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May 2, 2011

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

As someone whose been a huge fan of John Carpenter ever since my first viewing of The Thing remake, it’s come to a point where it pains me to say this but - he owes much of his success to the "Maestro", Dario Argento, and of course legendary band, Goblin. While you can see similarities in Carpenter's films to other earlier Argento efforts (Four Flies in Grey Velvet, Bird with Crystal Plumage) the pilfering is most evident though in Deep Red. Sure, there weren’t any Shatner-masked killers named Michael Myers but there are deaths in the film, point-of-view shots and a soundtrack that almost mirrors Carpenter's famous track to Halloween. Would you like to see what I'm talking about? Blue Underground has produced a new Blu-ray version of the Argento classic many fans and filmmakers alike still look back at in awe.

Buy Deep Red on Blu-ray!

If you've followed Argento earlier in his career one thing you'll notice in Deep Red as opposed to something like Cat O' Nine Tales is that there's a considerable amp up of intensity as well as a Grand Guignol like trend of violence that bridges into Suspiria and Tenebrae. Whether it's the bigger budget or his maturity it really doesn't matter because it looks so goddamn appealing to the eyes of the viewer.

David Hemmings plays Pianist, Marcus Daly. Marcus enjoys tickling the ivories as often as possible unless there's a psychotic hatchet swinging killer on the loose. After witnessing a particularly savage murder, Marcus becomes involved in the investigation with a feisty reporter named Gianna (played by future Argento flame, Daria Nicolodi). Nicolodi is pretty believable as the strong-headed persistent protagonist. Beating Marcus in an arm-wrestling match early in the film does a great job in establishing that.

The acting overall in Deep Red is very good. Hemmings is a solid every-man that's just a victim of circumstance. One of the better performances in the in Deep Red belong to the paranoid, usually drunken, Carlo (Gabriele Lavia). Argento and writing partner, Bernadino Zappoini (who penned the screenplay) craft an engaging group of characters. To me, it's one of the stronger casts in an Argento film.

There are a couple of scenes critical to the narrative of Deep Red that even upon my tenth viewing still captivate this giallo nerd. One involves Daly investigating the house of one of the possible killers during the night. Another is a flashback murder sequence that has a child carving up his pop while an absolutely eerie children’s song plays in the background. If you haven't yet taken in Deep Red, these creepy moments are sure to make your skin crawl.

Blue Underground has thankfully included the original director's cut of Deep Red (Profondo Rosso, 126 minutes) in addition to the International theatrical cut (105 minutes). My preferred cut is the International cut, mainly for pacing reasons. The "director’s cut" is excellent though and having this as an option on the Blu-ray is something fans of the film will certainly embrace. The more the Argento, the better. Several scenes are extended; one notable difference is the opening which contains "The Rehearsal" scene. This is excised completely in the international version. Both versions also contain the explicitly violent murder scenes in all their grueling glory. Not many directors can drag a death on as well as Dario Argento and make it work without turning the movie into an exploitation film. That may be a reason why Argento was such a darling of the MPAA, the BBFC and other useless censors.

The extras department also contains a featurette with Argento, Zappoini (who passed away in 2000) and members of Goblin. This is ported over from the original release. If you haven't seen it, it's nice little piece that runs a little under 15 minutes. Dario talks about his collaboration with Zapponi and how he rarely watches his films more then once. Also included are some music videos and the original trailers for Deep Red.

Quality wise, Blue Underground's presentation of Deep Red is an astonishing example of how 70's films can still look 100 percent "70s" - with its grain intact, as it should be. One thing that plagues many older films on Blu-ray is the over-done usage of digital noise reduction that can eliminate that. This isn't the case with Blue Underground's Blu-ray. There's such a fine balance here where we still see that authenticity. The texture and color are a big area where this release shines. This Blu-ray of Deep Red is even redder - and better - in that department. The opening scene shows an example of the improvement on the previous DVDs. Right off the bat, during the psychic conference you'll notice more detail in facial features. I think I may have actually seen a filling in the close-ups of the grill of Helga (Macha Meril). The Goblin score also sounds perfect. Overall, I noticed no issues with the audio either as the memorable track is as pounding as ever.

Blue Underground could have easily just went with a release of just the International version of Deep Red without the inclusion of Profondo Rosso. Instead they went the extra mile and included both versions of Argento’s masterpiece in remarkable quality. Deep Red is a true high definition gem that needs a home in your film library. Highly Recommended!

(Screencaps provided by

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