Sunday, April 1, 2018


Arrow Video has been doing an amazing job of offering the best transfers of the classic Dario Argento films that I’ve ever seen. Not only have they compiled a strong amount of extras on each but the job of cleaning up the look of the films, the transfers involved and the images that have never looked better have made watching these films seem like I’m seeing them for the first time. Such was the case with their new release of DEEP RED.

Starting with THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE in 1970 (which Arrow also released) Argento began his career with a groundbreaking giallo film that set the stage for all others to follow. For those who are unfamiliar, giallo films are usually murder thrillers, many based on the yellow covered paperbacks of the time and thus given the name “giallo” or yellow in Italian. The elements Argento used to great effect included a the killer’s point of view (POV), the killer wearing black gloves, more often than not using a knife or blade and a witness who was trying to solve the murders while placing themselves in danger at the same time. All of those have been repeated here in this film.

At a gathering in a theater psychic Helga Ulmann (Macha Meril) is on a panel giving a lecture. She is overtaken by images of someone in the audience, an unspeakable violent person she can’t quite identify.

That same evening Marcus Daly (David Hemmings), a jazz pianist and instructor at a conservatory in Rome, is on his way home when he finds his friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) on the street in front of the bar, drunk. As the two begin to part ways they hear a scream. While Carlo departs, Marcus looks up to see his neighbor, Helga, being murdered and pushed onto the glass of her broken window. He rushes to save her but is too late. He hears a child’s tune playing and see the murderer dressed in a brown raincoat leave but not enough to identify who it is.

The police arrive as does reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi). Marcus feels like there is something he has forgotten, some clue, but is unable to remember what it might be. He and Gianna begin working together to try and solve the murder. When he hears the same music in his apartment one night, he foils the killer and calls Gianna over to help.

Talking to a friend of Ulmann they hear about a story involving the music he heard and has identified. Delving deeper he finds a book about a house that was supposedly haunted and a book written about it. Heading out to talk to the author before he can get there the killer shows and murders the author. When Marcus shows he now has to worry that the police will look at him as the prime suspect rather than someone who happened upon the scene of the crime.

With the help of Gianna Marcus discovers the area where the house may be located. He goes there to look the place over, now for sale, and to see if he can find any clues that might help them. He does indeed find another clue but not enough to identify the murderer. He informs Professor Giordani (Glauco Mauri), the parapsychologist who was with Helga onstage and has been helping him as well, of what happened and while visiting the crime scene Giordani finds another clue.

More murders occur, more suspects are added to the list and before the end of the film twists and turns will abound. Along the way Argento will twist and turn the minds of the viewer with enough suspense involved it would make Hitchcock jealous.

It is this ability to create suspense that put Argento into a class all his own. As you learn via the extras included on this disc, Argento found that the main character in film was not the actor displayed on screen but the camera itself. It shows in this film as he combines so many film making elements here in such a seamless fashion that you don’t realize it until looking back at the entire film.

Argento uses a variety of camera angles for different reasons. His depiction of light and shadow used often in old black and white films but rarely when color came along it used to full effect. The composition of the shots he offers are tremendous to see. Most notable among these for me was a scene early on in the piazza where Marcus and Carlo talk at night. His use of framing and light make the image stand out in my mind.

This combination of story, as in the written word, and images as created by Argento makes for an entertaining and thrilling movie to view. Fans of Argento will love having the film in such a great condition. Those just discovering him for the first time will be impressed at what he accomplished at a time when the word CGI wasn’t even known. Sadly, as is discussed in the films extras, many consider this the last of the great giallo films. While Argento still dabbled in them years later, most consider this his swan song to the genre.

As I said I’d seen this film some time ago, I believe in VHS when it was released by Anchor Bay. I’m guessing this was the American version of the film which was about 15 minutes or so shorter. The added footage was wasted on me since it had been so long since I’d seen it. But the quality of the movie itself, how it appears on screen, was vastly improved. This can’t just be due to the film being released on blu-ray instead of tape. It has a lot to do with the efforts of Arrow Video to insure a pristine version.

Not only are they providing the movie in such a great presentation (a 4k scan from the original negative) they’ve added a number of extras that are more interesting to watch than most. To begin with you have the choice of the original version of the film or the exported version. The other extras include 6 postcard sized lobby card reproductions, reversible fold-out poster featuring two original artworks, a reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx, a limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mikel J. Koven and an archival essay by Alan Jones, an audio commentary track by Argento expert Thomas Rostock, PROFONDO GIALLO a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie, ROSSO RECOLLECTIONS: DARIO ARGENTO’S DEEP GENIUS featuring a discussion with Argento, THE LADY IN RED: DARIA NICOLODI REMEMBERS PROFONDO ROSSO (the Italian name of the film), MUSIC TO MURDER FOR composer Claudio Simonetti on DEEP RED, PROFONDO ROSSO: FROM CELLULOID TO SHOP a tour of the Profondo Rosso shop in Rome with Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi, the Italian theatrical trailer and the US trailer. If the movie itself did not make the purchase of this film the extras do.

The past few years with the help of Arrow Video fans and those just now becoming familiar with the Italian giallo film have finally had access to some of the best that was ever committed to celluloid. One can only hope that they continue to do so. As long as they do they will remain the best company there is at offering these films in the best way possible. Let’s just hope they continue to do so.

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