Deep Red

Deep Red (1975)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi
Extras: Featurette, Theatrical Trailers, Biographies

By many cherished as Dario Argento’s ultimate masterpiece, "Deep Red", which is probably better known under its original Italian title "Profondo Rosso" is a giallo that could easily rank as the textbook version of the genre. Mutilated and cut in most territories of the world, "Deep Red" hardly found its way to the fans the way it was originally envisioned by director and writer Dario Argento. True to their mission to bring films to audiences in the cuts and versions that were originally intended by the filmmakers, Anchor Bay Entertainment has now prepared a DVD version of "Deep Red" that features a 126 minute cut of the film that is completely uncut and uncensored for the first time ever! Filmmaker Bill Lustig, a friend of Dario Argento who produced the disc for Anchor Bay made it his mission to restore the film in its entirety with the help of Dario Argento and Anchor Bay’s backing, no matter what lengths he would have to go to. He can certainly be assured that he has the gratitude of legions of fans of the movie, as well as Argento’s himself, who has very kind words to offer for Lustig’s undertaking in the interview segment of the disc.

The story of "Deep Red" may not be very innovative as it features your usual "giallo" outline and suspects but it manages to build an incredible tension as it slowly works its way towards the movie’s climax. British jazz pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) lives in Rome and one night witnesses a murder from the street, but is unable to recognize the killer. All he can see is someone in a dark coat fleeing the scene. Soon Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nocolodi), a tenacious reporter, joins him to find out who is behind the grizzly murder. As soon as they begin looking into the background of the events, following a trail of seemingly senseless clues, more bodies turn up and soon it becomes clear that Marcus’ life is also in terrible danger. The two have to make sure they unmask the killer before he comes too close, but what do you do when all your informants turn up dead?

After watching this uncut version of "Deep Red" I was in incredible awe at how much material had been painstakingly re-inserted into the film – sometimes only split-second bits that extend a sentence. Compared to the original US cut of the film, all in all some 30 minutes of additional footage has been added to the movie. These additions are easily noticeable for the most part, as they are presented in their original Italian language with English subtitles. Since these pieces had never been dubbed, this procedure is obvious and has worked very well before. From these back-insertions it is evident that much of the character development of the movie had fallen victim to the scissors – mostly to bring down the running time it appears – as did some of the more gruesome scenes and a few side plots. While all these elements made it back into the film now, it is also evident however, that this longer cut has a much slower development than the film’s previous versions, giving the characters much more dimensional personalities, which eventually increases the drama surrounding them. Nonetheless, if you are familiar only with the 98 minute US cut of the movie, be prepared to revise your understanding of the film entirely as relationships and character streaks are explored in much more detail, giving the film a very different feel. The new cut also manages to fill some of the logical holes found in previous cuts, although the story still takes some liberties when it comes to the explanation and rationale behind certain events in the film.

While the film’s story may be very traditional, its execution in "Deep Red" is certainly not and it makes the movie a remarkable achievement. From a filmmaking standpoint, Argento tried to push the boundaries of the genre a little. Having practically invented the genre himself with "The Bird With The Crystal Plumage" five years earlier, he got somewhat confined on his own turf and intentionally attempted to introduce new elements to reinvigorate his work. Interestingly, these new elements are not so much found in the content but in their delivery. The highly voyeuristic use of the camera with extreme close-ups, the slowly moving exploration of the sets and the deliberate composition of his frames made all the difference, and would eventually culminate in such things as Argento’s Louma crane shot in "Tenebre." It is hardly surprising after all that "Deep Red" is the most visually striking entry of the "giallo" genre.

"Deep Red" also pushed the graphic display of violence quite a bit and some of the shocking shots of the film still do have an incredible impact on the viewer. While it is never excessive or gratuitous, Argento managed to create images that are lasting and brutal without splattering the entire screen with blood, ultimately giving the film a lot of violent style with restrained class.

The presentation of the movie on this DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment is absolutely staggering. I am at loss for words to explain how fantastic this transfer looks. If you have seen the movie before you are unquestionably familiar with the washed out copies that are in circulation. Be assured that this DVD makes a mockery of every one of the movie’s previous releases.
The transfer is presented in an incredibly detailed <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> presentation that restores the movie’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The image is without any grain, and like Anchor Bay’s new transfer of "Halloween" this presentation ranks among the best there are on DVD, especially considering the film’s age and source. You will not believe that you are watching a movie that is 25 years old, that’s how clear and clean it is. Without any speckles or blemishes, without any grain or noise and without the slightest color distortion, this transfer brings Argento’s masterpiece to life like never before. With deep and solid blacks, the film maintains the brooding look Argento designed for many of his scenes, while the powerful color reproduction of the DVD contrasts them with stark and bold colors. Especially the movie’s opening minutes are bathed in blood red that is finely delineated without a hint of <$chroma,chroma noise> or color bleeding. Perfectly reproducing even the most subtle hues and tinges, "Deep Red" does its name full credit. The compression has also been done without any artifacts and the result is a presentation on this DVD that is spectacular, breathtaking and highly detailed with rich colors – simply perfect!

Since "Deep Red" is obviously a labor of love, Anchor Bay Entertainment also took it upon themselves to give the movie a new audio remix. The result are two newly done 5.1 <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio tracks that can be found on the DVD as well, in English and Italian respectively. These mixes have been done very carefully and never deviate too much from the film’s original mono mix but use early reflections and other subtle elements to create a deeper and more engrossing sound stage. Aggressive surround effects are not existent but the natural frequency response and additional bass extension removes much of the tracks previous limitations and gives it a rather natural sounding quality. The mix is generally good, although I found the balance a little inconsistent where quiet parts were almost too quiet to understand in low volume listening environments while the music was still very dominant.
"Deep Red" features a soundtrack by the Italian synth rock band "Goblin." It was their first collaboration with Argento and they would later return to cooperate with him on numerous films including "Shock", "Tenebre", "Dawn Of The Dead" and "The Church" among others. It is a very stylish track that has in part become synonymous with Argento’s work and nicely adds to the overall experience.

The DVD also contains a few extras, most notably a 25th Anniversary Featurette featuring a brand new interviews with Dario Argento, Goblin and co-writer Bernardino Zapponi. Argento elaborates quite a bit on his intentions and ideas for the film, as well as his understanding of filmmaking in general in this 10-minute featurette. The movie’s original Italian trailer as well as the US trailer and talent biographies can also be found on this release.

You will not believe your eyes when you first insert "Deep Red", I promise! Given the fact that so much footage has been inserted into the movie from various sources there is no indication that gives any of that away. The quality is staggering and mesmerizing, celebrating Dario Argento’s masterfully crafted film in its entirety here. Never has the film looked any better, never has it sounded any better and it has never been more complete than on this release! It is about time Anchor Bay Entertainment adds a tagline to their name… something down the lines of "By film lovers – for film lovers!" Their commitment and responsibility to quality is unsurpassed and with every new release it is becoming more impressive. Get this disc! You just can’t afford not to see this!