With October the month of all things terrifying, it’s only fitting that one of the greatest horror films ever made has been given a beautiful 4K restoration. An absolute masterpiece of the genre, Dario Argento‘s Deep Red (1975) is a glorious celebration of the oft-maligned giallo, a subgenre of twisting narratives and often performative murders, all stemming from the literary mysteries of Agatha Christie et al, with the term giallo – the name of the colour yellow in Italian – coming from the bright covers these stories were given when republished.
Deep Red (or Profondo rosso to give it its Italian title) was director Dario Argento’s return to the giallo after trying his hand at comedy. Already known for his “animal trilogy” of gialli, consisting of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat O’Nine Tails (1971), and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), Argento’s comeback was a triumph, stylistically beautiful but deeply disturbing. Many experts and enthusiasts alike see it as the ultimate giallo and you can see why, both from a technical and emotional level.
Deep Red begins with the murder of a psychic who just happens to live in the same apartment block as British jazz pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings), who witnesses the murder while heading home. After being identified as an eyewitness, Marcus is subsequently stalked by the murderer, and with the police not doing an awful lot, he begins to investigate the case along with journalist Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi). What follows is a series of horrific murders as the killer tries to stop Marcus and Gianna from finding out who they really are, and hairpin twists and turns leaving you wondering until the final reveal.
Deep Red is a masterpiece, there’s no question. From the first instant Argento is in full command of the frame and his staging is impeccable, with beautiful, rich colours from Giuseppe Bassan’s luxurious production design and Luigi Kuveiller’s cinematography with some exquisite camera moves. And then there’s Goblin assaulting your ears with that opening title riff that explodes into a neo-gothic prog jam that’s as terrifying as it is groovy.
The mystery is impeccably told, with Hemmings and Nicolodi both bringing a wonderful sense of morbid curiosity and sex appeal, with their relationship working as a kind of a screwball comedy until their eventual coupling. It’s a surprisingly funny film too, from Hemmings and Nicolodi’s back-and-forth quips to the running gag of her terribly run down Fiat 500. And it’s that deft juggling of humour and savage violence that makes Deep Red so fun to watch.
Deep Red is presented from a 4K scan of the original camera negative at the theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it looks astounding. The HDR grading works wonders with the endlessly rich colours the film utilises, and the detail is superb. You’re not going to see this film in any better shape outside of a properly projected cinema viewing.
The sound matches the visual quality, with the DTS-HD Master tracks in Italian and English Mono sounding spectacular. Goblin’s score in particular is served well, and it adds so much to the overall atmosphere of the film to the point where I’m now considering which is my favourite soundtrack by them; Deep Red or 1977’s Suspiria? It’s worth noting that you also get a 5.1 DTS-HD Master surround track in Italian.
You may also wonder what the best option is. This is especially true in the case of Deep Red, where two versions are offered in similar quality: the 127-minute Italian cut, which is considered Argento’s preferred version, and the 106-minute “export cut”, which removes much of the romance and humour from the film. The Italian cut is easily the best film, but it was also reconstructed from parts of a negative that only retained the original Italian dialogue, so there are scenes that are in dubbed English and also in Italian with English subtitles. It may make for an odd experience at times, but it’s definitely worth it over the export version.
As you’d imagine with a title of this prestige, Deep Red comes with several special features, beginning with two audio commentaries. The first is by critics Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, and it’s a more podcast-esque track, with plenty of jokes cracked and a fairly relaxed atmosphere, but also with facts thrown at you as fast as possible, which doesn’t give you a lot of time to take them in. The second is a more formal track by Danish Argento expert Thomas Rostock, and it’s a serious and almost academic look at the film.
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We’re then treated to a host of fascinating interviews with Argento, the late Nicolodi, composer Claudio Simonetti, actors Macha Méril, Gabriele Lavia, Jacopo Mariani and Lino Capolicchio, and production manager Angelo Iacono. There are Italian and US trailers for the film, and the second disc with the export version also has the features from the 2016 Blu-ray edition, including Michael Mackenzie’s excellent visual essay. A booklet featuring new writing from Rachael Nisbet of the excellent podcast Fragments of Fear is also included but was not submitted for review.
Arrow Video‘s Deep Red is a fantastic release. The package of extras is excellent, but the treat is seeing the film in beautiful 4K with wonderful sound. A masterful treatment of a masterpiece. Bravo.
Deep Red is out now on 4K UHD Blu-ray from Arrow Video.