Wednesday, March 21, 2018

DEEP RED (1975) (Arrow Video 2-Disc LE Blu-ray Review)

DEEP RED (1975) 

Label: Arrow Video 
Region: Code: Region-FREE
Rating: 18 Certificate:
Duration: 127 Mins (Director's Cut) 106 Mins (Export Version)
Audio: Italian DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0, Italian DTS-HD MA 5.1, English/Italian Hybrid DTS-HD MA Mono, English DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0, English LPCM Mono 1.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Dario Argento
Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril, Eros Pagni, Giuliana Calandra, Piero Mazzinghi, Glauco Mauri, Clara Calamai, Aldo Bonamano, Liana Del Balzo, Nicoletta Elmi

Synopsis: YOU WILL NEVER FORGET IT!!! From Dario Argento, maestro of the macabre and the man behind some of the greatest excursions in Italian horror (Suspiria, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), comes Deep Red - the ultimate giallo movie. One night, musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings, Blow Up), looking up from the street below, witnesses the brutal axe murder of a woman in her apartment. Racing to the scene, Marcus just manages to miss the perpetrator... or does he? As he takes on the role of amateur sleuth, Marcus finds himself ensnared in a bizarre web of murder and mystery where nothing is what it seems... Aided by a throbbing score from regular Argento collaborators Goblin, Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso and The Hatchet Murders) is a hallucinatory fever dream of a giallo punctuated by some of the most astonishing set-pieces the sub-genre has to offer.

Dario Argento's directing career began auspiciously with three brilliant whodunit thrillers in just the span of a few years, this trio of films included The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), Cat O' Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971). Each one an electric and stylish genre defining film. After this trio of films Argento would go onto direct ther comedic mid-1800's period piece The Five Days (1973) which turned out to be a  failure at the box office, and still stands as the only Argento film I have not seen, I believe it's the only title not widely available on home video (anyone wanna help me out with that?). Fresh off that disappointment Argento would once again return to the stylish whodunit subject matter that brought him notoriety, a film many consider to me his masterpiece, Deep Red (1975). 

The story is pretty familiar, an everyday man finds himself mixed-up in the dealings of a black-gloved murderer, it's a pretty standard giallo set-up and one that Argento mined thoroughly with his previous films. This time our amateur sleuth is an English musician  working in Rome named Marucs (played by David Hemmings fresh off Antonion's Blow Up). Marc is out for a drink when he runs into drunken friend Carlo outside a piano bar when both men hear a frightful scream ring out in the night. Carlo merely raises a toast to the "deflowered virgin" and heads back to a nearby bar. Marc remains a bit longer and witnesses the murder of a woman from the street below her apartment window. The woman is struck with a hatchet to the back of the head and crashes through a thick window pane and her throat is slashed by the jagged glass. Marc dashes to the woman's aide but is too late to save her. Through the window Marc spots a figure fleeing the scene in a rain slicker and hat which obscures the killer's identity. The woman was a psychic medium named Helga who earlier in the evening attended a conference for paranormal psychology when she sensed the thoughts of a murderer among the attendees. The traumatic experience left terrified, the murderous minded figure left the conference unnoticed but followed Helga back to her apartment where she's attacked after hearing the strains of a creepy children's lullaby. After the police arrive at scene of the murder Marc meets bubbly tabloid journalist Gianni played by a never lovelier Daria Nicolodi (Phenomena). The pair develop a playful relationship as Gianni vies for Marcus's attention, they're a fun, dynamic duo and easily stand as Argento's most defined character pairings. In typical giallo fashion the police prove to be largely inept and most of the sleuthing is left to the unlikely amateur mystery-solvers. As the intricate thriller plays out Marc is dogged by the fact that he cannot recall a crucial piece of the puzzle,  something is missing from the scene of the crime that he cannot put a finger on. Together he and Gianni follow the clues beginning with the psychics death which lead them to some truly improbable deductions that lead them further down the mystery laden path, with the killer seemingly one-step ahead of them, each of the following murder preceded by the familiar haunting refrain of a children's lullaby.

Argento is often singled-out as a visually stylish director who forgoes proper narrative elements in favor of striking imagery, I wouldn't disagree, I see it myself in the visually delightful but narrative-challenged Suspiria(1977) but Deep Red is an exception. The characters are interesting and particularly defined, especially the two leads, the plot is full of intricate twists and turns but Argento's signature style is ever present, each camera shot is meticulously staged and framed by Luigi Kuveiler's fluid cinematography. The killings are magnificent, with great staging and sharp editing along with some very fine special effects that hold up very well. A particularly brutal scene involves a man having his teeth repeatedly smashed on the corner of a marble table after being attacked by a nightmarish porcelain-faced mechanical doll which charges at him from out of the dark. Then there's a gorgeously shot drowning in a tub of scalding hot water, it's all great stuff.

Audio/Video: Dario Argento's Deep Red arrives on Blu-ray for a second time fro Arrow Video from  4K scan of thew original negative, improving on their previous 2011 HD release with richer colors and more fine detail, it's a crisp and gorgeous presentation with nicely managed grain and deep blacks. We get both the shorter (106 min) export version and the longer (127 min) director's cut, both derived from the same 4K restoration, presented on separate discs.

Audio options have also been expanded, for the director's cut we get to choose from Italian DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0 and Surround 5.1, English DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0, or an English/Italian hybrid with optional English subtitles. The phenomenal Goblin score sounds fantastic, it comes across deep and resonating, the dialogue and effects also come through crystal clear, I give the surround mix the edge for the use of the surrounds, it really fleshes out that wonderful Goblin score to a satisfying degree. The export version gets an English PCM Mono 1.0 mix with optional English subtitles. 

Arrow Video previous Blu-ray had some amazing exclusive extras, and I am pleased they carry them all over for this release. There's a brief introduction from Goblin composer Claudio Simonetti voicing his pleasure at being involved with a film he rightfully considers a masterpiece. Then onto Lady In Red: Daria Noclodi Remembers Profondo Rosso (18 min). Argento's former lover and mother of his children discusses not only her involvement with Deep Red but her other works, Argento's career and Argento himself who she described rather unflatteringly several times throughout, it's a great piece. Music to Murder For! Claudio Simonetti on Deep Red (14 min) an interview with the Goblin Composer who is nearly as much a part of Argento lore as the master himself. Like Nicolodi I always find the Simonetti interviews to be quite interesting and revealing. Rosso Recollection: Dario Argento's Deep Genius (12 min) features the director himself speaking about his family and the film, strangely the Argento interviews are usually my least favorite of the extras found on his films. Rosso: from Celluloid to Shop (15 min) is a tour of the Profondo Rosso Shop in Rome with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi, the place is a museum to all things Argento and rounding out the special features are both an Italian and U.S. trailer for the film. It's interesting to note the difference in approach between the two markets. There's also an audio commentary from  Argento expert Thomas Rostock, and honestly while they are info packed I find his delivery and tone to be dry and monotonous, I much prefer commentaries from Kim Newman, Troy Howarth or Stephen Thrower, the content is good the delivery is just dry.  

That's the vintage stuff, the only new extras is a 33-min video essay by Michael Mackenzie featuring an in-depth appreciation of Deep Red, an in-depth and detailed look at the film documenting the influence of Argento on the whodunit films, his early success and returning the gialli after the failure of The Five Days (1973), I'm quite a fan of the Mackenzie video essays which turn up on quite a few Arrow releases. . 

Special Features: 
Disc 1:
- Deep Red (Director's Cut) (127 min) 
 - Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative
- Audio Commentary with Argento expert Thomas Rostock
- Introduction to the film by Claudio Simonetti of Goblin (23 sec) HD 
- Profondo Giallo– a brand new visual essay by Michael Mackenzie featuring an in-depth appreciation of Deep Red, its themes and its legacy (33 min) HD 
- Rosso Recollections: Dario Argento’s Deep Genius– the Deep Red director on the creation of a giallo masterpiece (12 min)  
- The Lady in Red: Daria Nicolodi Remembers Profondo Rosso (18 min) HD 
- Music to Murder For! Claudio Simonettion Deep Red (14 min) HD 
- Profondo Rosso: From Celluloid to Shop– a tour of the Profondo Rosso shop in Rome with long time Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi (15 min) 

Disc 2: 
- Deep Red (Export Version) (106 min)  
- Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative
- US Theatrical Trailer (3 min) HD 

While Mario Bava defined the classic black-gloved giallo with The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) it was Argento who fine tuned it with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) and arguably perfected it with Deep Red (1975), few if any even come close to matching the artistry and execution of his early slasher-y whodunits. Arrow's 4K restoration is pretty damn definitive in it's A/V presentation and the extras are great, here's hoping Arrow can come through with a brand new 4K restoration of Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971) so we can have shiny 4K restorations of Argento's entire "animal trilogy".  

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