Saturday, September 8, 2018

DEEP RED (1975) Blu-ray review

Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso) (1975) d. Dario Argento (Italy)

David Hemmings plays a English jazz pianist in Italy, who after a late-night set, witnesses a brutal murder and feels compelled to unravel the mystery. Considered by many to be the apex of the giallo subgenre, this is Argento in his ’70s prime, with dazzling, dizzying camerawork capturing beautifully violent - if occasionally nonsensical - set-pieces, all couched within the driving rhythms of prog-rock band Goblin (their first of numerous sonic collaborations).

Cast largelydue to his having played another obsessive onscreen protagonist in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (though genre fans may also recognize him as “Dildano” in 1968's sci-fi sex romp Barbarella with Jane Fonda or the tragic Dr. Fraser in the excellent and unconventional 1981 Ozploitation vampire flick, Thirst), Hemmings brings just the right combination of intensity and opacity to the role.

But the real stars are the murder scenes themselves, most of which, according to Bernardino Zapponi (who co-wrote the script with Argento), were inspired by relatable injuries – being scalded with hot water or striking one’s teeth on something unyielding – and then escalating the incident for the scene in question.

Though the plot is perhaps unnecessarily padded out with interactions, romantic and otherwise, between Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi’s headline-chasing reporter (her character was severely trimmed for the U.S. release, known as The Hatchet Murders and running 98 minutes as opposed to the uncut 127 presented here) and the theatricality of certain performances and shot selections may elicit more giggles than goosepimples from modern viewers, this remains an undeniably influential and important chapter in Italian horror and the genre in general.

Set off by Gilles Franckx’s slick artwork, Arrow’s recent Blu-ray release is another winner (a single disc version of the Limited Edition, released back in April), with the eye-popping colors and extreme close-ups shining brighter than ever thanks to a new restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative, and the original Italian soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD MA mono 1.0 and lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. (The English audio track is presented in DTS-HD MA mono 1.0; be advised, there are some portions missing, due to the fact that dialogue for these scenes was either never recorded or has been lost. These sequences are presented with Italian audio subtitled in English.)

The bountiful extras include an audio commentary by filmmaker and Argento expert Thomas Rostock, “Profondo Giallo,” a new visual essay by Michael Mackenzie featuring an in-depth appreciation of the film itself and its legacy within the subgenre, and “Rosso Recollections: Dario Argento’s Deep Genius” which sits us down with the Maestro himself to converse and contemplate this momentous chapter in his career.

Nicolodi, Argento’s romantic partner for many years and mother of Asia Argento, is given her deserved time in the spotlight for “The Lady in Red” and “Music to Murder For!” sees Goblin frontman Claudio Simonetti sharing his memories on this historic collision of sound and vision. (Simonetti also provides the now-requisite puffy and pointless Arrow introduction.) Things wrap up with the 15-minute featurette, “Profondo Rosso: From Celluloid to Shop,” a lighthearted and joyful spin (shot in 2011) through the Profondo Rosso shop in Rome with longtime Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash, Contamination).

Deep Red is available Sept 4 from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment and can be ordered HERE:

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