Saturday, October 11, 2008

#87: Profondo rosso (Deep Red)


Profondo rosso (Deep Red)
Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento and Bernardino Zapponi
Released June 11, 1975 (US)

Any fan of the genre knows you can't talk about horror movies without talking about Dario Argento. I previously reviewed Argento's super-creepy masterwork Suspiria, making special note of the director's affinity for the use of bright, striking colors as themes in his movies, along with his appreciation for grotesque violence and use of intense music to heighten tension.

In Deep Red, all of those things are in play. Argento paints this picture in many shades of rich color, with a heavy reliance on black, grey and especially red. Argento was known as a innovator in an Italian genre of film called giallo, which is essentially the Italian version of pulp crime fiction. He infused these movies with elements of horror and the supernatural. Deep Red is one of his most celebrated and well-known giallos.

Marcus Daly (Daving Hemmings) witnesses the murder of a famous psychic in his apartment building, and thinks he may have seen the killer. He meets up with a reporter (played by future Argento wife Daria Nicolodi) at the crime scene and the two work together, in between comedic scenes that play like an old classic Hollywood romantic comedy, to try and find the killer. Of course, the further the two get into their investigation the more strange occurrences -- and murders -- stack up.

Why must he find the killer? Well, I don't really know. I do know from one conversation in the movie that Daly feels conflicted by his inability to remember certain details of the crime. One of the most bizarre things about the DVD release of the movie, and the thing that makes me hesitant to recommend it to anyone, is the fact that the dialogue is not fully dubbed. In other words, it slips from English to Italian (with NO SUBTITLES) constantly throughout the movie, sometimes several times within the same scene. There's no alternate audio track available, nor any subtitle options of any kind. How in the hell does it get released like this?

Honestly, it gets pretty maddening. Without the ability to understand the majority of the dialogue, the element of the detective story here is pretty much neutered. You're left at several points wondering why characters are lead to certain locations, especially when Daly stumbles into what seems to be the killer's old childhood home. Without dialogue, it would seem he just drove by a strange house and thought, "I should break into that place!"

With the unreliability of the dialogue being in a language I could understand, I had to take Deep Red in on a purely cinematic level. Fortunately, in this regard, the movie is an absolute knock-out. The sets and locations are exquisite. Where does Argento find so many great windows? Plus, his camerawork here (stalking tracking shots, intense close-ups that make even a tape recorder seem ominous) is masterful.

A few of the elaborate murder scenes could scare even the most jaded horror fans. Throw in another unsettling soundtrack by Argento's band of choice, Goblin, and you've got as close to a work of art as you're going to find in a horror movie.

I'd recommend this even more to those of you who can speak and translate Italian. Apparently, I would have been wise to seek out the Anchor Bay release of the DVD, which at least features the Italian version of the film with English subtitles.

For more on Deep Red:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- Deep Red vs. Freud
- Buy the DVD, in Italian with English subtitles.

The Deep Red trailer:

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