Blu-Ray Review – Deep Red (1975)

deep red window

I’ve never quite understood the greatness of Dario Argento or even the Giallo genre in general with the exceptions of Mario Bava’s early Giallos like The Girl Who Knew Too Much or Blood and Black Lace. Naturally anytime a Giallo comes my way I’m highly skeptical and Deep Red was no exception. However along with Suspiria; Deep Red is often considered Argento’s finest work so I was willing to give it a shot.

David Hemmings was still considered a “star” in 1975 probably down simply to the fact he played the mod photographer in Antonioni’s classic Blow-Up. Hemmings plays a jazz musician who of course is also teacher to pay the bills. He witnesses the grisly murder of the psychic medium Helga Ulmann (Macha Meril) and he soon delves deep into the mystery of who did it. Naturally there is more murder along the way.

Argento is a terrible storyteller first and foremost and even his most harden fans must admit that; his films are convoluted to the extreme. He does however have in his favour aesthetic choices which make his films stand-out above the pack of many other Giallo films. Given the title the use of red is very important to the look of the film and there is a beautifully shot sequence which is an homage to the painting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. The scene is involving a animatronic doll is truly creepy and is hands down one of the creepiest scenes I’ve ever seen in a film.

Hemmings tries his best but he is clearly there for a nice holiday in Italy and the paycheck. The character of Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) and his boyfriend are gross caricatures of a suppressed homosexual and an effeminate homosexual respectively. The year however was 1975 so non-caricatures of homosexuals were pretty much non-existent in film and television. Argento uses his frequent collaborators the prog-rock band Goblin to score the film which helps the proceedings along and gives it a consistent sense of dread.

The film comes in two different cuts the 2 hour + Italian cut and the shorter 105 minute foreign cut mostly used for English-speaking territories. I tried watching the longer cut but found its pacing dragged so I switched to the shorter cut and it’s a much quicker paced film. It’s also in English and I believe David Hemmings did his own overdubbing for this version but I may be incorrect. Italian films of this period the Italian was dubbed anyway and most of it was shot in English so either English or Italian dubs are fine even if there are some purists who like the Italian ones better.

The disc includes a wealth of interviews and featurettes on the film. The Italian cut has a commentary by Argento expert Thomas Rostock. The film has been remastered in 4K and looks stunning for the most part. The limited edition also includes a CD of the Goblin soundtrack and a length booklet with new and archive writings on the film.

★★★1/2
Ian Schultz

Horror, Thriller | Italy, 1975 | 18 | Arrow Video | 25th January 2016 (UK) | Dir.Dario Argento | David Hemmings, Dario Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia | Buy:Deep Red [4k Remaster] [Blu-Ray + Soundtrack CD]