Deep Red (Profondo rosso) (4K UHD)

Director: Dario Argento
Screenplay: Dario Argento and Bernardino Zapponi
Stars: David Hemmings (Marcus Daly), Daria Nicolodi (Gianna Brezzi), Gabriele Lavia (Carlo), Macha Méril (Helga Ulman), Eros Pagni (Calcabrini), Giuliana Calandra (Amanda Righetti), Piero Mazzinghi (Bardi), Glauco Mauri (Professor Giordani), Clara Calamai (Marta, Carlo’s mother)
MPAA Rating: NR
Year of Release: 1975
Country: Italy
Deep Red 4K UHD
Deep Red

Deep Red (Profondo rosso) was Dario Argento’s transition film, the bridge between his earlier trilogy of giallo films (Italian murder mysteries)—The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970), Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971), and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)—and his later output of supernatural horror, beginning with his masterpiece Suspiria (1977). He had took a brief detour in making the historical drama Five Days in Milan (1973), a film whose commercial and critical failure propelled him back to the realm of gialli. As if reaffirming his commitment to the genre that made him, Argento’s Deep Red is one of his best films, prefiguring some of the elaborate stylistic devices that would come to consume his later work, yet still deeply embedded in a tight, absorbing narrative.

Although Deep Red is first and foremost a murder mystery, it is tinted with elements of horror and the supernatural. The film begins at a conference of paranormal psychologists, where a noted psychic, Helga Ulman (Macha Méril), senses that she is in the presence of a murderer who will kill again. She is right, of course,but the twist is that she is the next victim. Her murder (which Argento orchestrates, as with all the subsequent murders, in his own uniquely lurid, bloody fashion) is witnessed by Marcus Daly (David Hemmings, who played the lead in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup), an English jazz pianist living and teaching in Italy. He rushes up to Helga’s apartment, but by then it is too late; Helga is dead, and he catches a glimpse of someone in a brown raincoat leaving the building. The police cast a suspicious eye on Marcus, but it is obvious that he is not the culprit. However, he can’t shake his involvement in the case because something is gnawing at him: a missing painting. When he first entered Helga’s apartment, he saw a strange painting in the hallway. But, later, he swears that it is gone. “How can that be?” he asks his drunken friend, Carlo (Gabriele Lavia), who jokingly suggests that the painting is the key to the mystery (which, of course, it is).

The rest of the plot details Marcus’s slow, amateur-detective investigation into the case. Naturally, each new lead he turns up is murdered by the unseen killer (in true giallo style, we only see black-gloved hands and point-of-view shots) before he can reach them. He is aided by a strong-willed journalist (Daria Nicolodi), but the obsession is purely Marcus’s. He is a driven man, and the film’s final image of his face reflected in a vast pool of blood suggests that he may have succumbed to the madness he sought so desperately to unveil.

Like all of Argento’s films (even his failures), Deep Red is replete with astonishing and eerily hypnotic images, including a shadow-play knife murder that suddenly interrupts the opening credits and another scene where a gazing human eye suddenly appears out of the darkness of a closet. Human psychosis is the film’s bedrock (hence its often being compared to Hitchcock), and Argento visualizes the killer’s madness with roving extreme close-ups of creepy, discarded childhood objects spread across black velvet. There is also the suggestion of ghosts and haunted houses, and the plot incorporates sealed rooms hiding rotting corpses, a creepy nursery rhyme, and family murder, all of which is brought together into a tight, unified whole (with some suspension of disbelief required here and there). He almost drowns us in production design, moving from art deco interiors, to massive baroque villas and a recreation of the curved glass bar in Edward Hopper’s famous 1942 painting “Nighthawks” that looks wildly out of place at the edge of a massive piazza. Even at its most excessive, Deep Red is a film in which Argento is completely in command (some of his later films have the distinctly opposite feel, that the material has a life of its own and he has no control over it). He drops hints and clues, leads us down blind alleys with false leads, and throws in bits of musical and visual humor, toying with our emotions. One moment the film is light and funny, the next it is gory and sadistic. Yet, Argento never misses a beat.

While Suspiria arguably has Argento’s best opening scene, it would be hard to top Deep Red’s multiple climaxes. The solution to the mystery is a brilliant sleight of hand, and I would be surprised if it weren’t the inspiration for a similar ploy in the feature-length pilot episode of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1990), in which a killer is revealed in similar fashion. Argento and his co-writer, Bernardino Zapponi (who frequently collaborated with Federico Fellini), are so slick with the narrative momentum and the manner in which the killer’s identity is unveiled that they can reveal in the end that we had already seen the killer during the initial murder scene. Argento and Zapponi take advantage of cinematic perception in a way that allows them to reveal their hand from the outset, but still win the game in the end.

Deep Red Limited Edition 4K UHD

Aspect Ratio2.35:1
  • Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround
  • Italian / English Hybrid Linear PCM 1.0 monaural
  • English Linear PCM 1.0 monaural
  • Italian Linear PCM 1.0 monaural
  • SubtitlesEnglish
  • Audio commentary by filmmaker and writer Thomas Rostock
  • Audio commentary by filmmakers and authors Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Deep in the Red retrospective featurette
  • “16 Years in Red” interview with production manager Angelo Iacono
  • “The Medium Wore Black” interview with star Macha Meril
  • “Carlo Never Dies” interview with star Gabriele Lavia
  • “Death Dies” interview with composer Claudio Simonetti
  • “I Am the Screaming Child” interview with actor Jacopo Mariani
  • “Bloodstained” interview with actor Lino Capolicchio
  • Still galleries
  • Posters gallery
  • Lobby cards gallery
  • Promotional stills
  • Japanese pressbook and flyer gallery
  • Soundtracks image gallery
  • Trailers
  • “Profondo Giallo” visual essay
  • “The Lady in Red: Daria Nicolodi Remembers” featurette
  • “Profondo Rosso: From Celluloid to Shop” featurette
  • “Music to Murder For!” featurette
  • “Rosso Recollections: Dario Argento's Deep Genius” featurette
  • Introduction (HD, 1 min) by composer Claudio Simonetti
  • Trailer
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Alan Jones and Mikel J. Koven, and a new essay by Rachael Nisbet
  • Fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative
  • Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards
  • DistributorArrow Video
    Release DateOctober 26, 2021

    For Deep Red’s debut in 4K UHD, Arrow Video has gone back to the transfer they made for their 2018 Blu-ray. As with the Blu-ray, this two-disc set includes both the 126-minute Italian version (director Dario Argento’s preferred cut) and the 104-minute international version (each version is on its own 4K disc). According to the liner notes, the film “was scanned and restored in 4K from the original 35mm 2-perf Techniscope negative. A 35mm print of The Hatchet Murders [an alternate title for the shorter international version] was scanned in 4K for the opening titles for the English export version, while the various alternate English-language insert shots unique to this cut were sourced from the original negative. Both versions were graded in 4K HDR/Dolby Vision. Because the original negative was physically recut in 1975 to create the export version, it had to be reassembled to recreate the full-length Italian version for this release.” The resulting image is pretty close to spectacular, as the increased resolution brings out nuances of detail and celluloid texture that I had never seen before while maintaining the film’s impressively lurid color schemes and strong contrast. The depth and intensity of the color saturation is especially evident during the paranormal psychology conference, which takes place in a giant auditorium that is entirely red. I didn’t notice any signs of age or dirt, which is impressive given that the film is now more than 45 years old. For the soundtrack, the disc gives you the option of the Italian-language track in either DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround or the original monaural mix or the English-language track in monaural (the monaural tracks were transferred from the original soundtrack negative). As with many European films of this era, all of the dialogue was recorded in postproduction, so there are some clear synch issues with sound and moving mouths (for the most part, all of the actors recorded their dialogue in English on set). If you choose to watch the director’s cut in English, be aware the sequences that were excised from the international version never had an English soundtrack recorded. Therefore, the dialogue switches from English to Italian at these moments.

    Beyond the film itself, Arrow has created a deep well of supplements spread across the two discs. On the director’s cut, we get the same audio commentary recorded by filmmaker and writer Thomas Rostock for the 2018 Blu-ray, as well as a brand-new commentary by film scholars Troy Howarth (prolific author of numerous books on European cult and horror films, including Murder by Design: The Unsane Cinema of Dario Argento) and Nathaniel Thompson (author of the multi-volume DVD Delirium: The International Guide to Weird and Wonderful Films on DVD & Blu-ray). Both tracks provide a wealth of information and insight into the film and are genuinely enjoyable to listen to if you’re willing to invest the time. And speaking of time, spare some more for the seven new video interviews Arrow recorded, which run nearly three hours combined: “Deep in the Red” (58 min.) combines new interview footage with director Dario Argento and archival interview footage with actor Daria Nicolodi (who passed away in 2020); “16 Years in Red” (47 min.) is an interview with production manager Angelo Iacono, who worked with Argento on five films over 16 years (hence the title of the featurette); “The Medium Wore Black” (21 min) is an interview with actor Macha Meril; “Carlo Never Dies” (16 min.) is an interview with actor Gabriele Lavia; “Death Dies” (15 min.) is an interview with composer Claudio Simonetti; “I Am the Screaming Child” (8 min.) is an interview with actor Jacopo Mariani; and “Bloodstained (6 min.) is an interview with actor Lino Capolicchio. Also on this disc is a new set of still galleries featuring posters, lobby cards, promotional stills, the Japanese pressbook and flyers, and soundtracks, as well as a pair of theatrical trailers.

    The second disc, which contains the shorter international cut of the film, has all of the same supplements that appeared on Arrow’s 2018 Blu-ray. There is the excellent “Profondo Giallo,” a 33-minute visual essay on the film’s style, themes, and legacy by Michael Mckenzie, who helped supervise the restoration. “Profondo Rosso: From Celluloid to Shop” is a 15-minute featurette that gives us a tour of the Profondo Rosso shop in Rome with Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi. There are also interviews with Dario Argento (13 min.), Daria Nicolodi (19 min), and Claudio Simonetti (14 min.). Finally, there is a trailer and a 1-minute introduction to the film by Simonetti that was recorded in 2011.

    The discs are packaged with a nicely designed, perfect-bound insert booklet with new essays by film critic and Arrow Video FrightFest curator Alan Jones, film scholar Mikel J. Koven (author of Italian Giallo Film), and film writer and podcaster Rachael Nisbet, a fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative, and six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards.

    Copyright © 2021 James Kendrick

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    Overall Rating: (3.5)

    James Kendrick

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