Deep Red (1975)
(Profondo Rosso/ The Hatchet Murders)
Director: Dario Argento
Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi,
Gabriele Lavia, Macha Meril
A Bourgeois pianist, Marc Daly (David Hemmings) witnesses the murder of a famous psychic Helga Ulllman (Macha Meril). He rushes to the scene, finds her dying, and waits for the police to arrive. While being questioned by the policeman in charge, Marc thinks back to when he first arrived in Helga’s apartment, and has a feeling that something has been changed or is missing from the site of the murder. Cue the arrival of Gianna (Daria Nicolodi) a snooping journalist looking for a break, and a very self-reliant woman. From here on Gianna and Marc try to puzzle out the mystery of what happened after he arrived at the scene of the murder, and try to discover the identity of the killer in good old amateur detective giallo style.
Marc’s friend and fellow pianist Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) in a drunken stupor gets Marc thinking that whatever is missing from Helga’s apartment may be a very important clue to working out the identity of the murderer.
Gianna and Marc follow an ever increasing trail of corpses and are thrown deeper into trouble with each move, every move seeming to be predicted by the killer. Getting them deeper and deeper in danger until the ultimate Grande Guinol finalé.
One of Dario Argento’s best horror films, certainly my favourite out of the ones I have seen. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. The set piece murders are in the pure Italian horror/giallo style as is to be expected of the films of Dario Argento. Very scary on first viewing, totally intriguing, high on the goosebumpometer, with several really creepy scenes, and after the first viewing even though by then you know the identity of the killer it is still brilliant even after several viewings.
The playful bickering between David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi is brilliant. Her, the new woman, the feminist, him the non believing old fashioned man. This sets us up for a few very funny scenes between the two of them, most of the time with Marc left in a submissive position with Gianna towering above him, and with his cool, in control sexy and sexist exterior undermined by the simplest of things, like Gianna’s car.
Black gloved killers like here have been extensively copied in later horror films, as have the some of the murder methods, zoobie abuse (which the Freudian’s will tell you is a masturbation fantasy, but it just looks like a hell of a lot of pain to me) and lip red curtains. The first one that comes to mind being Antonio Bido’s The Cats Victim/Watch Me When I Kill (1977) where curtains and face frying and black gloved killers are all included. The style of the film is the same; a witness to a murder with help tries to find out the identity of the killer, and becomes a potential victim herself. The Cats Victim is interesting enough on its own, but is obviously inspired by Argento’s masterpiece.
Deep Red was available in different lengths, obviously people say the shortened one made no sense, the only version I have seen is the long version which was released in the UK by Redemption\Salvation Films, and this version of the film is easy to understand (not meaning of course that you will work it all out before the end, if you don’t though it does all make sense, I do not see how a shorter version could), it should probably be seen in the longer version. If possible make it widescreen. Those of you who may not be familiar with Argento’s work may not know that he uses the full width of the screen to portray all his stories. And a great deal of this is lost when it is not viewed in its original format.
The score is by those Argento favourites Goblin, it pounds through the movie with its brilliant bass lines, and as always with Goblin and Argento, it perfectly compliments the atmosphere of the film.
PARADISE CINEMA DICTIONARY:
Giallo: Italian for yellow. This term is used to describe, mystery paperbacks sold in Italy which have yellow covers, the term was later hijacked to be used on the mystery/horror films of Dario Argento, Mario Bava and the like.
Zoobies: Term made famous by the prolific Anthony Burgess, in his novel “A Clockwork Orange” with his teen speak; Nadast (mostly formed from Russian language), meaning teeth.
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