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May 30, 2011

Movie Review: Deep Red (1975, Arrow Video, Blu-ray)

When I think of the some of the more notable movies taken to task by British censors, the controversial "Video Nasties" come to mind. Some prime examples of what brought ire to the UK censors are without a doubt - the fetus-munching antics in Joe D'Amato's Anthropophagous, the ghastly animal cruelty in Cannibal Holocaust and of course the rape-heavy content in I Spit On Your Grave and Last House on the Left. Amazingly, Dario Argento, who was at the time adored by both critics and fans wasn't immune to the scissors of the censor-happy puritans known as the BBFC (British Board of Film Censors). One of Argento's masterpieces, Deep Red (AKA Profondo Rosso), that was forced to have critical scenes excised - now is seeing new life on Hi-Def completely uncut.

Buy Deep Red on Blu-ray or DVD

For the first time ever on Blu-ray in the UK, Arrow Video has released Profondo Rosso in both its Director's Cut and International theatrical cut in a two-disc set. Both versions thankfully containing all the grue the censors hacked to bits in previous releases in England and abroad. The running times differ by more than 20 minutes - 105 minutes for the International cut and 127 minutes for the Director's Cut. For those of you wondering, this extra feature packed set is also an all-region release and should play well on Blu-ray players and PS3's outside the UK. Argento fans rejoice!

If you haven't yet experienced Deep Red here's a little synopsis: David Hemmings plays wimpy pianist, Marcus Daly. Daly's regular Joe that happens upon the horrible murder of renowned psychic, Helga Ullman ( Macha Meril) .She knew something quite damaging about an audience member while reading minds at one of her seminars. This in turn put her life jeopardy. Unfortunately, she couldn't see her murder coming. Marcus and reporter, Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi) decide to take the dangerous task on together in solving the "Hatchet Murders".

Everything you expect to see in an Argento film or a quality giallo are here. Only a few things differ with Profondo Rosso than his previous features: The intensity level is really taken up another notch by the unforgettable soundtrack composed by Goblin and the violence is also more graphic than his previous "Animal Trilogy"(The Bird with Crystal Plumage, Cat O' Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet). Each demise is so wonderfully executed and not wasted . It’s as if Argento didn’t want to lose any ounce of build-up for each death. This skill the "Maestro" possesses is what made it all the more effective when blood splatters the screen.

Arrow Video has put forth a considerable amount of quality extra features - An interview with star, Daria Nicolodi, a featurette with composer and founder of the band Goblin, Claudio Simonetti. Simonetti also does a brief introduction before the start of Profondo Rosso.We also gets some trailers for the film as well as a commentary and a fun featurette on Luigi Cozzi's Profondo Rosso store/museum in Italy. Cozzi gives a tour of the museum and the different props from films Dario directed and produced. The little creature from Phenomena even makes a guest appearance. If I can somehow get myself to Rome, I would not miss this place.

The optional commentary on disc one over Profondo Rosso is done Argento expert, Thomas Rostock. This is a solid scene-specific commentary that brings about many bits of Argento that were fascinating to learn about. Argento's usage of androgynous characters such as Carlo's lover are given a much more detailed explanation. We also get to hear about a interesting but alarming story about the famous "drowning" death that was later copied in Halloween II. The actress in that scene almost drowned for real, she was a trooper though and finished her scenes. Fritz Lang's influence on Argento's filmmaking is another area that's brought up.

The packaging is also an area where collectors of Argento's work will have a field day. There is a reversible sleeve displaying alternate artwork and an additional slip-cover that holds the Blu-rays quite nicely. We also get a reversible poster and some excellent liner notes by Argento historian and author of Profondo Argento, Alan Jones. (Below is a photo of the set.)


The new 1080p High-Definition transfer of both versions of Profondo Rosso are absolutely gorgeous. The image doesn't contain the waxy faces and muddled colors other transfers of the era that have seen recent Blu-ray releases. At one point when Marcus is being stalked, a bead of sweat rolls down the side of his head. This is a little detail that I never really noticed; it's just one of many stand out. Also, during Marcus' discovery of Helga's body he passes several paintings on her apartment walls - here the killer in the movie is perfectly visible in a mirror. All in all the audio and video is excellent.

Arrow Video really makes a splash with this release of Deep Red. It's not only lovely in 1080p but it also sports some killer extra features. The collectabilty factor is also here as well with the cool packaging. This is an essential purchase for Argento-philes. Highly Recommended!

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