect on it. It's really a work of art, and even you end up not liking the film, it'shard to deny the effect of Deep Red on similar genre films. Now, we havea wonderful archive of this film done with careful attention to quality andpresentation. If you're a fan in any way of this film, you'd certainly do yourself afavor by investing in this DVD.
Dan Lopez 2000-05-30