Every Dario Argento fan has their favourites from his oeuvre, but if I were to choose it would have to be Suspiria (for its bewitching blend of the surreal and the fantastique) and Deep Red (for its brilliantly inspired cinematic set pieces).
Directed in 1975, two years before Suspiria brought the Italian director international acclaim, Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso or The Hatchet Murders) was one of the most shocking thrillers of its day. Nearly 40 years on, it still packs a punch – thanks to a script that’s worthy of Hitchcock, camerawork that takes your breath away, and one of the best soundtracks ever. It has also become hugely inspirational for modern-day filmmakers, most recently the people behind Amer – a sensual and stylish homage to the Italian giallo genre, which Argento brings to perfection in Deep Red.
David Hemmings takes the title role of Marcus Daly, an English pianist based in Rome who witnesses the brutal slaying of a famed psychic. After he becomes front-page news – thanks to an over-eager reporter (played by the iconic Daria Nicolodi) – Daly starts his own investigation. But when incriminating evidence is left at the scene of the next murder, Daly realises the killer is hot on his trail. It’s then a race against time to solve the mystery – which seems to be linked to a children’s lullaby and to a crumbling mansion located on the outskirts of the city.
When I first saw this film back in the 1980s, I was blown away by Argento’s camerawork. My greatest memories are of the street scenes which look like an Edward Hopper painting brought to life; and of the grand art nouveau house used in the film’s climax, which Argento turns into a major character thanks to his cinematic eye. Then there’s Goblin’s terrific prog rock score, still one of their best four decades on.
Thanks to Arrow’s new Blu-ray release of this cult classic, I’ve been able to recapture all those old memories. The new transfer is so sharp, so colourful, it makes me want to cry. So it’s out with my old VHS and hello Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray is packed with extras. There’s two uncut versions of the film; interviews with Argento, Nicolodi and Goblin composer Claudio Simonetti; a commentary from Argento expert Thomas Rostock; and a great booklet written by Argento biographer Alan Jones.
But watch out for the English audio track on the Director’s Cut, which has portions of the English audio missing. This is a surreal – but fun – experience. As the audio switches from English to Italian with subtitles, the characters come across quite differently (the cop leading the investigation sounds bumbling in Italian, but not in English; while Daly’s friend Carlo is much more masculine in the original Italian). Still, this is a superb release that is a must for any horror film fan.
So, turn down the lights, turn up the volume, and let the screaming begin…