Being able to use the word “art” when reviewing a horror film is almost as rare as getting to use the word “playoffs” when describing the Detroit Lions season, but that is exactly what Dario Argento’s masterpiece Deep Red is: an artistic achievement in the horror genre.
This Blu-ray release brings together the English version that Americans have been watching for years, as well as the full Italian Director’s Cut, which adds over twenty minutes of footage to the English version. The Director’s Cut adds so much good to the film that it’s a wonder the English version is held in such high regard. The addition of even more beautiful cinematography, relationships, and detailed backstories make the Director’s Cut feel like a separate film than the English version most Americans have come to love. The other advantage of this argument is that nearly everything added into the Director’s Cut makes Deep Red a stronger, more memorable, and unique film.
Marcus Daly (David Hemmings – Gladiator, Gangs of New York, Blow-Up) is an English jazz musician who witnesses the murder of a famous psychic named Helga Ulmann (Macha Méril). Marcus believes he saw the killer leaving the crime scene the night of the murder, and a morbid fascination grows within him to discover who the killer is. He joins forces with the eccentric and beautiful reporter, Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi – Phenomena, Opera), to try and find the cold-blooded killer before they strike again. The murderer is determined to stay in the shadows, though, and will kill anyone who threatens that safety, including Marcus and Gianna.
Deep Red is a slow-moving slasher film and a fast-paced murder mystery thriller all at once. Focusing on the Director’s Cut – the version that everyone should watch – Argento manages to build believable relationships, and makes the audience care about the characters through witty dialogue and interesting backstory. These relationships are stripped down to the bare minimum in the English version, and lessen the impact of the film as a whole. Marcus and Gianna are both likable characters that have a naturally witty banter, and as their relationship is budding, provide comic relief in the earlier stages of the film. Because this is cut out of the English version, not only are two of my favorite, and most ingenious long shots removed from the film, but also the side story of Gianna’s dysfunctional car is missing. These scenes don’t necessarily advance the plot, but they help add depth to a genre known for its facileness and keep the audience caring about the characters.
The English cut not only loses depth, but some of the most remarkable cinematographic moments are cut out. One set in particular that Argento and company built for Deep Red is stunning, and most will probably recognize its inspiration quickly. This set, which is only in the movie for a few scenes, has a Roman architecture feel, and effectively towers over the characters. The image of Marcus standing at the corner of this set, looking towards his drunken friend cowering in a corner is just one of the many striking visual moments in Deep Red that make it must-see material.
As stunning as his pictures are, the greatest thing about Argento’s work with Deep Red has to be his use of lighting and music to create tension and scares. Whether it is in a dark closet, a middle school after hours, or a hauntingly infectious children’s song, Argento manages to make the audience uncomfortable on the drop of a hat. The way he manipulates the viewer’s attention is masterful. The extraordinary use of color and shadow, mixed with the original music by the band Goblin work in excellent contrast to the action onscreen, and have inspired countless horror filmmakers ever since (I challenge any John Carpenter fan to not think of Michael Myers while watching Deep Red; it’s virtually impossible). The scares are less “jumpy” and more psychological, which puts the audience on edge. The Director’s Cut does a better job of keeping the viewer anxious than the English version, which is just another reason I recommend the prior over the latter.
Dario Argento strikes all the right chords with Deep Red: it’s tense with likable character, excellent special effects, a jarring score, and incredible cinematography. Though some may put Deep Red in the thriller category before the horror category, I find that it belongs to both genres equally. Regardless of its label, Deep Red is a must for fans of bloody murder mysteries, slasher films, Giallo, or thrillers. In fact, I would go as far as saying that Deep Red is an essential part of the horror canon.
Expectations are always high when I see a Blu-ray arrive with the Blue Underground label, and Deep Red is one of the best HD transfers I’ve seen from the company. The film looks beautiful, and the vibrant colors – especially the reds – radiate beautifully from my 1080p HDTV. The dark scenes are as black as Argento probably intended in order to set up a scare. It isn’t often that a movie this old gains a lot from an HD transfer, but Deep Red’s cinematography is too good to be watched any other way. The technical specs include a 1080p HD widescreen resolution with the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 left in tact.
Blue Underground has pulled out all the stops with the audio side of this BD release as well. The Italian version of the film contains an Italian 7.1 DTS-HD, an Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, an Italian Mono, and an English/Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX option, as well as English subtitles. The English version of the film has an English 7.1 DTS-HD, an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, and an English Mono option, plus English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitle options.
The English/Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital option available on the Italian version of the film contains mostly English dialogue, but the extra scenes (that are not included in the English version) are spoken in Italian with English subtitles. I first watched the film completely spoken in Italian with English subtitles, but would recommend this English/Italian option for first time viewers.
The sound is equally as important as the cinematography in Deep Red and the plethora of options available will please just about any audio connoisseur. The surround sound is used well to help engulf the viewer from all angles, and adds nicely to the tension of the film. Like the visual side of the disc, the audio stands out as one of the top HD transfers I’ve seen from the 1970s.
Interviews with Co-Writer/Director Dario Argento, Co-Writer Bernardino Zapponi and Goblin (Claudio Simonetti, Massimo Morante, Fabio Pignatelli & Agostino Marangolo) (10:47): As the title suggests, Argento, Zapponi and the band Goblin is interviewed. Hearing Dario Argento speak is enthralling. The pain on his face when he talks about how he never keeps his movies around because they remind him of the censoring (among other things) is moving. Though these interviews are from some years ago, seeing as Zapponi died in 2000, they are a fascinating look at the making of Deep Red and Dario Argento. This highly recommended special feature is presented in full screen.
U.S. Trailer (2:42): I’m not a fan of trailers that give away too many plot points, and this trailer does just that. It could have been cut in half and been an effective trailer, but at almost three minutes, it gives too much away. This trailer is presented in standard definition.
Italian Trailer (1:49): This is an excellent and effective trailer. It sets up the creepy atmosphere of the film without giving away the good parts. This trailer is also presented in standard definition.
Goblin Music Video – “Profondo Rosso” (4:47): This is a live studio version (recorded in May of 2010) of the main theme from Deep Red performed by the band Goblin. The video mostly pans around the band members as they perform, but there are some moments from the film spliced throughout. Anyone who spends a lot of time with this Blu-ray Disc will hear this song a ton, and even though it is a wonderful tune, may be tired of hearing it by the time he or she reaches this music video. The video isn’t incredibly artistic or profound, but anyone wondering who is behind the excellent score might find this interesting.
Daemonia Music Video – “Profondo Rosso” (8:32): This is a Dario Argento tribute video. It looks like a low-budget horror film one might find on Vimeo or YouTube. This music video is much more artsy and fun to watch than the previous, and the filmmaking is an obvious homage to Argento. The special effects work – which appears as the band is killed off in the same ways as the victims in Deep Red – is mighty impressive.
Blue Underground has nailed this Blu-ray release of Dario Argento’s masterpiece, Deep Red. The fact that American audiences finally get to see the real film that Argento created should be enough incentive for any fan of his, or this film, to run out and buy this BD. Although it is admittedly lacking in special features, the expertly fashioned audio and visual HD transfers, and the inclusion of both versions of the film more than make up for it. This Blue Underground BD stands out as one of my favorite releases of the year so far, and comes highly recommended.
Blue Underground presents Deep Red. Directed by Dario Argento. Starring: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi. Written by: Dario Argento and Bernardino Zepponi. Running time: 126 minutes (Italian)/105 minutes (English). Rating: Not Rated. Released on Blu-ray: May 17, 2011.