A jazz pianist and a wisecracking journalist are pulled into a complex web of mystery after the former witnesses the brutal murder of a psychic.A jazz pianist and a wisecracking journalist are pulled into a complex web of mystery after the former witnesses the brutal murder of a psychic.A jazz pianist and a wisecracking journalist are pulled into a complex web of mystery after the former witnesses the brutal murder of a psychic.
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Techniscope)
Sound format: Mono
After witnessing the brutal murder of his psychic neighbor (Macha Meril) by person or persons unknown, a British musician in Rome (David Hemmings) obsesses over details of the crime and uncovers a series of clues which lead to further bloodshed and horror.
Released in Italy at 126 minutes, Dario Argento's seminal psycho-thriller was edited down to 105 minutes for European exhibition and further curtailed to 100 minutes for the American market, where it was dismissed by critics as an incoherent mess. In fact, this was Argento's return to the giallo format following a brief - and unlikely - detour into comedy (FIVE DAYS OF MILAN), and the first time he was allowed to 'cut loose' and indulge his unique sensibilities. All the elements of a classic Argento thriller are here: Eccentric characterizations, outlandish plot twists, and a series of Grand Guignol set-pieces that would revolutionize the genre. Using the wide, w-i-d-e screen to create a bold visual tapestry, Argento's film thrives on offbeat sounds and images: The child's song which pre-empts the shocking murders; the heart-stopping moment when Hemmings glimpses Meril at her apartment window as the killer lunges at her from behind (a shot which is both horrific and profoundly humane, all at the same time); the crazy-surreal mannikin which appears from nowhere and 'confronts' a potential victim; and the climactic revelation of the killer's identity as Hemmings finds damning evidence literally staring him in the face. Hemmings is the heart and soul of the entire picture, an innocent abroad whose inquisitive nature fails to mask his essential cowardice, and there are fine supporting performances by Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia and Clara Calamai in pivotal roles.
The European print which played outside Italy is a tightly-controlled whirlwind of horror and suspense, incorporating character development and violence cut from the American variant. However, the complete Italian version is another matter altogether: Except for the extra material added to Hemmings' search of 'The House of the Screaming Child' (where an important clue is literally concealed in the brickwork), the additional footage simply pads proceedings to breaking point. Whereas the characters were once defined by their experiences, the longer print includes lengthy dialogue exchanges which ramble well beyond their relevance to the plot. Still a masterpiece, the movie works best at 105 minutes, though the flawed Italian edition is no less sumptuous and invigorating.
Sadly, DEEP RED contains one of the most dubious images in Argento's entire filmography: A shot of a lizard impaled on a needle, done for real. This monstrous act of cruelty is inexcusable, given that Argento had hired ace effects technician Carlo Rambaldi, previously responsible for *simulated* animal carnage in Lucio Fulci's A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971) which was so realistic, it landed the director in court!
- Mar 7, 2005