Deep Red


Aug 26, 2008
The Plot: Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) is a foreign pianist living in Italy. He has a great friendship with Carlo, a local pianist himself who is often drunk or in the process of getting there and spends most of his nights seemingly walking around the town circle. However, one night while out with Carlo, he hears the scream of a woman. He follows the noise and finds a woman being murdered by an unknown killer, he races upstairs and through her hallway – where he spots something in his peripheral vision that he goes on to forget – and finds the woman dead. Turns out the woman was a psychic who had earlier that night told of a murderer being at one of her gatherings and hiding somewhere in the further back aisles. Marcus is more than just a little bit fascinated with this case and begins his own investigation into the murder. He teams up with Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi) a journalist who shares his fascination, and the two are off to find out who the killer is and what would possess such a person to commit these heinous crimes. However, it’s only a matter of time before the killer turns their attention from covering their own tracks – to finding those who are searching for these tracks.

The Review: After listening to a very interesting conversation on the Mondo Movies podcast a while back, a lot of my curiosity about Argento was renewed as I started thinking about the idea of going back through his filmography and catching those films of his I was never able to pick up, or those that I may have misunderstood since seeing them so long ago. Argento, unlike the other man usually brought up when is mentioned Lucio Fulci, has a relatively straightforward library of films. Fulci had so many different genres and such that he dabbled in, and his output was so tremendous. Argento however was much more straightforward in his attempts and more concerted in his efforts – so it’s a little easier to be a completest of his works. Deep Red isn’t a film new to me by any means, I had seen it many years ago but truthfully never had the love for it that I did for something like Suspiria or Tenebre. While revisiting the film however, I found a lot of that early resentment missing. It truly is amazing what time does to distort memories and how we as viewers progress over time. Within the first thirty minutes of Deep Red, there are more visually astonishing shots and sets than all of Argento’s previous six films put together. His masterful use of color and the red palette he uses in this film in particular is simply astonishing. Things like watching the camera go from a deep zoom to a wide angle, then climb the side of a building before cutting to another shot that starts outside the window of our protagonist then quickly tracks inside of the apartment pushing the window curtains aside while doing so. Things like this make you wonder how someone so inventive and brilliant ever got so bogged down as he has in the past years.

Deep Red must have escaped me for some reason as a younger man, because as I watch it now I find myself completely entranced by it. Although to this day Opera is in my opinion likely his most stylish film – Deep Red is right up there with it, even moreso than Suspiria due to the constant movement of the camera. The majority of Argento’s work doesn’t seem so widespread and searching in terms of camera movement as in Deep Red. Add to that some of his best set design in all of his earlier works and it really does make for one of his absolute greatest films. Throughout the film there are so many standout moments, from the atmospheric shot of Gianna making a phone call in the last half of the film while only she and some form of burned out light fixture behind her are lit in frame. Another brilliant shot is of a yellow taxi in an alley that looks like it was shot in black and white due to the grey texture of everything around and the bright lights and darkly black shadows – while this bright and brilliant yellow taxicab goes speeding off down this alleyway. There’s more to Deep Red than simply the outstanding visuals however, as if you really need more than that you greedy so and so, but it also delivers what is Argento’s greatest thriller. Although I had seen the film many years ago, it’s funny how easy it is to forget things, and I had even went so far as to forget just who the killer was in the film – and re-watching Deep Red for the purpose of this review it was like an all new experience with only vague familiarity. For some reason in the past I had conjured up this idea that Deep Red was a simple film and your average Giallo – I think perhaps I went into the film with the wrong mindset or I simply wasn’t paying attention. Deep Red is not a simple film, that is for sure and it’s most certainly not a case of Argento dropping the ball in the third act like he has done in the past. There is of course the plot twist that films such as this so often do have, but this twist actually DOES work. It is also alluded to during the entire course of the film once you know what you are looking for. There are many red herrings planted throughout the film, from the mirrors that are segmented in so many different frames to the brilliant ploys of Argento to provide us with so many different candidates for who could be the eventual murderer. For a little while, I was actually convinced one character was indeed the murderer, only to have it thrown in my face that I had remembered incorrectly. I’ll toss it up to having not seen the film in eight years, and not old age!

Sometimes it is good to be proven wrong, and I’m terribly glad I didn’t write this review those many years ago when I had such a negative view of the film. I suggest seeing the full uncut version of the film for all of those new to Argento or those who have not seen the film in question. See it, keep an open mind and prepare to be blown away. Profondo Rosso shows everything that was great about the films made in this crazy time and era where horror was being taken very seriously by those wonderful Italians. Dario Argento and his final chapter in the Three Mothers trilogy may not have impressed us all (although I happen to think it was a fine feature, and even better than Inferno in some ways) but when you have as many features under your belt that have went on to inspire the whole as he has – you can afford a few letdowns now and then. Do I even have to say Stubbing Award winner? Absolutely one of the finest bits of Italian horror cinema and a new/old favorite of mine.