An English jazz
flute pianist living in Rome witnesses the brutal hatchet murder of a renowned psychic and is quickly drawn into the savage crime. With the help of a female reporter, they track a twisted trail of deranged clues and relentless violence.
Judging a Book by its Cover
-Well isn’t this a lovely cover, nothing nightmare inducing with the rotting corpse or a hanging doll with a razor. Jeeeeez.
–Psycho, Exorcist, Jaws, Deep Red…only two of these things are like the other? Is there a shark in this movie too?
-The last time I was really scared was when I had a nightmare where I had no penis and I think I said too much. Let’s move on.
You will never forget it!
Directed by Dario Argento
Starring David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi and Gabriele Lavia
During a public viewing of her psychic abilities, Helga (Night Train Murders‘ Macha Méril) does a few parlour tricks with the crowd before losing her shit when she comes into the mind of the film’s serial killer who has already been active prior to these events. She says she will reveal the secret later in the evening for reasons. This proves to be her undoing as the killer follows her to her apartment and decides that a butcher’s knife is an appropriate response.
Meanwhile, outside the apartment building, a piano player named Marcus and his drunk buddy are jive talking when they see the psychic lady go through her apartment window and getting impaled on the glass pane. Marcus runs up to help (?) her off the window and takes a quick look around her apartment for the attacker, eventually seeing a figure in a rain coat and hat running off around a corner. He can’t help but shake the feeling that he may have seen the killer before they left.
Marcus’ intentions on finding the killer lead him to the deceased psychic’s co-workers helping him with the clues he finds as well as news reporter Gianna who is also interested in a good story, of course. With their help, and no police to be found, Marcus figures he’s on the right path when he winds up following the killer’s murder trail and finds an odd link between the killer and a decades-old murder that has become something of a local urban legend.
Before heading into more paranormal waters (Suspiria, Inferno, Phenomena) and mixing those aspects with giallo conventions, Dario Argento pretty much perfected the genre with Deep Red. The story starts off fairly standard with a citizen taking it upon themselves to crack a case that the police should really take care of instead. A lot of plot elements are introduced that make little sense until the end of the film makes those pieces fit and this can normally lead viewers to lose interest during the film but Deep Red has many tricks up its sleeve to keep us involved until the end.
As with any production of the time, the characters are all dubbed but it’s surprisingly not that bad in this film! Dare I say the leads, Hemmings and Nicolodi, are quite likeable as a pair. Gianna’s stubbornness in showing off her liberation as well as Marcus’ own stubbornness in his old way of thinking of women being weaker beings may be sexist now though they offer some well-needed levity and humour to the otherwise bleak tone and harsh violence.
The murder set pieces were conceived in such a way that the audience can relate to at least some of the violence perpetrated by the killer. Before the victims are taken out in stylish yet grisly fashion, the attacker puts them through some trauma before the end, such as smashing one’s teeth against the corner of a table or
burning drowning another with scalding hot water. Though the bar was in the process of getting pushed hard at the time, the blood flow is more than satisfying enough for gorehounds with lots of splattery stabbings, someone’s head meeting the wrong end of a car tire and a decapitation involving an elevator.
There’s very little I can say that I didn’t like about Deep Red, it hits all the right marks and has a memorable soundtrack courtesy of Goblin on top of that; it’s a benchmark I use to measure against comparable films and should be one of the films you watch to gauge your interest in the giallo genre. It might be that good!
Story: 8 – A sexist pianist witnesses a brutal murder and goes to great lengths to find the killer without involving the authorities.
Blood: 8 – Although the movie incorporates the bright red blood paint so often seen in these films, there is plenty of it at times but not before some ugly playing around happens first.
Nudity: 1 – I’m giving it a point because there was a brief boob shot but there’s a lot of blood and you probably won’t notice anyway.
Overall: 9 – A great look, a story you can actually understand, a classic Goblin soundtrack and lots of bright red blood literally paint this film as one of Argento’s best films.
-Early on in the film, David Hemmings walks past a bar that looks surprisingly like Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks.’ Classy flick!
-The script was an ungodly five hundred pages long until Argento’s father and brother pared it down to a measly 321.
-Argento filmed in Turin, Italy supposedly it had one of the largest European concentrations of Satanists.
– That transvestite you felt grossed out about cause it’s definitely a dude? It was actually a woman!